“If God is looking down at you, don’t you want to be looking back at him?”
Hannibal Lecter says this to the nameless, still living artist that he is stitching into the center of the human-mural of an eye. The artist is a mass murdering psychopath, but a lesser one than the man who is finishing his work for him. Mads Mikkelsen embodies the God he is speaking of: the plastic protected demiurge of Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal.
The mural had been complete at the end of last week’s episode, “Kaiseki”, but a hole was ripped in it after a brushstroke literally tore itself out once it understood it’s place in the grand scheme of things at the top of this week’s delightful “Sakizuki.”
That human brushstroke’s name was Roland Umber, and he was a recovering addict. In his abductor-mutilator would-be killer’s mind, the young man was perfect for the pupil of the eye he’s been sewing together out of other random car owners with equally “Nice skin.” Unfortunately for both the artist and his defiant material, Rolland has an opiate resistance from a history of drug use that he’s been trying to put behind him, and the heroin that was meant to put him to sleep just turned his lights out for long enough to be made into a human sculpture.
In the cold open, we catch up with Rolland where we left him for what must have seemed like a week of screaming in the dark as he realized the scope of his situation. The fact that he’s coming down from a massive heroin high does not detract from the most exhilaratingly terrible image that Bryan Fuller has chosen to show us so far: Rolland Umber ripping himself free from his new position in a nightmare made of dead bodies with their genitals airbrushed out in post production.
The camera doesn’t cut away. Where as last season, Hannibal was content with leaving our minds to do the job, this year we aren’t given the ability to just shrug it off as CSI clowns Scott Thompson and Aaron Abrams describe it with practiced wit and perfect deadpan. We see the stitches tear, along with his flesh, and poor post-transformation Rolland takes to the surrounding cornfield, hunted off of a cliff and into the river that will eventually lead the FBI to the painting Hannibal Lecter will finish.
Cutting to the therapy cage in the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas) and Dr. Lecter interview Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), or as he puts it, the unreliable narrator of his own story.
Dancy has been given quite a bit to act through this season, and it’s to his credit that he can sell insanity so well. When he breaks down crying in his cage, begging for Hannibal’s help, it is played so well that there’s no wonder why Dr. Lecter thinks he is the one in control. When he goes back to his cell, however, the tears are dry. Will Graham has become the man who stole his life by feeding him lies and an ear.
After the title sequence, Bedelia Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson) pays a surprise visit to her only psychiatric patient, Hannibal, in his office (established with a shot of the building at the corner of Toronto’s King and Simcoe). She quits, and it takes courage to tear herself out of his picture.
Director Tim Hunter shows us exactly why this is such a bad idea (heroic ones usually are in this show), by putting the distance between the two doctors on display. Anderson looks her smallest and most vulnerable as she dumps Hannibal, and with the focus on their feet as he moved forward and she back, Du Maurier says it out loud for anyone who has their eyes closed from the suspense.
“…the conclusion that I’ve drawn is that you are dangerous.”
This scene is contrasted perfectly with Hannibal donning his most perfect person suit, clumsily getting in the way of the CSIs. It’s a charming bit of physical comedy as Mads Mikkelsen pinballs between the cool comics of the crime lab, but it also is a chilling reminder that Hannibal is always in control of not only how people perceive him, but in how they see the world around themselves.
Hannibal Lecter is the devil, but he acts as a god, painting himself into his living picture, while maintaining a controlling position high above everyone else. He keeps them from the knowledge that would have him overthrown.
In the crime lab, he smells the body of Rolland Umber and senses the cornfield where violent art happens.
Before heading there himself, the devil in a plaid suit pays a visit to the man he’s trying to emulate. Will and Hannibal discuss their relationship and the reckoning that Graham promised his nemesis psychiatrist.
Back in his cell, CSI Beverly Katz (Hettienne Park), pays a an off-book visit to Will who demonstrates his ability to miraculously navigate the structure of understanding the violence. He solves the problem immediately after being shown pictures of Rolland’s corpse and points Katz in the direction of the artist’s farm, but not before bringing her to his side. Will successfully petitions Katz to look at the world with a fresh set of eyes, so that she might catch Hannibal if it is in fact the trusted doctor that’s doing this to him.
Hannibal is steps ahead. He is kill-suited and calm, exploring the outdoor studio of the FBI’s currently most wanted. He climbs to the top of the structure housing the eye and looks through the hole in the top, beholding the eye of humanity from his lording perspective just as the monster responsible for it enters to apply another coat of resin.
“Hello,” says the man upstairs. “I love your work.”
Just as Hannibal tries to get you to think that Dr. Lecter would stoop to working in cooperation with this specific kind of killer, the FBI makes it to the farm. Hannibal pretends to be shocked at the masterpiece he helped finish just a commercial break ago by using the lesser artist to paint a reflection of himself into the eye.
“The eye looks beyond this world into the next and sees the reflection of man himself,” Hannibal teases. “Is the killer looking at God?”
Hannibal is doubtful the FBI will find this killer, now that the eye is complete with a nameless naked white man, but a detail is off. The CSI can’t figure out an inconsistency with newest addition to the mural. Why was his leg missing? Was it removed to make the final piece fit?
The answer is delicious and triumphant. Hannibal Lecter prepares it as veal osso buco and his power is on display at its fullest. The Chesapeake Ripper has struck again and is making a human leg look so delicious that it’s beginning to become apparent why NBC exiled the best show it has ever produced to Fridays at 10PM.
Katz and Hannibal go to consult Will in his therapy cage once more, trying to find a lead on the grotesque artist that Lecter has hidden in plain sight. Graham does his empathy trick, but something is not part of the intended design. Looking up from the point of the eye’s reflection, Will beholds the omnipresent Manstag.
The killer is in the mural, and Will and his psychiatrist stare at each other knowingly. This is their own private language. Hannibal Lecter speaks to Will Graham by gift wrapping crime scenes, theatrically and precisely telling his best friend everything he needs to know by doing a terrible thing better than the novices that terrorize Baltimore on an average of about ten to thirteen times a year (depending on the number of two or three episode long arcs like this one).
Unfortunately for the clever doctor who finished the mural, one of his own, most treasured brush strokes is tearing itself free, and though it’s not quite as messy as Rolland Umber’s ousting, it will inevitably prove to be much more devastating in Hannibal’s case.
This entire time, Bedelia Du Maurier has been packing her bags. After spurring Jack Crawford’s suspicious fantasy that Will might be proven innocent and declaring that she will no longer cooperate in the FBI’s investigation, Gillian Anderson rips herself free of Hannibal Lecter’s own carefully curated mural.
Du Maurier visits Will giving him the one thing he needs to save himself from the looming death penalty: faith.
Getting too close for the listening hidden microphones of Frederick Chilton, Hannibal Lecter’s former psychiatrist bestows the wrongfully imprisoned special agent a shared moment of gnosis. She tells him she believes him (a huge compliment coming from Dana Scully).
It would have been too late for Hannibal even if he did catch his runaway ex-psychiatrist at home when he showed up in his kill-suit ready to invite her to his table. Just like the escaped Rolland Umber, whose body lead the FBI to the farm, Du Maurier’s absence will say more than her complicit presence.
Hannibal Lecter is not God. He admits as much as he finishes the artist’s work.
“Killing must feel good to God too, he does it all the time. And are we not created in his image?”
He is the Great Deceiver, doing what he thinks is best for all of the lesser beings that look at him to make sense of the violent structure that they are trapped in even as it tears itself apart around him. Hannibal is the devil, and Hannibal has rarely been better.