Director: Tim Hunter
Writers: Jennifer Schuur
"You are not a psychopath. Although you may be attracted to them."
This week's Director, Tim Hunter, is responsible for one of my more formative movie fan experiences, having directed the classic River's Edge back in 1986 - the year I graduated high school. Now that was the shit. He's now a continuously working television director and has probably directed episodes of your favorite show. And this week he does a very stylish and controlled job on my new favorite show.
He is aided and abetted by Jennifer Schuur, who gets to see her Hannibal script actually air this time unlike her last go-around, "Oeuf." It's actually a very strong outing that provided a nice mix of psychological turmoil, violent action, and some hot man-on-man action.
Waitaminute. That's not right.
There was a lot of steamy, homoerotic posturing and googly-eyes, but the only real kissy kissy action came from Will (Hugh Dancy) and Dr. Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas), serving as a surrogate outlet for what's really going on with our male leads. You see, Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen) has a man-crush on Good Will, and being a rich, single, lonely psychiatrist (with cannibalistic tendencies) I think he's a perfect match for trembly, fractured Will.
Because Will needs some security. Some big strong arms to hold him and tell him that those horrible noises he hears are NOT really dying animals; they're inside his own head. But everything's gonna be alright.
And Hannibal needs a friend. How he defines "a friend" is what's going to make the next few weeks very interesting as the series moves into the home stretch of Season One. After having his overtures of friendship rebuffed yet again by his own psychiatrist, Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier (the enchanting and slightly frightening Gillian Anderson), Hannibal admits that he sees the possibility of friendship with Will. He feels that Will is worthy of his friendship. And then Dr. Du Maurier lays it all out:
"You spend a lot of time building walls, Hannibal. It's natural to want to see if someone is clever enough to climb over them."
Does this mean that Hannibal will only feel this friendship has been consummated when Will figures out that he's the Ripper? There's a visceral feeling of antagonism between Will and Hannibal in Thomas Harris' novel Red Dragon. If there's friendship there, it's not really explored. That in itself is reason enough to want to see further seasons of this show.
I want to see this relationship develop and sit enraptured as Mads Mikkelsen allows his inner psychopath to come to the surface. He's an actor who can project volumes with just the way he looks at another performer, and with this week's Serial Killer Smackdown we finally got to see a little of the physicality I've expected from the actor who played One-Eye in Nicolas Winding Refn's amazing Valhalla Rising.
Oh yeah. This week's serial killer.
Eh, Demore Barnes' Tobias Budge was intriguing and provided another interesting Hannibal-substitute - similar to Eddie Izzard's Dr. Abel Gideon, only effective and allowed to actually do something with the role. His character is a killer who is only caught - hell, only noticed at all - because he steps outside of his comfort zone to serenade Hannibal and try to make a Love Connection.
Um, I mean, he's lonely and wants a friend, too.
I'm serious, though. The scene where Budge and Hannibal face off over dinner and threats to murder each other is so rife with sexual tension that it's no surprise they had to have Will put his tongue in Bloom's mouth a scene or so later to provide some release.
I suppose that could just be me, but I don't think so.
If you haven't read this week's entry on Janice Poon's food blog Feeding Hannibal, I highly recommend it. She points out that Hannibal is a show about empathy, but how do you empathize with a cannibal? I think Fuller and Company have figured it out. By contrasting not just Hannibal and Will - where Will falls short on the compassion scale - but Hannibal and the other killers. These others are brutes and madmen. Even locked-up Dr. Gideon is a passion killer who provides no foothold for sympathy. Budge gives us a stark vision of what Hannibal could be, but isn't.
He's refined, sophisticated, and elitist. Just like Hannibal. But he's also isolated and incapable of connecting with others. His relationship with Hannibal's patient Franklin (Dan Fogler) is a clear example of this. He puts up with Franklin, pushing him and taunting him, until finally coming to kill him before disappearing into the world beyond Baltimore. He becomes a clear foil for Hannibal, allowing the viewer to realize that, yeah, Hannibal's a monster, but at least he's not an asshole.
At least until push comes to shove and Budge almost reveals to Franklin that Hannibal is also a killer. Franklin's blood is on Hannibal's hands, without question. But it's hard to blame him for what he did, since Budge gave him no real choice.
Well, no real non-horrible-serial-killer choice.
He may be playing a role, but Hannibal is actually helping - both himself and society. He's capturing psychopathic murderers and saving lives. Somewhere in there, he's not only hoping Will proves clever enough to become his friend. He's hoping that he becomes what Will needs in a friend, too.
That penultimate scene, in the aftermath of the battle between Hannibal and Budge, as Hannibal sits bloodied and bruised at his desk and Will checks in on him, is priceless. Hannibal looks up and says, "I was worried you were dead."
There are a couple of levels to that line. When Hannibal sent Will sniffing after Budge, we weren't really sure if it was because he thinks Will can capture Budge, or if it's a test to see if he can survive the confrontation. Is he anti-Budge or anti-Will in that moment? I think we can conclude with this line that he really thought Will would take care of Budge for him. When the killer showed up at his office, there was the real possibility - to Hannibal - that Will had been killed. I'm positive that played a role in Hannibal's reaction to the situation.
Will responds to the line with, "I feel like I've dragged you into my world." Irony, thy name is Will Graham.
Hannibal responds, "I got here on my own. But I appreciate the company."
Then they smile and make lovey eyes at each other.
That right there is golden.
Here's the full episode:
Paul Brian McCoy is the writer of Mondo Marvel and a regular contributor to Shot for Shot at Comics Bulletin. His first novel, The Unraveling: Damaged Inc. Book One is available for Kindle US, Kindle UK, and Nook. You can also purchase his collection of short stories, Coffee, Sex, & Creation at Amazon US and UK. He recently contributed the 1989 chapter to the NOW AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE, The American Comic Book Chronicles: The 1980s. Paul is unnaturally preoccupied with zombie films, Asian cult cinema, and sci-fi television. He can also be found babbling on Twitter at @PBMcCoy and blogging occasionally at Infernal Desire Machines.