We are all Nietzschean fish: HANNIBAL Season 2 Episode 8 “Su-zakana” (Fuller, 2014)

When Jacques Derrida pointed out that the binary of inside/outside is “the matrix of all possible opposition”, he was apparently not referring to this episode of Hannibal, not even to cannibalism particularly. But he was big on deconstructing binary oppositions, and his opinion that the core binary, the binary to end (or start) all binaries, is that between inside and outside, is particularly apposite to this episode.

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Will and Jack are fishing through a hole in the frozen ice of a river, but the prey they are planning to capture is not piscine – it’s Hannibal. Yes, Jack finally got the message; they are no longer discussing whether Hannibal is the Ripper, now it’s about the tactics that might entrap him. They are outside of Hannibal’s world of gourmet human flesh, and their way through it is via his table. Live bait, to lure a predator.

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IMHO this is one of the key episodes of the series, smack in its middle (although who knew that the blinkered, Philistine network would cancel after three seasons?), and it features the line that for me is the core of the whole Hannibal mythology:

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One of Nietzsche’s most quoted aphorisms is “That which does not kill me makes me stronger” and that, for Hannibal, is precisely the role of a true friend. One should be, to a friend, “an arrow and a longing for the Übermensch” (the superman). This is to what Hannibal was referring when he said that the struggles with Will (including, of course, his attempted murder of Hannibal) would change them – that they were “all Nietzschean fish”.

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Will has brought along a wild-caught trout, from his icy rendezvous with Jack. Hannibal has prepared it as truite saumonee au bleu, and the trout seems to be regurgitating his own tail.

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You thought “turducken” was some brilliant 21st century idea? Nup. The Tudors were doing it in the 16th century, and it was called “engastration” meaning “stuffed up the gastric passages”. Their specialities included pie from a whole turkey stuffed with a goose, who was stuffed with a chicken, then a partridge, which was stuffed with a pigeon. This poor trout has his own tail in his mouth, but he is the very totem of cannibalism: humans eating humans; we eat ourselves.

They dine to the Piano Concerto 1 in C Major by Ludwig Van Beethoven, or at least that is what we, the audience get to consume, while they enjoy the fish and the banter. Will is being a smartarse, implying that he still suspects, or knows, that Hannibal is the cannibal, and implying he might be joining up with him.

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Jack is quick to dispel the idea that they might have doubts about Hannibal, but alludes instead to:

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Hannibal is ready for that. He has a whole Nietzschean weltanschauung to share with his admiring friends:

“We need to move past apologies and forgiveness. We will absorb this experience.”

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This could have almost come out of Thus spake Zarathustra, in which “man is overcome and the concept Übermensch becomes the greatest reality”. Hannibal, as we know, spends his time helping the region’s many serial killers and tormented psychotics to “become” their greater selves. As a leading forensic psychiatrist, he is familiar with, and often therapist to, most of those who will be pursued by the FBI. Like Nietzsche, who said that “Zarathustra, as the first psychologist of the good man, is perforce the friend of the evil man”, Hannibal is drawn to these violent individuals, not to cure them but to see if they can become a higher form – an Übermensch.

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Now we get into the episode’s killing time and, again, there is engastration involved. This time, a vet examining a dead horse finds she was not pregnant, but has a dead woman sewn inside her. Now, that’s worth calling the FBI for.

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Hannibal is still acting as murderer-interpreter, despite having said he was retiring last episode. He sees that the woman is inside the horse for a reason:

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Yeah, where have we heard that before? Ah yes, Jame Gumb (Buffalo Bill) in Silence of the Lambs, who put a moth chrysalis into the throat of each victim, as they ‘gave’ their skin to assist his becoming a woman.  But what was this woman supposed to become? She’s pretty dead.

Look, this whole woman in horse plot is a bit silly, so we get to meet another really important character family: the Vergers. We don’t see Mason yet, who will be the main antagonist later, but we hear him as he rapes his sister, Margo, saying

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Since we’ve all read the book or seen the film Hannibal, we know that Mason used to give poor kids chocolate at his father’s poor-kids’-camps, just before he abused them. So, Margo has changed (in the book she is a weight-lifting lesbian, who would be less prone to submit to Mason’s perverse desires, but the bodybuilding lesbian is such a stereotype). Now she is very cute, and we figure someone is going to fall for her, and that someone’s gonna be Will, because we suddenly see a filmy love scene, apparently inspired by the impressionistic sex scene in the film Fight Club, which turns out to be Alana and Hannibal. Is Hannibal bi, or just using her? Best not to talk about it.

