[This is a review of Hannibal season 2, episode 5. There will be SPOILERS.]
When a series dabbles in death as frequently and as expressively as Hannibal does, taking the time to examine how powerless the prospect of grief often leaves the bereaved sounds less like an interesting angle to explore and more like a requirement. Here, Alana Bloom sums it up when she tells Will, "There is no solution to grief. It just is." Her words are meant to appreciate the gravity of the loss central to the episode, while insinuating any attempt to reclaim that lost power generally takes one down the often-fruitless road of revenge.
The events of last week's rousing cliffhanger filter directly into 'Mukozuke.' Meanwhile, the Damian Hirst-inspired death tableau made from Beverly Katz sets up some downright biblical allusions and imagery – the least of which is Will's insistence on an eye for an eye that leads to Hannibal's crucifixion. Although revenge is an oft-used strategy in dramatic storytelling, in this case it leads to the narrative demonstrating two key points: there really is no solution to grief, and in seeking retribution, Will potentially alienates the few people still holding onto the thought he might be innocent.
But 'Mukozuke' also affords the story time to linger on Hannibal's activities – both in and out of the kitchen – while using Will's predicament to explore the affect it has had on his perception of things. Despite all the iconic similarities Will's field trip getup has to Silence of the Lambs, the episode primarily works to demonstrate the separation that still exists between Hannibal and Will. While looking over the crime scene, Will describes to Jack the idea that they're dealing with one killer wearing two masks. That distinction of a fluctuating identity has been seen before, but it becomes even more important once the story makes room for a certain thought-himself-to-be-the-Ripper psychotic like Dr. Abel Gideon and Jonathan Tucker's disorderly orderly, Matthew Brown.
This idea that the Chesapeake Ripper moves between the distinctions granted him by his style of killing further hints at the variability of how these characters recognize themselves and are perceived by others. As it so often did in season 1, Hannibal splashes around in the complex issue of knowing one's self by shifting Will between his passionate, empathetic side, and the manstag he briefly envisions becoming after manipulating Brown on the basis they are simpatico serial killers. It also grants Hannibal the rare opportunity to be placed in the shoes he so often puts other people: that of the helpless victim. In some way, Hannibal's exhibition of Beverly's body becomes representative of his and Will's unseen sides, the intricate, seemingly undetectable components that constitute more than just their bodies.
In the end, however, Will's plan only makes him look reckless and like a man with seemingly nothing to lose. While the true identity of Will and Hannibal remain secure to themselves, the strategy of employing a murderer to kill Lecter fortifies the erroneous impression people like Jack and Alana have of them both: Will is seen as the agitated instigator, while Hannibal becomes the wounded quarry. The result, then, allows Hannibal to convincingly delay its titular character's capture, while raising the stakes between the show's two primary protagonists.
And with Hannibal further distanced from suspicion, grief may not be the only thing Will Graham is powerless against.
Hannibal continues next Friday with 'Futamono' @10pm on NBC. Check out a preview below: