So. Hannibal 1×09: ‘Trou Normand’

Before I start this review, I must say that I’m rather surprised at people saying they must suspend their disbelief at the ‘human totem pole’

Capture Tru Normand
Typical; you wait ages for a corpse and then FIFTEEN turn up at once!

and the killer who managed to raise it by himself, after everything else that has happened in this series. This is, after all, a show in which

  • a murderer managed to spirit his latest victim back into her bed without anyone noticing,
  • another murderer set up a strange mushroom farm in a handy forest
  • Lecter and Abigail managed to get a dead body out of a house that was surrounded by police (again without anyone noticing)
  • ‘Oeuf’….just ‘Oeuf’ as an episode in general
  • the ‘Angel-Maker’ somehow managed to string himself up in his barn after flaying open his own back
  • Lecter made beer from Miriam Lass’s arm
  • Lecter then went on to serve a banquet where everything on the table is human, except the tomatoes (and I am deeply suspicious about the tomatoes)
  • and the last killer but one cut a man’s throat open, treated the vocal chords with various concoctions, stuck the neck of a string instrument down his throat and proceeded to play him like a cello.

I think we long ago passed the point where suspension of disbelief was an option. Actually, forget passing it, disbelief was being dangled over a cliff edge from the very opening of the show. And that’s not a bad thing. Besides, did Archimedes not say, ‘Give me a lever and a place to stand and I will move the earth’?

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So. Hannibal 1×07: ‘Sorbet’

Confession time – or at least, I would call this confession time if I didn’t know that most of my fellow audience was doing the same – I spent a good deal of this episode laughing.

Not the flat out laughing I’m plagued with when watching blooper reels or certain panel shows with UK comedians – I am a very easy soul to please – but a constant refrain of “Oh no! fighting its way through hysterical giggles. Plus some genuine amusement as well. I couldn’t help it!

Hannibal’s black humor has never been more evident than this episode, and that’s because quite a lot of ‘Sorbet’ is devoted to Lecter as he prepares for a dinner party he’s due to host, after a plea from a colleague – played so well by Ellen Greene – at a charity concert. (Said charity concert was in aid of Hunger Relief. The irony. You know by now what it does to me.) I won’t say that this is the most we’ve ever seen of Hannibal in one episode, but I do think it’s the most time we’ve ever seen him interacting with people other than the main cast, or just doing things by himself – which just so happens to be preparing for that special evening. We’re taken through what, for Lecter, is a ‘normal’ few days, as he:

  • Engages in recreational activities that make him weep and actually give a standing ovation – causing my first laugh of the evening, as the scene for some reason started inside the opera singer’s throat so that we got a lovely look at what I presume were her vocal cords. (From the trailer, I though that when she did show up she’d be singing ‘Vide cor meum‘, but nope. Perhaps later on.) “What the hell? Oh no, oh no!”
  • Deals with persistent patient Franklin. Lecter’s visible discomfort when coming into close contact with him got, if not a laugh, then some righteous amusement from me. So often Lecter has made me feel discomfort; now I take joy in his. What goes around comes around. “Oh no, Franklin. No! Well, all right, make him feel a little more disgusted with you!”
  • Goes to see his own psychiatrist (and friend?) Bedalia du Maurier, played by the ever wonderful and perfect Gillian Anderson, where she proceeds to get under his skin, somewhat. A surreal experience to see Lecter under analysis this week! I was a tad disappointed with Anderson’s role in this; she was fantastic, of course, but I thought she would have more part to play in the episode than merely one scene. Still, what a scene it is! Bedalia du Maurier – I love that name, I will take the opportunity to write it as often as possible – is not fooled by Hannibal for one instant. She knows he’s wearing a mask or, rather ‘a personal suit’, but hopes that the person inside will get what they need from her without further comment. This might not, in the long run, be Bedalia du Maurier’s wisest decision.
  • Goes…’grocery shopping’. Oh, this scene. This scene will be infamous. And it deserves to be. It will take a lot to top seeing Lecter go through his recipe box, go through his business card index, choose respective courses from each, set off, bring home the bacon – so to speak – prepare the raw materials, parcel them up and put them in the fridge. He repeats this process not once, not twice, but four times, counting that remarkably rude medical examiner he waylays on the road. (And this is just the stuff we see; his fridge is pretty packed by the end.) Every time you think he couldn’t possibly go any further, while secretly anticipating the Rule of Three, here comes another organ, another slice, another chunk popped into the blender!
  • The ironic cuts to Lecter’s cooking also have their own dark humor. One of the victims of the ‘Chesapeake Ripper’s’ latest rampage is missing a spleen; under the mistaken apprehension that the organs are being stolen for medical purposes, one of the team asks in bewilderment: “Who gets a spleen transplant?” And then we all cringe behind our hands – or at least I do – as Lecter whacks on the blender. I don’t know if that was a spleen in there, but there was a good deal of red. And all this loving preparation is carried out to a bombastic operatic soundtrack, showing how much Lecter is delighting in all this and enjoying this harvest. A whole lot of “Oh no“s found their way into the world here, when I managed to stop laughing. “Oh no, oh no, oh god no!”

