hannibal lecter

Symbols and Sociopaths: Hannibal Season 2, Episode 13

Hannibal season 2 finale

Jonathan May

Mega-spoiler alert.

So of course after asking for Cynthia Nixon’s character to come back for weeks now, the story gods deliver in the most obscene way possible, tightening the plot’s noose with bureaucratic nonsense. Of course Jack and Will are stymied now and must move forward by themselves. And then Abigail reappears! And then she kills Alana! And then Hannibal murders Jack, Will, and Abigail! People were killed with such rapid abandon I thought I was watching a short, homoerotic Shakespeare production with mood lighting. But let’s not kid ourselves, Shakespeare this wasn’t.

Like, what? The first thirty minutes were boring, boring, boring, and then the swift successive murders of the cast at large? I don’t even know what to say. Perhaps now is a good time to view properly Hannibal as a critique of the aesthete, free from financial concern. He literally walks away from the action, like so many bankers and traders during the recent financial collapse. I’m not going to claim that financial ruin as the results of others’ actions is tantamount to murder, but they share tragic qualities. If Hannibal simply walks away now, the chase is on. Maybe for the third season, Cynthia Nixon will helm the ship in pursuit of Lecter; perhaps we’ll go to Italy.

As for this season as a whole, I feel like too many tertiary characters were introduced only to be broiled. The lack of resolution with Jack’s wife Bella upsets me, as well. It’s as if by not showing her death, she experiences purgatory, always suffering in that bed. The only other one who makes it out of the fray (seemingly) is Freddie Lounds; she knew to get when the getting was good.

So folks, I’ll be tuning in for the beginning of season three, and if it’s a bunch of malarkey, I’ll be sure to tell you all about it.

Jonathan May watches too much television, but he’s just playing catch-up from a childhood spent in Zimbabwe. You can read his poetry at owenmay.com, follow him on Twitter at @jonowenmay, or email him at owen.may@gmail.com.

You can read our pieces about previous episodes here.

Image: NBC

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Symbols and Sociopaths: Hannibal Season 2, Episode 12

Hannibal, episode 12

Jonathan May

Spoiler alert, as always.

This episode was the kick in the pants that this season needed heading into the finale. What made this episode so big and bold? Gillian Anderson. She rocked her role as Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier, revealing everything in the suggestions and silences. Her ghostly, incantatory tone as she spoke there in the interrogation room gave me chills. And finally clarity was added, showing us what Jack and Will have been up to this whole time. Bedelia was fated to return as soon as she uttered her belief of Will’s innocence to him in the asylum. By bringing in someone who hasn’t been sullied by the lacklusterness of the past six or seven episodes, we, and the show’s characters, are able to take a step back and reevaluate the madness into which we’ve been drawn. Jack and Will are trying to bait Hannibal? Seriously? Though it’s easily their worst conceived plan, it does give great excuse for Will’s obsequious fanboy attitude toward Hannibal these past few weeks. What had bordered on the homoerotic now can be easily enough explained as an attempt at intimacy. And intimate we get.

Bedelia states that Hannibal can be made prey to his own aesthetic whimsy, a clever choice of words on her part, given how Hannibal views his victims. Ultimately this could be a critique of the aesthete, that echelon of society outside of financial worry, wherein one has time and means to enact one’s fantasies. How this will become a trap for Hannibal isn’t immediately apparent, but I predict they will have to dispense with this advice if they actually want to catch the bastard.

The scene where Hannibal convinces Mason Verger, by way of amyl nitrate, to scrape off his own face is wholly incredible; I was literally disgusted by the wet noises and the voice thinning out. Without the veiling of chiaroscurist darkness, this certainly wouldn’t have been able to air on network television. But this scene showed off what the production of this show can really do. And the episode as a whole was well shot; we had lots of close-ups of faces and people seen through the negative spaces left by others. These kinds of choices really make us examine everyone in a new light, which is perfect as we head into the final episode for this season.

So, what’s going down tonight? We know, via the first episode, that Jack and Hannibal will have their showdown. The catalyst for this could be anything, but I think it will have to do with Alana, who’s been strangely absent. Hopefully we’re over this whole Mason and Margot business. Now that NBC has bought a third season, we know this charade must continue. But if we’re left tonight with some horrible impossibility or vagueness, I might not be tuning in next time around.

Jonathan May watches too much television, but he’s just playing catch-up from a childhood spent in Zimbabwe. You can read his poetry at owenmay.com, follow him on Twitter at @jonowenmay, or email him at owen.may@gmail.com.

Hannibal airs Friday nights on NBC. You can read our pieces about previous episodes here.

