Robert Tiemstra ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
“He has no discernable reason, other than his own amusement and curiosity!”
Death is always very much in the foreground of Hannibal, and not in the way it normally manifests itself in serial TV dramas. Season one was very much about the aftermath of death and how it affects everyone involved: the killer, the family members, and the witness. In the fourth episode of season two, Bryan Fuller and Scott Nimerfro unveil another perspective: how the prospect of inevitable death affects people.
This episode focused mainly on the story of a guest character. Jack Crawford’s (Laurence Fishburne) wife, Bella (Gina Torres), is the anchor that gives this episode more thematic heft than its three predecessors. Her acceptance of the inevitability of death ultimately earns the respect of Dr. Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) – a man who sits apart from humanity and judges each person based on empirical worth. This is a theme also touched upon by the introduction of a new brand of killer, Katherine Pims (Amanda Plummer), an acupuncturist who uses her techniques to remove the pain from her suffering patients, giving them a “dignified death” (though one may rightly question how dignified it is to have your skull hollowed out and filled with a beehive). Though the two plots never intersect, they are inseparably linked by this tantalizing theme.
While this episode is very preoccupied with Bella and the sequence with the Bees, it somehow manages to find ample room to utilize side characters. Beverly Katz (Hettienne Park) is paired with Will Graham to find evidence against Lecter, and her side of the plot is thrillingly suspenseful, if not as thematically dense, as Bella’s. Beverly Katz, along with Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas), has suffered on this show from a lack of individual plot involvement outside of the FBI task force, and it is nice to see her finally step out into her own here. In continually building toward the Jack/Lecter confrontation in the cold open of the season, Fuller seems duty-bound to highlight how uncertain the fate of the lesser FBI characters are; Lecter’s capture is inevitable, but Katz’s confrontation with him at the very end of the episode makes the audience question how much of a body count he will stack up before he is taken down.
And then there’s the main two, Lecter and Graham, continually at odds. Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) has a major revelation in this episode, and it is shockingly effective in how it is conveyed through harsh editing and visuals, putting the viewer effectively into Will’s mind during a seizure (it is telling that this episode also had a cautionary warning about flashing lights on top of NBC’s ordinary “violent content” slide). It is also curious to note that the first person Will uses to start fighting to separate himself from Hannibal is Dr. Fredrick Chilton, a man who is just as untrustworthy, but less competent, at manipulation. Chilton’s interaction with Lecter in this episode is interesting because it seems to underline a fundamental similarity in them as psychiatrists, a possible hint as to why Lecter harbors such hatred toward him during the events of The Silence of the Lambs. This is the first episode of the season, perhaps of the whole show, where Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham did not interact, perhaps emphasizing the growing rift between them.
Not to be forgotten, of course, is Lecter. The quote above, uttered by Will Graham when he makes his desperate plea for Katz to investigate Lecter, is an almost perfect description of Lecter’s personality, indicating just how well Will Graham’s empathy disorder allows him to understand a psychopath’s motivation. He is a man who judges people as if he isn’t one of them; the ones who should live are the ones that incite the least disgust. Dr. Lecter is completely devoid of empathy, but that has never prevented him from “liking” people he thinks make life more interesting as evidenced by his last lines to Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs: “The world is a much more interesting place with you in it.” In the moments after Bella’s suicide, he coldly considers whether or not to revive her. She has earned his respect through her integrity in the face of death, but he does not have the empathy necessary to feel bad at her passing. Ultimately, he flips a coin. A human life is as arbitrary to Dr. Lecter as a coin toss, regardless of his own personal affection.
There are many cameos in this episode; the fantastic Eddie Izzard makes a surprise comeback in a flashback, and Abigail Hobbs herself manifests in one of Will Graham’s hallucinations, which is the one breath of emotional relief in this heavy episode. However, their appearances are slight compared to the sheer amount of material the living characters have to shoulder in this very dense hour of television. If there are any complaints to be had with this episode, it is that Alana Bloom has yet to have a significant role in the season, and the episode feels rather cramped in comparison to its more methodically paced predecessors. These all are minor, for this episode hits all the right notes, building toward a confrontation that promises much higher stakes in the coming weeks.
Consensus: Hannibal continues to prove that thrilling suspense and Gothic horror can go hand-in-hand with thematic depth without being heavy-handed.
Overall Episode Grade: A-