Why Bryan Fuller, why?!
So I usually like to attempt to go through the episode chronologically, but I want to begin by talking about my uncomfortable levels of attractive to the two swimming killers this episode. Can we discuss this? Like ew, but also ooo. I’m confused!
This gif is all I need.
I think it’s incredibly interesting and subversive how Hannibal conflates violence with male sexuality instead of female. It’s one part fan service, one part transgressive gender politics. Or at least that is how I am reading it. It’s hard to tell what exactly the creators’ intentions were. I’d like to think that they’re challenging the audience to view horror and violence through a different lens, perhaps a different gaze. It’s also the most artistic show on air, so I don’t think it’s just a coincidence.
It’s also confronting our automatic responses or impulses versus our social codes of morality. I can tell you that my first thoughts about the scene in the swimming pool had nothing to do with the imminent murder attempt. Even when Hannibal was tiptoeing on that bucket I was looking more at his pectoral muscles than I was at the deep gashes in his arms. I highly doubt I’m the only person who was. I know from the brief preview of the next episode Hannibal has what looks like is going to be a pretty sensual sex scene with Alana. This is a growing pattern with TV, eroticizing the male killers. Think about Joe in The Following or the evolution of Dexter in the later (and incredibly disappointing) seasons. What do you think that means? Is it a positive or a negative?
I’m enjoying it, but simultaneously conflicted about it. What if it’s only transgressive in one sense, but enforcing the idea that violent/dominant men are sexy in the other?
I’ve actually been thinking a lot about the gender politics of the show after that last episode Simply put, I’m growing more disappointed with Bloom’s characterisation. She’s shifted from a subversion of the love-conquers-all trope and gone full into woman-as-moral-conscience trope. She has very little characterisation except as someone “good” and has very little to do with the story except to try to save Will, mostly from himself. I also saw the preview for next week and I’m really not pleased with the move to make her into a sexual object. She might not be visually objectified on screen, but it looks like Hannibal is only going to seduce her in order to get at Will. Or, if that happens to be a dream of Will’s and not actually something that happened, it’ll still serve the same purpose.
What happened to the Bloom in the first episode of season 1? The psychiatrist who was teaching at the FBI academy. Doesn’t she have classes and students? Does she have no life except through Will, now? Like, at least Crawford and Co. have other cases they’re dealing with and not all of them relate back to Hannibal and Will. Bloom’s sole motivation right now is to save Will. That’s it. Ugh.
Okay, that out the way, I’ll say that I find the sexualised imagery of Hannibal and the orderly to fall more on the subversive end of things. (And why am I not surprised that a mainstream show’s treatment of it’s male characters is more nuanced than it’s female character?) Though that said, I don’t think it’s completely subversive.
So on the one hand, it is reinforcing the sexy serial killer trope, and that is problematic. Western culture already has a huge ass problem with associating male violence with male sexuality without continued imagery of sexualised serial killers. On the other hand, the way that Hannibal and the orderly are sexualised, particularly in those pool scenes, is totally subversive.
The show is making clear that Hannibal and the orderly (his name’s Matthew) aren’t sexy because they’re killers; they’re sexy because they’ve got charm and rockin’ bods. Their sexiness isn’t communicated to us, the audience, through their overconfident behaviour or their uber masculinity. Their sexiness is communicated to us by their lack of clothing and well positioned camera shots. The show treats them almost as though they were femme fatales, especially Hannibal. Actually, that kind of ties in well with your discussion of Hannibal as the unheimlich in our recap of Hassun. Femme fatales could also be considered unheimlich, I think.
More importantly, Hannibal and Matthew’s sexiness isn’t conveyed to us by their violence against women (as most sexy serial killers are). Usually, I think, serial killers are portrayed as sexy through their acts of sexualised violence against women victims. Hannibal and Matthew aren’t. Their acts aren’t sexualised; their bodies are.
