Last week, Hannibal opened with one of the most visceral fight sequences in recent television history. This week, the show that is not afraid to take things to the edge and then take a flying leap over it presents a note perfect Grand Guignol horror sequence that is really not for the faint of heart. The poor victim that was taken by the skin tone killer awakens to find himself part of a mass of bodies, sewn together to form the image of an eye. The poor guy has to rip the stitches from between his naked thighs and his arms before he tears himself free from the other corpses in an impossible to watch grue delight that would have made Lucio Fulci weep crimson tears of joy. The sequence uses practical special effects to really take that extra step into the colder parts of a viewers soul.
Remember the first time you saw Hellraiser, with the meat hooks and the ripping? Kind of like that. The sequence also had the unmitigated gall to force the viewer to watch every second of the poor victim’s agony, no hard cuts, no trick lighting, just pure nerve rending physical atrocity. The suddenly patchwork man escapes, only to botch a cliff dive, ending his suffering.
Cut to Will in his box as Hannibal and Alana convince him to allow them to help. This sequence brings up questions of the nature of reality. If a man cannot trust his own mind, how can he correctly perceive reality? But Will does trust his own mind, and by letting Hannibal believe he is questioning himself, he allows Hannibal to believe he maintains a semblance of control.
Meanwhile, Scully, erm,I mean, Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier ends her professional relationship with Hannibal, but how does one spurn the devil? All of a sudden, Du Maurier seems like she is in severe danger from the man that viewers have seen her with many times. There has never been a sense of danger from Hannibal to his own psychiatrist, but now that Du Maurier has severed that bond of trust, in other words, altering Hannibal’s reality, she is potentially another victim. Hannibal trusted her, in his own way, and the changing of their relationship alters how he sees her. Du Maurier went from constant confidant to potential entrée over the course of one scene.
The spurned Hannibal then has to perform in his new role of profiler as he witnesses the autopsy of the tableau killer’s latest victim. In this sequence, Beverly Katz’s role continues to grow. She works with Hannibal but then visits Will to get his opinion on the murders. Beverly’s visit with Will establishes a precedent of using a dangerous prisoner as a profiler, something that will be revisited many times throughout the Hannibal saga.
The contrast between Will and Hannibal’s profiling techniques are fascinating, as Hannibal uses his expert senses to smell the truth of the victims he examines. With one sniff of the corpse, Hannibal can tell that the poor escaped victim ran through a corn field before his fateful plunge. Hannibal is able to do what Will does, but with no suffering or pain. Will must endure the horror of the knowledge he gleans off the victims he examines, but to Hannibal, it’s just like sniffing a rose.
At this point, the show really begins to drive home the themes of power and identity. As Hannibal sits in the Clarice Starling seat, he tries to reestablish a bond with Will in order to gain power. By helping Will find his identity once again, Hannibal is inflicting his power on Will. When Beverly replaces Hannibal in the Starling chair, Will is able to use his power over her by using potential victims as leverage. Will knows he will need Beverly as an ally and promises her that lives will be saved If she follows Will’s edicts. Essentially, Will is doing to Beverly what Hannibal did to Will, using the promise of catching murderers to manipulate her into doing his will. To defeat Hannibal, in a sense, Will must become Hannibal.
While Will tries to solve the tableau murders from his cell, Hannibal has the whole thing figured out and tracks the killer back to where the victim from the opening escaped. When Hannibal sees a score of sewn-together corpses, he hears a symphony in his mind. Where others see the most evil potential of humanity, Hannibal hears harmonies and beauty. As the murderer walks into his fleshy sanctuary, Hannibal surprises the killer by praising his profane work.
Hannibal uses the tableau to leave Will a message by sewing the killer into the center of the corpse eye. It’s almost as if Hannibal has tenderness for another killer, someone who dared to seek his identity by profaning others. As tender as he was to the killer, Hannibal still takes a leg to enjoy with a nice bottle of red. The question is, why did Hannibal take it and need to consume it? Was the tableau, the eye, so perfectly abhorrent that Hannibal needed to consume a piece of pure evil? Was it admiration of chaos that made the leg worthy of Hannibal’s palette? Or was the leg just a trophy of pride that he was able to further manipulate Will?
Hannibal’s plan once again worked to perfection as he continues his mental duel with Will Graham, a contest only they know they are playing. The most fascinating aspect of the show is not if Graham will catch Hannibal, but how? How can Will, from a position of no power, with his identity fractured, muster enough power to catch the devil? The last vestiges of Will’s identity are held in his innocence. Will’s last power play is to fight to maintain who he is even in the face of execution. If he gives in to the Hannibal-crafted reality for even a moment, he will allow his adversary to win.
Yet Will sits in a position of no power, and in Will’s darkest hour, when he needs a friend, an ally, in walks Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier, the only woman who has seen into the minds of Will’s chess opponent, Hannibal Lecter. And with one whisper from her lips, Will has his identity reaffirmed and has a degree of power given back to him.
Body parts consumed: Veal chops made form serial killer leg. Can’t get that at the Olive Garden.