Well, that certainly was… some sort of something. A werewolf episode, huh?
Honestly, this was probably the episode from this season that did the least for me. It seems silly to accuse this show of being goofy when so much of it is pitched at such a ridiculous tone to begin with, but some how I really NOTICED the ridiculousness here more than usual.
Maybe it’s because the fulcrum of the supernatural imagery this go-round was a werewolf, and those are simply a lot more familiar these days than eyeball murals and skin angels and the like? I don’t know that I have a great answer for why that stuff didn’t really click with me.
That said, there’s still plenty of stuff to dig into. It’s a bit cliche to say this, but even a relatively weak Hannibal episode is leagues ahead of most anything else on TV.
The main news item is the evolution in the relationship between Will and Hannibal. Bryan Fuller cited the Star Wars Sith mythology, noting how in this episode Hannibal pits his new apprentice against his old one. This illuminates the Hannibal/Will relationship in a number of ways, most notably by showing just how screwed up Will’s mind could get if Hannibal gets his hooks in deep enough.
It’s also an example of Hannibal testing Will. After watching Hannibal work on Randall Tier and Margot for the rest of the episode, it becomes clear that Hannibal is fascinated by getting other people to kill. By sending in Randall, Hannibal forces Will’s hand. The two characters are getting closer and closer to each other — note the scene set on Hannibal’s desk, where they no longer look at each other but off into the same direction.
Will wonders aloud to Hannibal what would happen if his patients ever got together to compare notes. In many ways, that’s what this episode is all about. Will, Margot, and Randall are all Hannibal projects in different stages of incubation. Randall, to use the language of the show, has come out of his chrysalis. Margot is just beginning to construct hers. Will, it seems, is just about ready to spread his wings and see what he’s become.
After the evolution of the Will/Hannibal relationship, the next-most interesting story element in “Shiizakana” was the enigmatic Margot Verger. As I said earlier, I don’t really know who the Vergers are, but she’s a character who seems to fit perfectly into the tangled thematic and murderous web our main characters weave. Seeing as Hannibal is still flagrantly playing with her desire to kill her brother, I wonder if we’ll get more of a glimpse into her home life soon. The way they introduced her character was intriguing, but pretty soon I’ll be ready for some real-deal looks at that situation.
Of course, the episode gets into your standard horror/suspense elements on top of all the character/thematic material. Despite the slight goofiness of the premise, the suspense sequence that closes out the episode works really, really well. A lot of that has to do with the surreal visuals of the rural house in the snow. The sprays of dust kicked up by the dog and by Will reinforce how trapped they are in their isolated surroundings. The moment where Randall crashes through the window? Sublime. No matter how goofy the subject matter, the hands at the wheel of this show remain rock-steady.
So, all in all, “Shiizakana” is more fun to talk about than to actually watch. The subtext of the show is as rich as ever, but the actual text of this episode strained credulity. That’s okay; Hannibal’s more than earned a mulligan from this viewer. I’m just looking forward to actually reaching the payoffs to all this maneuvering.
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