Image: NBC

Symbols and Sociopaths: Hannibal Season 2, Episode 11

Jonathan May

Spoiler alert, as always.

With two episodes left and the reappearance of Freddie Lounds at large, the question on everyone’s mind is, what’s going on between Will and Hannibal? Is Will playing Hannibal, or playing everyone else on his behalf? Is Dr. Bloom next on Hannibal’s menu, and is that what it will take for Jack to finally wake up? This week, I present the tweets each character would have sent during the action of episode 11.

@Will_Graham: A certain someone was in my dream again last night J

@Will_Graham: Wtf? I have to eat a songbird whole?

@FBI_Jack: Does anyone else think Will and Hannibal are….closer than normal?

@Mason_Pigmaster: I said I only want Tanqueray. Wtf do I pay these people for?

@Alana_Bloom: Hey guys, just running over to Will’s. Someone call me in like an hour.

@Hannibal: If I have to listen to this piggishness further, I might have to whip up a nice Paupiettes de porc later… @Will_Graham will I see you there?

@Will_Graham: I’ll bring the wine.

@Hannibal: You know I like to pick the wine L

@Freddie_Lounds: And then I said to her, How was my funeral, bitch?

Hannibal, episode 11

Jonathan May watches too much television, but he’s just playing catch-up from a childhood spent in Zimbabwe. You can read his poetry at owenmay.com, follow him on Twitter at @jonowenmay, or email him at owen.may@gmail.com.

Hannibal airs Friday nights on NBC. You can read our pieces about previous episodes here.

Image: NBC

Symbols and Sociopaths: Hannibal Season 2, Episode 10

hannibal, episode 10

Jonathan May

We always open inside Will’s head lately, and this episode was no different. (Here’s hoping we’re not Roseanned at the end!) He conflates his slaying of last week’s serial killer in a dream of also killing Hannibal, which ties in with the incredibly slow David Lynchian conflated sex scene wherein Dr. Bloom is “had” by Hannibal literally and Will projectively. The use of conflation in this episode is important because Will and Hannibal are finally merging. Before they do fully, however, we will be prone to their flirting (serial killer-style) with one another in front of Jack and Dr. Bloom and everyone else. I didn’t expect Will’s transformation to be so obsequious in regard to Hannibal, but if we take the whole sex scene a step further, then Will, by projecting that he has sex with Dr. Bloom through Margot, is able to “have sex” with Hannibal through that projection. I know, I know, I’ve been reading too much Harold Bloom. In any case, the episode ends with both Will’s and Hannibal’s faces conflated into one another, like some kind of ghoulish Chuck Close painting. If the effect is to heighten the “merging” aspect of these two, the production is laying it on a bit thick.

So, Will gets to (presumably) kill Freddie Lounds, ending the life of yet another part of the closed circle. But Margot and her sinister, pig-obsessed brother are uncovering the dark of the wings and heading for the limelight as we speak. As old ancillary characters die, so must new ancillary characters live. Will murdering Freddie didn’t bother me; she already had figured out, as Alana is coming around to now, what the game is. And tonight, it should come around to Jack, prompting (perhaps) the showdown with Hannibal that began the season. But I think we have to deal yet with further piggishness before we can get down to the bones. Other prediction for tonight: The whole Will and Margot (though I wouldn’t rule out Alana and Hannibal) pregnancy thing is another emotional red herring. Don’t let’s add another complication, Story Gods! This isn’t Passions.

My favorite moment of the episode: when Will is eating (presumably) a part of Freddie, that look on his face—transcendence.

Jonathan May watches too much television, but he’s just playing catch-up from a childhood spent in Zimbabwe. You can read his poetry at owenmay.com, follow him on Twitter at @jonowenmay, or email him at owen.may@gmail.com.

Hannibal airs Friday nights on NBC. You can read our pieces about previous episodes here.

Image: NBC

Symbols and Sociopaths: Hannibal Season 2, Episode 9

Hannibal episode 9

Jonathan May

(Massive spoilers, and I totally called Will being groomed by Lecter into becoming a serial killer like three episodes ago. C’mon, story gods!)

Everything in this episode acts in opposition to what has been. This week’s killer suffers from what Hannibal terms species dysphoria, but, on the whole, the episode operates thematically under what I like to call reverse personification. The killer, wanting to be an animal, acts not only in opposition to nature, but to his own nature as well. Will, on the other hand, finally actualizes as a killer, acting against what he knows to be good (akrasia) and aligning with what he knows to be wrong. When he brings up the question of right and wrong to Dr. Lecter, the good doctor responds that those are inconsequential to a God who enjoys human suffering and joy the same, and that he thinks of God when he kills; I think he’s really just thinking of himself, having been “resurrected” from the cross by Jack and Dr. Bloom in the foiled plot by Will against him.

