One of Hannibal's constants has been the way its one-off killers either 1.) comment on an episode's larger theme, like the issue of identity and knowing oneself playing out as Gideon and Will both struggled with who they are in "Rôti," or 2.) provide variations on actions that Hannibal himself performs on or seeks out in others. Sometimes it's both, as was the case in the unaired in the U.S. (except for in pieces online) "Œuf," which saw Hannibal attempting to construct a family for himself with Abigail while a woman created her own family of kidnapped children-turned-killers, itself a way of returning to/commenting on Abigail's relationship with her father.
If you've read any of my other reviews on TV.com—particularly my Arrow reviews—you know how much I like it when episodic plots provide commentary on individual characters and/or the corresponding show's serialized arc(s). It's a type of symmetry that helps to give the episodes more narrative heft than just being something along the lines of "Oh, hey, wasn't that cool?" To put it another, more Hannibal-friendly way, it's what delineates nutritious narrative calories from empty narrative calories. I'm all for indulging in the latter every now and then, but I'm always more satisfied by the former. With "Sakizuki," the killer of the week(s)—or, rather Hannibal's diagnosis of the killer—helped to serve up a very good-for-us meal. Hannibal provided the episode's core idea when he identified the killer's motivation: "Those and the world around him are means to an end. He uses them to do what he is driven to do."
Of course, this isn't a very new idea for Hannibal. People and bodies are often used as means to various ends. We've seen it with Jack acknowledging and grappling with using Will as a natural resource to saves lives, Beverly seeking out guidance from Will, Will asking Beverly to re-examine the evidence against him in return for that guidance, and Kade offering up Will to the justice system as a way to protect the FBI. Everyone is a commodity of some sort; everyone is material to be used to gain or create something else.
In Hannibal's case, how he uses people is a little trickier than these comparatively more straightforward and mundane manipulations and quid pro quos. Hannibal sees certain people as ingredients; this week's killer saw certain people as brushstrokes. It's about transforming the humdrum into art, whether it be an elegantly plated dinner or a mural looking up at the heavens in hopes that someone, anyone, is looking back.
That's how Hannibal handles the mundane. But Will isn't mundane. If Will were mundane, he'd have been consumed by now (what would Will taste like?). No, as Gillian Anderson's Bedelia Du Marier told Will, Hannibal believes that everything he's done has been in Will's best interest. Hannibal sees in Will someone he can simmer and plate on a psychological level. If he could push Will over the edge in the right ways, Will would be a truer version of himself, one who kills with responsibility and purpose, like Hannibal.
When you factor in Will's extreme empathy, well, it's all too easy to see how Hannibal would be pleased to find someone who relates to him, at long last. So Hannibal sees Will as a friend. He's always maintained as much, and I think it's true. Why else would he have sat in his office at 7:30pm, waiting for Will to arrive for an appointment that he could not possibly make at the close of "Kaiseki"? This season's role reversal not only offers the narrative twist, but a psychological one for Hannibal. Last week, he spoke about "being Will Graham" and offering up insights as Will Graham would. It's not about giving his opinion—though that's precisely what he did to shake the FBI—but about assuming Will's position, relating to Will in the way that he'd hoped Will would relate to him, even if Will has stated that it will take a million years for the light of friendship to pass between the two of them ever again.
Or would it?! I was initially concerned about Will's sudden return to his late-Season 1 self at the start of the episode. I honestly thought that I'd missed a scene from the previous episode, so I was relieved to find that Will was engaging in a little manipulation of his own with Hannibal by feigning instability, as revealed by a look of satisfaction at being able to fool Hannibal and Alana after he returned to the safety of his cell. It's lovely to see a proactive Will, one who at least understands that he needs to keep Hannibal thinking that Hannibal is in control of the situation ("I'm not interested in getting into a pissing contest with you, Dr. Lecter. Please, pull up a chair."), so that Hannibal will let his guard down a tiny bit, hopefully enough for Will to exploit it. It's Will using himself and Hannibal's ego and desire to see Will "recover" as a means to an important end.
