“I dare you to climb it.”
I think I’ve figured out what Hannibal’s one flaw is: the killer of the week stories are kinda weak. The kills are epic, and this was definitely the most disturbing kill(s) in a long line of disturbing kills. Seriously, I didn’t think anything could top last week’s “human cello,” but “human totem pole” did the trick.
But the killers behind these macabre masterpieces and their individual stories never really hit the mark for me, and not even a Lance Henriksen cameo couldn’t really draw me in to the tale of dark familial secrets. Henriksen was also terribly underused, appearing in all of two minutes or so of screen time when he gives himself up to Will and Jack. So brief was Bishop’s appearance that I wondered if they only cast him as a reference to Millennium, a show I’ve mentioned before in these recaps and one that shares a lot of similarities with Hannibal.
I also think structurally, the killer of the week stories are awkwardly handled. Either too much time is spent on them or barely any time is spent at all, as was the case with “Trou Normand.” There really was no other reason for Henriksen’s killer to exist other than to fill the weekly quota of “due to violent content, viewer discretion is advised” moments and to further unravel Will’s psyche. This is really only a minor complaint because the rest of the episode was pretty fantastic, with Will going crazy and losing time, Alana realizing she may actually want to jump his bones, and Will uncovering Abigail’s secret. A lot happened, and as always, dialogue, acting and cinematography were top notch.
Listen you guys, I have like, no soul, and even I found this disturbing.
My favorite part of this episode was Jack. I really like that Jack is secretly an amazing FBI agent and is the only character who’s catching on to Hannibal’s game. I think that’s a fun story direction and one that I’ve seen done before and usually enjoy: when the main character isn’t such a total genius that he figures the whole plot out. In these scenarios a supporting character figures it all out but no one believes him, and often he is killed off before the protagonist realizes his buddy was right all along. Dexter does this all the time, most notably last season with the detective Mike, who was catching on to Dexter before being conveniently murdered… oh hey, I forgot THE SAME THING HAPPENED TO LAGUERTA. Dexter is the definition of contrivance so it’s not the best example, but when employed correctly I think this plot device can be really effective because the supporting character’s frustration echoes the audience’s.
So yeah, this development further fuels my suspicion that Laurence Fishburne is not a permanent member of the cast and will be the first major character to fall prey to Hannibal. He’s too smart and he’s already begun to figure out that Hannibal is not everything he seems. Basically I feel like this first (and perhaps only) season will end one of two ways: either Hannibal is ousted and goes on the run, or more likely, Jack figures out Hannibal is a serial killer but Hannibal murders him discreetly before he can go public with his secret. The latter would mean the show is straying dangerously close to Dexter territory, where it becomes increasingly harder to suspend one’s disbelief and buy that the titular killer has not been caught.
The thing is, Hannibal eschews a lot of TV conventions and I imagine that might be related to why its ratings have been so poor, and why it’s on the chopping block for cancellation. If this were a normal show, like say, The Following, Will would be played by someone much more famous and would be a complete and utter genius, a House, M.D.-esque savant who is never wrong. He would have inner demons but it wouldn’t be something as bizarre as empathizing with killers, it would be something more basic, like “he’s a down and out cop who’s so obsessed with the job he’s ruining his marriage and his relationship with his kids,” which would be dumb. The over the top and disturbing kills, the moody lighting, music and editing, all of these things set Hannibal apart, but its uniqueness is also the agent of its own demise. It’s too weird, too smart and too creepy for the majority of the dumbasses who still watch broadcast television to stomach.
But those of us in the know can enjoy it while it lasts, and you never know, NBC hasn’t put their foot down on the series yet. Now, while Hannibal’s pacing has become a little sluggish of late, this was a really standout episode with lots of cool developments. It was really nice to have Abigail back, and in the show’s tradition of not having black and white characters, we learned that while Abigail is, as Hannibal puts it, a “victim,” she’s also slightly culpable in her father’s atrocities, having helped him reel in the girls he then murdered. Again, it was awesome to see Jack, a little unhinged himself after the whole debacle with his former pupil, being the only one who can see through Abigail and who knows she’s a killer too.
