'Hannibal' Mood Map: This Show Is an Emotional Rollercoaster

Hannibal is currently the best drama on network television, a heady visual experience but also a smart, metaphysical, challenging meditation on psychopathy that defies every trend we’ve seen in the serial killer drama. 

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Hannibal is currently the best drama on network television, a heady visual experience but also a smart, metaphysical, challenging meditation on psychopathy that defies every trend we’ve seen in the serial killer drama. It also manages to adapt a media property that’s been flogged to death (Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lecter novels) and do something surprisingly new and different with it, and Mads Mikkelsen, handed one of the toughest acting challenges around (come up with a new take on a performance for which Anthony Hopkins won an Oscar, not to mention the smarty-smart contrarians who pine for Brian Cox in Manhunter), has risen to give us an equally definitive take on the character.

Hannibal edges close to camp, while also often plunging into total darkness; it’s wryly funny (Scott Thompson from Kids in the Hall is in the cast, for crying out loud!) and deeply melancholy. In short, it offers the whole emotional experience, and I want to take that into account when writing weekly recaps. What else offered us the whole emotional experience? Well, probably a lot of things, but what immediately came to mind was those little LiveJournal emoticons designed to represent your mood. Come, as I take you on my emotional rollercoaster through Hannibal season two episode two, “Sakizuki.”

First off, what’s with that title? Well, after using words from French cuisine last season, this year we’re going through the Japanese culinary arts. Sakizuki, if you don’t know, is Japanese for an appetizer, like an amuse-bouche. Makes sense considering how everything is still being set up for us. This first serial killer case, resolved in this episode, is just a taste of whatever mania is to come this season.

Current mood: Curious 

So, the main plot of “Sakizuki” is the team catching the unnamed “color pallet” killer, who has kidnapped enough folks to make a very elaborate human-body representation of an eye, staring into the face of God (or into the empty abyss, depending on your worldview) through the roof of a water tower. Both Will (Hugh Dancy) and Hannibal pretty much immediately recognize what’s up, but one is in jail, while the other is enjoying an evolving role as an FBI consultant.

The big difference for Will this week is that we can see the wheels beginning to turn on how to get out of his predicament. Publicly, he’s voicing suspicion about his own thoughts, crying to Hannibal and Alana (Caroline Dhavernas), asking for help, etc. But in his own head, he seems surer than ever about Hannibal’s demonic status. When Will pieces together exactly what happened with the killer of the week, he sees Hannibal’s scary, antlered head and correctly imagines his friendly encounter with the killer. Will knows what’s up. If that wasn’t enough, he gets a subtle confirmation from Bedelia du Maurier at the end of the episode, when she suggests that what’s happening to Will is being done to him. The more agency Will has, the more interesting the show is, so this is a promising development.

Current mood: Mischievous

Sad to see du Maurier leave, by the way. I assume that Anderson’s abrupt exit is to do with her role in the NBC drama Crisis, but it’s obvious that they were building to bigger revelations with her character, and it all gets brutally cut short here as she snips her ties with Hannibal and the FBI. Luckily, we get a couple of big goodbye scenes for Anderson before she goes, the best being her showdown with Hannibal, all suggestion and intimidation (that shot of him walking menacingly towards her!) but it doesn’t seem like anything’s actually happened. I hope Bedelia’s not gone forever. She’s too good a character to lose to Crisis.

Current mood: Worried 

Hannibal, meanwhile? Hannibal’s just having fun. He’s swanning around with the FBI crew, helping on cases (which really just means getting to look at dead bodies and dispense thoughtful comments) and basically using it as a meetup service for other serial killers. The minute he smells the corpse of the man who gets away from the color wheel in the opening scene (a spectacularly gross scene, btw), he summons the image of corn, and from there it’s simple—he beats the FBI to the crime scene by hours, kills the perp and places him into the mural, telling him, “I’m finishing it for you. We’ll finish it together.”

By mere virtue of the fact that we know he makes it a while longer before getting imprisoned, Hannibal has always seemed on top of the world. Bryan Fuller has always assured us that Red Dragon would be the fourth season of this show, suggesting that Hannibal gets locked up at the end of season three. But more and more, I wonder if he’s diverging from the Harris mythology as things move along. Because the epic confrontation teased with Jack in last week’s episode suggested things are going to come to a head faster. And, for the first time, it feels like Will might actually have Hannibal’s number and be able to do something about it. We’ll see. But for now, it’s quite something to watch Hannibal operate. He’s brazen enough not only to put down the serial killer himself, but to take one of his legs and make Osso Buco with it. Yes, this show is a serious drama, and yes, it pulls off those seeming tonal mismatches like nobody’s business.

Current mood: impressed

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.