“Hiding and revealing identity” – HANNIBAL Season 2, Episode 12 “Tome-wan”, (Fuller, 2014)

The penultimate episode of any season is often the most tense, since it is preparing us for the shock of the climax. Masks are torn off, loves and hatreds revealed, disguises discarded and armour strapped on. “Tome-wan” is a course of a Japanese meal in which a lidded dish is prepared and then opened to present the soup inside. So it is for Hannibal Season 2 in this episode, which will be followed, we know, by the titanic battle between Jack Crawford and Hannibal, as already partially revealed in Episode 1.

This episode is about hiding and revealing identities.

It’s just as well Hannibal is a psychiatrist, because he can explain to us, the mystified audience, what is going on in the heads of those he is manipulating. At the start of the episode, Will Graham is in therapy, asking Hannibal if he can “explain my actions? Posit my intentions?” Of course he can. Hannibal says “I have an understanding of your state of mind. You understand mine.”

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Mads Mikkelsen has said that he plays Hannibal as the devil, while Anthony Hopkins said he played the role as the “Trickster” archetype. Their portrayals have one thing at least in common – they are cultured, civilised men who hate rudeness. He uses terms from the original books and movies:

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What does one do with the rude, the crude, the uncivilised? Refine them of course, just as we refine our raw materials by processing them – in the case of food, by cooking them. So let it be with Mason Verger. Will asks if Hannibal is thinking of eating Mason.

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Barney, a guard who got on well with Hannibal at the asylum, came up with these aphorisms in the book Hannibal, even though, in this Lecter universe, the asylum is still a long way off for Hannibal.

Will agrees that Mason is “a pig” (apologies to any pigs who are listening – they are delightful animals) and that he should be someone’s bacon. He is willing to join Hannibal at the cannibal table.

But wait. Will has taken the Trickster role that this Hannibal has discarded. We know that he is conspiring with Jack to manipulate Hannibal into committing a murder, hoping to then arrest him. He claims to be doing what he accused Hannibal of doing: setting people at each other’s throats just because

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Hannibal asks Will to close his eyes and visualise what he would like to happen. Will sees Hannibal, strung up over Mason’s killer-pig pen, and Will is slashing his throat. When Hannibal asks what Will saw, they just smile at each other. The masks are coming off.

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But Hannibal has recruited Mason as a patient, and must listen to his ravings. Mason really is the freest range rude one can imagine – he puts his feet on Hannibal’s desk, then sticks his father’s knife into one of Hannibal’s fine antique chairs. Folks – don’t try this at home. It is very rude. You know it will end in tears.

Hannibal is holding forth on God again, an entity with whom he has a tortured relationship.

“God’s choices in inflicting suffering are not satisfactory to us. Nor are they understandable. Unless innocence offends him.”

Hannibal does not claim to be God. He finds Mason offensive, and must make him suffer. He would prefer Will as the chosen murderer – this would both cement their relationship, advance Will’s path of becoming, and provide an inexpensive dinner. But Margot will do – she is seeking revenge for the way Mason abused her, but she doesn’t want to lose her inheritance, which will happen if he dies.

Jack is pressuring Will to catch Hannibal, but Hannibal has demonstrated nothing for which he can be arrested.

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Hannibal will kill Mason, Will tells the confused Jack, because Mason is rude. Using a Clarice line from Silence of the Lambs, Will says

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The FBI have found Bedelia, Hannibal’s psychiatrist, who tells them how Hannibal influenced her to kill a patient of theirs. He will influence you to kill too, she warns Will.

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Will wants to know Hannibal’s weakness. How would Bedelia catch him?

“Hannibal can get lost in self-congratulation at his own exquisite taste and cunning.”

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That’s how Hannibal will be caught, which is exactly what Clarice told the Game Warden in the book Hannibal.

Will is playing a dangerous game, pretending that he is coming over to Hannibal’s side, although a part of him is certainly longing to do so. He tells Hannibal that it is all starting to feel like a dream. Dreams, Hannibal tells him, prepare us for waking life.

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Hannibal is taking off his mask, something he rarely does, and inviting Will into his inner sanctum of extreme carnivorous virility, and into a relationship that will be new for both of them.

“There are extraordinary circumstances here, Will. And unusual opportunities. Mason Verger is a problem. And problem solving is hunting.”

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Will is not so sure he is on top of this manipulation. He is confused and tempted by Hannibal’s offer to be the cannibal’s apprentice. He concludes:

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“Every moment of cogent thought under your psychiatric care is a personal victory. We are just alike. You’re as alone as I am.”

