John Lucking reviews the sixth episode of Hannibal….
Hannibal’s balancing act between character and plot meant that after last week’s portrait of a married couple being torn apart we could expect Entrée to be a much more straightforward affair; luckily enough it seems Fuller and company can deliver on this front as well. Episode six marks the halfway point from of the season, and while it doesn’t quite lay its cards on the table it does drop the poker face and allow us insight into where it’s heading.
The episode begins with a Dr. Gideon lying face down on the floor of his padded cell in the Baltimore psychiatric hospital. After he’s declared unconscious he is then transported to the medical wing where he breaks free from restraints and murders his doctor. The most jarring aspect of this -other than a convicted felon being left alone with a doctor- is that Dr. Gideon is played by Eddie Izzard. Bryan Fuller and Izzard had recently collaborated on another television show (The Munsters reboot Mockingbird Lane) which never made it past the pilot stage, but it seems Fuller was suitably impressed enough to bring Izzard along with him to Hannibal.
Will and Jack head for the hospital due to the particular method of Gideon’s murder – one identical to the Chesapeake Ripper. It seems he’s claiming to be the Ripper, but of course we know he is not, we know that title belongs to Lecter. However despite knowing the real identity of the Ripper it doesn’t make the plot thread feel redundant or as if treading water, since the question is not whether he is telling the truth, but rather why is he claiming to be the Ripper. The first and most obvious possibility is gleaned from knowledge of Lecter’s previous incarnations and their shared penchant for discourse with killers on the outside. Red Dragon’s conclusion even comes about directly as a result of Lecter informing The Tooth Fairy of Will Graham’s home address. This is initially exciting since on top of Abigail Hobbs it seems as if Hannibal is attempting to establish his own network of bored and lonely killers – one could be an anomaly, two a coincidence, but three makes a pattern. Dr. Gideon isn’t just claiming to be the Ripper; he attempts to prove it with his kill, posing and impaling the body in a manner identical to the previous murders. Will mostly takes a backseat in this episode but he does manage to make a lasting impression as he inhabits Gideon’s mind and recreates his murder, gouging the doctor’s eyes out and watching her crawl before impaling her with a medical instrument. Beautifully shot acts of horror are now the standard for this show, and while ‘gouged eyes’ doesn’t have the same impact as ‘corpses made into angels’ when written, the show manages to make it equally as jarring. This is certainly good news since escalation can only ever go so far until suspension of disbelief breaks, and murders on an operatic scale week-in-week-out would grow quickly tiring. If the impact comes in the delivery then there is no limit to the depths of horror which the show can plumb.
We’re also introduced to another stalwart of the Harris universe in Dr. Frederick Chilton, this time played by Raúl Esparza. Esparza’s portrayal shares incompetence, narcissism and hubris with Anthony Heald’s version, but also exhibits an almost childlike glee in crime, criminals and psychiatry. He is another person fascinated by Will’s ability, and his eagerness to document Will does help telegraph the episode’s plot machinations. His motivation is the admiration and envy of his peers, but the lengths he will go to is what separates him from a more mundane narcissist and fits him neatly into the world of Hannibal. Once it’s revealed that he is the one who placed the idea into Dr. Gideon’s head that he is the Chesapeake Ripper via psychic coercion, we are stripped of our potential second member of Hannibal’s network. Gideon it seems is merely a tool, a means of granting fame to the first man capable of writing a research paper on him. His role as a tool excludes him from being our first killer who acts only from a blood-lust – his connection to Lecter is somewhat more literal and at the same time tertiary. Chilton is attempting to ride the fame of Lecter’s actions via Gideon, something Lecter takes particular issue with. In the very next scene Lecter gives Chilton a subtle nod that he agrees with his methods, but this places him firmly in Lecter’s network of mice, not like minded individuals.
This week also marks a first as we’re given a B-story told through flashback that eventually segues into today. It deals with an FBI agent-in-training named Miriam who disappeared two years ago while working under Crawford. Miriam is a Sterling-esque prodigy, one Jack attempts to turn into a protégé by bringing her into the Ripper investigation. Jack eventually sends her on an intelligence gathering mission and she is never heard from again until the present day when Crawford and Bloom decide to anger the Ripper by having Freddie Lounds declare Gideon the killer, at which point he receives a phone call from Miriam begging for her help. This is somewhat of a success as we’re treated to Mads’ internal explosion as he reads Lounds’ article, but it also leads to Lecter torturing Jack with repeated phone calls consisting of the same recording of Miriam as she begs for help. This episode is Hannibal’s reveal, but one done with a degree of restraint. It is our first time seeing Lecter act and react in response to his murders, but we never see him kill, and even then his assault of Miriam after she deduces his identity takes place in a muted flashback from two years ago. In truth, if this was your first time watching Hannibal you would probably attribute the role of Lecter to Eddie Izzard. His portrayal of Gideon very nearly verges into an homage of Anthony Hopkins’ Lecter. His educated, articulate and slimy performance is also introduced courtesy of a shot panning along a line of padded cells with transparent windows.
While Will takes a backseat and Lecter provides momentum, the heart of the episode belongs again to Jack. He seeks solace in Lecter’s office following his wife’s admission that she is going to die and that she doesn’t know when, which in itself is heartbreaking, but doubly so knowing that everything he says will be used against him by Lecter at some point in the future. Jack admits to Lecter just how much the Ripper’s taunts got to him, with every word serving Lecter’s grand schemes. Their fireside chat is beautifully shot, as is the rest of the episode, but special mention this week goes to Brian Reitzell for his music. The deep throb as both men speak manages to both evoke Jack’s dread and presage Lecter’s actions. The rhythmic momentum as Lounds enters to speak with Gideon is another particular highlight, but throughout the episode Reitzell manages to remain non-intrusive yet evocative. Fishburne has more than held his own over these two episodes, proving to be as dramatically fascinating as a genius cannibal and a man with an unknown level of empathy which lets him inhabit the minds of others. Three strong leads is three more than many other shows, and as the show gains momentum so does my excitement.