We open this week on the strings of a harpsichord. It’s Hannibal’s instrument, having its keys tickled by the cannibal whose sexy brush with death and identity theft last week at the hands of mad orderly Matthew Brown has left him feeling clear headed and pointing straight.
Hannibal is composing music.
Metaphorically, it is the mode that makes the show its most compelling: when Dr. Lecter is plucking the strings and writing the notes, Hannibal is thrilling, unpredictable and disgustingly beautiful to look at. This is his design.
As Hannibal jots a note on his composition paper, we cross-fade to the man partially responsible for the scars on his musical wrists. Jack Crawford pays a visit to Will Graham in the therapy cages of the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, and he is not happy. He tells Will that Hannibal Lecter was almost murdered by an orderly, one responsible for killing the bailiff and judge at Graham’s trial turned gory mistrial.
Will corrects Jack twice. Matthew Brown only took credit for the bailiff, so the judge was a gift from the Chesapeake Ripper, and he didn’t do anything to set the demented orderly on Dr. Lecter. “It just happened.”
The old friends contemplate the nature of contempt, and as Jack humors Will, entertaining his claim that the judge was ripped by the killer of all killers, the conversation turns to motivation.
It’s a discussion that will colour the rest of “Futamono,” because for the first time in Season Two, we have limited access to the workings of Hannibal’s mind.
Despite Jack, Will, Chilton and the remaining members of the CSI’s combined efforts, setting them closer to the right track than they have ever been (or would ever be advisable, knowing what happens to mongooses that slither too close to this snake), it is all from the outside. As far as things go with Hannibal’s newfound clarity, the only thing that is apparent is his control over the situation.
If the Ripper is killing again, then there will be more bodies added to his current exhibition (which includes his reworkings of Beverly Katz and the judge that would have sent Will to the electric chair). Jack wonders what causes the Ripper to rip the way he rips, but Will already knows: the murders happen in such close proximity because the meat he takes inevitably spoils.
If the Chesapeake Ripper is on the prowl again, according to Will, Hannibal must be planning a dinner party.
In the kitchen of the killer, Hannibal is talking to Alana Bloom as he carves up a heart. These two have known each other longer than anyone else on the show, so Alana is concerned for her mentor’s post-traumatic well being. She encourages him to seek therapy, but Hannibal assures her that the music he is composing is enough of a prescription.
“I need to get my appetite back.”
Cue a flip through the recipe Rolodex to a steak and kidney pie card and a shot of Hannibal’s eye. It’s an image that has been used all season to denote either clarity or the lack thereof. Whether it was the human mural of an eye beholding God, or a tortured pupil being used as a lie detector to steal secrets from the Chesapeake Ripper, eyes are the holders of truth in Hannibal.
Dr. Lecter’s eye is filled with blooming flowers. It seems that he has been given a new take on the importance and beauty of life.
The flowers in his eye transition to his newest artwork: a city councillor who has been made to be one with nature. A tree grows through him (“Varicose vines,” puns Agent Zeller) and his abdomen is open to display what’s inside. Every organ has been removed but the counselor’s lungs, each on replaced with a different species of poisonous flower.
The Treeman is grafted into the middle of a parking lot.
That night, in front of Hannibal’s blazing fireplace, Jack tries to get some expert advice. The cannibal doctor won’t help him anymore, using his brush with death as an excuse to make a clean break from all things related to Will Graham.
Hannibal would prefer to transform his misfortunes into life-enhancing events, and in that spirit he is holding a dinner party. Jack takes the bait, assuring the doctor that he wouldn’t miss it.
Another piece of the puzzle starts to fall right into the good guys’ lap as Chilton records his two most psychopathic patients having a heart-to-heart from their adjoining cells. Will Graham explains to Abel Gideon that he brought the killer surgeon back to Baltimore in order to bear witness against Hannibal Lecter.
Knowing that Chilton is listening in, Will gets Dr. Gideon to admit that Hannibal did set him on the path to pulling Alana Bloom’s tongue through her throat, but avoided the answer when asked if he was the real Ripper. Abel will not play ball unless Will can answer why Hannibal did all of this.
Will’s answer: he wanted to see what would happen.
Chilton plays the recording of the incriminating discussion to Jack in his FBI office, but the head of the bureau’s behavioural sciences unit still isn’t sold. It’s at this point that things get real. Chilton, seemingly driven by a need to catch the real Chesapeake Ripper, tells this wonderful little anecdote that winks at the fourth wall:
“Hannibal once served me tongue and then made a joke about eating mine.”
The Ripper is ripping and Hannibal is having a party. The doctor fits the profile too. Chilton drops some quick analysis, telling Jack that cannibalism is a form of dominance, echoing Will’s ideas from the cold open. The wheels start turning behind Laurence Fishburne’s eyes on a long and slow zoom to commercial.
Things get psychedelic when we come back to Hannibal in the midst of composing. An overhead shot of Lecter playing harpsichord (which will be used as a refrain later) does two things to set the table. First, it is an image of Hannibal looking into what is a very dark, very coffin-like structure, facing his death in metaphor and making beautiful music with it. Secondly, it evokes a tactical feeling: the symmetry of the shot turns Hannibal’s room into a sort of diorama for dolls that he will soon manipulate. As he plays, the notes he’s written down bloom into flowers.