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It’s love, captain, but not as we know it. It’s a form of love that only two adversaries can feel. Both are sincere, yet both are trying to manipulate, master the other.

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Jack is maintaining his mask as well – the admiring friend, who enjoys Hannibal’s exquisite gourmet dinners, and is not even a bit suspicious. Hannibal can see right through this, as he sees through the main course – Kholodets, a dish in which fish are mounted in clear calves foot jelly, positioned as if pursuing each other. Jack admits that he doesn’t understand who is pursuing whom at the moment. Well, says Hannibal, whoever is pursuing whom in this very moment

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Well, if Will is to manipulate Hannibal into an arrestable offence, he’ll have to hurry, because the patient (Mason) has captured Hannibal, bound him in a straitjacket and suspended him over the carnivorous pigpen, just like Will’s fantasy. And hey – Will is there, to help feed those hungry piggies! Here’s his chance to get rid of the Chesapeake Ripper and revenge himself for his false arrest. All he has to do is take the knife Mason hands him and cut Hannibal a bit, make his blood drip into the pen, to excite the pigs’ appetite.

Instead, he joins Hannibal’s army. He cuts the straitjacket and frees Hannibal. In the fight that follows, he is rendered unconscious.

Some time later, Hannibal has Mason tied to a chair, and is prescribing drugs – a cocktail of psychedelics.

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It’s all happening in Will’s house, and when he arrives, Mason is kindly feeding Will’s adopted dog family. Ever suspicious, Will asks “What are you feeding my dogs?”

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He is chopping off bits of his face and feeding them to the dogs. As he feeds and praises the dogs, he tells a story that might explain Hannibal’s wrath.

“I adopted some dogs from the shelter. Two dogs that were friends. I had them in a cage together with no food and fresh water. One of them died hungry. The other had a warm meal.”

Hannibal has nothing against human cannibalism, but dog cannibalism is beyond the pale. Rude.

Now it’s time for the apprentice to step up.

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Will replies:

“There is no mercy. We make mercy. Manufacture it in the parts that have overgrown our basic reptile brain.”

Then, says Hannibal, there is no murder – we manufacture that as well. Will has all the elements to make murder. Maybe mercy too, but murder is what he knows best. This is a fascinating piece of Thomas Harris’ philosophical musing from the very last page of the book Red Dragon. In this scene, Will is at the scene of the battle of Shiloh, one of the fiercest battles of the American Civil War, at a pond which mythology later named, for obvious reasons, “Bloody Pond”. He has a realisation.

“Shiloh was not sinister; it was indifferent. Beautiful Shiloh could witness anything. Its unforgivable beauty simply underscored the indifference of nature, the Green Machine….

He wondered if, in the great body of humankind, in the minds of men set on civilisation, the vicious urges we control in ourselves and the dark instinctive knowledge of those urges function like the crippled virus the body arms against.

He wondered if old, awful urges are the virus that makes vaccine.”

Mason interrupts to tell them he is hungry, and Hannibal recommends auto-cannibalism.

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He does.

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That shifted the conversation – now we can talk about taste! Who knew we humans tasted like chickens? Hannibal uses some more lines from the book and movie Hannibal.

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Hannibal asks Will to kill Mason, but he refuses. “He’s your patient, Doctor”

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Mason is now faceless and quadriplegic. Jack visits him, hoping to gather an accusation against Hannibal, but now Mason is wearing a mask. Quite literally. From behind his mask, he tells Jack that he has benefitted greatly from Hannibal’s therapy and

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You bet he does.

Will visits Hannibal, who is drawing an image from the Iliad

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Hannibal sees himself as Achilles, the invincible warrior, and Will as Patroclus, his only love, who was killed outside Troy while dressed in Achilles’ armour. Patroclus, like Will, was known for his empathy. A constant theme of Greek epics, Hannibal says is

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Also battle-tested friendships. Hannibal tells Will that Achilles wanted all the Greeks to die, so that he and Patroclus could conquer Troy alone.

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Will has moved far beyond entrapping Hannibal now. He is at the very least an accomplice to the mutilation and crippling of Mason Verger. He plays his last ace: he tells Hannibal that they are going to get caught, that Jack suspects, that Hannibal should give Jack the Ripper. “Allow him closure. Reveal yourself. You’ve taunted him for long enough.” Is he hoping Hannibal will repent and confess?

Hannibal seems to agree. “Jack has become my friend. I suppose I owe him the truth”.

The truth can hurt, as we will find out in the next episode, the Season 2 finale, the blog of which I will post in two weeks, on 8th September. Everyone will reveal their identity, and it will get brutal.