(Although, really, does everything that Lecter eats – and serves up to other poor unsuspecting fools – have to be human? Could he not add a little variety by having some actual legitimate lamb or chicken in there? For instance, I love love love beef, but I certainly wouldn’t want to eat it every night of the week.

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So. Hannibal 1×05 (or 1×04): ‘Coquilles’

So. Hannibal 1×05 (or 1×04): ‘Coquilles’, because the title bar is still acting up for some reason.

I won’t pretend to be a die hard fan of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, but a certain few lines from that poem have always stuck with me, from the moment I read one of M.R. James’s best ghost stories Casting the Runes. Watching Will Graham walk down a road at night, with the familiar stag that haunts his dreams so close now as to sniff at his hand, they came to mind yet again:

‘Like one that on a lonesome road
Doth walk in fear and dread,
And having once turned round walks on,
And turns no more his head;
Because he knows, a frightful fiend
Doth close behind him tread.’

This is true for more than just Graham’s nightmare – which turn out to be a rather jarring reality, albeit minus the stag; Graham has actually developed a habit of sleepwalking. ‘Frightful fiends’ preying upon the minds and spirits of the characters, and dogging their footsteps, are in plentiful supply this episode.

First, there are the fiends that spur the efforts of this week’s killer, Elliot Budish, the ‘Angel Maker’,who transforms his victims into guardian spirits to watch over him should he die in his sleep from his brain tumor. Despite the secular reality – the tumor that supplies his hallucinations of heads on fire, the lack of religious faith on Budish’s part as opposed to his belief in his own guardian angel – it’s impossible to overlook the spiritual imagery in this episode when it comes to the corpses. The religious nature of the first grisly tableaux is closely discussed in the episode; I particularly like the call forward to Hannibal when one of the forensic team – I still haven’t learned to tell the two men apart, I am ashamed – spoke about Viking sacrifices of Christians by snapping open their ribs and pulling their lungs out through their backs: the ‘Bloody Eagle’. I did, however, think that this sacrifice wasn’t designed specifically for Christians but rather as offerings to the god Odin, but after more than a thousand years, who can be certain?

But I was especially struck by the picture the second victim makes. When Crawford leaves Graham alone at the crime scene after they’ve each respectively blown up at each other over the case, we get a beautiful almost silhouette of Graham looking up and the corpse seeming to look down. Back lit by some unknown source, it plays on the idea of an actual angel descending from heaven to the man on earth, providing divine inspiration.

Capture angel from on high

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So. Hannibal 1×04: ‘Ceuf’. Aka you lucky people over there who actually get to see the clips of this.

Living in the good old UK as I do, I have so far been unable to reap the delights of the mini series that has been put together out of all the really good bits from ‘Ceuf’. Even when it’s posted on Youtube.

Grrrr.

No doubt I will eventually be able to view the miniseries – and the parent episode that was pulled – in both their entirety at some point in the future. But until then, what I have seen leads me to suspect that Bryan Fuller and the team have rather taken the possibility that they won’t be able to use Clarice Starling in future seasons in their stride. And that they have said words to the effect of ‘Well, we’ve got the rights, let’s go wild!’

Yes, spoilers for Hannibal (the book), Hannibal drugs and mentally re-educates Clarice at the end of it – sort of – and they have a romantic dinner eating someone’s brains.

But he was a sexist corrupt (and fictional) arse-hole, so that’s all right.

Hannibal’s drugging of Abigail with mushroom tea is certainly an interesting way to continue a relationship. Then again, this is a relationship where one of her not really adopted dads killed her biological dad, and her other adopted dad helped her hide the body of the man she killed. I believe the magic mushrooms are almost a step down in craziness at this point…

…riiiight up until Abigail starts hallucinating that Lecter and Dr Bloom are her father and mother, and she gets that wonderful disconcerting smile on her face as she says that she sees ‘family’.

