Hannibal "Su-zakana" Review: Mirror, Mirror

By Noel Kirkpatrick

Apr 19, 2014

Hannibal S02E08: "Su-zakana"

I don't often make it a point to mention whether or not the title of a particular episode is relevant, as any number of decisions might go into the episode-naming process. Hannibal sticks to a theme—last season was French cuisine, this season is Japanese—but sometimes the title dishes don't seem to have much of a connection to the plot, while at other times, they do. "Futamono" was a little tongue-in-cheek with its name, as it the term refer to a lidded dish, normally a soup, and the episode ended with Jack pulling open a lid to find Miriam Lass. In the course of a kaiseki meal, su-zakana is the palate cleanser, often a vegetable in vinegar, that comes at the halfway point.

Hannibal's "Su-zakana" arrived a little past the middle of the season, but it was no less a palate cleanser, a way of indicating that we're entering a new phase of the narrative. With Will free of the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally insane, sporting a new haircut and even a new, more expensive-looking coat (only his knitted cap felt like the old Will), and with Chilton at least off the stage for the time being (there was a slight dodging of the issue of Chilton's aliveness) and "assumed" to be the Chesapeake Ripper, Will is likewise is attempting to cleanse everyone else's palate of the Will "His Brain Is on Fire" Graham. As the case of the week demonstrated, however, Will's vinegar dish may be a little on the weak side.

It wasn't just any case of the week this week. A dead woman was stuffed inside a horse—and inside of the dead woman, there was a starling. But in a nice departure from Hannibal's usual M.O., the body's grotesque placement wasn't the work of the actual killer—it was an attempt to honor the victim by a psychologically and physiologically damaged Peter Bernardone (Jeremy Davies), a man who liked to collect and care for animals. It turned out that Bernardone's social worker, Clark Ingram (Chris Diamantopoulos), had killed at least 14 other folks in addition to the lady in the horse, and while Bernardone knew about it, he was worried no one would believe him because of his mental troubles—something Ingram was apparently happy to use to his advantage. So while the show presented us with our suspects in its normal, orderly and unambiguous fashion—Hannibal's not one for red herrings (just trout!)—it spun a slightly more complicated web this week, even if Ingram all but behaved as if he had a bright neon sign above his head that read, "HI. I'M A SERIAL KILLER."

However, as we've discussed before, Hannibal often uses its cases to speak to some larger issue at play. It's why the show sacrifices the "Who?" part of the procedural mystery and focuses more on the "Why?" and the "How?" In the case of "Su-zakana," it was more a matter of Will looking at Peter and seeing himself reflected in the poor man's existence. Peter is an unkempt collector of animals in the same way that Will was/is an unkempt collector of stray dogs, and like Will, Peter knows a horrible secret about a polite gentleman who dresses better than he does, but no one would have listened to him. It might've just been Will projecting himself onto Peter—"I know what it's like to point at a killer and have no one listen"—if the episode hadn't introduced Clark as the Bizarro Hannibal.

Presenting these mirrored versions of our central pair at the turning point of the season's story is hardly insignificant. As Will crafts himself into the bewitching lure for Hannibal, he's faced with not only the lost version of the man he used to be, but with an opportunity to act out the reckoning he promised to himself and to Hannibal not too long ago. When Will told Jack at the beginning of the episode that to catch a wily fish, "you have to create a reality where only you and the fish exist," I doubt he meant it quite this way, a reality where Hannibal, Will, and variations of both men exist, and, for a brief moment in time, no one else.

Will is playing a dangerous game (alongside Jack, as their ice-fishing conversation made clear with its pointed indirectness), shifting between the role of a hapless victim when he's with Jack and that of a confident and deliberate investigator when therapy with Hannibal. The idea is to sell the con that Jack isn't in on it, but where does the con begin and end? Did Peter's predicament rattle something loose for Will, loose enough that he was willing to kill Clark? Or was Will nearly shooting Clark a conscious act of vulnerability on Will's part, to create the illusion that the Will Graham in his therapy sessions is the real fake, as it were? I think it may likely be a blend of both, depending on the perspective. I think Will was ready to kill Clark to satisfy his desire to feel good while doing a bad thing to a bad person—particularly that bad person—but I also think that Hannibal sees the therapy with Will as something that isn't at full strength, and thus something that can be broken again, even if he can't fully anticipate Will's actions. 