You are dangerous: “Sakizuke” HANNIBAL Season 2 Episode 2 (Fuller, 2014)

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Last episode we spoke briefly about the dude (played by Patrick Garrow) who is building an art work out of human bodies – he kidnaps them, kills them (usually) with a heroin overdose, and coats them in resin, and sews them together to form a giant eye, looking back, he hopes, at God. Let’s redefine “cannibalism”, for the purpose of this blog entry, to let this dude in – he is using human bodies for his appetites, in this case metaphysical ones. He may not be eating the victims (although who knows?) but he is certainly using them up, in large numbers.

He gets a bit sloppy, and one of the victims (Ryan Field), who has a high tolerance for opiates (the murder weapon of choice), escapes, first tearing off bits of his flesh that have been sewn to other bodies. This is what cannibalism texts do at their heart – they show the insides of the human body. They offend our sense of the clean, proper symbolic order by showing that inside, we are just animals, able to be treated like any other species, and torn apart to assuage appetite for food, visual arts, worship, or anything, really.

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Will is in the asylum, where he tearfully begs Alana and Hannibal for help.

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Has he begun to doubt Hannibal’s guilt, or is this a ploy? Hannibal’s plots are not always seamless – Bedelia has certainly seen through them. She comes to Hannibal’s office to terminate his psychiatric sessions. She has begun to question his actions – particularly with regard to her attack. Yes, we’ll hear more about that attack.

A toxic masculinity dance commences, where he advances on her and she steps back – he ends up in her face, where she tells him her conclusion, “based on what I glimpsed through the stitching of the person suit that you wear”:

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“Exactly, I cannot say. I’ve had to draw a conclusion based on what I glimpsed through the stitching of the person suit that you wear.”

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The FBI is still baffled by these dozens of missing people, although Beverley has visited Will with pictures, and he told her that the killer is choosing them for their skin colour – he is making a colour palette. He’s an artist! Hannibal can dig that:

We’re supposed to see colour, Jack. That may be all this killer has ever seen in his fellow man.

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Hannibal understands that – he finds killing easy too. In his fellow man, he sees dinner.

He also has the nose of a bloodhound, and can tell, from sniffing the latest body, that the victim ran through a cornfield. He discusses the case with Will in the asylum for the criminally insane, and Will confirms the artwork

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Hannibal figures out where there is a suitably private abandoned silo, near a cornfield, and near the river where the bodies were dumped. We see him surveying the area, wearing his killing suit (because dry cleaning is so expensive)

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He climbs on the roof, where there is a small opening, through which the “eye” can look up at God. When the killer appears, Hannibal greets him.

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The FBI find the crime scene, thanks to Will’s advice, but now the killer is stitched into it. In the silo full of bodies, Jack and Hannibal engage in some philosophical speculation:

Jack: How does a human being go so bad.

Hannibal: when it comes to nature versus nurture I choose neither. We are built from a DNA blueprint and born into a world of scenario and circumstance we don’t control.

Jack: Praise the mutilated world, huh? [This is a reference to a New Yorker poem after 9/11].

Jack: Ritual human sacrifice.

Hannibal: I’m not sure if it’s an offering but it’s a gesture. The eye looks beyond this world into the next and sees the reflection of man himself. Is the killer looking at God?

Jack: Maybe it’s some sick existential crisis.

Hannibal: If it were an existential crisis I would argue there wouldn’t be any reflection in the eye at all.

Jack: you say he doesn’t see people. He sees material.

Hannibal: Those in the world around him are a means to an end. He uses them to do what he’s driven to do.

Jack immediately sees his own reflection – he was using Will to do what he was driven to do [saving lives, which is not really the worst possible sin, but he’s still beating himself up about it].

They haven’t really figured out that the last victim is the killer, but they do manage to notice that he is missing a leg. Only Hannibal knows where that leg is. We see him cutting off the foot with an electric meat saw, to Beethoven’s 9th, and converting the shank into a nice Osso Buco.

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Will does his visionary thing for Beverley and realises that the killer’s body doesn’t belong.

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He sees stag-man looking through hole in the roof, but the eye remains fixed and unseeing, unless someone else sees him. That someone will be Hannibal.

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Will sees himself being sewn onto the eye by Hannibal. He remember Hannibal’s words from Season 1, episode 2:

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We see what really happened: Hannibal is cooking up heroin, reassuring the killer with classical references (because it’s comforting to know there is a Renaissance painting allusion available when someone is sewing your skin to some corpses).

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Why is the killer lying there letting Hannibal get on with his needlepoint? Well, it involves a religious crisis.

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Hannibal tells him:

“God gave you purpose – not only to create art but to become it…. Your eye will now see God reflected back. It will see you.”

