This review contains spoilers.
Hannibal is a show about smart characters.
We know that there are many kinds of intelligence, and Bryan Fuller’s series represents several of them. There’s Katz, Zeller, and Price – all clearly keen at critically evaluating evidence. They may not know what that evidence means, but they are rarely wrong about what it says. Then there’s the craven but quite cunning Freddie Lounds. You obviously do not stay in her line of business without being particularly skilled at reading people and determining what weakness will be most effective to exploit. There’s Will’s ability to pick so much up from so little trace and imagine not just what happened but why. And of course, the intellect driving so much of that what and why: the truly superior mind of Hannibal Lecter himself.
This week made clear just how superior he is. If Graham’s ability is to see into the past, then Hannibal’s is obviously to see into the future – at least two years into the future, because that’s how long he’s been working towards the events of Yakimono. As Will points out, once you’ve caught a fish and it’s wriggled away, it’s that much more difficult to catch it a second time. Miriam Lass might have hooked Lecter, but she failed to reel him in, and since that day, it’s clear that Hannibal wanted to ensure that no one would ever again get the chance.
But Hannibal’s intelligence is best explicated not by the fact that he has been, thus far, so successful in his plans but in his attitude toward those plans. Holding Lass and brainwashing her to believe that someone else was the Chesapeake Ripper might have been necessary to Lecter’s campaign to remain free. But cutting off her arm and leaving it for Jack Crawford was anything but. Hannibal was running a bit of a risk and he knew it. Yet he gets a great deal of pleasure from making others dance for his benefit. For him, this is not just a matter of self-preservation – it’s a form of play. And to paraphrase Captain Kirk in Shore Leave: the greater the mind, the greater the need for play.
Hannibal’s having fun.
But while Fuller’s series may include a lot of intelligent people, most of them seem to have gotten fairly dumb in the last couple of weeks. I covered Alana’s major stupidity in sleeping with Hannibal in last week’s episode. She outdoes herself this week by not only really failing to acknowledge just how wrong she has been about Will’s guilt but by pushing it even further and attacking him when he points it out to her. Is she correct that what was done to him does not excuse what he did? Technically, yes. But if Will believes that Hannibal is actually the Chesapeake Ripper and responsible for the death of so many, including those investigating the case, then killing Lecter isn’t an act of revenge. It’s an attempt to prevent him from killing again. And her own dense inability to learn from her original mistake (buying into the idea that Will was capable of being a serial killer, whatever the reason) leads her to a bit of a logical fallacy: Will isn’t who she thought he was – and part of that someone was a man who has killed repeatedly and viciously – because he attempted to kill Lecter; according to her argument, he’s not a killer because he tried to kill someone.
But her stupidity is nothing compared to that of Jack Crawford who doesn’t even seem to hold Will’s attempted murder against him. Crawford appears to acknowledge that there is a mind working behind the scenes to cause all this mayhem, and ignoring that murder attempt, takes Will to the killer’s lair for his insight. Taking this into consideration, and the fact that Graham has been fairly consistently correct about everything, the smart bet is that whatever Will says about the lair and the man who killed there will likely be true. So why is Crawford so quick to dismiss Hannibal as a suspect based on Miriam’s word? And to ignore that she is the “thing” that they found there that led them away from Lecter, just as Will predicted? After all, if Hannibal is the killer and had her in his clutches for two years, her mental state would have been putty to a man as skilled as they know Lecter to be and as sadistic as they suspect he might be. Stockholm Syndrome wouldn’t begin to cover what he could have (and, in fact, did) to her. Surely the head of the FBI’s Behavioral Sciences Unit should know that.
Even Dr. Chilton, who – aside from Gideon – seemed the only person really willing to concede that Graham has largely been playing the part of Cassandra in this drama, fails to do the smart thing and take Will’s advice not once but twice. He could have told Crawford the entire truth, including his and Lecter’s shared secret (which would have explained why Miriam, to whom Hannibal had the same access that Chilton had to Gideon, was anything but a reliable witness) and likely spared himself being the cannibal’s patsy. Or failing that, he could have listened when Will told him to do the exact opposite of what Lecter suggested – don’t run. And he’s paid a heavy price for his foolishness.
But Will is no longer anyone’s fool. For all of Alana’s concern in the opening episode of the show, it seems that Graham’s return to the world after years of exile, while it may have temporarily injured him, has actually saved him to some extent. And that’s because the Will Graham we see at the end of the episode is not the same tortured soul he was in the beginning. It’s not just a matter of a haircut and a trouser press. He’s clear-headed and focused now. The man who would not look people in the eye weeks before has now chosen to lock gazes with the evil that has been just out of his line of sight for so long. When he and Hannibal square off at the end of Yakimono, we get the sense that this is finally a battle between equals. And that Hannibal may well have met his match.
The next few weeks are sizing up to be absolutely delicious.
Read Laura’s review of the previous episode, Futamono, here.
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