Jack and Alana walk Will’s dogs in Wolf Trap, reminiscing on the better parts of Mr. Graham while he has a discussion with Hannibal, miles away in the therapy cages.
The two are at each other’s throats, like an ex-couple who destroyed their relationship by loving the other too much. Hannibal pins Beverly’s death on Will, as he in turn places the blame on Lecter. The snide, barely veiled jabs, powered by real heartbreak on both sides, come to an end when Hannibal threatens Alana, saying that he will giver Will’s best regards.
We go on to a cooking scene reminiscent of the preparations for the dinner party in the show’s strongest season one episode “Sorbet.” Business cards, recipes and hearts being flipped through and sliced into while the necessary bodies get wheeled in to the CSI.
Chilton (or as Abel would put it, “Humpty-Dumpty”) and Jack have a meeting with Dr. Gideon in the therapy cages prior to the dinner party. Eddie Izzard will not collaborate with these two, despite what they had hoped based on the recording. The most Jack can get out of it is a quizzical hint that maybe Chilton has been driving the situation to his own ends:
“Dr. Chilton hired a nurse who had experience in mental hospitals but not as an employee. That nurse attempted to kill Hannibal Lecter and you blame Will Graham. You got the right box there Jack, but you’re looking in the wrong corner.”
On the way back to his cell, Gideon provokes the guards with lewd descriptions of their well-liked female colleague that he mutilated when he had been driven to think he was the Ripper. They beat the hell out of him and throw the mad doctor from the stairwell, breaking his back.
The bird’s eye view is evoked again as the dinner party scene begins, this time the hired caterers moving in a dance to Hannibal’s elaborate design.
Jack is having an “It’s people” moment in slow motion as the guests devour what he has decided must be human organ meat, when Chilton brings another glance at the fourth wall into frame: an hors d’oeuvre modeled to look like the logo of Bryan Fuller’s production company, Living Dead Guy.
It’s the first sign that despite the good guys’ gain in traction, Hannibal is the one playing the music everyone’s dancing to. Chilton goes a step further, smirking at the fact that Hannibal even rhymes with “cannibal,” and Jack takes some of the food in a to-go Tupperware.
When Crawford insists on taking the food with him, Hannibal looks mortified, and for a second I started to wonder about how much in-show time had passed since episode one when we were promised a Jack versus Lecter knife fight. But as soon as Crawford leaves it is apparent that everything is going as planned. Chilton stares at the cannibal of the hour who in turn gives the pale looking psychiatrist a handsome Mads Mikkelsen wink.
Jack hands the takeout off to the CSI team as Alana Bloom is seduced by Hannibal into funeral sex that will also make an airtight alibi for what happens next.
Having sexed Bloom into a coma (possibly induced with the aid of drugs in her wine), Lecter heads to the hospital where Gideon is being treated, rescues the fellow killer, strings up and disembowels a security guard with Will Graham-style human fishing lures.
Each of the lures has either a new piece of a victim that Will Graham was accused of mutilating to death or bits of new Ripper-claimed kills. Hannibal has given the evidence needed to sign off on all of the murders as his own.
Immediately after visiting this new crime scene, Jack hightails it to Hannibal’s where Alana can vouch that he slept (and maybe a bit more) all night.
Victorious again in humiliating Jack, Hannibal celebrates with a dinner for two. Gideon sits at the dinner table as Dr. Lecter serves up the most delicious looking leg. It’s Abel’s own limb, of course, and with some dominant persuading, the guest auto-cannibalizes.
It is the epitome of the horror of semiotics. The meat on Eddie Izzard’s fork is his own leg only in label. It looks nothing like a human body part, and we never saw the thing removed, but when Abel Gideon eats a piece of himself and admits that it is decadent, Hannibal reaches a new height in horror.
The show does gore very well, but nothing exemplifies the true essence of nightmares like this scene. It is just two affluent men eating a delicious looking meal and yet the very memory of it makes me dizzy and upset.
If that wasn’t enough, back at the crime lab, Jimmy and Brian let Jack know that his takeout wasn’t people, but the fishing lures were. Using their masterful detective work, the agents point their boss to a cabin in Somerville, Virginia, based on a piece of bark tied into one of the lures.
“Futamono” is about recovery. Last week Hannibal faced a fate worse than his own death: he faced the disgrace of posthumous plagiarism at the hands of a lesser being. Matthew Brown stole Hannibal’s best friend and then attempted to steal his legacy by killing him and taking credit for the Chesapeake Rippings. With the clues in the lures, Hannibal absolves Will, takes full credit for his morbid curriculum vitae and gives Jack the last thread he will ever need.
Jack goes alone and at night, following the bark lead to a building with “bad idea” written all over it, while Hannibal (alone at home) plays the full piece of music he has been composing.
Crawford finds a basement in the abandoned structure, and in it, a well where the human tree must have been prepared. Gun drawn, Crawford continues to search for any kind of hard evidence in the Ripper case when he comes to another pit containing the still living, albeit armless Miriam Lass.
Hannibal finishes his composition on a dramatic chord. This has all been his design.
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