Hannibal "Mukozuke" Review: A Night at the Opera

By Noel Kirkpatrick

Mar 29, 2014

Hannibal S02E05: "Mukozuke"

Prior to the start of this season, I did some homework. By homework, I mean I read three of the four Hannibal Lecter novels (not touching you with a 10-foot pole, Hannibal Rising, the novel) and watched three of the five Hannibal Lecter movies (not touching you with a 10-foot pole, Hannibal Rising, the movie; somehow didn't get around to Manhunter). I did these activities while also re-watching the series's first season. So, you know, it was a very merry Christmas and happy new year for me! 

While I did this in part to re-acquaint myself with Hannibal's literary and cinematic versions, I also did it because I was searching out where Hannibal derived itself from. If you read Red Dragon, it reads like a true crime novel instead of a psychological thriller save for the passages where Will is thinking, and then you see inklings of Hannibal. It wasn't until I got to Hannibal the novel that I started to see Hannibal the TV series.

If you haven't read the novel, or haven't read it recently, it's grotesque and over-the-top. It often feels as if Thomas Harris is doing everything within his power to repel you, crafting a ridiculous thriller that reads like the novelization of a dreadful opera intended for shock value and not much else. It's also probably the boldest of the books due to that reckless abandon. It's that tone, however, that this series emulates and manages to figure out how to ground in all this purple, operatic intensity into a working, albeit warped, fantasy reality.

While I had been mulling this since before Season 2 started, and even floated the idea to a few other fans of the show and the novels, it wasn't until "Mukozuke" that it felt true. Even in Season 1, Hannibal would've never so boldly dismantled a character as it did with Beverley Katz here, dissecting her and displaying her like anatomical models in specimen cases. (Where the hell did Hannibal get them?) It would've been too much last season, and yet, here we are, closing in on the half-way point of Season 2 and I felt "prepared" for this visual. Hannibal has been leading up to this, earning this moment. It's shocking, yes, but not for the sake of shock value. That's where Hannibal the novel, and many serial killer/murder-death/grim-dark TV series, fell apart: They wanted to shock you and make you feel dirty. Hannibal wants to shock you and make you feel. Full stop.

And feel we do. Yes, Jack's response to seeing Beverly carved up and displayed, or the looks of pain and Jimmy and Brian's face, or the shock and the guilt over the loss on Will's face that help to sell and reinforce our own pain over the loss, but in my strawman serial killer show would've turned Beverly into a crime scene, with body parts strewn about, evidence marks and tags next to a decapitated head and various dismembered limbs. It would be messy and not befitting Beverly. Hannibal (and Hannibal) displayed her in a clinical, scientific, empirical way, the same way Beverly approached her job. We feel as much as we do not just because we like and care about Beverly, but because her murder tableau acknowledged a part of her personality. That's next level thinking on the show's part's, and it's the kind of horrible sensing of honoring someone we expect from Hannibal Lecter. We hate him for killing her, but...respect him for doing it this way.

From the discovery of Beverly's body forward, "Mukozuke" became a very talkative episode, but one with a shocking amount of forward momentum. One of my favorite things about Hannibal is that you can get lost in all the dialogue and not realize that things are happeningLast week, I awarded kudos to the show for keeping Will active while in his little cell, and this week continued that trend. Will steered Chilton into getting access to a not-dead-after-all Abel Gideon (Eddie Izzard, playing things a little less crazy than when we last saw him) under the guise of helping Chilton get some cred in the psychology community by catching the Chesapeake Ripper when all Will wanted was Gideon to spill the beans and confirm his theory that Hannibal is the Ripper.

Gideon being our proto-Lecter, however, wasn't willing to talk because where's the fun in that, so, instead, Will turned to Freddie Lounds for help in attracting his admirer from "Hassun" and to enlist that person to kill Hannibal. And that person turned out to be... the orderly in the hospital played by Jonathan Tucker, a killer looking for a partner in homicide, another hawk to assist in scaring off all the little birds around him. 

This is where Will Graham finds himself. Stricken with grief and guilt over Beverly's death, he turns to a bumbling psychiatrist to get access to a killer who's identity is wobbly at best and then has to rely on a woman who has dragged his name through the mud more than a few times to be put into communication with another killer who feels like they have a special connection. He had to do this now. Beverly went right to the truth and it got her killed. He can't have that happen again, and with her dead, it's only a matter of time before someone else gets onto the right trail.

