At this point in the season, Hannibal the series has turned again, introducing a new iteration of its main themes, from yet another angle, the theme of thought manipulation through psychic driving, from the point of view of another recurring character. Fuller often approaches a theme from several different angles during a season. The theme of mental manipulation was touched on in Oeuf (1×04) with children being manipulated and coerced by adults. This time we see what happens when that level of manipulation is done to an adult.
A new character, Abel Gideon, is an inmate at the Baltimore Hospital for the Criminally Insane. When he kills a nurse in the style of The Chesapeake Ripper, who hasn’t killed in over two years, Jack and Will are called in to investigate the crime scene. Will’s purpose is to determine if Abel Gideon is The Ripper. Will expresses reservations about going to the hospital, fearing he might not be released.
Will: I’m afraid they won’t let me out. Jack: Don’t worry. I wont leave you here. Will: Not today…
This episode has more humor than past episodes. We meet Dr. Frederick Chilton, (played by Raul Esparza, who is most famous for his stint on Law&Order), the head of the Psychiatric Hospital. Bryan Fuller says Chilton is the show’s comic relief or sometimes the shows “Kenny”, as something awful happens to him every season. In the books, he was a bloviating dummy, who hit on Clarice in Silence of the Lambs, and for whom Lecter had so little respect, he would openly belittle him in front of guests. Here, he greets Will in much the same insulting manner, speaking to him as if he were an interesting lab specimen. According to Chilton, Will is famous in the psychiatric community, which is something I find intriguing because how does that happen?
At the crime scene, Will can tell that the murder was not done by the Ripper, but he ‘s not absolutely sure. To be sure, he has to interview the perpetrator, the man claiming to be The Ripper, Abel Gideon. Here being played by one of my favorite British comedians, Eddie Izzard. (Please check out his “cake or death” routine, from his cross dressing days, which sadly, he seems to have given up in favor of politics.)
Will and Alana return to the Hospital to interview Gideon, but the results are inconclusive. Gideon certainly believes he’s The Ripper. Although that’s not possible, Alana and Will think he’s not lying. This is a very confusing scene for some people as earlier, Will and Alana said they would do the interviews separately. Later they seem to be doing the interview together. Their scenes are shot separately and then alternated back and forth in such a way that it looks like the two of them are together. You’ll notice as the season progresses the episode directors grow more comfortable and start to make bolder decisions. As a result, the episodes start to look more surreal and dreamlike, which is appropriate considering Will Graham’s progressive mental instability. As Will becomes more detached from reality, so do we.
This episode is laced with flashbacks to the last time the The Ripper seemed to be active. At that time Jack sent a young Trainee, Miriam Lass, played by Anna Chlumsky, (mostly famous for her role in the movie “My Girl” from 1994 and most recently seen in “Veep”) to look at evidence in one of The Ripper murders. When she follows a clue that leads to Lecter’s office, she unknowingly falls right into the killer’s hands.
Miriam’s narrative closely echoes Clarice story from Silence of the Lambs, and Will Graham’s capture of Hannibal Lecter, from the book Red Dragon. A lot of this episode contains callbacks to the movies or the books. Earlier we see, Alana make the same hall walk at the hospital, past the inmates in their cells, to interview Abel Gideon. This is almost shot for shot like The Silence of the Lambs. How Miriam is captured by Lecter, is the same story chronicled in Red Dragon, with a couple of subtle differences.
In the books, Will, who is the investigator on the Ripper case, has a sudden revelation after several visits to Lecter’s office, upon seeing a picture called Wound Man, and noticing that the wounds in the picture matched the ones onThe Ripper’s victims. In the movie, Red Dragon, this was changed. He and Lecter are actually consulting on the Ripper case, when Will realizes that all of the body parts taken from the victims are parts used in cooking, and notices Lecter’s cookbooks, on a shelf in his home.
Miriam, like Clarice, gets pulled out of her classes and sent on an investigatory mission by Jack Crawford. Even her name, Lass, echoes Clarice’s, making her sound very feminine and vulnerable, like the bird, Starling. She is simply doing what Jack asked her to do, which is following up some threads of information, which lead her to Lecter. This television version more closely follows the version from the book, Red Dragon,where Will determines that Hannibal is the killer, from clues left lying out in Lecter’s office. Like Will Graham, Miriam doesn’t actually suspect him of anything, but unlike Will, I’m convinced she still doesn’t, even after she finds his drawing of Wound Man. Miriam disappears and Jack believes she was killed by The Ripper.
