Hannibal: Su-Zakana (S2E8)

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Athena:

So this week I want to begin by looking at what this episode excluded. Su-zakana returned the series back to it’s main plotline, the give and take between Will and Hannibal. Yakimono was like a sledgehammer in terms of major and shocking developments. But then this week leaves us hanging. I’m not opposed to this at all, I think it’s important to take time to build up other aspects of the story and not overload the episodes with action. But do you think there was more significance to the choice to leave out Miriam’s and Chilton’s fates than that?

I suspect part of it has to do with hooking Hannibal. I think we’re only going to know as much as he is. The lives of those two characters have major implications for his future and the show. Like it or not, Hannibal is both one of the protagonists and the antagonists

Heather:

Surprise! I looked up the meaning of su-zakana! Apparently it’s a small dish, usually palette cleanser. So I think this episode was just that, a palette cleanser. It was very much about re-establishing Jack, Hannibal and Will’s relationships with each other. And I think it was very important to do that before continuing on with the big, overarching plot. Enough had happened that these men’s relationships have been affected, and it was good that the show stopped for a moment to show that to us.

I also think that after that initial fishing scene with Jack and Will, we’re going to be stuck in the dark about their plans. I like how now it’s Hannibal who’s possibly getting played after the previous two episodes which have been all about Hannibal’s plan. At the end of the episode, where Will was about to shoot that other psychopath, I couldn’t help wonder if he was just playing Hannibal, there. Was Will really going to shoot that guy? Or was he just pretending to see how Hannibal reacted? I mean, Hannibal did give quite a bit away at the end of that episode. We realise he’s trying to make Will into a killer, but specifically to try to kill him.

Hannibal - Season 2

Athena:

I agree I don’t think we’ll really know what Will’s and Jack’s plans are until we see the fruits (or meats?) of their labour. It’s kind of putting us in Hannibal’s shoes right now, which is fitting. We’ve finally being seeing more of his design and the way he thinks, so it makes sense that we would no longer have the same access to Will and Jack.

It’s incredibly interesting that Hannibal wants to mold Will into a killer, but he doesn’t want Will to form his own design. It looked like Will was about to kill that horrifying social worker (can I say good riddance?), but that Hannibal stopped him. I think he stopped him because that’s not the way he wants Will to become a killer. Hannibal doesn’t want him to be righteous and vengeful, since that is what almost lead to his own death. What type of murderer is he hoping to make Will into? I doubt he’s idealistic enough to hope he can turn Will into some kind of shark (Hannibal kind of reminds me of a shark, in a lot of ways). But then what does he want? Circumstantial? I don’t think so. He could put Will into a situation where he had to kill without working so hard to mold him into something. What is Hannibal’s design for Will?

And that actually brings me to the next major thing I wanted to discuss about this episode: the homosocial vs. the homosexual. Bryan Fuller said in his most recent interview with the A.V. Club that this series is about a heterosexual relationship between these two men. But in that moment where Hannibal cupped Will’s cheek and pulled him closer, it made me wonder again what exactly it is that Hannibal feels for Will. This wasn’t the first time I’ve wondered. And of course close physical contact and affection between two men doesn’t automatically equate to homosexuality (though our society certainly seems programmed to think so). But Hannibal seems to be sexually ambiguous, regardless of his relationship with Alana or previous affairs. Have you wondered about that at all? Or is it just me?

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Parallels: Hannibal taking the gun from Will in “Roti”

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Hannibal doing the same in “Su-zakana”

Heather:

Well, way back in the first episode of the show, Will became a circumstantial killer. He shot Garret Jacob Hobbs, after all. I kind of think that is what started Hannibal’s obsession with turning Will into an actual murderer. He saw that Will could kill someone so he decided to nurture that aspect of Will’s character. I was really surprised that Hannibal stopped Will from killing to social worker, to be honest. I had thought that was Hannibal’s end game; to get Will to a place where he’d be willing to kill someone in cold blood.

