This review contains spoilers.
I’ve never been one of those people who reads the end of the book first. I open my presents on Christmas morning, not Christmas Eve. And I never read spoilers for the movie I’m going to see. To me, anticipation is one of the best parts of any experience.
So I’m not exactly sure what to make of this week’s episode of Hannibal, Entrée.
Thus far, the show has done an excellent job of keeping us guessing. We know Hannibal will turn out bad, so the question instead becomes: how and when (and maybe why) does this happen? And perhaps, has it already occurred? The lushly filmed scenes in the doctor’s dining room have constantly teased us, by juxtaposing the meals with other events, that it is entirely possible that Hannibal has gone bad (if indeed, he was ever good) and has been serving his teammates specially selected cuts of various players in this narrative.
We do know before this episode begins that, if he’s not yet bad, he’s not really good either. His salvation of Abigail (which involved driving Dr. Bloom’s head into the wall and hiding a body) may not have had a body count in and of itself, but it did hint that he may be grooming Abigail for more murder. In comparison, however, this week’s ending came as a shock in how that it removes doubt that Hannibal’s evil has already been unleashed – in the past.
So much of this episode lives in the past. It appears that we are moving away from the Hobbs killings and focusing instead on the hunt for the Chesapeake Ripper, a killer who ostensibly stopped murdering two years ago, as we slip in and out of flashbacks to that time. Not only does this give us backstory, it allows the series to tap into our shared Hannibal Lecter past (in the films and novels) in a way that even the first episode did not.
The team’s attention turns to the Chesapeake Ripper when Dr. Abel Gideon (Eddie Izzard), a resident at Baltimore’s home for the criminally insane after killing his family over Thanksgiving dinner, breaks loose just long enough to kill a night nurse in roughly the same way the Ripper did his victims years before. This leads Dr. Frederick Chilton (Raúl Esparza), the unbelievably arrogant and insecure head of this same institute which will eventually house Dr. Lecter himself, to conclude that the reason the Ripper has not killed in that time is that he’s been under lock and key for the Thanksgiving crime. Anthony Heald did a great job with the inferior Chilton in a couple of the Lecter films, making much of a part that was more caricature than character. And Esparza is given a meatier role, not just stabbing at perceived challengers to his intellect blindly but with an insight more in line with the top role at a place for the most violent psychopaths. “You’re quite the topic of conversation among psychiatric circles, Mr. Graham. A unique cocktail of personality disorders and neuroses that make you a highly skilled profiler.”
Both Graham and Dr. Bloom choose to interview Dr. Gideon in his cell – which bears a striking resemblance to the one Jodie Foster’s Clarice Starling will visit Dr. Lecter in in Silence of the Lambs, not the scene’s only resemblance, it should be said. The rapport that Dr. Bloom establishes with Dr. Gideon has a very similar feel to that between Agent Starling and Lecter. What is missing is the way in which Lecter toyed with Starling, Hopkins’ scenery-chewing stopping just short of damaging credulity. Along with Eddie Izzard’s own penchant for outrageousness in his performances, this has the unfortunate effect of making Izzard’s turn as killer seem less than it might be. We don’t need fava beans, but it would be nice if he at least didn’t look so bored. And Gideon doesn’t even rise to the wonderfully snide level of boredom that makes usually makes Izzard so entertaining.
Dr. Bloom isn’t the only one serving as a stand-in for Starling. In flashbacks, we meet Miriam Lass, an FBI trainee also recruited by Jack Crawford to help in the tracking down of a serial killer. Her smarts and assertiveness are certainly on a par with Clarice as she figures out a way, albeit not a legal one, of tracking down the killer, whom she appears to find in the person of Lecter. While Lecter attacks her, we know that she can’t be dead, at least not yet, and wonder whether, like Starling (and apparently Abigail), she merely ends up seduced by the weirdly charismatic killer.
And with this ending scene, I’m left wondering whether the time for anticipation is over. It appears that his secret is out in the open (to us, if not his own colleagues). Of course, this does open the way for us to delve more into the actual psychology of Hannibal (an expectation enhanced by the forthcoming introduction of Gillian Anderson as the serial killer’s own psychiatrist). That holds a great deal of promise, especially considering that this is a show in which empathy is such a driving force. Many of us can understand the inner workings of a Jack Crawford, a Dr. Bloom, and maybe even a Will Graham. Thankfully, Hannibal is far removed from the emotional makeup of the vast majority of us, and is thus the most difficult to comprehend. He’s also, perhaps for this same reason, the most intriguing.
But I’ll honestly be disappointed if this means that we now have an unobstructed view of the machinations of Dr. Lecter. The hints, suspicious dinners, and barely-there reactions have not, unlike the elk scenes, worn out their welcome. Rarely has not knowing been this much fun. Which is why I’m still praying that, any evidence to the contrary, this is still Christmas Eve. I’m not quite ready to open my presents yet.
Read Laura’s review of the previous episode, Coquilles, here.
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