Mads Mikkelsen & Hugh Dancy in HANNIBAL: "Yakimono"

From the very beginning of their relationship, Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham have been on unequal footing. Hannibal has always had the upper hand in their relationship, his manipulations so subtle that Will himself never realizing he was being used; indeed, even now some (such as Alana Bloom) are unable to see the truth.

But the balance of power has shifted. Will is free, with a vague knowledge of Lecter’s methods, and the unshakable sense that nothing involving the respected psychiatrist was what it seemed.

Earlier in the season, Will explained to Abigail Hobbs–or imagined he explained to her–the difference between hunting and fishing. “One you shoot, the other you catch.” Abigail responded, “One you stalk, the other you lure.”

How will Will lure and catch Hannibal Lecter, the Chesapeake Ripper?

These two episodes give us our first few hints.

*   *   *

Once again, Wikipedia’s kaiseki article provides definitions of Japanese culinary terms.

Raúl Esparza in Hannibal: "Yakimono"

“Yakimono” (Season 2, episode 7; Apr. 11, 2014)

“…flame-broiled food ([especially] fish)”

This week on Hannibal: Miriam Lass adjusts to a return to normal life after the FBI rescues her. Dr. Chilton releases Will Graham from the Baltimore State Hospital. Before leaving, Will advises Chilton to “confess” to Jack Crawford. He attempts to do so, but in the meantime, the BAU team gathers evidence from the site of Miriam’s imprisonment that suggests that he, not Hannibal Lecter, is the Chesapeake Ripper.

Welcome back to the Bizarro World in Which We Actually Take Frederick Chilton Seriously!

Let’s address the second-to-last thing in the episode first, because I think that’s the thing that’s going to stick in peoples’ minds in the future. Dr. Frederick Chilton is, apparently, dead, shot in the face by Miriam Lass–who seems to think he’s the Chesapeake Ripper. Of course, this breaks the series’ continuity with the novels in a massive way, as Chilton plays an important role in Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs. Fans are bound to speculate about whether he lived through it, and even Bryan Fuller has been cagey on the subject (in an A.V. Club interview, Fuller cryptically remarked that “Serpico survived a bullet to the face”). But, for the time being, let’s assume that the mediocre doctor is dead.

The second half of the episode details the events leading up to the shooting. Between the visual aesthetic of these scenes and Brian Reitzell’s atypically jazzy score, the subplot has more than a little film noir feel about it. Raúl Esparza has been one of the show’s MVPs since his first appearance in “Entrée,” and this is his finest hour so far. Watching his smarmy cockiness break down by degrees, gradually replaced by naked desperation, is one of the season’s highlights. Just listen to the way he says “I have to leave the country…I am leaving the country,” and you’ll hear what I mean.

There’s a bit of a break in mood between the first and second halves of the episode, and upon rewatching I did find myself getting a bit impatient to get to the good stuff, but that’s unfair to the earlier material, which isn’t weak–it’s just slower, and not as explosive, as the Chilton plot. Will, released from the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, heads over to Hannibal Lecter’s house, where he pulls a gun on his nemesis. “Our last conversation was interrupted by Jack Crawford; I’d like to pick up where we left off,” a reference to the events of “Savoureaux.”

In my previous block of reviews I discussed how the shift in power from Hannibal to Will put Lecter in a vulnerable position, something audiences aren’t used to him being in. “Yakimono” does one better: notice how Lecter flinches not once, but several times, in response to Will’s gun-waving. That right there is weakness, ladies and gents, evidence of his fear of death (and a great moment for Mads Mikkelsen to boot). It’s either that or a superb performance on Hannibal’s part, but I prefer my interpretation.

Which brings us to Miriam Lass. Anna Chulmsky’s haunted take on the character is remarkable, and the episode’s structure underlines it with callbacks to “Entrée,” particularly the line about Jack Crawford having “a peculiar cleverness,” and a flashback to her first meeting with Dr. Lecter that dissolves into a present-day reunion. Of course she’s not going to identify Hannibal Lecter as the Ripper–did we really expect her to?

The exact reason for her denial–and her later (attempted?) murder of Dr. Chilton–is unclear. Did Lecter manipulate her memories, as he did with Will, or does she suffer from Stockholm Syndrome? Either way, it’s another parallel between Lass and Clarice Starling…and another ambiguity used to tie up an episode.

