Well, the mystery of what Hannibal Lecter was up to in the cliffhanger from last week’s episode had a hell of an answer.
What seemed like a possibly overconfident misstep from fiction’s most famous cannibal turned out to be something of a macabre masterstroke. Hannibal’s unconventional pastimes have been closer and closer to being discovered, but throwing the Miriam Lass wrench into the machine completely upended the course Jack was on.
It also brings us one of the more emotionally potent episodes of the season, and an hour of television that just lays out one ballsy reveal after another. The edges of Hannibal’s plan are beginning to come into view, and it’s gonna be a whopper.
The episode high point, as well as the most difficult piece of the hour to watch, was Miriam’s re-emergence into the world of the living. Her short-but-effective role in Season One was one of that season’s high points. In addition to taking us unusually deep into the psyche of Jack Crawford, Miriam’s story was one of the more memorable reminders of just how ruthless a bastard Hannibal Lecter can be.
In that way, her reappearance isn’t much different.
Anna Chlumsky does a frankly incredible job of showing Miriam’s trauma. Aside from the obvious challenges of stepping into a fantastic season of television halfway through, her part brings with it the additional difficulty of playing a fractured psyche without the luxury of emotional breakdowns. Miriam is an FBI agent; her struggle is to keep the demons at bay. By the end of the episode, she’s failed at that, but her desperate attempts to keep a lid on it are truly heartbreaking.
On a vaguely more positive note, it’s nice to see Will back in the saddle, so to speak. His newfound confidence fortunately follows him home from the mental institution. I say fortunately because the nightmares in his life still surround him. Alana’s loyalties have moved resolutely over to Hannibal, Miriam’s disfigurement and mental fragility demand a lot of attention, and Dr. Chilton shows up in his living room.
(Of course, this is all on top of simply being back in the homicide unit, where he’s treated to all kinds of hellish images to deal with.* On a minor technical note — one that appeared earlier this season — I really like his amped-up “empathy wipe” sound effect. It’s deeper, more aggressive than it was last season. Fits Will’s newfound mental security rather well.)
Sorry, I had just gotten to the Dr. Chilton part. Man. Wasn’t I just commenting on how much of an improvement Chilton has made this year? That’s Game of Thrones-level treachery, both for Hannibal and the writing staff. This show has been merciless with its likable supporting cast so far this season. Something something a big move forward, especially on the heels of Miriam’s reintroduction.
All the disparate strands of marinating plot from the first half of the season are really starting to get cooking.** Things are really ramping up in both pace and intensity. Still unclear exactly how we’re going to get there, but the elusive threats and premonitions all point to some big moves up ahead. Bryan Fuller said as much, anyway, but it’s easy to believe..
Speaking of strong moves, that’s quite a statement by Will in the final moments of the episode. Now that he’s back in therapy, and back in his role as homicide super-detective, it almost seems that things are back to normal. But nothing feels normal; no ground feels solid. We’re moving towards something dramatic at the end of this season, and it’d be a shock to find solid footing between here an there.
*Including Beverly Katz’s blood. I’m glad the fallout of that death continues to make itself known as the episodes roll on.
**Sorry ’bout that.