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 1×06: ‘Entrée’

Well.

If there were any doubts left about the true nature of this version of Hannibal Lecter, the ending of ‘Entrée’ cleared them up very nicely, as Lecter chokes our poor Clarice Starling substitute into unconsciousness. No doubt with something terrible in mind for her.

Except that Miriam Lass (who never appears in the present, only in Crawford and Lecter’s flashbacks, creating a lasting impression on both of them for both the right and the wrong reasons) is far from a Starling substitute, even if this episode is rife with shout outs to The Silence of the Lambs,* and definitely doesn’t deserve that title. She’s a force in her own right, clever and insightful – and apparently related to a character from another of Bryan Fuller’s shows, Dead Like Me – and dedicated enough to bring about her own downfall at Lecter’s hands. Anna Chlumsky did wonders with what she was given to work with. The few scenes that she had left me really wanting to see more of her, so it was heartbreaking to watch as, unlike Graham, she isn’t nearly as lucky in escaping Lecter’s office alive. Heartbreaking but hardly surprising, as she’s been considered dead a long time  before the episode began, and doubly dead by the end of it.

Or is she? As others have already pointed out, Lecter merely caused her to pass out, and the frantic calls she makes to Crawford had to have been recorded at some point. Perhaps we shouldn’t give up on Miriam Lass just yet.

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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 1×03: ‘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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So: Hannibal 1×02, ‘Amuse-Bouche’

So. Hannibal 1×02, ‘Amuse-Bouche’, repeated again because the archive page won’t show the title for some obscure reason.

I think I was afraid that Hannibal might swiftly become a ‘murder of the week’ formula, so it was a pleasant surprise to see Crawford and Graham picking up where they had left off last time and trying to find the remains of Garret Hobbs’s victims. Really, though, should I have expected them to simply hare off to a new murder inquiry? Watching the reams of paper work in Hot Fuzz has taught me that police work is never that simple.

In addition, Abigail Hobbs is still very much in the picture, in body if not in spirit; she’s now in a coma from loss of blood, thanks to that parting gift of a slit throat from her daddy. Rather in the manner of taking in stray dogs, Will has very much taken this lost and orphaned girl into his heart, staying in her hospital room for quite a few nights as he has. But is his concern that of a rescuer, or that of the father he shot but who refuses to get out of sight and out of mind? The situation’s only more complicated by the revelation that Abigail could possibly have been complicit in her father’s murders – even if Graham is positive that Hobbs killed alone, that doesn’t necessarily mean he hunted alone.

Still, another case lurches out of the ground to scare unsuspecting hikers as well as the audience. The choice of soundtrack for this scene makes your skin crawl, discordant and overlaid with drips that turned into a gush, as a line of dead hands rose out of the earth with hypodermic needles embedded in each one. I though at once of corpse farms, places where the decomposition of bodies is studied…but the colonization of fungus in the bodies soon put that idea to rest, along with any hope that I will ever get around to liking mushrooms.

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So. Hannibal 1×01: “Apéritif”

If you haven’t tried ‘Hannibal’ yet, this does contain spoilers for some parts of the episode.

Having digested this episode, I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed it; particularly the reinterpretations of the two main characters, something I was honestly worried about.

We first meet Will Graham as he visits the aftermath of a double homicide, performing a mental backtrack to place himself in the mind of the murderer and relive the killings. He describes this horrendous act in cold, clinical terms, understanding the deliberation behind each shot. Graham is introduced to us in violence, blood and slaughter, intensely experienced on his part and yet calmly presented to an avid audience in a lecture theatre, as if we’ve somehow gotten a crossover between CSI and that first season episode of House, ‘Three Stories’. On the surface Graham is detached; beneath his skin he’s fighting desperately not to be sucked into crimes he recreates.

We also learn that he takes in stray dogs, and has quite a number at the moment. He quite literally Pets the Dog. When it comes to humans, though, he’s often rude and abrasive, freely admitting to having difficulties interacting with others due to autistic traits and that cursed empathy, as well as the tendency to get distracted by other people’s eyeballs.

Our hero, ladies and gentlemen.

(By the by; I’ll admit that I know absolutely nothing about guns whatsoever, but I do believe it is pretty damn hard to shoot someone in the neck with ‘surgical precision’. The very nature of bullets – pieces of metal hitting your flesh at colossal speeds – does not in any way suggest ‘surgical precision’ to my mind.

Also, these were moving targets, and the killer had a handgun. Not a rifle with a scope. A handgun.)

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