[This is a review of Hannibal season 2, episode 9. There will be SPOILERS.]
The evolution of Will Graham continues under the tenuous tutelage of Dr. Hannibal Lecter, as the two begin to take a closer look at the monster growing inside him, as well as their own antagonistic relationship. It's a familiar dynamic: the sight of Will engaged in psychoanalytic conversation with killer from whom Hannibal derives its title.
But it's a dynamic that's been reinvigorated by the events of the recent past, and by the slight tweaks and shifts in Will's personality, as well as his outlook on things. In effect, these last few episodes have essentially flipped the season from where it began, turning it into a twisted reflection of season 1, but with the prospect of an outcome quite unlike Hannibal and Will's first go-round.
'Shiizakana' begins with a semi-lucid dream in which Will, in a two-toned jacket, exerts control over not only Hannibal, but also the black stag representing the darkness within him. In the dream, Hannibal is given time to make the "admission" Will is looking for, before the stag is commanded to engage a rope and pulley system to dispatch the good doctor and see his end come in a geyser of blood.
Will's command of the situation, the enfeebled state of Lecter, and the acknowledgement and use of the stag all point to his current state of mind – which is to say: he's more than a little motivated to engage the monster inside him if that means beating Lecter at his own game.
But the episode is only half-concerned with the idea of direct conflict, and the confrontation that does occur certainly doesn't come from Will's side of things; it's more of an unsubtle rejoinder from Hannibal for the time he was crucified and nearly hanged by an orderly at Will's request.
Mostly, 'Shiizakana' is concerned with the concept of metamorphosis, particularly as it pertains to what Hannibal would describe as Will's ability to adapt, evolve, and become. Into what would seem to be a killer; the kind he imagines and innately understands while investigating murders with Jack Crawford and BAU.
That leads the episode to Randall Tier (Mark O'Brien), another former patient of Dr. Lecter's who wants to become the animal he believes himself to be. In order to achieve this metamorphosis, Tier uses a mechanical suit that enables him to attack, eviscerate, and dismember his victims in a fashion that so closely resembles a bear mauling, it first leaves the investigators perplexed.
Initially, the idea of a man in a mechanical bear suit chomping off the limbs of hapless souls felt like it would be too much – even for Bryan Fuller's unique, exaggerated view of the world. But the episode, directed by Michael Rymer, mostly (and mercifully) favors atmosphere over any explicit depiction of a man in a suit, especially in the final moments when Will is being hunted outside his house, and Tier is only visible by the snow being kicked up around him.
In that sense, the exaggerated presence of Mechanical Bear-Man actually helps to better serve the theme of the episode, underlining the extreme nature of metamorphosis when Hannibal Lecter's skilled hands guide it.
Tier is dispatched off-screen and returned to Hannibal, with Will telling him, "I'd say this makes us even Steven." With that, 'Shiizakana' proves to be less about Randall Tier's engineering prowess and psychosis, and more about how proficient Dr. Lecter is in unleashing the beast tucked away in his pet projects like Will and, more recently, Margot Verger (Katherine Isabelle).
Last week, Will made it clear he's intent on fishing for Hannibal, and this may be his way of baiting the hook. If that is the case, the question still remains: If Will plunges any deeper to catch his prey, who will be there to reel him in before it's too late?
Hannibal continues next Friday with 'Naka-choko' @10pm on NBC. Check out a preview below:
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