When Will arrives at Hannibal’s door at the episode’s end with the killer’s body in tow, it’s as if he too has become animalistic, like a dog or cat bringing home a dead bird for the master. I almost expected Hannibal to pet him. So we know, or at least we think we know, that Will is now apt student to the good doctor; could this be a ploy on Will’s end to finally expose Lecter, or is this a genuine turn in character? I only bring up the former possibility because this season’s arc has been a bit wobbly, and I wouldn’t put it past the story gods to throw a big “Gotcha!” at us. But, as Will stated, now they’re both “even Steven.” All that said, I stand by my thoughts from three weeks ago: Will is becoming the monster Hannibal always meant him to become, his most successful therapeutic result. My predictions for tonight’s episode are that Will finally realizes some artistic killing projects of his own, something morbid will happen to Dr. Bloom or Jack’s wife (or is she dead? so far, we don’t know!), and Margot will continue to bore me to death. Did the production really need another affluent person to sit around the story’s perimeters this late in the game?

Minor note: Whoever put on Hugh Dancy’s eye makeup this week needs to calm down.

Jonathan May watches too much television, but he’s just playing catch-up from a childhood spent in Zimbabwe. You can read his poetry at owenmay.com, follow him on Twitter at @jonowenmay, or email him at owen.may@gmail.com.

Hannibal airs Friday nights on NBC. You can read our pieces about previous episodes here.

Image: NBC

Symbols and Sociopaths: Hannibal Season 2, Episode 8

hannibal, episode 8

Jonathan May

(As always, massive spoiler alert)

This episode was unremarkable in a number of ways that I do not care to elucidate. We have the character of Margot thrown in, an unnecessary and late-coming red herring if there ever was one. Like most of the women in this show, she merely acts as a soundboard to the male characters, in this case Hannibal. As if to beat a dead horse (ha ha), we also have gratuitous (and not in terms of skin shown) scenes between Hannibal and Dr. Bloom, who has become yet another glass fawn in Lecter’s menagerie.

The dance between Will and Hannibal starts off slow enough in the episode and remains at an agonizingly slow tempo throughout; we learn no new information about their relationship. We head no further down the road of resolution, as we soon should given there are but five episodes left. We still, as I dutifully remind, need to catch up to the frame that opened the season between Jack and Hannibal.

The whole business with Will attempting to kill the social worker sociopath on behalf of the brain-damaged man was abysmal; Hannibal’s explanation of the event concurrent to its unfolding was equally banal. Unless we’re to learn something new through all of this madness, I don’t see the point. The image of the live bird inside the dead woman inside the dead horse was disarming, but just that.

We need to get back to the solid storyline: Hannibal’s eventual discovery and the chase. Throwing in characters at the last minute doesn’t bode well for the arc of the storyline. Let’s hope the story gods bring us back around this Friday.

Jonathan May watches too much television, but he’s just playing catch-up from a childhood spent in Zimbabwe. You can read his poetry at owenmay.com, follow him on Twitter at @jonowenmay, or email him at owen.may@gmail.com.

Hannibal airs Friday nights on NBC. You can read our pieces about previous episodes here.

Image: NBC

Symbols and Sociopaths: Hannibal Season 2, Episode 7

hannibal, episode 7

Jonathan May

(As always, massive spoiler alert)

Every 15 minutes or so, I let out an audible groan while watching this latest episode. Miriam Lass returns after being found by Jack, only to kill Dr. Chilton out of an impulse she can’t control. Oh Miriam, made into just a simple plot device. Oh Dr. Chilton, made into just a simple plot device. So now we have a freed Will, a Hannibal no longer under suspicion, and a bewildered audience.

We still haven’t caught up to the frame with which the season opened, so we know the showdown between Hannibal and Jack is imminent. What will bring them together in this way? What will finally open Jack’s eyes? He jumped on the Dr. Chilton Is Guilty Train pretty hard, but when he finally catches the poor bastard in the snow, we see immediately that Jack knows Chilton is innocent. Miriam’s impulsive killing of Chilton is obviously the result of psychological transference on Lecter’s part; by using recordings of Chilton’s voice and light-disruption therapy, he was able to train Miriam into believing that Chilton, not Hannibal, was the Chesapeake Ripper and her captor. Hopefully Will can bring Jack around to this, forcing his move against Hannibal.