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Hannibal has his own hopes for Margo Verger, including a course of Übermensch 101, which is – get them to kill someone. In this case, her abusive and filthy rich brother.

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Alana really likes to talk about stuff in bed, much to Hannibal’s obvious distaste.

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The woman in the horse’s uterus is on the slab, very dead, giving the BAU (Behavioral Analysis Unit) guys a chance to get some cannibal talk in.

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But hey, there’s a heartbeat! Is this the birth that Hannibal predicted? They open her up, crack apart the ribs, and a bird flies out. Birth, resurrection, growth, all basic issues in Hannibal and the rest of Western literature.

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And we’re not finished with inside/outside dualisms and engastration. The bird in the woman in the horse was meant to be her rebirth, and Hannibal points out to Will:

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Will has found out that “doing bad things to bad people makes you feel good”, a truth that Hannibal emphasises to him, and also to Margo, who has been dehumanised by her brother, and since then by her family, who consider her weird. She’s come to the right analyst here:

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But does Will still want to kill Hannibal?

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Oh, yes, the sub-plot. The psychopath killing people is the social worker of the guy who sewed the woman into the horse, hoping for a rebirth. Those two, of course, must have their confrontation. It results in one of the great lines of the show:

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He’s certainly in there, but he’s not dead, and tears his way out of the horse’s uterus just as Hannibal is bonding with a sheep, a nod to the original theme of Silence of the Lambs.

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Will wants to kill the dude, but Hannibal stops him. Killing people is 101, and Will is way past that, so Hannibal sticks his thumb in the gun’s hammer just as Will is about to blow the killer away. Killing this random psychopath will not move Will onto a higher level of evolution.

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But Hannibal is impressed as hell at Will’s progress from wimpy FBI trainer to willing executioner. With dialogue quoted straight out of Hannibal’s thoughts about Clarice at the end of the book Hannibal, he tells Will:

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“I can feed the caterpillar, and I can whisper through the chrysalis, but what hatches”:

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As the great Derridean and Nietzschean philosopher Dr Seuss once said: “Inside, Outside, Upside Down”.

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“He is the devil. He is smoke.” HANNIBAL Season 2 Episode 05 “Mukōzuke” (Fuller, 2014)

At its core, cannibalism is about food, eating, the joy of taste. This episode therefore commences with a comparison of the meals of Hannibal, free, prosperous, creative

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and Will, confined, subject to whatever gruel is dished up in the asylum.

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As Hannibal tells Jack:

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Hannibal eats food, not friends. He is cooking for Jack, again, making Jack perhaps the pre-eminent innocent cannibal of the series, since he dines there so often. But this time, he is pre-occupied, upset that his wife tried to kill herself, grateful that Hannibal stopped her. Hannibal discusses his own dilemma: as a doctor, he had no choice, but

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Hannibal is a good friend, says Jack. That, as we know, won’t last.

Beverly Katz has been neatly dissected and mounted into giant slides. As Will figures, she has been pulled apart layer by layer, as she would dissect a crime scene.

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Will asks to see her, and is given the same treatment Hannibal received in the film of Silence of the Lambs: straight-jacket, hockey mask and transported on a furniture trolley.

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He does his pendulum, re-enactment, this is my design, thing. He knows who killed Beverly, but cannot tell Jack, because Jack doesn’t want to believe it. Will does say that she will be missing organs:

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She is indeed missing kidneys. And guess what Hannibal’s having for lunch?

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Yep. Nice steak and kidney pie. Seems to be enjoying it too.

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So, as Clarice once asked, why does Hannibal do what he does? Abel Gideon has his own theory, not so different to the way Madds said in an interview that he chose to play him:

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He warns Will that he will never catch the Ripper – he will have to kill him. Another insight into where the series might be heading.

Hannibal now has a couple of people who suspect him: Will, of course, but also Abel Gideon, who Will brought to his house the night Gideon removed most of Chilton’s guts. He asks Chilton why, in those circumstances, he would bring Gideon back to “your hospital for the unworried unwell” [great Hannibal quip BTW]. Chilton claims it was not for “selfish reasons”. “Ah, selfishness” comments Hannibal

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He goes to meet Gideon, who is still interested in his satanic analysis:

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Outside the asylum, he is photographed by Freddie Lounds. You have to give her credit for bravery – Hannibal says something that would bring a chill to those who know him like we do, know his penchant for eating rude people:

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She goes in to interview Will, and is given the same instructions Clarice received in Silence of the Lambs:

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Will is using Freddie to contact his “admirer” – the one who killed the bailiff in his trial, hoping to get him exonerated.  Turns out to be the nurse in the “hospital for the unworried unwell”. Why? Well, smaller birds will mob a hawk.