Jack visits Lecter’s office,distraught at his wife’s cancer diagnosis and that she won’t talk to him about it. He feels as if he’s losing her and in his mind connects that loss to the the disappearance of Miriam Lass. Lecter, who already knows who and where she is, is all compassion and sympathy. Later, in Sorbet, Lecter asks Will how The Ripper’s tactics are affecting Jack.
Alana and Jack, convinced that Abel Gideon isn’t The Ripper, believe that his confession, might draw the real one out of hiding. Jack, Will, and Alana meet with Freddie Lounds and make a deal to post this information on her website, knowing that The Ripper will see it. Will, still mad at Freddie for calling him insane, is hilariously bitchy during their meeting, while Lounds is the epitome of grace. This mostly has the effect of making Will look like an unreasonable child. In return for lying on their behalf, Freddie will get an exclusive interview with Abel Gideon. Have you noticed that the two most annoying characters on the show are named Fred?
All season long, I kept expecting Lecter to kill and eat Freddie Lounds. I like to think the reason Lecter doesn’t kill her, is he thinks the world is more interesting with her in it and he finds her website useful. And with some luck and manipulation, he probably thinks he can goad Will into killing her later. After all, she’s Will’s nemesis, not his.
Lounds goes to the interview in her red, leopard print leathers. She always dresses as if to alert people that she’s dangerous..
Lecter does read the interview and jealous, arrogant creature that he is, formulates a plan to let Jack know The Ripper is still active, without showing his hand. He knows Jack expects The Ripper to kill again in response to the article, so he skips that. The next evening Jack receives a recorded phone call of Miriam Lass asking for help, supposedly sent by the Ripper. If the caller truly is The Ripper, then Gideon is not, as he’s still an inmate at the Psychiatric hospital. Jack, however, can’t seem to convince his forensic team that he received a call at all.
Jack: “I know when I’m awake!”, he thunders at Will, which is ironic since Will is having trouble telling when he’s awake or asleep.
Jack goes to interview Gideon but is interrupted by another phone call from Miriam. This time the call originates from his own house. His own bed. (Bella is out of town.) The forensic team find a single blonde hair on one of the pillows. It belongs to Miriam Lass. Will is the only one to suggest that Miriam isn’t dead.
Alana suggests that Abel Gideon may have been inadvertently manipulated by Chilton into believing himself to be The Ripper. She broaches this question to Chilton while the three of them are having dinner at Lecter’s house. Out of Alana’s hearing, Lecter tries to assess whether or not Chilton was deliberate in his manipulation of Gideon.
Lecter says psychic driving is sometimes useful in the recovery of suppressed memories. Chilton says he became convinced Gideon was The Ripper, and thought he could use psychic driving to uncover Gideon’s memories of the murders. All this talk of psychic driving isn’t just important as an example of what Lecter is doing to Will Graham, but also important in understanding what happens to Miriam Lass, in the second season.
Lecter is in an especially jovial mood during the dinner, joking about eating Chilton’s tongue, something that Chilton will remember next season, after he has become a vegetarian.
In his next session with Lecter, Jack tells Lecter what he believes happened to Miriam. Lecter tells Jack, he’s sorry about his trainee (something we know isn’t true.)
Jack Crawford receives another phone call, which is traced this time, to a local observatory, where Jack, Will and the forensic team, find Miriam’s severed arm.
In a flashback, we see Miriam’s capture, from Lecter’s viewpoint.
This episode picks up the threads from the last episode and offers closure on some of them. It also introduces new plot points that will be picked up in the next. Jack is still dealing with his wife’s cancer diagnosis and his tremendous guilt over the loss of Miriam Lass. Will’s illness is progressing and Hannibal’s level of manipulation grows.
The serial killer case doesn’t, on the surface, seem to be directly related to this episodes issues and there doesn’t appear to be an overriding theme, although the focus is on the specific senses of the characters.
Our first sensory event is visual as the camera comes up out of the throat of an opera singer. We get some surreal visual imagery as the season progresses. As Will’s illness becomes more pronounced, the images the audience are subjected to will become stranger. From the singer’s mouth to the inside of Lecter’s ear as he enjoys a night out on the town. We go from sight to sound. The opera being sung is “Piangero la sorte mia”.
After the opera, Lecter is greeted by one of his patients, Franklyn, who we met earlier in the season. Franklyn engages in a bit of hero worship of Lecter, striving to be like him. Ironically, Franklyn wants what is happening to Will. What Hannibal wishes would happen to Will. Watch Franklyn’s costuming as the season progresses. He starts to dress like Lecter and picks up a few of his mannerisms. Oddly, its through his sessions with Franklyn, that Lecter begins to realize that he is lonely.
