tv review – NBC’s Hannibal, episode 2.11

‘Kō no mono’, the title of the latest Hannibal episode, is a little tricky to connect to this outing’s goings-on. It’s a kaiseki dish of seasonal pickled vegetables, not something you’d directly connect to a show about cannibals and songbirds eaten whole. But look at it like this: pickled vegetables take a while to prepare, have to go through various stages before they are served up to be consumed. In short: kō no mono could refer to the immaculate planning of Will and Jack behind the scenes, the reveal of which was served up this week. While it wasn’t very surprising that Will hadn’t killed Freddie and he was in cahoots with Jack ever since ‘Su-zakana’, the way her fake death was handled was done expertly: the famous flaming wheelchair from the novels made its appearance, evoking the very real death of the character in the Red Dragon novel and its adaptations. It made you wonder: “Did they really go there?” It also explained to us why Jack had been mostly absent during the latest couple of episodes; he had been very busy keeping secrets of his own. The way he let Alana and the audience in on his play was subtle and effective, topped off by a typical Freddie line: “How was my funeral?”

‘Kō no mono’ revisited the family, transformation and opposition themes we’ve come to expect from the show, but managed to make it feel fresh once again, delivering one of the show’s best scenes to date: Will and Hannibal talking about birth and death, anticipation and loss, Abigail, Mischa and Will’s unborn child. It was a scene that neatly tied Hannibal‘s major themes and character arcs together in a beautifully understated moment between two men portrayed by two fantastic actors. Both Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen convey so much through their eyes, their posture, the way they measure their words, that it elevates the fantastic writing to a whole other level, even though it was already top-notch all by itself: the way Hannibal’s teacup speech tied in to his first conversation with Will during the pilot and the moment that Abigail drank Lecter’s special tea was wonderful. The teacup putting itself together again evoked what Hannibal told Will about how Jack sees him, as “a fragile little teacup”, and Will is indeed putting himself together after having been deliberately broken again and again by Lecter. The inclusion of Shiva, who both symbolizes destruction and creation, pointed at Will’s rebirth too, as did the episode’s opening, of a new Will being birthed by the ravenstag. This Will is a more experienced man, a darker man who had to go through a lot and had to make sacrifices to find out who he is and what he is capable of. He’s no longer the fragile teacup, but what Hannibal has always seen in him: “the mongoose I want under the house when the snakes slither by.” It’s Lecter’s mistake that he doesn’t view himself as a snake, but as an entity who is and deserves to be much more than that, another beautifully constructed parallel through the Christian symbolism the show uses: Hannibal is the snake, the devil, the fallen angel cast out because of his hubris and sense of entitlement and power over others. He’s responsible for the creation of his own destruction.

And after this episode’s ending it’s likely that Will, Hannibal and Alana aren’t the only ones after Hannibal Lecter. Hannibal’s puppetry did not only cause Margot to be with child, but also caused her to lose it because Lecter told Mason about the possibility of another heir claiming the family fortune. He pointed Mason at Margot’s plan and because of it the despicable tear-martini-drinking monster took away his sister’s ability to have children. It was hard to watch, thanks to Katharine Isabelle’s wonderful acting and the writing, and Michael Pitt’s loathsome portrayal of what may be one of the vilest characters to ever grace the TV screen. Once again Hannibal’s winding up of people had unforeseen and tense consequences: Will telling Mason that Hannibal is the one who has orchestrated all this instead of just shooting him. Another paradox is that Hannibal can seem genuinely affected by the consequences to his own actions: he was visibly upset when he visited Margot in the hospital and earlier he was still grieving Abigail and he genuinely regretted taking her away from Will. It’s all these facets that make Hannibal Lecter such an intriguing and hypnotizing presence. The way he’s treated Alana has always been both affectionate and unnerving, another uneasy mix of emotions one rarely sees. Talking about Alana: Caroline Dhavernas did an outstanding job this episode finally getting clarity about what’s happing on her own terms, having fought her way through preconceived notions and confusion.

‘Kō no mono’ is the best Hannibal episode to date and the linchpin for what’s about to happen in the second season’s final two episodes. 10/10


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