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Hannibal: Shiizakana

“Adapt. Evolve. Become.”

I always wondered what happens in the dark recesses of the natural history museums of the world. Well, now I have some idea about that and lycanthropy and air compressors and mauling people. Thanks, Hannibal.

In case you were wondering what kind of “reckoning” the corners of Will Graham's mind continue to exact, ‘Shiizakana’ opens up in his busy little dreaming head. Will's ubiquitous stag has attached to it, an intricate rope pulley system, and attached to it, Hannibal Lecter, pinned to a tree, the other end of the rope wrapped around his neck. Hannibal is talking in low tones. About love, actually. But Will doesn’t like this conversation. So every time he whistles, the stag walks further away and the rope creaks, more strained, until the antlered man appears in Lecter's place followed by one stag's step too far then copious blood spray. (It's like each crew member was holding a bucket full of blood behind the tree and someone shouted, "Okay, when you hear 'ACTION', everyone throw your bucket in an opposite direction!") But back to Will, he’s doing this in his sleep, people.

Being lucky is not the same as making a mistake.

If you listen wicked closely to the dialogue, Hannibal’s narrative exists by all of the tenses of time simultaneously informing the here and now. The show is constantly telling us what has happened is what will happen because it’s happening right now. From what I can tell this is thanks to the theory and practice of psychic driving. And Will is psychically driving Hannibal as much as the reverse is true. Oh sure, on the surface Will clarifies for Hannibal that he wasn’t lucky that Hannibal stopped him from shooting the social worker in the stable. No. Will made a mistake by not carrying through with it. But the big picture context for this conversation? Well, this whole dance with luck and slipping up is as precarious as anything gets in this universe. Will knows that Hannibal is going to be caught when he makes a wrong move. When there’s no one there to obscure him and his crimes any longer. Dr. Bedelia knew this, too. She warned Hannibal that if the authorities looked into him, his propensity for violent patients would come to the surface. And in fact that would be but one link in the long arduous chain of cause and effect that is Dr. Lecter’s body of work.

You can train a bear to be a wolf or a wolf to be a bear. Train them long enough and they will hunt together—feed together.

But because the writing is so strong, the tension the series originally introduced remains ever-present, except now we’ve exchanged “how will Hannibal get caught?” for “is Will over his head?” This grabs and pulls us through every scene with Hannibal and Will where all we are left to do is brood over whether Will has already crossed some point of no return in his mystified effort to put down the single greatest menace to the Washington Metropolitan area. Killing Randall Tier is at the very least extremely dicey for our empath. To say nothing of his presentation of Mr. Tier on Hannibal’s gorgeous dining room table after the fact. And if we are to believe that the line between animal and human is very thin, as Hannibal tells Jack, then where does predatory instinct lie on that line? Clearly we all have it. Speaking of lines, I think we’re coming up to the one where psychopathy and empathy merge into symbiosis, which can only mean what’s planned for us in the denouement of the season is something distressing in ways heretofore unknown.

If we learn our limitations too soon, we never learn our power.

What’s so incredible about Hannibal’s therapy sessions (which by the way are increasing exponentially) is that we’re ushered in, to sit in the front row of his deeply disturbed mind. But my favorite part of what comes from that is a wild paradox. Much of what he says is utterly mundane in its universality, it’s logical, practical, even spiritually sound, so that we, who bear witness, must reconcile how close we always are to the razor’s edge. On one side: adapting, evolving and becoming and on the other? Misalignment, brutality and madness. What’s amazing about Hannibal guiding people to understand who they truly are is that in every way this is the very best we could ever hope for from any kind of interpersonal connection. That those around us see our potential and offer the safety and nurturing to supplement our yearning to know ourselves inside and out. And everyone’s doing that all over the damn place in “Shiizakana’ to sometimes charming results (the scene with Peter and Will slayed my soul) but mostly disastrous ones because this show.

How many have there been? Like Randall Tier? Like me?

Margot and Will meet for the first time. Even though I’m sure Hannibal is behind it somehow, they read as really very interesting allies. The two share whiskey in Will’s house and talk with pure frankness about just how helpful their respective psychiatric treatment has been at the hands of Dr. Lecter. So between Margot sharing Hannibal’s advice to her that she should positively kill her brother, Mason, and le Randall Tier transformation, Will gets an opportunity to put some distance between Hannibal and what’s being done to him by Hannibal. I mean it’s just not as personal anymore, right? Whatever angst now knowing this causes him, Will’s (strategic?) reaction is to pull apart Hannibal by bringing up Dr. Bedelia in their session. And it totally works. Hannibal is visibly affected by the very mention of her name. This is the same session, the one that proceeds Hannibal standing next to a fully decked-out Randall Tier at the snowy-covered tree line of Will’s house, coaxing him to embrace this fusion of his outer self with the being he’s always wanted to be inside. Hannibal drives Randall to attack armed with his fullest potential. But in the moment when Will is standing totally still in the dark and Randall crashes through the window, I was totally screaming with such a strange mix of joy, fear and awe. Hannibal, in his own totally f’ed up insane way, gave Will a gift for his own becoming.