You know I am okay with Hannibal using Alana to get to Will, because that is totally true to his character. But because Alana has become such a caricature it is problematic. Chilton said to her in this episode essentially that he was jealous of her because all the most challenging and intriguing patients open up to her readily. He called her “catnip for killers”. We see that happening, but we don’t see why. Who is she? Why should we care about her? It’s interesting that in this episode Gideon said that both he and Alana were things to be used and tossed aside by Will. It very much seems to be true, but at least Gideon is fleshed out.
I hope we get back that Alana. I feel like most of the other characters have progressed, some plateaued, but she’s the only one to take steps backwards. That’s not promising.
I totally agree. Not wholly subversive, but still unique. I guess it’s actually separating the sex from the violence, though on the surface they appear to be tied together because we usually see women in that position instead. It seems like they’ve been and plan to continue stepping up the sexy. I’m curious to see where that goes.
I’m kind of sad that the orderly, Matthew, is more or less a one off character. Pretty sure that gunshot wound was the end of him. But he was intriguing, not just because he looked good in a speedo, but because of his eagerness to connect. That’s an uncommon characteristic in serial killers, one he is well aware of. I loved his conversation with Will about how they were hawks on the wire, surrounded by sparrows. “Imagine if they started working together.” What was his vision, if he even had one? I don’t know how much further they could have taken him, but I became kind of attached to his character in that short episode. We already got more background and development on this former mental hospital patient turned orderly than Alana.
Often I find myself getting attached to the ‘monster of the week’ type of characters and plots in this series, they’re very well done. Some shows do main plot better, some do one off stories better. I find Hannibal is consistent with both, which is one of the reasons I love it.
Back to Matthew. My favourite part of the episode though was when he was talking to Hannibal, who he placed precariously above the bucket. Was he planning to eat Hannibal? He was clearly excited by the prospect of taking out and maybe taking over the Chesapeake Ripper persona. Also why was he so attached to Will? He didn’t seem surprised when Hannibal said he hadn’t killed anyone, and was happy to serve as his proxy. Why do you think that is? When he said he and Will were alike, what did he really mean?
Also where was Hannibal at in that scene? Uses what could be the last moments of his life to talk about eating, OF COURSE. Do you think he meant it when he said “Life is precious”? Was he being ironic? Just trying to save himself? Also it was very smart of him to yell to Jack that Matthew had a gun even though he didn’t. That gave Jack legal permission to shoot. If he didn’t I don’t know what would have happened.
None of the women on the series have really been objectified or sexualized yet. This show is rare in that romance of any kind has very little to do with the plot, and has little effect. Which I am really enjoying. I wouldn’t mind if some kind of romantic affair occurred in the series (No, Will’s one kiss with Alana does not really count), as long as it doesn’t involve Dr. Bloom. She needs to develop as her own independent woman. With our dear Beverly gone, I hope they add more leading ladies.
I agree with your first two sentences totally! Like, a character (particularly Hannibal) treating Alana like a pawn and manipulating her totally makes sense. The frustrating thing is that the show is doing that to her too, so all she is is a character other characters manipulate and we don’t see her experience of being manipulated.
I was also thinking about the fact that the audience is never put in the position to empathise with her and consider her perspective. And yet we’re asked to do just that for Bella in the episode where she tries to kill herself. Crawford’s wife has more characterization than Alana at the minute.
I also really like that the show doesn’t objectify any of it’s characters, which is part of what made the preview for next episode so frustrating. As for seeing a romantic story, I’m totally behind it so long as it doesn’t involve Alana (as you say). I’m thinking Brian and Jimmy (the two forensic guys) bond over the death of Beverly. Actually, seriously, I’m not too sure what direction a romance story could go. I’d be interested in it, though.
I was just thinking, does Hannibal pass the Bechdel Test? I mean, obviously we all know that it’s really meant for movies and it’s really not meant to determine whether a show is sexist or not on it’s own. I’m not suggesting Hannibal is sexist; I love how Hannibal has portrayed it’s female characters, except for Alana. However, I do think it’s interesting that I can’t think of any time that the female characters have spoken to each other. Unless I’m just forgetting something?
