Hannibal "Yakimono" Review: Undue Influences
I guess we're going off-book, as it were.
Frederick Chilton wasn't long for this narrative for any number of reasons, including 1.) his firm positioning in the "Hey, that posh guy with the great kitchen is killing people and eating them" camp, 2.) being the ideal patsy for the Chesapeake Ripper ("I have the same profile as Hannibal Lecter"), and 3.) the fact that Raúl Esparza has a full-time gig on another show. But, given that Chilton was a mainstay in both Thomas Harris's novels and in their cinematic adaptations, I fell into the trap of thinking that Hannibal's poor self-preserving Chilton would survive this. Sure, Beverly Katz was part of the novels as well, but her role had nowhere near the prominence and importance that Chilton's did, and was thus a little more narratively expendable in the grand scheme of things. But Chilton! Chilton was supposed to be there to be proud of having Hannibal in his care, the crown jewel of Psychopath's Row, as it were.
Chilton's sudden and surprising departure, however, served as a not-so-pleasant reminder that, while Hannibal is using Harris's novels as inspiration for its style and tone, the show is by no means beholden to them. Hannibal has always been its own creature, there's no doubt about that, but for it to shift away from its sources, and in such a bold, mic-dropping manner, is a sign of its confidence in its own narrative abilities.
Quite frankly, I'm all for this. Faithful adaptations can be tedious, reduced to a series of checking off boxes and going through the motions. Indeed, if you'll excuse a soft cross-medium comparison, Hannibal is to its source material what the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was to its corresponding novel: a distillation of a narrative made distinct, thanks to a bold approach in style and tone. Adapted characters are recognizable alongside their original versions, but still unique to their now visual (as opposed to written) world, an important aspect when you're adapting something for television and film.
Hannibal, of course, has the freedom to veer further from its source than Harry Potter did, making it a bit more similar to, say, The Walking Dead's desire to keep audience members who've read the comics on their toes than it is to those films about wizards at school. So while Hannibal rewards fans of its previous incarnations with re-contextualized visual nods and quotes, it also wants to surprise them—to inform us that, like Hannibal said to Will, we don't know everything, that only the show has all the answers. It's much more exciting when we can't anticipate the show's every move, even if there's some pleasure to be had in that as well.
Of course, none of this means that Hannibal won't still find itself looping back to the novels at some point. Will's confidence and his bitterness that no one who can actually do something is listening to him reeks of the Will Graham that Jack Crawford visited at the start of Red Dragon, a man who was tired of having to prove himself to people who kept turning to him for help in the first place. So while Hugh Dancy has been great in the episodes up to this one, his performance felt even sharper as Will returned to the field and donned his glasses. He had a certain swagger that we'd never seen from him before, a swagger that Dancy put into Will's voice in the last few episodes and supplemented with physicality this week, which served to remind us of just subtle his performance is. He's a new man, this freed Will Graham.
And then it all turned on a dime at the end, surprising us yet again. Will's unkempt appearance was gone, his hair trimmed, his shirt a solid instead of a checkered or a plaid, perhaps indicating a more put-together mind (look how nicely he folded his coat over his arm instead of simply wearing it indoors!). The confidence in his voice and demeanor were replaced with soft politeness. It may've been a mask of respectability and meekness to lure Hannibal into a false sense of security, but Will tried that approach earlier in the season and abandoned it for more aggressive hunting tactics. Then again, Will's always been a fisherman, not a hunter, so perhaps he was just returning to his wheelhouse.
And it may be for the best, too, since between the over-the-top evidence that Hannibal left in Chilton's house and Miriam identifying Chilton as her captor, Jack was seemingly happy to draw the conclusion that Chilton was the Ripper and that this case was all tied up in a pretty bow made of entrails. Which, of course, is exactly what Hannibal wanted the entire time; it's why he allowed Jack to discover Miriam, it's why he abducted Gideon, and it's why he didn't kill Chilton. It's probably why he even copped to the psychological priming when Chilton confronted him earlier in the season. Everyone's dancing to Hannibal's harpsichord.
À LA CARTE
– In his honor, some prized lines from Chilton this week: "The Chesapeake Ripper has set you free. Mazel tov." "I have no intention of ending up on his menu." "I would like to remain not dead for the foreseeable future." "May I use your shower, please?" "Abel Gideon was half-eaten in my guest room. I had corpses on my property. You just threw up an ear!" R.I.P., Frederick. I'll miss you.
– If you're curious, the first two Harry Potter films would be akin to the Red Dragon film: uninspired slogs that rather missed the point in an effort to ensure the narrative beats were served.
– So Alana and Will are firmly on the outs. Applesauce will not be visiting to play with Winston anytime soon. I really enjoyed their scene and the tensions between their two sets of knowledge and beliefs about Hannibal's nature and Will's actions. Good and necessary stuff.
– I am so very curious about how Hannibal conditioned Miriam to associate Chilton in her psychological priming, especially as the show played up Hannibal, both aurally and visually, in her initial flashes of those events. Also: I loved that shot through two-way glass as she fired at Chilton and how the cracked glass looked oh-so-much like an eye.
How did "Yakimono" taste?
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