Hannibal tackles a series of murders committed with claws and jaws in an exploration of regret and instinct. It’s underlying thesis = everyone is a killer.
Let’s bitch it out…‘Shiizakana’ is a very talky, cerebral hour of Hannibal. It plunges us back into the deep end of Will Graham’s (Hugh Dancy) therapy with Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) and spends the majority of its time there. Whenever these two interact, it’s electric, but there’s no denying that this is a slow episode. It’s filled with ruminations on regret, instinct and the difference between humans and animals in their capacity to kill.
The case of the week – Randall Tier (Mark O’Brien), a boy with “identity disorder” who considers himself a predator – is appropriate, then. It’s less of a case than a living embodiment of the discussions Will and Hannibal are having, though, so it feels like the murders in ‘Shiizakana’ are simply prepwork for the climax when Randall and Will inevitably meet. Unfortunately this confrontation is not only abbreviated (the promos for next week suggest that we’ll see it play out more fully then), but it also requires another big suspension of disbelief. We have a fairly clear indication earlier in the episode that Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) and the FBI know that Randall is the killer, but they don’t arrest him, or even put him under surveillance. Traditionally when it comes to this show I’m less interested in the logistics of the case and whether the policework is up to scratch, but it is frustrating when you’re watching and actively forced to overlook plot holes in order to stay engaged. I appreciate the vision and the narrative focus of Bryan Fuller and his team, but I do wish that they had found a more organic way to bring these two characters together.
So overlooking the circumstances that lead to the climax, we come to the big question: what the hell is going on with Will?
When he decided to begin his therapy anew, it was clearly a deliberate attempt to play Hannibal. Last week, they each declared that they would no longer lie to one another (a fact that comes into play very clearly this week as they very candidly describe their killer tendencies and past crimes). All of the sudden Will’s approach is much more murky, though. Does he realize that Hannibal is still manipulating him? Does he know this and accept this, because ultimately there’s a part of him that wants to go along with it (and embrace his own desires to kill)? Clearly this isn’t just a long con that will allow Will to ensnare his adversary; it’s become much more than that. As indicated by the opening dream sequence, Will is playing out his fantasies and while they initially only applied to his psychiatrist, by episode’s end he’s killed a killer, laying Randall Tier out like a piece of meat on Lecter’s dining room table.
My biggest question is why Will suggests that they are “even steven”? Surely he must see that his murder of Randall Tier is part of Lecter’s design to allow Will to recapture the “quiet sense of power” he regretted not pursuing when he held Clark Ingram at gunpoint last week. As soon as we see Hannibal and Randall standing outside Will’s house in the snow, it’s obvious that this isn’t Hannibal’s attempt to kill Will; this is Hannibal encouraging Will’s desire to kill and simultaneously allowing Randall to achieve true animal status (in death, though I’m sure Hannibal didn’t tell Randall that). I would have thought that that would been immediately clear to Will.
The fact that Will doesn’t see it is worrying, because it means that Hannibal has regained control of the situation. Will is back in danger and he may not even know it…
- Margot (Katharine Isabelle) and Will meet and unofficially hit it off. She’s more confused by Hannibal’s encouragement than Will, though she’s clearly figured out part of his agenda (note that she doesn’t appear that surprised when Will admits he tried to kill Lecter. I guess she doesn’t feel like she can judge considering what she’s tried to do to her unseen brother).
- Following his meeting with Margot, Will asks Hannibal what would happen if his patients began comparing notes. Wouldn’t that be a fun meeting of psychos?
- It’s good to see Peter (Jeremy Davies) again. I was very interested in the clear distinction between his healthier perspective on human nature and Hannibal’s. Peter suggests that humans are different beasts because they are the only ones who kill to kill. Hannibal disagrees, suggesting that there is a killer instinct within both humans and animals and that makes them alike. Considering Peter sewed a man into a horse last week, is Hannibal correct?
- There’s less striking visual imagery than normal this week, though I was partial to the black and white dream sequence punctuated by the over-the-top red spray when Will kills Hannibal in his dreams.
- Commentary from other reviews suggest people found this episode a little more difficult to swallow because of the “man wearing an exoskeleton” aspect, as well as the lack of beautiful “murder tableaus as fucked up art projects.” Part of this I think can be attributed to the fact that this is a younger killer who doesn’t see death as a beautiful thing (the bodies have been treated like pieces of meat). The other part may be a reflection of the direction heading into the finale: murder is brutal, not pretty and as the games develop between Will and Hannibal, death and violence will evolve to get more and more brutal. We’ll see if the pretty bodies return next week…
- Finally, Shiizakana is defined as “a more substantial dish.” This can be seen as a commentary on Will and Hannibal’s more complicated relationship. In general though, I wouldn’t necessarily have used that term to describe this episode.
- Will (telling Margot who he is): “I’m the guy who didn’t kill all those people.”
- Margot (arriving at Will’s house): “It’s cold. Do you have any whiskey?”
What are your thoughts? Do you think Will is aware of what Hannibal is doing? Did you think Margot was going to recruit Will to kill her brother? Was the most upsetting part of the episode the thought that Will’s dog was going to be killed? Sound off below.
Hannibal airs Fridays at 10pm EST on NBC