“I love bees. Did you know that the drone is nature’s most talented suicidal swordsman? When the drone mates with the queen his ejaculation is so explosive it’s audible to the human ear.”
This is said by FBI Agent Jimmy Price (Scott Thompson) as he and fellow crime scene forensic friend Brian Zeller (Aaron Abrams) investigate the case of the week: a man has had his eyes and part of his brain removed and replaced with a beehive.
By the time the bee-suited FBI behavioural sciences unit find the Hive-man, wedged in between two trunks of the same tree, he already has a substantial honeycomb growing off of him.
“Takiawase” shares a lot in common with last season’s human totem pole episode “Trou Normand” – it features a celebrity guest star killer making particularly iconic things out of dead (or might as well be dead) people. While those particularly nightmarish crimes serve as a neat metaphor for the internal struggles of the cast, both cases practically solve themselves while the serialized narrative of the show speeds ahead in constant reference to its pulpy anchor.
What makes “Takiawase” sweeter than the cold and dark “Trou Normand” is its wonderful sense of humour that never once gets in the way of the narrative. It just makes everything digestible.
In “Trou Normand,” said serial ends with a flashback confirmation that Abigail willingly played the bait as her father, Garrett Jacob Hobbs, fished for girls that looked just like her out of which he would make dinner and pillows and other things. “Takiawase” mirrors this ending with its opening.
This episode begins with Will in the river of his mind, teaching a mental projection of Abigail Hobbs how to fly-fish. He teaches her how to tie a blood knot on a lure and tells her the difference between hunting and fishing (“One you catch, the other you shoot”). It’s a sweet moment between the haunted man and the surrogate daughter that he is accused of killing and eating.
Will names his lure Abigail, because you name the bait on the hook after someone you cherish. He forgives her because he knows what its like to be used by a psychopathic cannibal as a means to put food on the table, and in casting his line resolves to catch the impeccably dressed fish that got away: Hannibal Lecter.
In his cell, Beverly Katz mines Will for new information on the episodes-old case of the killer that was stitched into his own mural. The artist formerly not really known by anyone (total loner) as James Grey was put there by Hannibal, and Will tries once again to impress on Katz that the doctor did it, in the silo with the heroin (and some sutures and cleverness).
Beverly still won’t buy Will’s crackpot theory, so he sends her back out into the river with instructions to look for clever details. He might be calling his lure Abigail in his mind, but in real life the bait’s name is Beverly.
After the credits roll, Will is in the therapy cages at the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane talking to the internally rearranged and stitched-back-up Frederick Chilton. Graham strikes a bargain with the selfish shrink best known for convincing Abel Gideon (Eddie Izzard) that he was committing the crimes of Hannibal Lecter’s tabloid name, The Chesapeake Ripper. Will, the holy grail of psychiatric patients will give Chilton exclusive access to his labyrinthine damaged mind on the condition that Hannibal no longer be allowed access to Graham’s cell.
Meanwhile, Hannibal Lecter is working on another one of his long-range attempts at humiliating Jack Crawford – the FBI agent who has been trying to catch him for the better part of a decade while eating at the cannibal’s table. Bella, Jack’s cancer ridden wife played by Gina Torres, is sitting in the patient’s chair talking about the freeing thoughts of suicide she’s been experiencing.
Hannibal understands her, confessing that he finds the idea of death comforting. The knowledge that he will die allows him to better appreciate the art and the horror contained in life. Hannibal is always motivated out of a selfish and visceral curiosity, it’s what allows him to do the things he does, living a fleeting existence of sensory pleasure.
“To Socrates, death was not a defeat, but a cure,” he prods Bella, unaware of Hannibal’s raison d’etre at work.
It is specifically his appreciation for artistry and horror that draws him towards the dangling lure of Will Graham. In the CSI lab, Hannibal recognizes Will’s mode of thinking as Beverly looks for a signature on the body of the Muralist, she admits that she has been seeking his advice, unknowingly showing the metaphorical fishing line she’s tied to.
The fish doesn’t bite. Instead he swims upstream, following the line to the high security hospital that is harbouring Will. Chilton intercepts Hannibal, having cancelled his fellow doctor’s standing appointment with crazy Will Graham.
Prior to the visit, Chilton, with the help of a little friend named Sodium Pentothal, has given Will Graham his brain back. After a trippy expressionist revelation, Will tells Chilton that Hannibal must have known about his encephalitis and used that knowledge to purposefully and strategically induce seizures. Graham’s new doctor tells Hannibal this, and just as it seems that Dr. Lecter will have to settle for a one kidney dinner, Frederick offers an alliance. Both shrinks are unorthodox in their methods, they should stick together.
Psychic driving might be the most plot integral unorthodox treatment going on in Maryland this week, but it’s certainly not the only one. The morning after the Crawfords spend what might be their last night in bed together blitzed on Bella’s medicinal marijuana, the CSI team make a break in the Hive-man case: the poor, blind and mindless man was incredibly ill prior to being lobotomized.
