Well, if there were any lingering doubts about last episode’s cliffhanger ending, they’ve been explicitly laid to rest by this point. With “Mukozuke,” Hannibal bring us one of its biggest blows to date. Obviously, Hannibal has one of the higher “bad stuff per episode” ratios on network television, but there’s a finality to the events that’s relatively rare for this show.
And that’s just the starting point. The rest of the episode brings heavy emotions, old enemies, dark character turns, and the typically nutty imagery the show’s become known for. Season 2 is still ramping up, but these past two episodes have seen it moving forward with clear purpose.
Hannibal plays with Silence of the Lambs iconography pretty frequently, but this week they brought out one of their big guns: That… uh, trolley/mouth guard/straitjacket combo. Sorry for not knowing a cooler name. Whatever it’s called, though, the effect is powerful; it’s hard to see Will subjected to these sorts of humiliations. Likewise, the scene of Jack taking all that stuff OFF him, gun in hand, was strong stuff.
Once Will got all that stuff off, he had to confront one of the episode’s two major grotesqueries: the body of Beverly Katz. Truth be told, I was a little worried going into this setup. Given the almost-unwatchable displays of violence this season has put up from time to time, I didn’t know if I’d be able to handle the aftermath of last episode’s cliffhanger. Fortunately for my constitution, Bev’s display was relatively tasteful. For this show, anyway. Still, seeing a character we’re fond of in one of these macabre artworks is a little rough.
Also a little rough: Watching Jack as he sees his fallen agent for the first time.
The running gag (pun intended) of Hannibal serving up his latest catch has taken on some even more sinister qualities this season. Last episode, our stomachs turned with Will Graham’s when he finally realized what (or should I say who?) he’d been eating since Episode One. This time, Hannibal serves Jack his own co-worker, before he even knows she’s dead. Sick stuff.
Speaking of sick stuff, Eddie Izzard’s back as Abel Gideon. Sadly, he’s one of the few holdovers from the first season that doesn’t really do it for me, but his role in this episode is admittedly an improvement. Having him back also means talk of the Chesapeake Ripper is coming back up, which in turn reminds me that Beverly is not the first one of Jack’s agents to go down at the hands of Hannibal Lecter. As the season wears on, we see more and more reasons for the obvious hatred Jack emanates in that kitchen fight that got the ball rolling this year.
An aside: I like how Gideon is one of the figures on the show who does the most Anthony Hopkins-esque monologuing about his kills. He certainly talks more than Hannibal Lecter, who’s usually in that position.
Beverly’s death reverberates throughout the episode. This season has shown a lot of progress for Will; he keeps finding little ways to manage the lingering doubts his friends have about his guilt. Now that Beverly’s gone, however, he’s getting reckless. First he commissions an interview with reputation-ruining Freddie Lounds. Maybe his current state of imprisonment makes him think Freddie can’t do anything to him, but she’s always managed to screw Will over before. Guess we’ll have to wait and see if she manages that this go-round.
(What seems a little clearer is that it’s simply a bad idea to mouth off to Hannibal Lecter.)
Gideon also figures prominently into the most dramatic plot turn the show takes in this episode. Will, seemingly at his wit’s end after losing his only real ally in Beverly, steps his game up rather dramatically with an attempt to orchestrate a hit on Hannibal’s life. The person Gideon foils is Matthew Brown, a sociopath masquerading as an orderly at the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.
A couple of things in this subplot were a bit off. One, who is this guy again? Maybe I’m forgetting him — which would be an accomplishment; this is a distinctive dude — but his appearance and confession to Will felt a bit sudden. Two, a bit strange that Will would be so lax as to charge the guy with murdering Hannibal within earshot of Izzard. In my eyes at least, a lapse this severe seemed a bit beyond even Will’s frazzled state of mind.
Fortunately, these niggling issues are more or less negated by the climactic scene of the episode and the second of this episode’s grotesqueries. Hannibal’s been struggling this season. This sequence starts out similarly, with Brown getting the drop on him in a swimming pool. Later on, though, we see another glimpse of the badass sociopath we’re used to dealing with. It comes after Brown has strung Hannibal up in a crucifix pose — which, for those keeping score, is another point for the “Hannibal as perverse Christ figure” board. As Hannibal struggles against the noose, blood dripping from his wrists, Brown decides to take a couple verbal shots at him. He suggests that by killing Hannibal, he might absorb his kills and become the Chesapeake Ripper.
“Not unless you eat me.”