The episode ended where we began. Not literally, of course, but in a similarly operatic and ridiculous fashion. Hannibal in swimming trunks, noose around his neck, wrist sliced open and splayed in the style of crucifixion, all while balancing precariously on a bucket. This is too much, but I feel that it was that way on purpose. It's the orderly doing his overworked imitation of a murder tableau and being way out of his element. There's no actual artistry to it; it's just the vulgarity of a mind left to its own devices. It looks "good" because of the show picking a great spot, but from a character perspective, there's no there there.

Like in Season 1, as Hannibal provided Will with a negative to see the positive, so too does the show here. It's all very convenient how the narrative dominoes fall to allow Gideon to give Alana the necessary tidbit that led to her and Jack searching for Hannibal, supplemented by the cellphone triangulating to get to the pool, so of course there's a last minute rescue. It's an opera. What did you expect?


– As two folks in my Twitter feed noted—@TVAndDinners and @carouselcarouse—in addition to being anatomical models, Beverly's sawed up remains were very reminiscent of some of Damien Hirst's projects, like "The Black Sheep with Golden Horns (Divided)."

– "I strangle Beverly Katz...looking in her eyes. She knows me. And I know her. I expertly squeeze the life from her, rendering her unconscious. I freeze her body, preserving shape and form so I can more cleanly dismantle her. She cuts like stone. I pull her apart, layer by layer, like she would a crime scene.This is my design. I will leave no useable evidence, but she found something. She found me. What she found is already gone. [the manstag lurks behind the cases] What did I take from her?"

– I really missed Freddie. I know we saw her in the trial, but I missed her in her natural element, and I'm glad that as the show dealt with the loss of one its female characters, it brought another one to the forefront.

– "Though the bailiff was a bitch to get on that stag's head." Tucker's casual but self-assured TV-crazy was great. Also: He didn't kill the judge in Will's trial. So those of you who thought the admirer was/is Hannibal, may turn out to be half-right!

– Your music selections of week! For breakfast, it was the first movement of Schumann's Kinderszenen, Op. 15, which is entitled "Von fremden Ländern und Menschen". Then, the show switched to diegetic music as Jack and Hannibal dined, and it was Claude Debussy's "La Cathédrale Engloutie." Sadly, I couldn't make out what was playing during Hannibal's and Chilton's chat in Hannibal's office, and my music app was annoyed by all the dialogue. If you recognized it, let me know in the comments, please. I'll award you a No-Prize. (Bryan Fuller, thankfully, provided the Debussy piece on Twitter, because I couldn't hear it.) Update: Commenter nightcrew says it was Chopin, but isn't sure which. Go listen to all the Chopin! It's good for you, I promise! 

– Again: Hannibal in swimming trunks, standing on a bucket, with a noose around his neck and his wrists cut open. It's like the show just wants certain elements of the fandom to go to bed really happy.

How did "Mukozuke" taste going down?

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  • Aeidail May 25, 2014

    I personally disliked Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal (I know, a lot of people disagree) because he lacked the refinement and class that Hannibal has (I read the books before I saw the movie). It's something that Mikelson has done flawlessly, and has created a far more accurate Hannibal, at least in my opinion. Even the physical scenes when he has to get his hands dirty retain that level of refinement. And I mention this because it ties in with the theme. The tableaus are a perfect example. On the one hand you have Hannibal who created the perfect compliment for the person he killed (I don't think it's possible to talk about this show without sounding like a serial killer). Compared to the heavy handed attempt at symbolism displayed by an obvious amateur, Lecter is a master at his craft. This show and the Hannibal books are an essay into the human fascination with death and aesthetics. Even though Hannibal and Tucker are performing the same acts in a similar way (stylised death) there is a lot more respect for Hannibal, because of the way he does it. It's a true example of how we can forgive gruesome and disgusting things when they are covered with charm and class. That quality is one I found sorely lacking in Hopkins Lecter, and the same is what makes Mikelson and this show so compelling.

