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'Hannibal' - 'Shiizakana': Because Violence Here Is a Social Norm

By Cindy Davis | TV Reviews | April 26, 2014 | Comments ()


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What is our true nature as human beings, and how are we different from and akin to animals? What makes us human? This ninth Hannibal episode shined light on every aspect of such philosophical questions, and in its central relationships, bounced the queries off each person. As we wandered purposely through the minds of psychiatrist and patients alike, the divide became less and less clear. Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter are both beast and prey, mirroring each other’s every move. Like a game of chess between equal opponents, we can never be quite sure who is ahead. At the end of “Shiizakana” Will declares they are “Even Steven,” but this particular game allows no stalemate.

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In his dreams, Will suffers the same word games and homoerotic subtext he does while awake, so it’s no surprise to hear Hannibal waxing over love’s effect even as Will tries to torture Lecter’s admissions to no avail. Like some dark sonneteer, Hannibal emotionlessly explains, “We can never be fully aware of another human being unless we love them.” Indeed, Lecter does seem to adore every person he comes in contact with; his sick and demented children, and even those he must kill. Coaching his subjects to their own fruition brings Hannibal an undeniable pride and sense of accomplishment. There is nothing wrong with Lecter helping a human find his full potential; in his own mind, it’s what he’s meant for. For every negative someone might see in himself, Hannibal finds its truth, and a step toward evolution. Jack’s faded memory promotes a healthy mind. Life without regret is no life at all. Adapt. Evolve. Become.

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After a trucker is ripped to shreds by some bear, or a pair (of animal friends), the FBI gang all heads out for a chilly morning of blood and guts. Interestingly, Jack’s the one who first realizes it wasn’t just animals; are Will and Hannibal are too focused on each other right now? Graham consults with his new animal expert pal Peter Bernardone, who reminds Will man is the only creature who kills to kill. Though we thought we were meeting Mason Verger this week, turns out it’s just another of Hannibal’s proteges gone wrong…both Margot and Will are noticing the patient pattern. Of the warped minds we’ve met thus far, Randall Tier (Mark O’Brien) was one of the most truly terrifying (aside from Hannibal, of course). His desire to maul fulfills his basest need to kill intimately…viscerally. Tier’s appearance at this particular time in Will and Hannibal’s history almost felt planned—could it have been? Did Lecter (Fuller) trot out his prize beast in a move to manipulate Will? (Hannibal knew right away who’d done the deed—and where to find him.) We’re seeing Will reclaim control over himself. He certainly appears to know what he’s doing, with no fear, Will calls out Hannibal directly during their sessions; asks leading questions, pretending to allow Lecter’s manipulations. Hannibal: “Close your eyes, imagine a version of events you wouldn’t have regretted.” Will plays along, tells Hannibal he sees a missed opportunity (by not killing Clark Ingram in the barn) to feel what he felt killing Garrett Jacob Hobbes—that quiet sense of power (Will’s transformative antlers emerged again). Heck, even the difference in Will’s hair—since he was released from Baltimore Hospital—betrays his restored control. But how much in the dark is Hannibal really?

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Lecter leads Jack and Will directly to his former patient Tier, who’s conveniently working in a museum with access to the extinct cave bear skulls he needs to create his alternate self. But of course Hannibal already coached Tier through the proper responses, and then tempts him off to Will’s home for one last kill. Thing is, there’s more to the game here—we already know he doesn’t want Will dead. Hannibal loves Will; wants Will to reach his full potential. And so he gives Graham the chance to exercise that power again, and in the process gets rid of yet another problem pet. Watching Hannibal is a little like playing that three cups game. We’re trying to follow, but Fuller is moving the pieces so fast, we lose track of the ball. We’re watching Graham because he’s caught on to Dr. Lecter; he’s taking back his power and leading Hannibal to the trip up. It’s time for Hannibal to make a mistake. Did you catch that bristle when Will told Hannibal Dr. Du Maurier had visited him before the trial and said she believed Will? Of course you did. But Will’s assertion that Hannibal sent Tier to kill Will was wrong. Lecter led his little lamb to slaughter, and in that truly scary final quarter hour, Will aptly obliged. When Hannibal arrived at his office to find Will waiting, trophy proudly displayed on the table, Lecter didn’t looked surprised. He barely suppressed a lovingly proud expression, and then gave Will a little nod of respect.

