First note: The ratings are back up a little bit, so thanks. I’m assuming that our readers are part of the solution, not part of the problem.
One of the most striking things about this episode was how much of it we didn’t see.
That’s the great thing about this show, actually. Or, one of them. I remember coming across a screenwriting blog entry that talked about the importance of having things occur off camera. The offscreen movie is often just as important as the onscreen one. One of the major problems with a lot of stuff today is that creators feel the need to show every, single, step of a plot to make sure we follow it. It limits the scope of the world, kills the pacing, and tells the audience they are not trusted.
Hannibal does not suffer from this.
Even as we switch genres, Hannibal keeps its voice intact. Actually, the side journey this episode takes into “legal drama” isn’t a bad way to break up the routine. In fact, it’s interesting to see familiar characters in a somewhat unfamiliar setting. Hannibal seems even more out of his element than in the past two episodes, resorting to a rather elaborate murder in order to force a mistrial.*
It also allows that FBI investigator, Kade Prurnell, to become a much more real threat. Very curious to see where her piece fits in the final puzzle of this season.
Which brings us back to the amount of information left unsaid in this show. Prurnell’s motives, as well as the motives of much of the recurring cast, are fuzzy at best right now. Heck, it’s even hard to keep track of what Will’s feeling and thinking at any given moment, let alone our title killer. It turns every glance, every half-smirk, every pause these characters give into a moment full of possibility.
Anyway, while we’re talking about puzzle pieces,** a fascinating new one is Will’s attorney. He’s the quintessential sleazy lawyer type; reassuring Will and his friends constantly that the case is what matters, the truth substantially less so. It’s entirely possible that his purpose in the proceedings is just to underline ideas like the judicial system working like advertising, but it’s also possible he’ll have a deeper role. Time will tell, but for now it’s mainly just satisfying to hear him tell off Freddie Lounds in what has to be record time.
In and amongst all of this one-upmanship and legal maneuvering, Will Graham himself resorts to simply sitting there and taking the beating administered by these various and conflicting personalities. You have to feel sorry for him; in the very moment that he feels most confident about who he is and what he’s doing, virtually all of his power is stripped away. Surely, the reckoning he promised Hannibal is gathering steam.
Fuller & Co. are perfectly happy to leave key details lurking in the shadows. They never let us feel duped, but still remain evasive enough to keep us on our back foot. In a show that gets so much mileage out of horrific murders and crime scenes (and man, that last one was a doozy), it’s worth noting how much violence it refrains from showing. As with most great television, Hannibal is more concerned about its characters and themes than its more sensationalistic side.
In the end, this episode of Hannibal seems more interested in moving pieces around the chessboard (or puzzleboard, if I try to keep my metaphors on-topic) than it is in actually executing any dramatic moves. Which, after the knockout punch of last week’s episode, is probably not a bad approach. It would be amazing if any show could keep up that level of momentum, but long-form storytelling rarely works without mixing up the approach.
*How much of this is Hannibal being off-balance, and how much of it is deliberate, remain to be seen as far as I can tell.
**Now that I think about it, I’m surprised that’s a visual motif that hasn’t popped up in this show. Presumably it will at some point as long as it DOESN’T GET CANCELLED.