(S P O I L E R S)
In which that would suggest a radically unorthodox form of therapy.
As I wrote about in my essay for Season 1’s “Roti”, Hannibal has dealt extensively with the subject of authority and protectorship, and all the attendant responsibilities that are so often abdicated therein. Will has been the most notable victim of manipulation at the hands of authority figures, but the roll call of damaged subordinates is lengthy. “Takiawase” touches on this subject once again, but in this case it offers a portrait of people trying desperately to be good protectors, albeit with their own interesting motivations.
With her cancer progressing to its end stages, Bella Crawford only wants to control the means of her death. But she still acquiesces to Jack’s desire for her to take chemotherapy, if only to give him some sense of peace (thereby protecting what’s left of his guilt-ridden psyche.) At the same time, she sees Hannibal as the one person in whom she can confide her real feelings. The interactions between Gina Torres and Mads Mikkelsen are always fascinating. Bella is portrayed as such a no bullshit person that her connection with Hannibal seems either very odd or an exercise in high dramatic irony. But at heart, this relationship is another example of the moral and ethical complexity that Bryan Fuller brings to the Lecter character. There’s a genuine desire to serve as protector and confessor in Hannibal’s demeanor around her, yet that old sense of amoral curiosity never quite dissipates. In the key moment when she honors him by choosing to conclude her Morphine overdose in his office, he seems to accept it as a mantle of the humanity he claims to seek. And yet a moment later, he’s flipping the Gold French Rooster coin that she’s given him as thanks for being her guide into the afterlife, channeling a bit of Two-Face in letting chance decide whether he brings her back from the dead. Her rage at him in the post-revival hospital scene marks Hannibal as still not prepared to assume the role of protector that he covets.
This rooster motif also plays into the side story of Katherine Pimms, the acupuncturist/mercy killer. Played by the always delightful Amanda Plummer, she also fancies herself to be a protector of the suffering (“I protected these people from hopelessness”), while also using their exit from this world as a connection to the greater consciousness, in this case by turning one of them into a honey comb. It’s shades of “Amuse-Bouche”’s Eldon Stammets once again, a serial killer with a conscience. It’s also a direct reference to the death throes of Socrates, who (after self-administering his hemlock poison death sentence) was asked by an attendant about the gradual loss of feeling in his body (just as Katherine asks her patient about the gradual loss of feeling from her needles.) As Hannibal notes to Bella, Socrates’s dying gift of the rooster serves as confirmation of his belief in death as a gateway to another world.
Of course, Hannibal’s pseudo-mythological portrayal of gateways to and from other worlds (spiritual and mental) is a hallmark of the narrative thrust. In “Hassun”, Hannibal tells Jack that “The magic door is always attractive. Step through, and leave all your burdens behind.” Will fears the world of his visions crossing through the gateway of reality (even as he finds bittersweet comfort in his opening fly fishing fantasy of trying to serve as protector to Abigail Hobbs), and Hannibal’s long game involves drawing Will through the gateway of insanity and into a partnership with him. But it’s not Lecter who offers the imprisoned profiler his most important gateway yet in this episode.
Leave that duty to that most unlikeliest of protector figures, Frederick Chilton. Raul Esparza hams it up so wonderfully as the smarmy Chilton that it comes as a nice reversal when Will asks him to be his psychiatrist in order to block out Hannibal. And to access a bit of information that provides the key to the locked gateway inside his mind. Only by being injected with truth serum for a narcoanalytic interview is he able to discover the truth about Hannibal’s long term manipulation of him via hypnosis and psychic driving. It’s a stunning sequence, the culmination of Will’s long psychological wandering and a psychedelic fever dream of the inner recesses of his damaged psyche crossed with a religious epiphany (Will once again gazing to a light in the sky, much like with Season 1’s Angel Maker murders.) Even when Chilton seems to be giving up the game in his subsequent conversation with Hannibal, it’s actually a sly attempt at bonding him in silence over the Abel Gideon case. Truly, sometimes you find your allies in the strangest places.
Beverly Katz, on the other hand, has been a voice of measured reason throughout her run on the show, so no surprise that she’s been willing to listen to Will and begin to serve as the protector of his legacy. His second major revelation of the episode, that Hannibal is eating the souvenirs of his victims (and that he’s been fed some of those souvenirs), comes after she’s once again provided him with pictures of the body spiral murders. And after so many accusations of his instability, it’s Beverly that finally agrees to pursue Will’s leads and investigate Hannibal’s house. Of all the would-be protector figures in this episode, her motivations are arguably the purest. So it’s only appropriate, in the twisted ethical landscape of the show, that her nobility is rewarded with death in Lecter’s lair. Her downfall is captured in one of the great shots in the series, as the sub-basement’s power methodically clicks on in layers, first with the unseen bodies she discovers, then with the rear of the room where Hannibal awaits. It’s a stark metaphor for his ability to hide in plain sight, as well as a visual callback to the moments in Season 1 when he would be framed as a blurry figure influencing Will and other characters in the foreground. And it also shows how dangerous slightly adjusting one’s vision of reality to take in his darkness can be.
To the leftovers:
*During his aforementioned fantasy sequence with Abigail, Will repeats their conversation from Season 1, in which they debate the difference between fishing and hunting (“one you catch, the other you shoot.”) It takes on added resonance now that Will has attempted to shoot Hannibal, only to realize that he’ll have to catch him to gain any sense of justice.
*I’ve mentioned before how Hannibal’s machinations sometimes take on an almost supervillain-esque grandeur. But when you step back and look at his character’s path, you realize that so much of his foresight is gained simply by staying quiet and listening to those around him (who are often all too willing to divulge key bits of information.)
*A note of advisory: if you ever find yourself a character in the Lecterverse, STAY OUT OF BASMENTS! Nothing good can come from them.