Even by its own dreamy standards, this week’s Hannibal was a real walk down nightmare lane. Yes, there was a serial killer of the week, and it was Amanda Plummer and it involved acupuncture and bees. But that was a C-plot, B-plot at best, with much more time devoted to Will’s continued revelations about just how much his brain was being manipulated in the first season. There was layer upon layer of hallucination, with Will taking buzzing trips through his head (helped along with psychoactive drugs pumped into his system by Frederick Chilton.
The best thing about all this is that it’s also news to the audience. Yes, we knew Hannibal was manipulating Will throughout the first season. There were pivotal scenes, like the drawing of the clock face, that showed just how nefarious Hannibal’s behavior was. But there’s a ton of detail we missed, and Bryan Fuller and company are peppering all that in through these early episodes, and it’s just tremendous to watch. The show is not showing us a totally first-person perspective, through Will’s unreliable point of view, but his mania in the first season does mean there are blanks to fill in.
Current mood: Groggy
It means this show is going to be a real pleasure to binge-watch someday. That’s a somewhat terrifying thing to contemplate—wouldn’t 26 episodes of Hannibal back to back to back warp you beyond reason?—but Fuller has created a remarkably complete experience here. It doesn’t feel like he’s filling in season two blanks just to cover his tracks, it feels very carefully plotted.
Another season one plot gets revived this week with the return of Bella, Jack Crawford’s cancer-stricken wife (played by Gina Torres, Laurence Fishburne’s real-life wife). We haven’t been exposed to much of her suffering (Torres has work to do on Suits, after all) but we’re now seeing her at the tail-end of her treatment, where she’s puffing pot out of a vaporizer and accepting that her time on the earth has come to an end. She’s clearly sticking around just because it’s so important to Jack (she’s doing chemo, after all, but doesn’t seem too interested in fighting the horrible disease much longer).
And that’s why she makes what she thinks is her final decision: to take all her morphine and die, but not in her house, lest she traumatize her husband further and turn the place into a mausoleum by having that be his last memory of her there. It’s a bit of a reach that she’d decide to essentially kill herself in front of Hannibal, but her decision makes just enough sense to work. Hannibal’s reaction is initially what I would expect—he watches the light go out of her eyes with the fascination of the psychopath we know he is. But then he flips a coin and decides to bring her out of it.
Current mood: Sad
It’s a horrifying moment of an entirely different strain for this show, because Bella’s reaction to being brought back is just so heartbreaking to see (credit for Torres for her excellent work here). Why does Hannibal do it? There’s that Two-Face element of pure chance that might appeal to him, but he has real motivation too. The more Jack is concerned about his wife, the less he’ll be concerned about Hannibal. And the fact that Hannibal could not kill her, had to keep her alive, makes him seem compassionate and will likely bring him closer to Jack. It’s a calculating move, and psychotic in the classic sense—utterly lacking in empathy.
Mads Mikkelsen plays the moment just so perfectly. Hannibal’s face isn’t exactly impassive as Bella slips into unconsciousness in front of him. It’s quizzical, it’s fascinated, but it’s also cold and stripped of the kind of emotion we’d expect. It’s worthwhile seeing this, because it prepares us for the even colder, if more rational, decision he’s going to make at the end of the episode.
Current mood: Numb
So there’s business with the bee-lady serial killer, but outside of the wonderful image of a walking, bee-stung corpse and some fun Scott Thompson dialogue, Amanda Plummer’s guest role was really just some minor layering to the larger story at work in this episode. Hell, they basically just catch her by walking into her house, and she presents them exactly with what she’s been doing. Worth noting that the scene where she taps into the guy’s eye with a hammer was difficult to watch, even for this show.
But the most memorable, shocking and beautiful twist of the episode is the almost-certain death of Beverley, who smartly begins to believe Will’s ranting and foolishly, oh so foolishly, snoops around Hannibal’s house looking for evidence that he’s a serial murder. She finds it—oh, boy does she find it, both the liver of the color palette killer, and Hannibal’s meat-locker basement where he does all his extra-special work. But she finds Hannibal too, in an easily-foreseen but still brilliantly chilling moment, standing behind her as the lights come up. Bryan Fuller assures us all that next week is a big one. I can’t wait to see it.
Current mood: Crazy