I’m just fascinated to see where this is going to go. Is Lecter going to mold her in his image, as another serial killer? Is Lecter a serial killer at this point? We’ve only seen two of his (quite probable) victims on screen, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been indulging his palette for quite a while before the season began. Or is he – gulp – going to try and turn Abigail into Mischa?

Spoilers again: Hannibal (the book) and Hannibal Rising reveal that our beloved cannibal had a little sister called Mischa – awww! – who was eaten by starving Nazi deserters – aaaaaa – and little Hannibal might unwittingly eaten bits of her as well – urrrrrrgh – and oh, he wants his little sister back.

So much so, in fact, that he tries to brainwash Clarice into believing she’s her.

Yeah, Hannibal is a very strange book.

Or is Lecter trying to see what makes her tick? As he seems to be doing with Will, judging by his close examination of Will’s home, underwear drawer and fishing tackle when he visits to feed the dogs. I notice the rather telling pricking of his finger, and the sucking of his own blood. Honestly, you should be more careful, Hannibal! You work with sharp objects a lot, after all!

And how is Abigail going to react if she finds out that Lecter has been doing as her daddy did before him, and feeding her human flesh? Will she accept it? Will she rebel? Will she get addicted? (I don’t know if she finds out in the episode, this is all conjecture, but it’s oh so intriguing.)

Also, Crawford brings his wife over for dinner at Lecter’s – again, I highly anticipate the scene when everyone realizes Lecter’s a cannibal and Crawford remembers how much suddenly suspicious meat he ate. That’ll be a fun scene, I’m sure. I am so glad that Gina Torres is in this series; she is a gorgeous person and I can’t wait to see her…

…in whatever episode she is after this one that I haven’t  technically seen yet.

GRRRRRR.

By the way, I respect that Lecter is sensible enough not to keep giving his guests ‘pork’ all the time, but could you honestly disguise human flesh enough that you could pass it off as rabbit? I’m not being dismissive, I do actually want to know if that’s possible – although for the sake of the argument we’ll use pork rather than human flesh as our test subject. Any suggestions?

Also, is Bloom being rather flirtatious with Lecter? Did she – possibly – have a student mentor crush? This will just make things even more interesting, and possibly more dangerous.

What am I saying? Quite probably more dangerous.

So, now that we – or all those of you in America, technically – have savored all the meaty bits of ‘Ceuf’, bring on ‘Coquilles’ (which, according to the wonderful Wiki of Pedia means scallops, yum) with manufactured angels on strings!

So. Hannibal 1×03: ‘Potage’

Spoilers for Hannibal, episode 3, ‘Potage’.

After the fungus obsessed killer of last episode, ‘Potage’ brings us squarely back to the case of the Minnesota Shrike, the wake of his murders and the fate of his daughter. Abigail Hobbs wakes from one nightmare – killing and dressing a deer under her late lamented father’s instruction, that all of a sudden transforms into a dead girl (or possibly even herself) – into another living nightmare.

She has to come to terms not only with the fact that her father killed her mother and tried to kill her, but that he also killed eight other girls as substitutes for her, and stuffed pillows with their hair. Waste not, want not, after all, which he carried even further by feeding parts of the bodies to his family. Abigail reacts to this epiphany – and to Lecter’s calm ‘It’s quite probable’ – about as well as you’d expect.

It gets worse: by now the general public assumes she was complicit in her father’s crimes and react accordingly, the authorities have her under suspicion, and one of the few people that’s at least candid with her about all this is a reporter who manages (albeit probably unintentionally, give Lounds some credit) to sic the brother of one of the victims on her.

On top of all this, if she wasn’t a killer by the start of the episode – of humans, at least, although she’s clearly remorseful about that deer – she most certainly is by the end, having managed to gut Nicholas (said grieving brother of the lady with missing lungs in ‘Aperitif’) like a fish, when he worked up enough nerve to attack her.

I have to congratulate Abigail on not ending ‘Potage’ in a writhing mess, although inside we can’t even begin to fathom how fractured she is. Kacey Rohl does a fantastic job portraying Abigail as necessarily manipulative, scared, awkward, horrified and, by the end, filled with fascinated understanding and some small terror.

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