We know Hannibal Lecter isn’t about to get captured by the FBI in the middle of season two. There’s still a few miles of story we have to wind through before he’s locked in his cage tormenting Will Graham about the Red Dragon. But Hannibal creator Bryan Fuller keeps throwing more and more audacious scenarios at our anti-hero for him to escape from, and the escapes are getting more and more elaborate and unbelievable. Last week’s cliffhanger saw Miriam Lass (Anna Chlumsky) found, armless, in a deep well. Before then, the last we knew of her was that she had realized Hannibal was the Chesapeake Ripper and that he had subdued her before she could call it in. So how does Hannibal get out of this one? More importantly, why did he (presumably) lead the Feds to her prison?
Chlumsky does fantastic work here as Miriam, who survived her capture but was tormented with the light and sound show that both Lecter and Frederick Chilton (Raul Esparza) use to place their patients into memory-regressing trances. And quickly it becomes apparent that this is Hannibal’s game: to exonerate Will and instead pin the crimes on the only other obvious candidate, his hated enemy Chilton.
Current mood: Devious
Chilton makes sense because he also worked with Will and could have presumably put him into the hypnotic state that screwed his memories up so bad last season. He also makes sense as someone who would want to sic Will on Hannibal, and it ties in the Abel Gideon mystery so perfectly as well. The end result is a lot of fun to watch, partly because the audience has been so conditioned to hate Frederick. When the world comes crashing down around him and he runs into Hannibal, in his plastic suit, setting up a crime scene in his home, well, it’s the kind of spectacular operatic grossness this show excels at.
The final moment is perhaps too much to take, although it’s sold by Chlumsky so perfectly. Miriam, who categorically denied that Hannibal was her captor, sees Chilton in the interrogation room and is driven so mad with fear that she shoots through the mirror and takes him out with a bullet to the cheek. Now, killing off Chilton would be the biggest deviation from Harris’ book timeline yet, but there’s no body shown, just a wound to the face, so my guess is he’s still alive. Still, putting Chilton in prison for Hannibal’s crimes is already quite a big change of direction, but it’s always fun watching Fuller and his team pull off those high-wire acts.
Current mood: Geeky
So what’s the problem here? This episode was a little like the last in that it really worked because of its final ten minutes. But it’s also perhaps a little too audacious in terms of what it’s selling the audience on. The visual trickery, coupled with the aggressive, jarring score, sells us very well on the effectiveness of Hannibal’s hypnotic light shows. But the way the pieces fall together are maybe a little too clean to really be believed. Jack Crawford has to be someone he respect, and now that he’s buying another of Hannibal’s whodunit packages, so soon after believing the last one (re: Will Graham), he seems dumber than ever.
The one reason Fuller and co. can get away with it is because the first scene of this season saw Crawford fighting Hannibal in his home. The cleverness of that in medias res opening is more and more apparent with each week. As long as it’s not some fakeout (they fight, but then Hannibal again convinces Crawford he’s not the Ripper), it helps so much to know that Jack will figure everything out, and that the operatic sense of betrayal will be something incredible to watch.
Current mood: Anxious
One other thing that I’m getting a little sick of, though, is Will and Hannibal’s teeter-totter relationship. Credit to Mads Mikkelsen: Hannibal really does look scared when Will shows up at his house with a gun. The guy is unpredictable enough that Hannibal really does think this might be the end for him.
But then why let Will out in the first place? Was it just admiration for his analytical brain, and desire to have him to match wits with as an adversary? Or did Hannibal think that Will was causing too much harm trying to free himself from jail, directing the FBI this way and that way towards him? The incursion of Beverly might have been enough to frighten Hannibal, I suppose. Either way, it’s a tactical move that hasn’t really been explained, and Will’s whole “I want to kill you…but I also want to understand you” schizophrenia is a bit much. Next week, therapy begins again. Let’s see how it goes this time.
Current mood: Exhausted