Lecter sees Franklyn at the opera but can’t approach him in public. Because of patient confidentiality laws, it would be a serious breach of ethics for a therapist to approach a patient, thereby outing that person as a patient. Lecter also can’t introduce himself as a friend because that leads the patient down unproductive avenues of thinking about their relationship and this is a problem he already has with Franklyn, who is obsessed with him. It is up to the patient whether or not they wish to acknowledge the relationship.
Saving Lecter from outlining their relationship to a stranger, Franklyn introduces himself and his friend Tobias Budge. There’s a lot of serious eyeballing going on between Lecter and Tobias, which is something that we’ll see play out in the next episode, although Lecter mostly seems to be puzzled as to why this man is looking at him like he knows something, as he and Tobias have never met.
Jack is having bad dreams about Miriam Lass and her arm, when his sleep is interrupted by a call about another crime scene. Will, and the team arrive to find a man lying in his bathtub, covered in blood with an opening in his side. It is the assumption, because some of the man’s organs are missing, that The Chesapeake Ripper has begun to kill again. Will disagrees. He says he can see The Ripper’s work but it doesn’t FEEL like The Ripper and is adamant that it isn’t, despite the evidence, until another body shows up with all the hallmarks of being The Ripper’s victim.
Will knows THIS is a Ripper victim, though. He can feel it but can’t articulate why or how he knows, to the forensic team. Again what we have run into is an issue of the senses. Will has some indefinable sensory ability that regular people not only don’t have, but don’t have a word for.
In Lecter’s next session with Bedelia we get some extreme truth telling. I think that’s an excellent name for Bedelia, The Truth Teller, even though its her job, and he is not “perfectly honest” with her. Like Will, she is one of the few people who can look Lecter in the eye and tell him the truth about himself, no matter how much it discomfits him. In this session, she tells him that he wears “a very well-tailored person suit”.
When Lecter says they are friendly, she is careful to tell Lecter that they are not friends, taking a step back from entanglement with him, following the same advice she gives Lecter when he expresses an interest in being friends with Will. She too introduces the idea that he must be lonely.
In his next session with Franklyn, Lecter hears echoes of his relationship with Will and Bedelia, when he tells Franklyn he has a one sided relationship with his friend Tobias. Tobias doesn’t seem to be Franklyn’s friend. I wonder if its this conversation that ignites the idea in Lecter’s mind that he would like to be friends with Will, although that idea doesn’t seem to stop him from toying with Will, or trying to hurt him.
Later, we see Lecter imitating the things he sees Bedelia doing, like offering wine to his patients, something she does after every session with him. Everybody wants to be like someone else, and not themselves, except for Will, who’d like every damn body to get out of his head. When Will visits Lecter later, they discuss the current case. Lecter suggests there may be more than one killer.
In his next session with Franklyn, Franklyn mentions that being alone comes with a “dull ache”. This dull ache is what spurs Lecter to go looking for Will, when he misses his regular appointment time. Later, in season three, Bedelia mentions this same dull ache of loneliness to Will, when he asks if Hannibal is in love with him. (The answer is a resounding yes.)
Lecter and Will discuss The Ripper.. At first Lecter tries to deflect Will’s attention away from The Ripper’s motivations, but Will is not to be deterred and Lecter gives that up and tells the truth behind why the Ripper kills. He is blatantly telling Will about himself. They are interrupted by an excited Jack, who thinks they’re about to catch The Ripper. Lecter is deeply amused about this. When they find the killer, Lecter is asked to step in to save the victim’s life. The look he exchanges with Will, in this moment, is fathomless.
Later, Will visits Lecter just before his big dinner party. When Will asks why Lecter stopped being a surgeon, he ironically states that he got tired of losing patients.
Lecter’s dinner party is a huge success. Contrast his attitude to Will’s response to his class applauding his capture of Garrett Jacob Hobbes. Hannibal loves the attention and accolades. Will tells his class to sit down and shutup, and that their applause was inappropriate.
Both Jack and Will have become completely obsessed about the Chesapeake Ripper. Will is the only one who can see the pattern that The Ripper is active and hiding behind another killer.
We spend the bulk of the episode, figuring out who the killer is, in therapy sessions with Lecter and watching Lecter prepare for his dinner party by using the organ thief’s killings as a cover for his own. He does that but Will manages to catch the deception anyway. Lecter’s proud of him and thoroughly intrigued by Will’s ability to do this.
And yes, Tyromancy, which is divination through reading how cheese forms, is actually a thing.