The other means to the same end is Will's new arrangement with Beverly. I'm grooving on Beverly's increased role in these first two episodes of the season, and I hope it continues. They've always been closer to one another than Will has been with Jimmy or Brian, so close that he was quietly gutted when she came to see him for a professional opinion and not as a friend. That small turn likely motivated Will to enact his quid pro quo arrangement with her this week: his help on cases in exchange for her taking another look at his case in search of new evidence. It's a smarter play than insisting that Hannibal framed him, since Hannibal's been cleared and Will's obsession with Hannibal's guilt only made Will look guiltier. Will telling Beverly to focus the microscope on himself has the benefit of potentially finding more evidence to damn him.
Beverly's mention of her other tasks while speaking with Will in front of Hannibal has me a touch worried, though. Hannibal gave a sharp head turn at the comment, so now I'm concerned he's going to go sniffing around Beverly just as she starts to sniff around the evidence, and that's not going to end well.
One character, however, decided she wasn't going to be used by anyone any longer, and that was Du Maurier. Given Gillian Anderson's incredibly busy schedule, I was very curious as to how Hannibal would remove Du Maurier from the story (at least for now; I hope she'll return, as I just can't get enough of Anderson's powerfully muted performance). As she spelled out for us, Hannibal's got her over a barrel with regard to protecting him and lying for him in an effort to keep whatever the attack against her involved, and she's not thrilled with protecting this dangerous thing in a person suit.
I do feel like that Du Maurier's more obvious fear of Hannibal arrived rather suddenly in last week's premiere, and while I chalk it up to the needs of Anderson's schedule, her words of caution to Hannibal in the Season 1 finale and half-knowing comments—"Controversial dish, veal."—indicated a degree of understanding with Hannibal that was all but pushed to the side to motivate her to "withdraw," as she put it to Will. She's aware of the danger, as is Will, but the difference is that she has no outs that don't also hurt her or get her killed (Will currently has the benefit of being in a prison-like hospital). At least Hannibal gave her that very fine exit, a whispered "I believe you" to Will.
Her comment is everything Will needs to survive. It's something he has longed to hear from Alana, Jack, and Beverly, only to have Alana believing he's guilty but also that he wasn't in control of himself, Jack ridden with guilt and confusion over to believe and who to blame, and Beverly likewise carrying guilt but feeling more afraid than anything else. It's a ray of hope, a sign that someone doesn't think he's totally unhinged. Armed with this, I have to imagine that Will may now be able to catch a few new memories.
– I've watched this episode three times now. I watched Roland Umber's escape from that silo through my fingers three times. So very squirm-inducing.
– "The color of our skin is so often politicized. It will almost be refreshing to see someone revel in the aesthetics for aesthetic’s sake, if it weren't so horrific." I really sort of hated this line, as aesthetics ARE political. It's not an accident, after all, that the Umber's escape felt very much like a slave fleeing a plantation, bloodied from breaking his own chains, chased by a white man through a rural area.
– "How many colors will this killer add to his box of crayons?" I enjoyed Dancy's choices in that scene, shifting from being almost harshly dismissive of Chilton to gently pleading with Beverly to that harder tone he employed in his delivery of the crayon line. Top-notch stuff.
– In the same vein, Anderson's lack of emphasis anywhere in the line, "I am doing my best to avoid working through my issues with Hannibal Lecter" was just perfect. Any emphasis might've given Jack a clue, but we had the pleasure of enjoying the double meanings involved.
– "I made you pliable. Molded you. Set and sealed you where you lay. This is my design. A dead eye of vision and consciousness. I am fixed and unseeing. Unless someone else sees me. ... One of these things is not like the others. One these things just doesn’t belong. Who are you? Why are you so different from everyone else? I didn't put you here. You are not my design."
– "You’re not alone, you know. In "The Resurrection," Piero della Francesca placed himself in the fresco. Nothing flattering. He depicted himself as a simple guard, asleep at his point. Your placement should be much more meaningful." "It’s not finished." "I'm finishing it for you. We'll finish it together. When your great eye looks to the heavens, what does it see?" "Nothing." "Not anymore." "There is no God." "Certainly not with that attitude. God gave you purpose, not only to create art, but to become it." "Why are you helping me?" "Your eye will now see God reflected back. He will see you. If God is looking down on you, don’t you want to be looking back at him?"
– Our musical selections this week were a brief excerpt of Bach's Mass in B minor, BWV 232: Agnus Dei: Dona nobis pacem as Hannibal gazed down at the eye mural, and then some of the second movement from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 as Jack and the techs discussed the killer and Hannibal prepared the leg using a veal osso bucco recipe.
Was "Sakizuki" prepared to your liking?