Robert Tiemstra ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
“One of these things is not like the others. One of these things just doesn’t belong…”
Hannibal really loves its subtext. The best writing in this latest serving of deliciously morbid drama is purely between the lines, in the best way possible. “Sakizuki” is not so much of a game changer as it is a tone setter – an episode that gives a glimpse into what sort of intrigue is to come, while at the same time giving us a little appetizer of the same.
This is an excellent episode for showing what Hannibal does best: balancing horrifyingly graphic violence with subtlety and hard-edged manipulation. The cold open is enough to convince us of that – a sickeningly suspenseful follow up to last week’s cliffhanger punctuated by a scene of tense and subtext-laden dialogue between Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen), Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), and Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas). Despite the audacity of this cold open, the episode to follow manages to keep up without losing steam (as episodes with terrific openings can sometimes do on lesser shows.)
The screen time here is divided relatively equally between the leads, and some much-appreciated development comes the way of Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne), who is starting to learn from his actions. But as always, the scene-stealers end up being Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter, who almost swallow the episode with their duel of minds– exemplified by a shared case they are both given access to. Watching the characters–particularly Lecter–play each other across the bars, promises to be one of the driving elements going into season two, and this episode makes the promise seem more juicy than it ever did in previews. The writing staff is clearly having a great time toying with the role-reversal of these two characters from the source material (In fact, a passing comment from Will Graham is an exact line of Dr. Lecter’s in The Silence of the Lambs: “Give me the file then, and I’ll tell you what I think.”). They only share 3 scenes together in the course of this episode, but never once does the episode lose track of the dynamic that makes the show tick.
In spite of this episode-stealing dynamic, however, a character who shines on the fringe is Dr. Lecter’s therapist, Dr. Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson). She is given the most concrete character arc in this episode, as she is forced to make a decision about her own decidedly mixed feelings toward Hannibal. Gillian Anderson’s icy delivery has always fit the tone of the show like a glove, and works at its best in this episode, where you can tell how carefully she chooses her words when dealing with such a potentially dangerous patient. Her uncertainty effectively flips her relationship with Dr. Lecter on its head – in the first season, they looked and acted as if they were equals, but here the unspoken menace of Hannibal is clearly getting to her.
One of the most fascinating scenes in the episode is when Hannibal travels to the grain silo the episode’s serial killer has been using to house his massive pile of corpses. Watching Hannibal manipulate another psychopath into becoming part of the human mural is an excellent throwback to The Silence of the Lambs, showing how Hannibal is not your ordinary psychopath: he has an honest intellect and self awareness that lets him become something greater: a monster among monsters. He twists the already twisted psychology of another madman to his own benefit, both endearing himself to the FBI and sending a devilishly subtle message to Will Graham through the forensic photo.
Now back to that quote at the top of this article. Yes, this episode does quote Sesame Street. It may be the most important line in the episode. Will’s strikingly out of place children’s show reference while going through forensic photographs fits perfectly within the tone of this show, purely because of Graham’s position within the universe Bryan Fuller & company have written. Will Graham is aware everyone sees him as a lunatic, and this little quote is his way of acknowledging the almost farcical nature of his situation without giving in and losing what is left of his mind. In fact, Will Graham seems to be getting better, and the closing scenes of this episode promise the re-emergence of Will’s lucid side to make his trial a very convoluted and emotionally turbulent one.
The one aspect of this episode that did not quite work was the ending: Du Maurier showing up and speaking to Will Graham was a terrific scene, but the follow up with Hannibal Lecter entering what one must assume is her house to find her not at home is a dramatic risk that doesn’t ultimately work. Scenes like this may damage the complete competence Hannibal always has in any of his appearances and make him seem a little buffoonish if employed too often.
A running thread throughout the first season of Hannibal was the manipulation and mental destruction of an already somewhat unstable man by a psychopath. If “Sakizuki” is anything to go by, it seems season two is giving Will Graham the opportunity to fight back. There is emotional and mental manipulation galore in this episode, all set across the playing field of corpses that get caught up in the wake of these two sociopaths. If the ending moments of this episode feel abrupt and empty compared to what proceeded it, it is only because it was so packed with emotionally, intellectually, and psychologically dense material.
Consensus: Starting with terrific horror, this episode delves quickly into great manipulation and character building, before petering out at the end a little too sloppily.
Overall Episode Grade: B+