Odds and Ends

*The gas station in the teaser is called 'Scales'.

*I guess Hannibal is over his tiff that caused him to stop working for the FBI, you know the one that was causing him to be around death too much.

*And to think, last season I was somewhat fuzzy on the whole “what exactly is psychic driving” thing since IT’S LITERALLY THE SOURCE, CAUSE AND ORIGIN OF SEASON 2.

*Will running through the snow in the fourth act was some seriously stressful shit. In fact, every scene played for horror was stunningly well-done. So glad (?) that the scenes with Randall were executed under the cover of darkness. And the editing was perfection.

*Speaking of that, and this needs a separate note because it was just… I don’t even know if I have the capacity to describe the feeling I got during… the scene with the couple by the bonfire, when the girl who’s running away goes down and the scene cuts to black then comes back a moment later, oh my god, that is one of my favorite directing techniques EVER in the horror genre.

*At one of Randall's crime scenes, when Will re-enacts the scene, he sees Randall's 'animal' as his own stag then as himself. It's quite an image.

*Michael Rymer's direction was BANANAS this episode. So many close-ups and opposite profiles during Hannibal and Will's scenes together. It was intimate and disturbing.

*Even Steven does not mean game over, debt paid. It means "we're on the same level." Aw, shite.


Will: “I promised you a reckoning. Here it is.”

Hannibal: “Memory gives moments of immortality. But forgetfulness promotes a healthy mind. It’s good to forget.”

Jack: “Let’s hope your therapy works.”

Will: “Do you have any regrets?”
Hannibal: “With every choice lies the possibility of regret. However if I choose not to do something, it’s usually for a good reason.”
(DYING to know what that looks like.)

Margot (to Will): “I tend to walk out of this building in a very similar state. You must be a patient of Dr. Lecter’s.”

Will: “He is a student of predators.”

Brian (on what could be capable of the level of damage seen with the victims): “Pull-ratchets and pneumatics, maybe.” (How does someone even know that??)

Will: “What do you think about when you think about killing?”
Hannibal: “I think about God.”
Will: “Good and evil?”
Hannibal: “Good and evil has nothing to do with God. I collect church collapses. Did you see the recent one in Sicily? The fa├žade fell on 65 grandmothers during a special mass. Was that evil? Was that God? If he’s up there, he just loves it. Typhoid and swans. It all comes from the same place.”

Will: “I’d say this makes us even. I sent someone to kill you. You sent someone to kill me. Even steven.”


  1. Great review, Heather!

    I felt really bad for the little dog in the snow. That was so much snow, and so little dog.

    More importantly, though, I'm a bit confused about Will. As you ask: is he in over his head? Is he being driven willingly or unwillingly? Does he know what he's doing completely? I can't tell if my confusion is appropriate--I'm supposed to wonder--or if I'm just overthinking it.

    1. Josie,
      I absolutely share your confusion and I think we're exactly where Bryan Fuller wants us. I keep circling back to the opening scene of this episode and the last one where Will's POV is clear as a bell. The placement of both scenes was very deliberate!
      And perhaps solely out of my love for the character of Will Graham, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

  2. I think Will's more in control than we're being led to believe. I feel like he's walking the razor's edge, but knows this is pretty much the only way to catch Hannibal. After all, he's setting himself up as the bait. I could be wrong though.

    Will standing in the dark during the face-off with Randall was an amazing shot. I felt like he was doing his reading thing to tell the exact optimal spot Randall would attack from. Hooray for him saving that adorable chubby dog. I really thought it was gonna be a goner.

  3. Freeman:
    I agree about Will as I mentioned upthread. The payoff of all this crazy tension would not be to have Hannibal win and Will lose himself completely, imo.
    That scene in the dark right before Randall attacked was just so wow. On a message board I read, someone wondered something similar to what you suggested... if Will may have been channeling all the killers he's previously channeled to gear up for what he knew he had to do.
    Btw, I'm sorry to everyone that I didn't mention Buster the cutest and roundest of Will's brood! I guess I just had to block it out as soon as it happened. I know you understand.


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