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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?

Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 8/29/2015

Season 3 : Episode 13

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