As we build toward the finale, head back around to the beginning (eat our own tail?) and that fight, maybe we were expecting season 2 to culminate with Hannibal being bested or captured—after all, we know Will and Jack are onto him. We’ve been thinking Will might even have had a leg up on Hannibal, this episode or that. But what we don’t exactly know is what Hannibal realizes; as much as we believe Will is playing along with Hannibal’s games, how much is Hannibal playing along with Will? Even Steven? Somehow, I doubt it.


Deep thoughts:

Dialogue, dialogue, dialogue. I wanted to copy down every word between Hannibal and anyone this episode.

Again, the killer of the week mirrors the boys’ relationship. Both Hannibal and Will are trying to goad each other into acting on instinct. Hannibal wants Will to evolve into the killer inside him, and Will wants Hannibal to be reduced to instinct so Lecter’s intellect will be set aside—and he’ll make a mistake.

That pulley scene look familiar? It’s directly from Hannibal Rising.

It’s interesting that Margot is disturbed by Hannibal’s patient commonalities; good that she notices. Dr. Lecter chooses carefully, cultivates and molds them. He is, in his own mind, a god. (Will: “What do you think about when you think about killing?” Hannibal: “I think about god…he just loves them.”)

Please keep Jeremy Davies forever and ever. He can just do a little scene every episode.

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That hat!

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Next week?

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Shiizakana = a substantial dish. Indeed.


Cindy Davis, (Twitter)


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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • Bhammer100

    Humans are animals. To be human means to be an animal.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    It's so weird that the show evidently can't do the SotL story or use Clarice, but can pretty much verbatim lift Hannibal dialogue. If I'm not completely insane, the bit about the church collapses was direct from SotL.

  • Pants-are-a-must

    It's Clarice they don't have rights for yet, I think.

  • Bhammer100

    Its characters introduced in Silence of the lambs from my understanding. They can't use Barney or the killer, I forget his name.

  • AvaLehra

    O.K., but was anyone else yelling, "NOT THE DOG!" Also, someone at AV Club said Tier was exercising his right to bear arms.

  • Pippa_Laughingstock

    I want Mason Verger's jacket but in skirtsuit form.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    I wish the mad orderly was still around, I liked his crazy eyes.

  • Emilie

    oh yes, jonathan tucker: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm000...

  • F'mal DeHyde

    He'd look good as a cowboy.

  • Ingrid

    A fair amount of animals/insects kill just to kill. The biggest difference between people and other species is that we generally frown on harming babies, which, a fair amount of the animal kingdom is fine with.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    I highly doubt that there are animals who kill just for the heck of it. That would be an expense of ressources with no gain, which no wild animal can afford.

    Killing babies of the same species usually happens only when a male wants to get rid of another male's offspring after a conflict over territory. Especially lions are known to do that. It prevents the losing male's genes from spreading and makes the females go into heat (to replenish the lost litter).

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    Yeah, generally killing is a pretty intensive task that's going to burn up a lot energy; the idea is that whatever you're doing is going to end up in a net gain of calories, whether from actually getting food, or from saving oneself from being eaten or otherwise harmed. The only benefit to killing for the (apparent) sake of killing would be some sort of intimidation tactic as defense, which... Off the top of my head, that seems to be a uniquely human kind of move.

    Animals (including humans) will also commit infanticide if they perceive there to be some defect in the offspring or simply if resources are too scarce to care for the babies (though granted, this is less common in humans; we'll generally abort first). We are, at least, more creative about dealing with the sexual competition-- our tendency has been novel kinship structures to minimize that stress, rather than rampant murder (you know, in general).