But then maybe Hannibal wants to make sure that whatever situation he sets up for Will to kill someone will have a very specific effect on Will. Hannibal clearly wants Will to get enormous satisfaction from killing someone. He must have been worried that, like he said, Will wouldn’t actually consider himself just after the fact. I think Hannibal has a specific scenario in the works, and he doesn’t want Will to kill anyone before that.

As for the homosocial vs homosexual, yeah I definitely noticed the homoerotic subtext in that last scene of the episode. I half expected Hannibal to close the gap and kiss Will on the the forehead or something. I also noticed the subtext in one of the scenes in a previous episode where the orderly lets Will out of the therapy cage. Will’s standing looking out a window and the orderly comes up behind Will really slowly and stands there for a moment before putting Will’s cuffs back on.

Will’s sexuality is pretty ambiguous too, in that he’s almost depicted as asexual. This season in particular, we don’t really get a sense that he’s genuinely romantically interested in Alana any more. It’s a bit of a shame, though, that the most sexually ambiguous characters are two psychopaths (Hannibal and the orderly) and someone who’s venturing to the dark side (Will). It’d be fun if Fuller could turn the buddy-cop relationship that Jimmy and Brian, the two lab guys, have into something more flirty and ambiguous. Just a little bit. Just enough to alleviate the possibility of sexual ambiguity being associated with manipulative characters.

I really like the show, obviously. And I really like the rather subversive way Fuller has sexualised Hannibal, particularly in that scene with the orderly (like we talked about). However, it is a bit frustrating that in a show with a pretty diverse set of characters and an even more diverse cast, every character is canonically heterosexual. All the potential for sexual fluidity or queerness of any kind is relegated to subtext.

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Athena:

That’s the other place I was picking up some potential homosexual vibes. Jimmy and Brian. At the very least I hope they develop this buddy cop relationship and give them more personality, but the best would be if they were together. Hannibal could really use some queer characters.

I totally agree, Will is kind of asexual. There was never any real chemistry between him and Alana, but I don’t think that was poor acting. I just don’t think he’s ever been as invested in her as she is in him. I think he feels like he should connect with her, so he does. But the best chemistry on this series is without a doubt between Will and Hannibal.

What do you think of Hannibal and Alana’s chemistry? That sex scene was gorgeous in terms of artistic quality. It was also as eerie and unsettling as it was appealing. We never saw either of their bodies in their entirety, only flashes and pieces. Are we going to be seeing more of Alana in pieces?

I feel like Hannibal is equally a distraction for Alana as she is an alibi for him. Whenever she tries to admit it and talk about how their ‘funeral sex’ is avoidance, he calls it recovery. Sexually they look good together, but emotionally I think they both recognize that what they have isn’t real. The difference is Alana wants to end it and Hannibal’s only going to end it when she’s dead.

The other most appealing part of this episode for me was Margot. Katharine Isabel is obscenely sexy, and a horror veteran. I remember the first time I ever saw her was actually on an episode of Goosebumps in the 90s, and then later Ginger Snaps and American Mary. She’s got a knack for playing unusual, sexual, and subversively powerful  female characters. Always in tragic circumstances. This could be typecasting, but she’s a perfect fit.

In that same A.V. Club article Fuller discusses how they’ve changed her character, both aging her and altering the type of abuse she’s suffered. Personally I think these were both good changes for the show. With so many other series saturated in sexual abuse, it’s a relief that we can watch Hannibal and not have to brace ourselves for that particular type of trauma. It also allows for her to form a different kind of bond with Hannibal. He’s already rapidly bridging the gap between them to reveal his hand.

Hannibal - Season 2

Heather:

I read an interview with Fuller where he explained why he decided no to make Margot a masculine lesbian. Now, normally, I’d be annoyed at such a change. But I’m really glad he did so. Frankly, making her a normative feminine straight woman is much better than implying. she’s only a masculine lesbian because of the abuse she’s suffered. And, apparently, the books imply that she’s become a butch lesbians as a result of sexual abuse.