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Yes, another elitist. Perhaps even a Nietzschean. He wants the hawks to work together. Happy to help Will any way he can. What favour can he do for Will? Will wants to make sure what happened to Beverly cannot happen again.

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Will dreams he is becoming the beast – antlers growing from his back. Hannibal is doing laps of the pool, which explains why he is in great shape and able to kill people who often seem somehow younger and fitter. Also, cold water is great for shifting blood stains. The nurse is the only other swimmer (obviously a very exclusive pool) and shoots Hannibal with a tranquiliser dart. He sinks, but that’s not a suitable death, so next we see him teetering on a bucket, bleeding out, and in a semi-crucifixion position.

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The nurse knows that Hannibal is the Ripper, and asks him

How many times have you watched someone cling on to a life that’s not really worth living? Eking out a few extra seconds. Wondering why they bother.

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The nurse, like Hannibal, is into becoming.

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Maybe your murders will become my murders. I’ll be the Chesapeake Ripper now!

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Jack arrives in the nick of time. But Hannibal has faced death, and therefore has grown. Now it’s Will’s turn.

 

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“Death is not a defeat” HANNIBAL Season 2 Episode 4 “Takiawase” (Fuller 2014)

Previously on Hannibal, Will Graham was arrested for Hannibal’s murders, and chose to plead not guilty; but if the verdict goes against him, the penalty will be death. However, he now has a short reprieve thanks to a secret admirer, who generously killed the judge in his case. We, the audience, have a chance to “draw a breath”, which is also the term for being alive. And this episode is all about life and death, and choosing between them, for ourselves, for those we love, and for our victims. It is summed up in the “previously on Hannibal” reprise, where Jack and Hannibal discuss death. Jack has spent his life chasing serial killers:

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Will mentally escapes his prison purgatory by remembering good times – fishing. He finds this, as many people describe, relaxing and even meditative. In this memory, he visualises teaching Abigail to fish, the same Abigail who everyone believes is dead and at least partly inside Will’s digestive tract (in that he vomited up one of her ears). Abigail sees no real difference between hunting with her father, who killed and ate girls who looked like her, and trapping and killing fish. She has a point.

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Beverley, the super smart FBI investigator, wants to believe Will is not guilty, but cannot buy his accusations against Hannibal. She seeks Will’s assistance to understand who killed the dude who made mosaics out of corpses, and gets mad at him when he accuses, who else, Hannibal. Why, she asks, would he do it?

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He tells her: “There will be a clever detail – he wouldn’t be able to resist it.”

Will is contemplating murder, Beverley is contemplating motive, and Jack’s wife, Bella, is contemplating suicide. Her breast cancer has spread, and she is consulting Hannibal about life and death, subjects on which, like most things, he is expert. Her cancer has won the battle, and she has no quality of life, is only staying alive for Jack.

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That thought, she tells Hannibal, makes her feel alive. How, she asks, does it make Hannibal feel? And that question affords us a fascinating glimpse into Hannibal as Übermensch:

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“The thought that my life could end at any moment frees me to fully appreciate the beauty and art and horror of everything this world has to offer”

Nietzsche, like Hannibal, was a Dionysian, contemptuous of the moralising of Christian ethics. Dionysus was the god of controlled passion, a worthy adversary to Christian suppression of passion. Nietzsche pictured himself as a satyr, half man, half goat, a bridge between man and nature, an affirmer of life.  Will Graham sees Hannibal, after he realises that he is the killer they seek, as a faceless man with stag-horns, a windigo, a monster from Algonquian legend, transformed from human shape into a powerful creature driven by a lust for human flesh. Hannibal is Dionysus, in his form as satyr.

Hannibal is clearly a master of ancient Greek culture, telling Bella, as they discuss suicide (according to Sartre, the only subject worth discussing):

“Upon taking his own life, Socrates offered a rooster to the god of healing, to pay his debt. To Socrates, death was not a defeat…”

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There is of course a separate killer keeping the FBI team busy – a sweet, new agey woman who wants to put people out of their misery, taking away their pain with her herbal cures, in one case blinding a patient, in the other killing him and filling his head with bees. She is also, the team speculates, into mythological symbolism:

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Beverley discovers, after some broad hints from Hannibal, that the killer from last episode, the dude making mosaics out of corpses, is missing a kidney. This links the murder of the murderer to the Chesapeake ripper, who takes surgical trophies from his victims.