The show signaled another new phase for itself with the introduction of Margot Verger (Katharine Isabelle). If you've read Hannibal the novel, then you're familiar with Margot and her decidedly demented brother, Mason, and his fondness for tear-laced martinis. While our Margot was decidedly different from the book version in terms of representation, some elements remained, namely her loathing of her brother. I'll say no more on the matter as I'm frankly too interested in whatever the show has in store for us with regard to the Verger siblings, in particular Michael Pitt as Mason, to be all that concerned with how it's adapting them just yet.

But Margot presents us with, if not a mirror, then certainly a parallelism of Will Graham. Margot would very much like to kill, or at least punish her brother, and she has Hannibal advising her to basically act as Will did earlier in the season: She should kill Mason when she knows she can get away with it, or she should get someone else to do it for her. Will has found himself in a similarly sticky position, and all he's got left is the wait for an opportunity to punish Hannibal, even while fantasizing about killing the good doctor with his own two hands.


– "Peter. Is your social worker inside that horse?" "Yes." I died. Died. And then I died again, in a different way, as Clark clawed his way out of that horse. And, yes, Hannibal, I saw you petting that lamb.

– Erotic, elliptical sex scene between Hannibal and Alana this week that I'm sure disgusted/enraged many of you. Hopefully you took solace in the fact that the same gray tone used for that sequence matched the sheet that was pulled over the scene to transition to the next, where it was then pulled away to reveal Sarah Craber's corpse. An ill omen for Alana, perhaps? No doubt many of you are hoping it is.

– Bryan Fuller's making my life easy lately by tweeting out the show's musical selections, which I greatly appreciate. This episode featured Beethoven's Piano concerto No. 1 in C Major, Allegro con brio as Hannibal prepared the trout for dinner. As Will and Hannibal discussed the darkness around Will and Peter, the beginning of the final movement of Gabriel Fauré's Requiem played, "In Paradisum."

How did "Su-zakana" taste?

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  • debbiegallagher7923 Jun 27, 2014

    Very interesting review, thank you.

    With regard to your question:" was Will nearly shooting Clark a conscious act of vulnerability on Will's part, to create the illusion that the Will Graham in his therapy sessions is the real fake, as it were?" I think Will is ready to kill the social worker as part of his act, not because it may feel nice (though that realisation has to be Hannibal's great lesson for Will, the nearest to the 'shaking loose,' you mention) but because if there has to be any collateral damage in the creation of "A reality where only you and the fish exist," it might as well be a creature like Clarke. Will has learned not to regret that.

    The fact that it may echo a desire within Will to kill Hannibal is almost irrelevant but not quite... the way to make a lie convincing is to mix in bits of the truth. It gives the seduction a vital, dangerous edge of the real. Hannibal is beginning to believe it, because he very much wants to, and because Will is the most perfect a liar can be without believing his own lies . Will is always symbolised by water, and part of that metaphor is the ability to reflect and deceive. Here, he slows himself nicely, becomes ice. We know ice is dangerous, that it looks as though you can walk on it, though it could crack any moment. It's a daring thing, Hannibal's stepping into Will's terrain...but he doesn't think the ground will break beneath his feet. The only cracking he expects is that of a butterfly from its cocoon.

  • cinemale Apr 23, 2014

    noel, you had me at bewitching lure.

    i think will is a bewitching lure to hannibal and their scene together near the end was suffused with so much undercurrent of palpable intimacy. hannibal has never looked at his piece of diversion who masquerades as a competent prober of psyches the way he looked at will in the last five minutes of last week's episode.

    i gotta give it to hannibal: will's vulnerability is intoxicating. you just want to wrap will in your arms and rock him in a nice fluffy blanket as you make him at home in the nearest looney bin.

    what will be shocking is if will was completely in control all the while making hannibal believe that he's the master of the game. dayum you, hannibal, you handsome devil.

