[This is a review for Hannibal season 2, episode 4. There will be SPOILERS.]
It's difficult to think of any other drama on television – let alone an entire series based on one of the most famous fictional serial killers all time – that's as concerned with investigating life's heartbreaking beauty as it is depicting the terror of its inherent fragility. So far, though, in one season and some change, Hannibal has demonstrated itself to be one of those rare programs that travels well beyond their initial conceit to consider the weightier tangential aspects of the stories it has been tasked with telling.
On the surface, these divergent curiosities fly in the face of what might comprise a conventional narrative concerning a cannibalistic serial killer with diamond-cut cheekbones and a bespoke wardrobe so exquisite the thought of him one day being sentenced to years of drab mental hospital jumpsuits feels like a tragedy in its own right. The truth is: It's the tangents like Bella Crawford (Gina Torres), the parallels 'Takiawase' draws between her wish to end her life with dignity and the twisted sense of mercy behind the horrific but visually striking bee-centric activities of Amanda Plummer's holistic healer that make the series rise above its baser, blood-and-guts interests.
Early on, Bella and Hannibal discuss the notion of death as comfort, or death as a cure. It's an uneasy conversation, as the prospect of a person willingly ending his or her life as a means by which their pain can be soothed is somewhat upsetting, to say the least. And yet the intrinsic morbidity and tragedy of the conversation is undercut by Dr. Lecter's insistence that finding comfort in death "frees [him] to appreciate life." The fact that such a reassuring statement comes from the man with a vacuum-sealed kidney of another serial killer in his fridge is one of the more delicious ironies Hannibal has to offer.
But it is one that makes a great amount of sense. After all, life's glimmer is tantamount to the lure Will discusses in his mind with Abigail Hobbes. Life is simply irresistible to Dr. Lecter; it is another of the myriad delicate luxuries he takes such pains in preparing, and such great pleasure in consuming. Therefore, if Will wants to catch Hannibal, and possibly exonerate himself at the same time, life must be the lure that eventually ensnares such a cautious and elusive foe.
And yet, as Will surely knows from his experiences fishing, different lures can often elicit a unique and surprising response – which 'Takiawase' makes obvious in the way Hannibal leaves Bella's survival up to chance, and the unnerving manner in which he choose to engage Beverly (Hettienne Park) after she breaks into his home and discovers his secret.
The thrilling conclusion to the episode is a reminder of the in medias res battle between Hannibal and Jack that kicked the season off. But it's also in keeping with the manner the show delivers its revelations in erratic, panic-inducing moments. Beverly's confrontation with the monster in his lair is a shift for a series whose narrative is partially predicated on the titular character's ability to evade capture.
And in that sense, 'Takiawase' – with its warning of strobe effects prior to the episode and the unnerving score that accompanies Will's drug-induced therapy session with Dr. Chilton – shifts (perhaps temporarily) the aesthetics of the series from the macabre serenity of a bizarre crime that's already been committed to the far more forceful and fit-inducing display of an in-the-moment revelation.
In that sense, the episode's cliffhanger ties in dramatically with the theme of the episode. After all, is there anything that can make a person feel more alive than finding themselves face-to-face with death himself?
Hannibal continues next Friday with 'Mukozuke' @10pm on NBC. Check out a preview below, but be warned: IT CONTAINS SPOILERS.