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Will remembers Hannibal’s first visit to his home in Season 1 Episode 1, with breakfast neatly packed in a picnic basket.

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Will realises that Hannibal was feeding him human flesh, and so he also is a cannibal, if innocently. And we know Jack has been dining regularly at Hannibal’s table.

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Bella has taken Hannibal’s musings about suicide to heart, and decided that the life Jack wants to preserve (hers) is of a quality not worth saving.

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She has taken a lethal dose of her morphine. Hannibal has reservations – not about death, which, we remember, he described as a cure. But about the effect on his friend, her husband, Jack.

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Life, death. They are no more than the flip of a coin.

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He revives her. She wakes up and gives him a pretty good slap, for someone who was nearly dead. Her view: he has robbed her of her release, her “cure”.

Meanwhile, Beverley is convinced of Will’s claims against Hannibal and goes snooping in his basement. This was never going to end well.

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I never feel guilty: “Kaiseki”: HANNIBAL SEASON 2 Episode 1 (Fuller, 2014)

The season finale of a show usually ends (or certainly should end) with a gut punch that leaves us reeling and also wanting more, counting the moments until the next season. Certainly happened at the end of Season 1, with Will suffering severe encephalitis, causing him to lose large tracts of time, framed for murder, shot by Jack Crawford, and confined in the Baltimore Asylum for the Very Very Nervous. Hannibal has put Will through the wringer, hoping that this will purify him, enable him to become an Übermensch, like Hannibal.

The becomings are not the only Nietzschean aspects of this episode. Amor fati is love of fate – the acceptance that everything that has happened will happen repeatedly. Or perhaps Hannibal’s interpretation is more along the lines of the space-time continuum – we know he likes watching Stephen Hawking’s videos – everything that has happened and will happen is fixed as it was and as it will be.

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In any case, the episode begins where the series will end; an epic battle between Jack and Hannibal, and then goes back in time:

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It’s just after Will’s arrest, and Jack is feeling guilty about all sorts of things. Breaking Will, which resulted, he thinks, in the murder of at least five people. And also guilty about eating the exquisite Japanese meal Hannibal has lovingly prepared: Mukozuke – seasonal sashimi, sea urchin, water clam and squid. The presentation is Kaiseki – a Japanese art form that honours the taste and aesthetic of what we eat (and is the name of this episode). It is the last meal Hannibal prepared for his aunt, Murasaki (lots more about her when we get to the final Hannibal movie, real soon now – Hannibal Rising and, who knows? Maybe Hannibal Season 4?)

Hannibal, of course, never feels guilty about eating anything. Why should he? Other humans are just “elements undergoing change to fuel his radiance” (Red Dragon p.121). We are only prawns in his game.

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Will has accused Hannibal of being the Chesapeake Ripper (not without justification, since, well, he is) but Jack is feeling guilty about that too. Hannibal, totally confident, eases his mind:

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Will can project himself into his happy place – fishing in the river. But even in this vision, there is Hannibal, in the shape of the hybrid human/stag.

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Meanwhile (as Stephen Colbert would say) Bedelia is still analysing Hannibal, which is like a mouse chasing a cat. She believes that Will is trying to manipulate Hannibal. If Hannibal agrees to visit Will, though:

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Hannibal admires Will’s insight into himself: “he sees his own mentality as grotesque but useful. Like a chair of antlers. He can’t repress who he is.”

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The answer? Just one of those Hannibal Mona Lisa smiles.

Will tells Hannibal he used to hear his thoughts in his own voice, but now

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Hannibal just wants Will to use that voice to find himself, and what he can become. Will wants to find what thoughts Hannibal planted in his head

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Hannibal gives his DNA sample, wonders when his suits will be cleared from the evidence room. Beverley tells him

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Alana tries to hypnotise Will to get his memories back, but he has a vision: he is sitting at a table covered with Hannibal’s meals. Stag-man is sitting at other end. On Will’s plate – Abigail’s ear. Hannibal finds out from Chilton, who has been secretly recording the sessions (as he did to Clarice in Silence of the Lambs). Hannibal has, to his own surprise, cooked a gourmet vegetarian meal for Chilton, who is missing a kidney from last season.

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Meat is expensive. Hannibal has a very affordable source though.

