Hannibal turns the tables on canonical events by killing a core character as Miriam Lass (Anna Chlumsky) recovers from her two year ordeal.
Let’s bitch it out…There’s ambiguity surrounding the developments that occur late in ‘Yakimono’ and while it’s tempting to think that Miriam has, in fact, killed Frederic Chilton (Raúl Esparza), it’s important to remember the cardinal rule of contemporary television: no body, no death. We certainly see a bullet wound go through Chilton’s head, but before anything conclusive can be determined, there’s a quick cut to Will (Hugh Dancy) resuming his therapy with Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen). In his weekly discussion with the AV Club, series creator Bryan Fuller is rather cryptic, which further cements the idea that this may not be the radical departure from Thomas Harris’ source material that it initially seems to be.
Regardless of Chilton’s current status, ‘Yakimono’ clearly demonstrates just how powerless these characters are when it comes to Hannibal’s manipulations. At this point only Will has a handle on what comes next, because he’s the only one who can decipher his adversary. Chilton doesn’t understand why the Ripper has freed him, and while he tells Will that he wants to avoid being on Hannibal’s dinner menu, he doesn’t know how to do that. Even when Will gives him instructions, Chilton fails to play strategically. Instead Will’s advice to ruin his professional career and come clean about his unorthodox similarities to Hannibal, he offers Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishbourne) his services. In hindsight even if Chilton had of listened, it’s already too late: the evidence against him has already been planted at the cabin where Miriam was discovered. From there it’s just a matter of leaving a few bodies at Chilton’s house, among them Abel Gideon (Eddie Izzard) and a few unlucky FBI agents. It’s almost amusing to see how easy a mark Chilton is, although it is disappointing how malleable Jack Crawford is. I guess with that kind of compelling evidence, Chilton would have to be brought to justice, but Jack sure does look like he wants to pull the trigger when Chilton gives him a run through the wintry woods behind Will’s house.
With ‘Yakimono’ we cross the halfway point of season two and the remaining half of the season is coming more clearly into focus. We know (hypothetically) where episode 13 will take us: back to that amazing kitchen encounter between Hannibal and Jack that opened the season. What we don’t know is what happens in between, but at this point it certainly appears that a line has been drawn between various characters. It’s Will and Jack vs Hannibal and Alana (Caroline Dhavernas), who remains the only character on the series who hasn’t come to some kind of realization about Hannibal. While Jack may occasionally waver, Alana has her blinders firmly secure when it comes to her mentor and lover. She even has the gall to be righteously indignant about Will’s recent murder attempt on Hannibal when they have their icy confrontation on Will’s front lawn. (Side Note: it’s easy to be dismissive and angry at Alana for being dumb, but that’s only because we know things she doesn’t. Still, she’s proven remarkably adept at selective reasoning when it comes to Hannibal).
With Bev, Abel and Chilton dead and/or sidelined and Miriam Lass a PTSD basketcase, we’re effectively down to our core cast engaging in a battle royale. The final scene sets this up beautifully. Will shows up at Lecter’s office, looking prim and proper with a haircut and clean clothes. He informs Hannibal that Miriam was compelled to take Chilton’s life to gain back control of her own and when quizzed by Lecter how he will do the same, Will suggests he will resume his therapy. The two men then take their familiar seats, the scene framed in its usual medium shot, heavy on the shadows. It’s like a resetting of the board, the players back in their starting positions. The insinuation is clear: the previous game has been wiped clean and the game will now begin anew.
Will’s re-engagement with Hannibal is beautifully juxtaposed by their earlier confrontation in Hannibal’s kitchen. Will is unkempt and irrational, looking every bit the caricature of the escaped insane asylum inmate. Hannibal’s dialogue is entirely responsible for resetting their game, as he challenges Will to consider why he and Miriam Lass were selected. Then the coup de grace: “Don’t you want to know how this ends?” This is the Chesapeake Ripper talking, goading Will to take the bait and stick around to see how his design plays out. Of course Will takes him up on it; as Hannibal and Alana both explained last week, Will is Hannibal’s most dangerous adversary because he has nothing left to lose. He’s something else, though, too: Will is the only person capable of playing at Hannibal’s level, the sole remaining worthy adversary. Now, with the pawns eliminated and the board reset, the two generals are ready to take the stage and the real battle will begin. Bon appetit.
- The moment that Miriam shoots Chilton is the definition of theatrical: filmed in gorgeous slow-motion, we see the bullet exit out of Chilton’s head as Alana falls to the ground. The camera then pushes in through the hole in the glass to frame Miriam’s face as she cries triumphantly, “control” of her life regained.
- Miriam’s traumatic experiences lend themselves to a very basic visualization: a shadowy backlit figure of a man. The association with Hannibal is both verbal and visual: Will mentions Lecter operates in shadow and their kitchen show-down sees Hannibal backlit by the light of the open fridge door. Of course, Hannibal’s hypnotic (and no doubt pharmacological) influences displace his face with Chilton’s, leading to the dramatic shooting.
- I was more interested in Miriam’s vision of Jack. The traumatized agent remembers an image of a “wounded man” – a figure impaled by dozens of sharp objects – that Hannibal had in his portraiture pile. When she looks at Jack moments later, she sees him similarly impaled. Is this a foreshadowing (flashback?) of Jack’s stab wound in the neck by Hannibal from the premiere? Does she see this because of the Ripper’s confession to her during her captivity that she would deliver a message to Jack?
- Finally, it’s always nice to see Hannibal’s fashionable kill suit again. I was particularly amused by his nonchalance in answering the door to the FBI while wearing it at Chilton’s house (in Hannibal’s defense, the agents certainly don’t end up posing much of a threat, so his casual attitude is validated).
- Chilton (confessing his fear of Hannibal to Will): “I have no intention of ending up on his menu.”
- Will (when Alana asks if Hannibal is safe): “From me or for you?”
- Miriam (after Will suggests they’re the same): “Neither of us is really free. He’s not done.” Her shooting of Chilton certainly proves this point.
- Chilton (implying his case is much more dire than Will’s): “Abel Gideon was half eaten in my guest room. I have bodies on my property. You just coughed up an ear.”
Your turn: do you think Chilton is really dead? Were you surprised how easy he was to set-up? Did you know early on that Miriam would end up being a puppet figure? (Will tellingly suggests to Jack that two years is a long time to have Hannibal in your head) Are you annoyed at Alana’s refusal to see beyond Hannibal’s facade? And were you surprised that Will walked back into Lecter’s office to resume his therapy? Sound off below
Hannibal airs Fridays at 10pm EST on NBC. Here’s a look at the next episode