Some may misinterpret the depiction of the Wound Man in this episode as an obvious symbol of superiority, drawn from medieval medical books and rendered lovingly by Hannibal on graphite in his office. However, the Wound Man operates more as a bastardization here of the Hanged Man, a pittura infamante that quite literally symbolizes resurrection. Hannibal sees this opportunity through Chilton as a way to resurrect as a new creature and move on; though I doubt he’ll give up the grisly trade, he sees this as an opportunity to escape. Will’s appearance at the end, though, signals that we are not finished with this reddish business by a long shot. Will would like to resume his therapy, and we shall see where it takes him.

Jonathan May watches too much television, but he’s just playing catch-up from a childhood spent in Zimbabwe. You can read his poetry at owenmay.com, follow him on Twitter at @jonowenmay, or email him at owen.may@gmail.com.

Hannibal airs Friday nights on NBC. You can read our pieces about previous episodes here.

Symbols and Sociopaths: Hannibal Season 2, Episode 6

closeupepisode6

Jonathan May

(As always, massive spoiler alert)

Just a reminder: We’re only halfway through the season and have yet to catch up to the frame of this tale. In the first episode, we open with the struggle between Jack and Hannibal, then flash back eight weeks. So we’re still catching up (quickly, I posit) to a showdown. Also, we haven’t touched on Jack’s wife in the past two episodes really, so I’m sure they will kill her off any episode now in the most maudlin fashion imaginable.

Fact: Mads Mikkelsen played Igor Stravinsky in the gorgeous period film Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky (2009). I saw the film in theaters, and the recreation of the opening night of The Rite of Spring in Paris is probably one of my favorite moments in film history. You eventually see Stravinsky and Chanel naked in the many stages of coitus (one memorable scene includes some sex on the piano bench). So it’s a little jarring to open with Hannibal at the harpsichord, composing music to “move past” what Will “did” to him and even more disturbing to later see Dr. Bloom and Hannibal giving it the old college try on the harpsichord bench. Mikkelsen brought some of Stravinsky into this episode with an awareness of his own mortality, and ultimately the end game is revealed by this awareness. As Hannibal becomes more afraid of Will, he must be able to get to him, so he “frees” Will through exoneration by committing a murder using pieces of Will’s supposed victims. Will, by virtue of this whole ordeal, burns in revenge, being trained by Lecter into becoming his replacement. What will complete this transformation is the eventual murder of Dr. Bloom by Hannibal.

In addition to Stravinsky, we have not-so-subtle references to the movie Hannibal with Will stating that Lecter thinks of his victims as pigs and later in the scene where Abel Gideon eats his own thigh (à la Liotta). I have no idea why they gave such a close adaptation of that scene; the affinities between them only made this incarnation seem weak with a bloated Eddie Izzard succumbing willingly to death. However, the preparation of Gideon’s thigh in clay was lovingly rendered on film. The strongest moments in the series consistently involve food, and this is definitely a strong moment, but then it’s ruined by Gideon trying to be funny. Perhaps the most arresting visual of the episode was the tree-person made by Lecter, like a perverted Daphne ripe with flowers.

Bringing back Miriam Lass at this point seems inanely cruel. We already know who’s committing the murders; Jack’s wife is going to die of cancer, so will her reappearance really matter that much? Call me callous, but I feel like this will end up being another emotional red herring, and honestly, I wish we’d just stick to the point. With Will now free to claim vengeance, the race is between Will killing Hannibal or Jack locking him away.

Note: Hopefully the “history” between Drs. Bloom and Lecter will be elucidated for those of us who don’t write the show, if the story gods are listening.

Jonathan May watches too much television, but he’s just playing catch-up from a childhood spent in Zimbabwe. You can read his poetry at owenmay.com, follow him on Twitter at @jonowenmay, or email him at owen.may@gmail.com.

Hannibal airs Friday nights on NBC. You can read our pieces about previous episodes here.

Symbols and Sociopaths: Hannibal Season 2, Episode 5

hannibal episode 5

Jonathan May

(As always, massive spoiler alert)

We start with the second in a series of split montages, this one featuring breakfast. As Hannibal lovingly prepares his meal in the comfort of his own home, Will stares down the tray lumped with what barely passes for breakfast. The first time we see this split montage is when Hannibal and Will are dressing for trial; this time is different in that it highlights the relative high and low of their respective situations. The high and low is important in this episode, as its juxtaposition implies a classical dramatic structure, that of the protagonist falling from a high place to a low place. It’s unfortunate that the dramatic casualty of this thematic exactness is Dr. Beverly Katz. From the high point of living and finally discovering Hannibal for what he is, Dr. Katz is brought down to lowness, being killed and sliced in a “performance piece” better than any by Damien Hirst (The Cell with Jennifer Lopez also comes to mind). And what exquisite sadness I felt upon seeing Dr. Katz laid out as if prepared for examination under a microscope. RIP, Dr. Katz.