Chilton tells Hannibal that he is the sole topic of Will’s conversations:

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Oh, there’s also a dude who is busy killing people and sewing them together, because we always need a bigger monster – makes our own monsters seem much nicer somehow. We’ll get to him next episode (although he’s not really a cannibal, so we’re not going to give him much time).

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Will remembers Hannibal stuffing Abigail’s ear down his oesophagus. Now he’s sure he didn’t kill and eat her. Jack comes to visit, but refuses to listen to Will’s certainty about Hannibal.

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A bit more guilt for Jack. A bit more fun for Hannibal.

 

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Not sweet sorrow: “Savoureux” HANNIBAL Season 1, episode 13

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The finale of season one is named after what is usually the last course on a French menu – no, it’s not sweet, it’s ‘savoureux’ meaning savoury, and is defined as “a dish of pungent taste, such as anchovies on toast or pickled fruit”. If you didn’t know that (I didn’t), we can be confident that Hannibal did.

This is a final course, and with ratings being king in the TV industry, it was never certain that the show would be renewed (it was, tragically, cancelled after season 3) so this is a final of sorts, and not a sweet one.

It starts with Will trying to shoot a stag, chasing the bleeding animal through the undergrowth in thick night, only to come face to face with the stag-man, who we (but not yet Will) know represents Hannibal. He wakes up covered in sweat and panting (which seems, from all evidence, to be the only way Will ever wakes up), and finds his feet covered in mud. Will’s fevered imagination is starting to control his reality. Reality doesn’t get any better though, as Will throws up in the sink and finds, not last night’s beer and prawns, but a human ear.

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He calls the only person he can trust, the only person he shouldn’t – Hannibal Lecter. Jack arrives and arrests him. It’s all downhill from here, Will. The ear is Abigail’s, and so is the blood under his fingernails. Will even believes it himself; according to the evidence:

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Alana is furious at Jack for leaving Will out there when everyone could see he was breaking, but Jack replies that every decision he made about Will:

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That would be Hannibal. Whom Alana recommended. Well played. But Hannibal is torn up about Abigail and Will, or at least he tearfully tells his psychiatrist that he is. Hannibal wants a family, with Abigail as the child, replacing the sister who was eaten at a tender age. In framing Will for the murder of Abigail, he has seemingly lost that chance.

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Of course, with Hannibal, nothing is ever that simple. Like a good chess player, he is always several steps ahead of his opponents, but his game is not chess but becoming – he wants his protégés to become like him, or as much like him as possible. But he has real tears in his eyes. To become, they must go through challenges that may kill them. And as a Nietzschean, he knows the theory of amor fati – literally the love of fate. The death that so scarred him as a child, his little sister, will recur, again and again. Hey, no one said being an Übermensch is easy. He really was hoping this family thing would turn out. Maybe he still is.

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He tells Bedelia his philosophy – and a very Nietzschean, anti-metaphysical one it is.

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But Will has been arrested, and escapes (surprisingly easily) from the ambulance taking him to the asylum for the criminally insane. Who would have thought such a vehicle would need better security than a pair of handcuffs? He runs to – of course – Hannibal, telling him that he would have believed he might have killed Abigail, but no, not all the others. Hannibal plants the seed of doubt back into Will’s head, but Will wants to go to see where Abigail died.

They go back to the scene where Hobbs first tried to kill Abigail, and Hannibal points out that they haven’t found the body – except for the ear. He tells Will that if he was acting as Hobbs, they may never find the body – Hobbs used to eat his victims.

But Will has taken one of his intuitive leaps that made him so sought after in the FBI. He knows he could have killed Abigail, but

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He knows it was Hannibal. And Hannibal knows Will is on the precipice of becoming.

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Will pulls a gun on Hannibal. His greatest anger is not due to his realisation that Hannibal is the murderer, or that Hannibal has framed him. It’s that he realises Hannibal’s motives

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Jack arrives and shoots Will, in the very same corner of the very same kitchen where Will shot Hobbs. And Will mutters the same words Hobbs said to him, with the stag-man looking on.

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Hannibal sums up, as usual in a way that no one will fully understand.

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We are all becoming. He visits Bedelia, but not empty handed

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It’s a veal dish, and Bedelia makes the usual comment that veal draws among those whom Hannibal would consider less than enlightened

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But Bedelia sees more than she lets on.

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But right now, as Hannibal goes to visit Will in the Baltimore Asylum for the Criminally Insane, he has everything just the way he wants it. The background music is the opera from Hannibal (the movie). Will now knows who Hannibal is, and is using his title respectfully.

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Hannibal’s face at the end of the season is ‘savoureux’.

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