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 happening. Last 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?