“Did you know I wrote a comic book?”
Well, so did Will when he did his super power trick over Nicholas Boyle’s corpse, but was convinced by Hannibal to hide the secret for the sake of Abigail. I like Hannibal trying to be a real person and be all fatherly, but I did think the whole “Abigail’s two dads” thing was a little weird, especially the dinner scene with Freddie Lounds where Hannibal goes, “we care about Abigail.” Uh, creepy? If it was anyone else at that dinner other than Freddie they would have been freaked the fuck out because two clearly weird dudes who have no real relationship with Abigail have taken it upon themselves to raise her. However, this is a pretty stylized show, so I let it slide.
I wonder if Hannibal’s paternal instincts will eventually get him caught, as the deeper Jack looks into Nicholas Boyle’s death the closer he gets to uncovering Hannibal’s secret as well. Clearly the endgame will involve the Hannibal/Will/Abigail unit and Jack’s suspicions, but with four episodes left I imagine only the last two will really touch on this. The next two eps will probably be more basic killer of the week installments, and next week I bet Will gets institutionalized. I keep thinking his manic mannerisms will start to tire, but Hugh Dancy is giving a good performance and I find Will so compelling he’s never gotten grating, even at his lowest. I actually found the idea of him losing time scarier than the human totem pole, as the latter was pretty fantastical. Losing time is something I can imagine, and something I imagine would be terrifying. This show is so illusive it’s hard to ever really know what characters are thinking or what their true motivations are, so I’m still unclear on whether Hannibal genuinely cares about Will or if he’s just torturing him. Their dynamic is the glue that holds the story together and it shows no signs of breaking anytime soon.
Finally, since I’m four episodes away from finishing The Wire, I feel compelled to mention that since the majority of this show takes place in and around Baltimore, I’m constantly imagining all the crazy drug war shit from David Simon’s epic going on in the background of Hannibal. It’s just weird because stylistically, the two shows are polar opposites but share the same locale. You know what the Hannibal universe needs? Omar. Just send in Omar, he’ll clean up all these serial killers. Hannibal would never see him coming til Omar already had a bead on him with his sawed off.
But seriously, one thing I do think is a little weird is that even though this show is set in a city with a massive African-American population (I think they might actually be in the majority?) we barely ever see any black people, like ever. There was Franklin’s cat gut buddy from last week, but he doesn’t really count because he was an eloquent serial killer. Where’s the Clay Davises? The Stringer Bells? Hannibal goes to all these fancy upper class events and they’re all full of white people. He must be brushing shoulders with some politicians, and if he’s in Baltimore then most of those politicians would be black. I dunno, it’s not a real criticism because this show isn’t about Baltimore, I just feel like Bryan Fuller and co. have absolutely no regard for the setting. Which is fine, because it’s kind of irrelevant, but I can’t help myself from wondering about what’s going on behind the scenes in Baltimore while Hannibal’s out eating people.
Please kill the lab techs. PLEASE.
Oh, and one last random thought: I HATE THESE LAB TECHS. Oh god, do I hate these guys, every time they open their mouths I want to strangle them. Hettienne Park’s Beverly Katz has actually started to grow on me because she never acts like an annoying nerd and is the only one who seems like a real person, but man those other two guys are awful.
Listen, a note to showrunners of crime shows: be careful with lab tech characters. A lot of shows have them, a lot of shows have good and/or popular ones. There’s the Lone Gunmen from X-Files, that one-legged dude from CSI and the goth chick from NCIS. Actually come to think of it, X-Files had that other lab tech character and he was great. It can be done, but it’s difficult because lab tech characters are basically walking, talking exposition machines who don’t get much characterization beyond “quirky” because they really only exist to explain SCIENCE to the audience. So if you have to have them, there’s one rule you should follow to make sure you avoid having a supporting character that drives the audience insane: DON’T HAVE THREE OF THEM. Why are there three lab techs on this show? All we need is Beverly. That’s it. Have the other two guys be Hannibal’s next two victims, k thnx bye.