On to Matthew: I thought his reaction to the revelation that Will hadn’t ever killed anyone was really surprising. I was expecting him to switch allegiances to Hannibal because Hannibal was a real killer. But it didn’t phase Matthew and learning that Hannibal was the Ripper just seemed to make Matthew all the more excited about killing him. It was going back to the season’s theme of making us question what we think we know about a character. This time we kept questioning what we knew about Matthew. So I’m not quite sure what to make of Matthew. What about you?
As for Hannibal’s quote about how “Life is precious,” I’m not too sure what to make of it. In season one, we definitely got the impression that Hannibal is a cannibal because he considers humans little more than livestock. But perhaps through his association with Will and Crawford, he’s begun to really believe that life is precious. Maybe now he’s more like Garret Jacob Hobbs, eating humans to honour them.
That’s part of why I think that when Hannibal mentioned that Matthew would have to eat him to become the Ripper, he was serious. I think part of Hannibal finds it exciting that someone might kill and eat him like he’s done so many other people.
Also, I can’t not mention the fact that when Alana comes into that room she’s frozen in shock. It isn’t until Crawford yells at her that she runs out to get an ambulance. She was absolutely useless in that scene. Like, she’s a psychiatrist; she’s got a medical degree. And she’s been working with the FBI for awhile now. She’s had to have seen some pretty horrible things. But when Hannibal’s dying, Alana doesn’t go into medical-professional mode, she goes into shocked-girl mode. I really think the only reason she was there at all during that scene was to set up her sympathy for Hannibal in next episode.
The more we discuss it, the more disappointed and even kind of disgusted I am with the total apathetic neglect around Alana’s characterization. This show is totally solid in every other respect in my eyes. There are few TV series out there that are close to perfect (for me that would be a 9 or 10 on a 10 scale, a perfect would surpass the 10 scale); Breaking Bad, Mad Men, True Detective. Hannibal is one of them. So having a weak point that is so gendered and could be fixed so easily is kind of like nails on a chalkboard.
I’m reluctant to use the Bechdel test, because it in itself is flawed and I think was also originally intended to be satire. But that does highlight the fact that there has been little to no female interaction on Hannibal. This show needs to step up its lady game.
Have you read Intensity by Dean Koontz? In it the killer discusses similar ideas. He eats a spider not out of malice, but in hopes to gain something of its graceful yet predatory nature. I don’t think Hannibal is spiritual in any sense, so I don’t think he believes that he will actually absorb any of his victims essence. But he is philosophical, so I think he likes to toy with the idea that life has meaning (he seems like an atheist/nihilist to me) and perhaps that can somehow be repurposed. But I also don’t think he necessarily views his victims as nothing more than meat either. I can’t quite put my finger on it. He’s selective, and particular about how he kills and what he takes. I hope we get more of his psychology in the future, though I don’t think he’ll ever be the kind of character we really understand (or want to).
“As a doctor I had no choice. as a philosopher I had to many. It wasn’t what I couldn’t do to Bella it was what I couldn’t do to you Jack. I guess I’m a better friend than therapist.” These words that Hannibal said to Jack over (a meat-free) breakfast reveal a lot not only about the kind of person he pretends to be, but the type of person he actually is. Too smart to believe in any one thing, but still too driven by circumstance and impulse to be as free as he would like to think. The coin toss, as I said last week, was ultimately irrelevant. The mask he wears contains truth. And this is exactly why he is going to get caught. He could have kept his distance from Will and this never would have happened. But as a philosopher of sorts, and also as a doctor, he wanted to experiment.
I think Matthew really meant it when he said he connected specifically with Will. What was it that he saw in him? With Hannibal I think he was more interested in appropriating his legacy, and potentially also realized that he would never be a hawk on a wire with him. Maybe he saw Will as somehow malleable? I hope whatever it is he saw in Will comes to light. Gideon said to Alana that Will is a changed man. I believe it, I want to see it. Without a doubt he’s clearly entering a new moral grey area. What will this look like once he is out of the asylum?