  • marcusj1973 Apr 14, 2014

    It's strange. Up until this weekend, the last Hannibal episode I'd watched was the 2nd of the season. Three weeks passed, more episodes filled my DVR, all remaining unwatched. I finally got around to them and I had to ask myself, "This show is so damn good. So damn weird. So damn creepy. Why on early did you put off watching it?". With different criteria, I had the same reaction to The Americans. The best answer I could come up with is that both shows, though very different, by contrast to the rest of the TV landscape are exceptionally original, and so original that I've almost got to clear my regular TV watching frame of mind and prepare myself...which makes watching 3-4 episodes at a time makes sense. Or, at least that how I'm rationalizing to myself.

    I have nothing but praise for every aspect of this show. The acting, the writing, the cinemetagraphy, the cool little directorial tricks...EVERYTHING! It's amazing!

    IF I had a complaint, and I'm not entirely sure if I do, it's the suspention of disbelief with Hannibal's extravogent murders/displays. I mean, I know this dude is a badass and well established serial killer...BUT...I'm to believe he killed Beverly, froze her body solid, sliced her up, put each piece between two huge panes of glass with precision, transported to the observatory and displayed them...all in a single night?

    Hmm...I'm not so sure about that.

    Oh, and if I have another complaint it's that Beverly's dead :(

  • kianokidstar1 Apr 11, 2014

    I relished in that moment Matthew Brown had Dr Lecter in such state. So sadistic!
    Shouldn't have done away with him so soon though.

  • Deee Apr 04, 2014

    Oh...another very strange 'shout-out': When Hanni was eating his kidney pie, the crust looked almost identical to the no-bite muzzle/mask that Anthony Hopkins wore in Silence.

  • newmanjames Apr 03, 2014

    This is the closer Damian Hirst artwork that Beverly Katz's crime scene was modeled after. http://www.damienhirst.com/some-comfort-gained-from-the-a

    Also, the movie The Cell greatly cribbed from this piece as well for one of the 'dream' diving sequences.

  • cinemale Apr 02, 2014

    ***mr. branson, thank you for the private use of your plane on such short notice. it was quite generous and gracious of you. i know we have not been in contact since two summers ago in rome. however, it has come to my attention that i may need to return to the states to assuage some bruised feelings. pssst. just between you and me, if you do not hear from me within 24 hrs of my return to the states, i may have fallen prey to expert cutlery skills. describing unique characteristics to sketch artist of person of interest.***

  • cinemale Apr 02, 2014

    @noelrk and vicky, your conversation is so cute and to think that it is an offshoot of a satirical, innoncent moment i was attempting to have with harpier. i love a good sense of humor. sure it's great to analyze and dissect hannibal's body count, but humor really is an elixir for the soul. just because the subject matter at hand is beyond dark does not mean there cannot be some harmless moments of levity.

  • Lady_Jay Apr 01, 2014

    It was a master piece of art displaying Beverly that way

  • Loooooooooooost Mar 31, 2014

    Wow. THIS is a great show. I never cared for Beverly, but seeing her that caused so many feels. I love you, Bryan Fuller and crew.

  • ludoTV Mar 31, 2014

    A lot happened and it is good to see Will a lot less powerless than when this season started. I get his unwillingness to tell Jack about who his suspect is as the real Cheaspeake killer and also his recourse to the awful Freddie, and talking to Gideon...
    What I see as less logical and less plausible is sending a psycho-orderly he barely knows to kill Hannibal... Not sure what that would achieve beyond straight revenge? That feels a bit out of character for Will to me.... Perhaps if Hannibal gets killed his creepy underground would raise some questions but Will cannot know this right? or would he count on that... Also, I may have missed something but I didn't find the orderly very convincing either. He seemed like a cheap movie thin character of a psycho... Nice abs though

  • cinemale Mar 31, 2014

    delectable abs are not to be summarily dismissed. on this show where someone's liver is shown with the meticulous photographic pomp and circumstance of a vogue spread, it's stimulating to see a little beefcake no matter how psychotic that is not being shoved down hannibal's insatiable gullet to satisfy his cannibalistic proclivities.

    i applaud will's resourcefulness in using whatever weapons happen to be at his disposal. some viewers have pointed out that with or without will's permission, will's lovelorn admirer was going to kill again so why not channel that psychotic energy. any hand that frees the world of the reign of terror of hannibal is a dark angel to be applauded.

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