Jeremy Davies in Hannibal: "Su-zakana"

“Su-zakana” (Season 2, episode 8; Apr. 18, 2014)

“…a small dish used to clean the palate, such as vegetables in vinegar”

This week on Hannibal: Will returns to the field with Hannibal and Jack, investigating the murder of a young woman whose body was found sewn inside the corpse of a horse. Dr. Lecter takes on a new patient: Margot Verger, who recently attempted to murder her sadistic brother.

Now that Will Graham is free to walk around and spread his Byronic intensity all over the place, it’s time to return to return to the format of season one–the “pseudo-procedural,” Will consulting with the BAU on a case, but the case isn’t all that important; it just reflects the characters’ states.

There are some differences, of course. Hannibal, who’s been “the new Will Graham” since “Kaiseki,” is along for the ride in an official consulting capacity instead of as a stabilizing influence (because we all know how well that worked, ha ha). The new dynamic between Will, Lecter and Jack Crawford crackles like a charge of static electricity, with Lecter pretending he isn’t the Ripper, Will pretending he no longer believes Lecter is the Ripper…and Jack pretending he isn’t coming round to Will’s way of thinking.

The case is also more important to the story than before, the story of a mentally damaged man cruelly manipulated by a psychological professional, someone who was supposed to help him, but instead engineered him as a patsy to take the fall for his own crimes. Hmmm, sound familiar?

This is one episode where the guest cast–Justified’s Jeremy Davies as Peter Bernardone, the surrogate Will; and Arrested Development’s Chris Diamantopoulos as Clark Ingram, the surrogate Hannibal–outshines the central trinity of the main cast, Mikkelsen/Dancy/Fishburne. Davies and Diamantopoulos are simply that good.

I was a bit skeptical of Davies at first: I like him as an actor, but Peter is exactly the sort of eccentric, damaged weirdo he’s made his name playing, and the character’s accent and speech pattern tends to overpower the subtlety of the performance. But damn, does Davies deliver on the tragedy and vulnerability. Diamantopoulos, on the other hand, turns Ingram into possibly the most chilling guest psycho the series has yet to see.

The A-plot takes up most of the episode, but there’s enough room left for a new plot arc, arguably the season’s most highly anticipated: the Verger siblings, Mason and Margot, who play a large role in the novel Hannibal (although the film version omits Margot), make their first appearance on the show. Thomas Harris identifies Mason Verger as one of only three persons to survive murderous encounters with Hannibal Lecter (another is Will Graham, and Harris leaves the third unnamed–perhaps Miriam Lass?)–but that hasn’t happened yet.

At this point, he’s just the voice of Boardwalk Empire’s Michael Pitt and an arm shoving Margot’s face against a fish tank and inflicting other unseen abuses upon her, so he can add her tears to his martini when she cries. That’s all we see of him; Margot, played by Katharine Isabelle of Ginger Snaps and American Mary fame, gets considerably more screen time.

Her take on the character is more feminine than Harris specified; Fuller chalks this up to a desire to treat LBGTQ issues with more sensitivity than the source material does, and I’d not be surprised if S&P had a hand in this as well. It’s a good performance, Isabelle delivering her lines with the same dry, wry detachment she lent Mary Mason, although we don’t see enough of her to get a good gauge on the character yet.

Definitely one of the best of the season. Plus, where else are you going to hear Hugh Dancy deliver the line, “Peter, is your social worker inside that horse?”

Next on Hannibal: In “Shiizakana,” an apparent animal attack turns out to be something far stranger–something that leads back to Hannibal Lecter. In “Naka-choko,” Freddie Lounds gets closer to the truth about the Chesapeake Ripper, while Margot Verger and her brother pay respective visits to Will and Dr. Lecter. Guest-starring Mark O’Brien and introducing Michael Pitt as Mason Verger. Lara Jean Chorostecki, Katharine Isabelle and Jeremy Davies return.

Season 2 episode ranking:

  1. “Mukōzuke” (2.05)
  2. “Takiawase” (2.04)
  3. “Su-zakana” (2.08)
  4. “Futamono” (2.06)
  5. “Sakizuke” (2.02)
  6. “Yakimono” (2.07)
  7. “Kaiseki” (2.01)
  8. “Hassun” (2.03)

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