Going back to the theme of identity, and not being able to trust one another or themselves, Freddie Lounds and Abel Gideon are some of the most fascinating characters this season.
I’m not convinced that Freddie actually believes Will is the killer, or is even ‘crazy’. Last season she was so inauthentically bold and righteous about her claims that Will was disturbed (if you actually thought someone was seriously unstable or a horrific killer I doubt you would get in their face about it, even as a tabloid reporter). In this season we’re seeing the same kind of detached insincerity. I don’t think it’s poor acting or anything like that. The actor is strong and consistent in her portrayal. Rather I think something else about Will bothers or unsettles her, and so she tried to work the story (his life) from a different angle. Though she says to Will when she meets him at the Baltimore institution that he’s where he belongs, she isn’t invested in it. Freddie looks much more concerned about getting rights to his story, and of course being suspicious about his motives. A running theme between these last two episodes is ‘unorthodox methods’. Chilton and Hannibal discuss it in both episodes, and the return of Gideon suggests there is more to be explored on the theme. I think there’s more to Freddie than what we’re seeing. She’s obviously intelligent, and also opportunistic. When she finds Beverly following an anonymous tip, she puts away her hefty gun and pulls out a camera. Perhaps she is not above creating opportunities for herself. Putting a negative spin on Will has certainly benefited her.
She doesn’t strike me as insincere all the time. When Jack arrives at Beverly’s crime scene, she tells him to send someone else up to investigate because “she’s one of yours”. The emotion on her face, the sadness she feels at the heartbreak that awaits Jack, is real. Similarly when she snaps a picture of Hannibal (who in a weirdly comedic moment calls her rude) and tells him she has no shame, she’s energetic if not happy in a way that reads as honest. Who is Freddie Lounds? Why has she dedicated her life to creating a tabloid site about killers?
Gideon on the other hand is totally unsure of himself. Justifiably so, since he underwent damaging therapy when he obviously already had a damaged mind. Who is Gideon? He doesn’t know. Nobody else really seems to either. He’s not interested in offering other people the answers they need (like when Will tries to get him to corroborate his story about Hannibal as the Ripper) because he doesn’t have the ones he wants for himself. But there is one thing that does seem to speak to him, and that is the Chesapeake Ripper, or Hannibal. He tells Will that “He is the devil…he is smoke,” and therefore must be killed rather than captured. He says he is offering Alana a sort of gift for her kindness, but really he is saving Hannibal’s life. Why? Does he feel an affinity for Hannibal after wrongly being labelled the Ripper? Or is he frightened, because the Ripper is more evil than he is? When he says that line to Will he definitely seems unsettled. And then when Hannibal cautiously appears before him, he makes the first move by going on a tangent about the human mind’s effort to recall faces and then saying Hannibal’s is unfamiliar. What could Gideon possibly gain from protecting Hannibal? Is it just a game to him? Wouldn’t it be equally interesting to just let things unfold by participating in neither side? What do you think his motives are? Regardless of the outcome, Gideon is one of my favourite killers in the series and I am glad he has returned.
I agree that the Bechdel Test is flawed, so I definitely don’t mean to use it as any kind of yardstick. It’s more that I think it’s interesting and troubling that in a show with such great female characters (except for Alana) doesn’t really have those characters talking to each other.
I haven’t read Intensity, but I get what you’re saying about eating something to gain a part of it. I think that does sort of fit with Hannibal, now. In the pilot episode, though, Will is diagnosing one of Hannibal’s murder scenes and says, “This girl’s killer thought she was a pig.” Will also talks about how that murder was laid out specifically as a juxtaposition with the murders of Garret Jacob Hobbs. The specifics of how he killed and what he took weren’t about his victim, but rather about Will. In this season, though, all the specifics of how he kills people are directly related to the people he’s killing. I kind of like that as a twisted character arc for Hannibal. When the show begins he has no real ties to humanity and so he views people as meat. As he makes more connections he doesn’t stop wanting to eat people. Instead he recontextualises his cannibalism as re-purposing the meaning of life (to borrow your words).