Eddie Izzard is brought back in as the serial killer Abel Gideon in order to act as a sounding board for Hannibal, Will, and the others. But I could just as easily have done without him in this episode. His character brought nothing but lowness, spitting out pithy dialogue like the old man from Pet Cemetery. (An example, speaking of Hannibal: “He is the devil, Mr. Graham. He is smoke. You’ll never catch the ripper. He won’t be caught. If you want him, you will have to kill him.”) The obviousness of this is mortifying; I never, in a million years, imagined that this story would end neatly with Hannibal being meted out justice through the courts. Blood will always be repaid with blood in proper tragedies.

But speaking of courtly justice, what of Will’s trial? And where the hell is Cynthia Nixon to add some perspective to this mess? Instead of Cynthia, we’re given the orderly of the psychiatric ward, a gorgeous pale fellow who readily accedes to Will’s demand that he kill Hannibal. Will, of course, fears becoming Hannibal (hence the horror he feels as the antlers grow through his back), but he’s still willing to “transcend” justice in order to be justified. Will has shifted here from justice to revenge, a tragic flaw; it’s unfortunate that he had to resort to such extremes in an attempt to attain rightness.

The scene between Hannibal and the orderly is properly “high” in its beauty; the camerawork here captures the chiaroscuro of Hannibal’s bleeding body as he hangs Christ-like with his feet on a bucket. It’s almost like a Caravaggio. And that beautiful line which gives us all of Hannibal—“Only if you eat me.” Such a high moment, capable, on the brink of annihilation. And then we’re brought crashing down as the orderly is shot, dashing Will’s plan and possible hopes for ever leaving the psychiatric ward.

Jonathan May watches too much television, but he’s just playing catch-up from a childhood spent in Zimbabwe. You can read his poetry at owenmay.com, follow him on Twitter at @jonowenmay, or email him at owen.may@gmail.com.

Hannibal airs Friday nights on NBC. You can read our piece about the previous episode here.

Symbols and Sociopaths: Hannibal Season 2, Episode 4

nbchan

Jonathan May

This episode was really just all over the place. We start out in Will’s head as he teaches Abigail Hobbs to fish; the terrible fishing metaphors fly hard and fast (“the one that got away” could also work as a Katy Perry song title). By incorporating Abigail into his interior space, we’re able to see more clearly Will’s goal in this trial: to lure out the beast in Hannibal and expose it to the light. So Will succumbs to the greedy desire of the hospital psychiatric director for exclusive “therapy” to regain his memories. We’ll see if this pays off in the long run.

But then we segue into an apiarist serial killer who freely admits to her crimes when confronted (albeit in a controlled insane way) halfway through the episode. The swiftness with which this was handled confused me and left me wanting more.

So what did we linger on the most? We see laid out, in brutal coldness, Bella’s acceptance of death as a cure to living. Perhaps the only echo in this episode is the image of the honeycomb, Bella’s body honeycombed with cancer. Just a thought. The whole slow dance toward death Jack must acknowledge is lightened by the novel plot introduction of medical marijuana. As Jack and Bella smoke purple kush, we feel imminently the frailty of even this small moment of levity. And, as the plot gods would have it, happiness comes at great cost.

My prediction that Dr. Beverly Katz would discover Hannibal for what he was came to startling life at the episode’s end. I was riveted in my seat as she gaped in shock at something. I am so, so thankful we did not see what she saw. It’s always more horrible what we imagine ourselves. But this unfortunate interaction could lead to the demise of my favorite character.

All to say, Friday could not come sooner. I’ve been trolling the Hannibal Tumblr and Facebook page, like a dutiful #fannibal, so we’ll see if the story gods repay. If they’re out there, listening, I have but one humble request: better music. The whole episode was plagued with shrieking strings and obvious, eerie auditory leitmotifs. Let’s lay off a little moving forward.

My predictions for this week’s episode: Alas, Dr. Katz is held by Hannibal, but hopefully not killed. Will Graham moves forward with his new therapy and fills in his missing narrative. Bella lingers on; Jack feels it necessary to stay beside her, when Dr. Katz needs him most. And where the hell is Cynthia Nixon?

Jonathan May watches too much television, but he’s just playing catch-up from a childhood spent in Zimbabwe. You can read his poetry at owenmay.com, follow him on Twitter at @jonowenmay, or email him at owen.may@gmail.com.

Hannibal airs Friday nights on NBC. You can read our piece about the previous episode here.

Image source: NBC