    ETA: Which all kind of makes Randall's compulsion much less interesting. He's simply fetishized violence in a weirder than normal way; at his core he'd be a pretty standard sadist, whatever fancy bestial transformation cover he wants to put on it.

  • Nadiney

    Cats kill for the sake of it, Dolphins have been recorded killing for fun without eating any of what they eat, Chimpanzees also kill without intention of consuming the body or without needing to eat.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    Cats are domesticated animals. They don't count.

    I found one case of dolphin aggression, against another dolphin species, at the Scottish coast. No-one knows why they do it.

    I didn't find any case where wild chimps would kill senselessly. They do hunt, however, and they wage war over territory.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    Randall Tier? How very subtle. *eyeroll*

  • phase10

    When Hannibal meets up with his former patient, am I the only one who heard him address him as both Randal and Mark?

  • foolsage

    He did not do so. Here's the whole conversation:

    "Hello, Randal."

    "Dr. Lecter."

    "You will always be ruled by your fascination with teeth."

    "That's what you said to me when they brought me in your office, the very first time."

    "Is that what I said?"

    "Yeah. I was crying. I was dreading telling you what was wrong with me, and... you made it easy. Other visits, too."

    "A therapist's life is equal parts counsel and curiosity. You set a patient on a path and are left to wonder where that path will take them. You've come so very far, Randal."

    "Long time since you treated me."

    "Which is what I wanted to talk to you about; your wonderful progress. Just for a moment. Privately. I see what you've done."

    "What have I done?"

    "You bore screams, like a sculptor bears dust from the beaten stone. That crying boy doesn't cling to you anymore. What clings to you now? What clings to your teeth?"

    "Ragged bits of scalp, trailing their tails of hair like comets."

    "Beautiful. [pause] They are looking for you,"

    "I don't think I can stop."

    "I don't want you to, but they will find you, Randal. When they do, it's important that you do exactly what I say."

    [end scene]

  • phase10

    Yeah, I went to the NBC site and watched it again. I think he mumbled a little the second time he said his name.

  • Guest
  • Pants-are-a-must

    Even disturbed empaths watch late nights.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    Maybe even especially disturbed empaths. Seems like an insomnia-prone situation.

  • Brock Samsa

    When Tier goes through the window at Will (who had turned off all the lights and was waiting with a shotgun), it reminded me of the climatic scene in Manhunter when Will launches himself through a window at Dolarhyde.

  • Nadiney

    No, but THE HAT.

  • AvaLehra

    I saw the hat and actually guffawed. It was brilliantly terrible and I loved it. It looked like he had Princess Leia hair.

  • foolsage

    Wait, did Hannibal just invade the Ukraine?

  • Emran Huq

    Is it only me, or didn't the Mads look a little like Vlad Putin with that hat on?

  • foolsage

    That was the joke. ;)

  • VonnegutSlut

    At this point, who hasn't, really?

  • Nadiney

    Hannibal's Putin's therapist and is encouraging him to invade the Ukraine just to see what happens.

    And his hat.

  • Pants-are-a-must

    That hat is everything.

  • Nadiney

    All worship the Hat.

  • Andrew J

    This show keeps upping itself and it is awesome!

  • Pete Arado

    This show just isn't even fair anymore. On any other show, the animal plot would come off as absurd - here, it works beautifully.

    I was slightly disappointed by the lack of Mason Verger, but good things come to those who wait, I suppose.

    Sonofabitch, this show is something else.

  • Pants-are-a-must

    The acting choices in this episode are fascinating: as Hugh Dancy is reducing his reactions to tremors and flickering looks, Mads Mikkelsen is broadening his micro expressions into, dear me, actual facial muscle movements. Jeremy Davies is precious to me.

  • Nadiney

    I literally went back and watched the scene again where he *gasp, panties drop* SMILED. WITH TEETH! He looked so delighted!

  • Pants-are-a-must

    Unusual choice of smiling for Mads especially, since he allegedly doesn't like the way his teeth look. ACTING!

  • Nadiney

    but his teeth are gorgeous? bless him, let me make him feel better. with my bewbs.

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