Cut to an acupuncture clinic run by Amanda Plummer, treating a man with crippling arthritis. As soon as the needles start doing their work and the man can’t feel a thing, she carefully scrambles his brain with an ice pick through his open, terrified and helpless eyes.
(Fun fact: Amanda Plummer’s character is named Katherine Pimms. Kitty Pimms is the alias used by Charlotte Charles, a character who is a beekeeping hobbyist in Bryan Fuller’s Pushing Daisies.)
When we come back from commercial, the man is a zombie, walking without pain and staring at the sun, eyeless and covered in bees.
He is still technically alive when the forensics team examine him in a scene that perfectly demonstrates why Bryan Fuller is the right man to be running this show. The CSI team of Jimmy, Brian and Beverly acts as the show’s immune system. The more horrific the crime, the more screen time these white blood cells get, showing you the morbid humour you need in order to better contextualize what you’re seeing.
Unfortunately for Beverly, this detachment also allows her to see the bigger picture. The bee stings on the zom-bee man’s body are covering acupuncture marks and this sparks inspiration in the ambitious agent. She reexamines the Muralist to find that the stitches that were keeping him in place when he was a part of his human painting were also covering up the fact that his kidney had been surgically removed, Chesapeake Ripper style.
Katz hightails it to meet up with Will. He has just had a moment of full revelation: As a third party, Will witnessed one of the key moments in which he dissociated. In a dream he saw Abel Gideon sitting at Hannibal Lecter’s table as the show’s eponymous character claimed his rightful identity as the Chesapeake Ripper.
Will tells Beverly the real deal: Hannibal Lecter is not only the second killer in the case of the Mad Muralist, he is also the most infamous serial killer at large. This brings on the point in the show that everyone watching has been waiting for.
Beverly asks Will what Hannibal has been doing with the surgical trophies. The question triggers a flashback to the first time that Will had breakfast with the Manstag.
“He’s eating them.”
Jack, Price and Zeller confront Amanda Plummer’s Honey Bunny at her home office. She is in the middle of making sweetener, probably from her former patients, and when confronted she immediately confesses. The scene is Hannibal at its funniest. Plummer’s performance alone is deadpan crazy enough as it is, remarking that eating the honey would be pretty morbid, but Scott Thompson’s reaction shot to her confession is priceless. This is exactly why I have been wanting a CSI-centric episode for so long (sort of like the Lone Gunmen X-Files episodes). It is also why I’m so sad we won’t be getting one.
Bella is in her chair across from Hannibal when she admits that she has decided to spare her husband a painful goodbye. She thanks Hannibal with an ancient coin and prepares her exit.
“Tell Jack I love him very much,” to which her husband’s archenemy can only say, “Yes.”
Then it’s all “Goodbye Doctor Lecter” and “Goodbye Bella,” before Hannibal has a wonderful gift sitting across from him instead of a desperate human being. He sits and contemplates, then flips a coin.
Hannibal has been humiliating Jack Crawford for as long as the two have known each other and he has to make a decision: rob the desperate man of the goodbye he so sorely wants, or give him the gift of a prolonged, painful and drawn out fading of the only human he has ever loved.
It’s a toughie, so Hannibal flips the commemorative coin Bella gave her and is told to save her life.
He is at the hospital as the Crawfords commiserate and apologizes. He hands the coin responsible for her life back to Bella and she slaps him across the face.
Katz, knowing that Hannibal is at Bella’s bedside, breaks into Hannibal’s home. She finds the meat freezer and grabs a kidney before spilling some wine on the floor.
Gun drawn, Agent Katz enters the cannibal’s basement. She finds something horrifying that we can’t see just as Hannibal finds her.
The fish takes the bait and gunshots are heard, but not seen as the camera chooses to focus on Hannibal’s hardwood floors instead of the death of Beverly Katz.
“Takiawase” serves up everything an excellent episode of Hannibal should. It is as close as we will ever get to a Jimmy, Brian and Beverly episode and because of that it is hilarious at times, but that doesn’t prevent it from being stomach churningly disturbing, perfectly thrilling, tearfully heartbreaking and as thematically tight as a well tuned pressure cooker.
Everyone in the show has been stumbling around blindly in the park, staring right at the sun without knowing it. Their eyes have been removed, as has any sense of direction, and that spares them from the stinging pain of reality. The pain doesn’t go away, but Hannibal has made it so that it doesn’t matter. In the end all that’s left is the sweet honeycomb that grows on the blissful.
Unfortunately for him, that honey has proven too sweet to resist and he’s chomped down on Will’s unwitting bait. The resulting narrative explosion of this lovable FBI drone’s departure will be Hannibal’s downfall as the hook is reeled in. Will didn’t know it, but the whole time he’s been fishing with flies, he should have been casting bees.