  • claudia40 Apr 22, 2014

    Great episode...plz renew it already!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • ILoveTVandDDsBB Apr 21, 2014

    Fantastic episode!! It scared the shit out of me when the starling flew out of the dead body.

  • ElliotJamesMiami Apr 20, 2014

    So what happened to Miriam? Was she charged with attempted murder or murder? Was she arrested or placed in a hospital? Was Jack punished for sloppy weapon handling and losing his gun to her? It would be nice if the writers provided some follow-up for this and other events during the season.

  • nutleygrundt Apr 20, 2014

    I liked the moth/butterfly chrysalis nod, and the lamb nod also...it seemed to be a very quiet lamb. The starling was also a nice touch

  • daezygilder Apr 20, 2014

    If this is filler for this series, then it was some pretty dang good filler.

    I couldn't help but notice the real power play going on between Hannibal and Will. Right now, I consider them on equal ground. Will may need the resources and proof to officially put Hannibal behind bars (where he belongs), but Hannibal needs Will in the way a plants need water and sunlight. It's not necessarily a romantic kind of need, but it is a deep-seated need for a true companion to understand him - a best friend. It seems like Will doesn't really want to put Hannibal away just yet either - not without more observations yet.

    "Is your social worker in that horse?" - Best line currently in TV history. Seriously. I died.

    I found the s*x scene between Hannibal and Alana not to be frustrating and grating like most viewers; I thought it was hilarious. Something about how artistic it was - each frame and added effect just made it seem so freaking funny to me. I don't know. It's probably just me; my humor can be dark sometimes.

    Although I've never really like Alana, I've got to admit that she's pretty in character. Bland, oblivious, and easily manipulated is pretty much all there really was to her. She's just a pawn for the main characters (which is what most of the female characters are in this show - maybe Margot Verger can change that in future episodes). I just hate the fact that she was Will's official love interest in the first season anyway (Beverly and Will's romance will only exist in my fanfiction *sigh*).

    The murders on this show really do play on your suspension of disbelief, though. Could the bird really have not been suffocated inside of the girl stuffed inside of a horse and sewn in? Maybe. On to Google!

  • deanhewitt334 Apr 23, 2014

    I get the vibe Will has ptsd from his incarceration. Things are black and white in his world right now. He never would have blindly killed a person before. And this is what is keeping Lector on as an observer and manipulator. He wants to see Will react to different stresses and maybe even become a killer like himself. Will still is rational and has a plan to draw Lector out, and it's working.

  • MarlboroMagpi Apr 20, 2014

    I am glad the case of the week has some parallel relevance to the main issue that we are all concern about. It is a little disappointing after they forward the story so much in the last few episodes to slow it down again. I hope we get to see more Will luring Hannibal. I think his ultimate plan is to set himself up as a bait and for Jack to finally catch Hannibal.

    Well at least now Jack starting to believe Will. I hope Alana will too before she dies. As much as I liked her, I do think she is going to die.

    I missed Gillian Anderson on this show (I know she is busy on Crisis) and I am surprised Hannibal would just let her cut ties with him. I was thinking Hannibal will eat her.

  • AriSky Apr 20, 2014

    I felt it didn't quite have enough going for it to follow the episodes it has, but it did its best and it was a fantastic episode. Still on par with the subtleties, just not as much with the central plot points. It would be difficult for anything to follow such a killer first half, so I have to commend the series for making it work. And yes, the social worker in the horse line. Perfect.

  • aktarian Apr 20, 2014

    I get the feeling that recently gory/elaborate deaths and placements are there for the sake of having gory/elaborate death and placement. In first season I could see the point, now it seems they are just cheap thrills.

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