You know, I’m really trying to keep from turning these articles into a weekly installment of insane hyperbole about this show, but it’s just hard to come up with much else.
Bryan Fuller had said that the fourth episode of this season was where things really got cooking, and he wasn’t lying even a little bit. “Takiawase” makes a strong contender for best episode so far; it manages to be beautiful, terrifying, funny, depressing, and straight-up cool with plenty to spare. After a bit of a “moving pieces around” lull last week, the Hannibal storm has whipped up to full force. Let’s dive in.
(I’m also going to start being a little freer with spoilers in here, so I hope you’re caught up.)
I’ll start by getting my sole complaint out there: the whole beekeeper/acupuncturist thing. I get that there are a lot of connections between this and the dramatic content of the episode — death as a cure for pain, lesions that hide deeper clues, etc. That’s cool. I even get that this character views her approach as some sort of sick medicine, which also fits into the thematic through line. That doesn’t change the slight disappointment when the FBI shows up at her house and she just sorta… admits to it.
But that’s not even a real complaint, because a) that subplot provided some super-cool imagery regardless* and b) the rest of the episode was a doozy. Where to begin?
The most emotional storyline this week was the one concerning Jack’s wife, Bella. Her limited material from Season One was some of the most uncomfortably poignant stuff on television last year, so her appearance in this episode immediately made me sit up and take notice.
The stuff that came after that initial appearance was devastating. It’s not like a slow death from cancer would ever make for light viewing, but throwing that very possible, familiar affliction into a world inhabited by Hannibal Lecter just makes the whole thing that much more real. It’s a different sort of horror than the rest of the show; the horror of confronting the occasional bleakness of the real world.
Even crueler, somehow, is Hannibal bringing her back to life after she finally gets up the nerve and ability to do the deed. Even crueler than THAT is that the decision was predicated on a coin toss. Her protests upon realizing that she’s still alive… very difficult to watch.
(Also, what an insanely creepy way to compare Hannibal to Jesus. With the whole Lazarus reference, I mean.)
All that doesn’t even get into the potent philosophical/ethical debates this episode keeps bringing up about the mercy of death and suicide — assisted or otherwise. Suffice it to say that this stuff is really thought-provoking. That sounds almost trite after what went down in this episode, but it sorta speaks for itself.
Change of topic: Man, what about that seizure scene?
Thus far, Hannibal has a pretty strong signature when it comes to its portrayal of horror and twisted psych-imagery. While the subject matter is (frankly) ridiculous in how creepy it is, Fuller’s team usually renders it with this gorgeous, flawlessly-composed visual style. It’s like being in the world’s most uncomfortable art history class. Think the eye mural from earlier this season, or the human cello from Season One.
This episode, while it also gives us the lyrical image of a human beehive, contains one of the show’s most viscerally unnerving sequences to date. I’m speaking, of course, about the sequence wherein Will recalls a Hannibal-induced seizure while undergoing tests administered by Dr. Chilton.
A quick aside — Chilton continues to be one of this show’s wilder wild cards. He’s definitely up to no good, but he’s also found himself caught up in the power struggle between Will and Hannibal, and that can’t be a safe place to be right now. Curious to see where he winds up over the rest of the season.
Back to the light therapy: I don’t know, but I imagine this scene was likely to inspire a real-deal seizure if you’re prone to them. For someone who’s not, it certainly felt like I got put in that headspace. Every second of this sequence was bothersome, from Dancy’s unhinged performance to Hannibal’s rearranged face to the ultimate flashback to Will’s Season One seizure. In an overall draining episode like this one, to label this scene particularly exhausting is really saying something.
While I’m thinking about it, this seems like as good a point as any to recognize the contributions of Brian Reitzel. His stuff isn’t conventionally “musical,” erring more towards really aggressive sound design than anything else, but it’s impossible to overstate how vital a piece of the puzzle he is these days. Sequences like the seizure interrogation, or the climactic prowling through Hannibal’s house, are made almost unbearably tense by the sonic work he does on this show.
Oh yeah, that ending. Every time I don’t think Mads Mikkelsen can get any scarier in his portrayal of Hannibal Lecter, this show goes and proves me wrong. Poor Bev.
*Echoes of Pushing Daisies.