Ooo I love your interpretation of Hannibal’s cannibalism!
What are your thoughts on our dear Beverly’s finale?
On the one hand, I can’t believe they killed her off! It’s the most devastating character death since Ianto on Torchwood. The way she was killed, though, was so clearly meant to reflect who she was as a character. She was surgically bisected, and then half of her was bisected again, and again. I’m not too sure what that’s called; I’m sure it’s got a name. But the point is she looked like she was a specimen in a lab. And I guess that’s fitting, in a way, since she was always working so hard in her lab.
I also really love Freddie, though I’m not too sure what her motivations are. She’s just as manipulative as Hannibal, except without the murder and cannibalism. And she obviously has some compassion as evidenced by her warning to Crawford about Beverly’s body. She wants a story and she wants recognition and fame. And we know that she wants these things more than she does justice. She’s kind of her own brand of psychopath, or sociopath.
There’s definitely an element of falsity to most of her actions and dialogue. I agree that it’s not bad acting; in fact I think it’s quite good acting. She makes the sentiment behind the words sound false without making the lines themselves sound like lines. So I wonder if Freddie actually doesn’t believe Will is crazy, or if she believes it but she just doesn’t care. Like, maybe the lie in her line about Will being where he belonged is that Freddie doesn’t actually have any real sense of justice, so a phrase about the importance of justice sounded fake.
I couldn’t quite figure out Gideon’s motives. He basically tells Will he’ll have to kill Hannibal and then turns around and tells Alana what she needs to know to save Hannibal. So maybe Gideon is just playing a game with everyone. Like, maybe he’s trying to emulate Hannibal’s manipulative personality. Or perhaps when he told Will the only way to get rid of him would be to kill him, Gideon was trying to warn Will away from going after Hannibal. So he told Alana about how Will found someone to kill Hannibal because Gideon never really wanted Hannibal’s life in danger in the first place.
Oh and isn’t it interesting that the same episode that Gideon comes back, we have Matthew talking about becoming the Ripper? So it’s not just a theme about identity, but with these two it’s specifically about the identity of the Ripper. And then there’s that whole conversation where Crawford asks Will who the Ripper is and you can see that Will really wants to answer. But Will says, “Beverly made her own connection to the Ripper. You have to make yours.” Given the opening scene from the first episode this season, I think all this is building up to the big reveal of who the real Ripper is.
Beverly’s death was soooo upsetting, but I’m glad that if she had to go she went out artistically. From a detached standpoint that was one of my favourite deaths on the series. It’s a tribute to Damien Hirst’s artwork, and also The Cell (which to my knowledge was the first piece of pop culture to use Hirst’s ideas in the context of horror). It was beautiful and horrifying all at once.
There’s a Beverly shaped hole in my heart, and in the show. It was all the more brutal because she was finally become a more fully developed character. A smart move on their parts. Even more so because they gave Will a chance to say ‘goodbye’, and he was our surrogate in that scene. The only good that will come of this is that it makes Hannibal even more vulnerable to capture. I can tell that Beverly’s death is what will push him over the edge.
Oh an the title this week refers to a dish of sliced sashimi. This show does have a sense of humour, but it is a seriously fucked up one.
Any closing thoughts?
I loved the moment where Will said he couldn’t really help catch Beverly’s killer and Crawford asked, “What did I bring you here for, then?” It’s like he couldn’t imagine that Will might have cared about Beverly. I don’t even think that has to do with Crawford still thinking Will might be a killer. I think from the beginning, Crawford hasn’t really thought of Will as someone who makes human connections.
As for the episode’s name this week: that is an absolutely sick joke, but I laughed. And now I won’t be able to eat sashimi without thinking of Beverly’s death. Oh, dear.