Hannibal is well aware of Nietzsche’s concept that “God is dead” and that we, humanity, killed him, and therefore need to replace him. Hannibal is now looking down at the dying killer:

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Hannibal has done what he believes is best – finished the killer’s artwork, made him a part of it, given it a sacred content. Bedelia visits Will and tells him the same thing:

It may be small comfort, but I am convinced that Hannibal has done what he honestly believes is best for you.

She whispers to Will:

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Will’s doubts about Hannibal have been dissolved. Now there will be a reckoning.

Speaking of reckonings, Hannibal is back in his killing suit in Bedelia’s house – but the furniture is covered – she is gone. She’s left him a bottle of scent and he hears her words “you are dangerous”.

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No shit, Bedelia?

 

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Hiding the bodies – HANNIBAL Season 1 Episode 3 “Potage” (Fuller, 2013)

As you probably know by now, the episodes in the series Hannibal are named after courses in fine dining. Episodes one and two were the pilots, the ones that established the characters, let us in on secrets they didn’t know, and gave us a taste of what was to come. No on-going story arc you could really get your teeth into though.

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Episode 3 is called “potage” which is a thick vegetable soup. Can’t really get our teeth into soup, but it is very nourishing and warming. It looked in the earlier episodes as if this was going to be an episodic show: the secret cannibal would lead the hyper-empathetic FBI Special Agent to capture some single-episode outsider – a serial killer whose whole purpose was to be caught by this team while we giggle and point like kids at a pantomime: look Mum, they still haven’t seen the real bad guy! But there is no new serial killer introduced here. This episode is all about Abigail Hobbs, the orphaned daughter of the serial killer shot dead by Will Graham in the first episode. Her father cut her throat before Will filled him full of lead. The mushroom man from episode 2 tried to kidnap her to feed his mycelium. Now she has woken up, to a lot more than the FBI has managed to figure out.

You may remember from episode 2 Hannibal saying:

“I feel a staggering amount of obligation. I feel responsibility. I’ve fantasised about scenarios where my actions may have led to a different fate for Abigail Hobbs.”

Now he gets his chance. Abigail is becoming a surrogate sister to Hannibal who later will admit to eating his real sister Mischa (not to killing her though). He accuses Will of making her a surrogate daughter, which Will does not deny.

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Abigail is smart and sassy and a step ahead of everyone at the FBI, even though she is still deeply traumatised by the death of her parents. In a flashback, she is seen hunting with her father, shooting a deer. She asks him the questions that perhaps we have all asked our parents at some time: was it OK to kill? Wasn’t that deer smart? Don’t they care for each other and their environment? All the reasons we give to valorise human life, applied to those who are like us.

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Her father loved her dearly and hated that she was growing up and would leave him. His response is to kill young girls who look just like Abigail, because he can’t bring himself to kill her.  He answers her question, in a way, saying that he is “honouring” the deer by using ever part of her. This is the carnivore cop-out: as long as the kill is clean and the corpse not wasted, then it’s OK to kill. Her father feels the same way about eating young women; Hannibal feels the same about eating rude people. When Abigail expresses doubts about eating the doe, her father grabs her arm: eating her is honouring her, otherwise it’s just murder. The logic of the serial killer. And factory farm corporation.

 

Will, Hannibal and Alana take Abigail back to her home where her mother and father died and she almost died; someone has scrawled graffiti all over the doors: the word “cannibals”.

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And there is another complication – the brother of the girl killed by the copycat (really Hannibal of course) has come to accuse Abigail of murder, since most people (including Jack Crawford) consider her an accomplice to her father. Then there’s her best friend from school who tells her that everyone (else) thinks she’s guilty. The extras all end up dead (Abigail, like her surrogate brother Hannibal, wields a mean knife) Hannibal arranges everything so that the distressed brother appears to be the killer, and then they hide the body.

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Abigail is further traumatised – even for a girl who shoots innocent deer, watching your father kill your mother and then cut your throat, finding your best friend’s body and then killing the boy whose sister was the previous victim: these are not soothing experiences. Her brain is working fine though: she realises that dear odd dad was feeding them girl meat; she finds the pillows at home are stuffed with girl hair.

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She escapes from hospital and finds herself on the top level of Hannibal’s library. He gallantly helps her off the ladder and offers to help – but only if she asks. Dracula had a similar line – he had to be invited in.

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Abigail tells Hannibal she knows: Hannibal is the one who called to warn her Dad. And he called as a serial killer.

 

He has promised to keep her secrets; now she promises to keep his. Just as his real sister Mischa might have done – if she hadn’t been eaten.

 

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