I haven’t read the books, though, so I had no idea that Margot’s character was more than a single-episode deal. I want to see if she’ll end up at a point where she kills her brother with Hannibal’s support.

Hannibal and Alana’s relationship is disconcerting. The imagery in their sex scene was beautiful, though I expect nothing less from the show. But the relationship itself has just always seemed a little off to me. I’m pretty sure that’s due to the deliberate depiction of their relationship as doomed, but it’s awkward to watch.

I definitely think Alana’s relationship is about avoidance, but I also think it’s also about her attachment to the underdog. When Will was a pitiable guy suffering from mental illness, Alana was all over him. Actually, the worse Will got, the more attached Alana got. Then Will seems to be sane, but evil and targeting Hannibal, and now she’s attached to Hannibal. In some ways it’ an unfortunate trope; that women all want to take care of and be motherly toward their romantic partners. On the other hand, it at least gives Alana’s character a bit of depth. I hope at some point we get a bit more of Alana’s history. Then we might see why she’s so intent on fixing people.

Hannibal - Season 2

Athena:

I totally never thought of it that way until you brought it up, but you’re right. Alana is a classic case of that stereotype (which admittedly can be true) of women wanting to fix a man. That makes me more worried about her future than ever. Chilton is right I think, she’s not going to see it until it’s too late. Also makes me even more concerned about her characterization. Fuller really needs to address this soon. It’s the show’s biggest (only?) flaw for me right now.

I think it’s pretty likely that Margot will kill her brother regardless. I like that she’s clearly a strong female character, even if it’s in a deeply transgressive way. She recognizes a problem, she’s working on her own to find a way to solve it. Now while I wouldn’t say murder is exactly a problem solver, I understand her desperation considering her brother is an extreme sadist with a wealthy family to support him. It’s not like anyone else in society is going to stop him, or is even interested. I can’t wait for Mason to be introduced, especially since he’s being played by Michael Pitt. A perfect actor for that kind of role, and he’ll be an excellent addition to the series. Fuller definitely knows how to cast them.

As for the actual killing itself, I think the value was largely symbolic. The social worker was a more extreme version of Hannibal. He was very obviously guilty, with that horrifying smile and chill-inducing pep. And of course Will forged a bond with his latest patient. The acting was impeccable, and the deaths and rebirths were wonderfully creepy. That was a nice touch, having the people/bird emerge from the dead horse. Will is experiencing a sort of rebirth, as is Miriam. Is the show undergoing a rebirth as well?

Hannibal - Season 2

Hannibal - Season 2

Heather:

Now you’ve hit on something I hadn’t thought about: that the rebirth aspect to the killings in this episode is meant to represent Will’s rebirth. I quite like that reading of it. Consider some of the changes in music this series, as well as the changing dynamics between Will, Hannibal and Jack, I think we could say that the show is going through something of a rebirth.

I’m not too sure what Fuller’s problem with Alana is all about. We know he can write amazing female characters; Bev, Bella, and Freddie Lounds are all really great characters. I’d suggest that maybe he’s hindered by the source material, but we know with the changes he made to Margot that he’s not afraid to change characters from the book.

As for flaws, well my other big complaint is how far some of this ventures from how police work is actually done. But, really, that’s the fault of my father, who’s a retired cop. And there’s the minor quibble about there being no queer characters. But really, yeah, Alana’s characterisation is the big problem, for me.

Athena:

I actually enjoy that we don’t see much of the actual crime solving. There are plenty of crime dramas and police procedurals that focus on the work. I like that this show is about the meat. The violence, the victims, the killers, and the people who put the pieces together rather than how they do. It’s what makes this series fall into the horror genre, but also a study in human nature and human violence rather than resolution of it.

Every show needs more queer characters.

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