What happens when you're a hyper-intelligent murderperson looking for an easily malleable friend/potential fellow murderperson and he just so happens to be under the thumb of someone else? Break them up, of course! And it seems like that's exactly what Dr. Hannibal Lecter is trying to do with our dear Will Graham, being pushed and pulled dangerously close to the edge by Agent Jack Crawford. On Thursday night's episode of Hannibal, attempting to awaken the beast within, Hannibal tried to become the cancer that eats away at Will's control.
Cancer and its machinations played heavily into the stories of all our characters tonight. Diagnosis sends them all into tailspins: Is it a dream? Can it be cured? And if we pretend it doesn't exist, will it just go away? Or is cancer (metaphorical or otherwise) just the ultimate end to us all, and we just simply choose when to accept it?
The episode that was originally intended to air today was pulled due to its content, but you can find anything pertinent you need to know about it here — and its character development between Abigail, Will, and Hannibal are to prove vital to the series later on. But for now, we have "Coquilles": another word with French origins (meaning "shell") that is also a dish typically made with scallops, served in its shell. And shells, as we all know, protect the scallop within (the meat of the animal). Will has a shell around him and Hannibal is hell-bent on cracking it open and ripping it off. In time.
Following the events of "Ceuf" (which... I think they meant oeuf; French for "egg") Will begins sleepwalking. Hannibal believes this is a sign of PTSD wielded by the relentless iron first of Jack Crawford. Throughout Hannibal and Will's interactions, Jack is constantly positioned as the aggressor and impetus for Will's own mental unraveling. But while Will clearly knows all this murder business is no good for him, he's also not an idiot and recognizes that Hannibal is trying to alienate him from Jack.
Jack, meanwhile, has a mess of things going on in his life: there's a new killer on the loose (we'll get to him later), he's aware of Will's apprehension about continuing this line of work, and his wife Phyllis (whom he calls Bella) is acting strange. But Jack's story almost builds him up to be the hero starring in a Greek tragedy — his fatal flaw (cue Tina Fey in Mean Girls: "I'm a pusher, Cady. I push people!") is what is causing all the stress in his life. Pressure to keep solving all these crimes weighs largely on him (even though we don't see it on screen) and Will is the key to his success, delicate mental state de damned! It's what has gotten him this far in his career, but also what pushes people away.
Bella has cancer. And she's known for twelve weeks. But she won't tell Jack as she is currently in the resentment stage of their relationship. Because Jack has too much to worry about to worry about her. Or so she tells Hannibal. After one of the creepier dinner scenes on the show wherein Dr. Lecter actually SMELLS HER CANCER ON HER, Bella becomes a patient of his in order to work through her own feelings about having stage four lung cancer. Which seem to be pretty morbid, but dance so well against Hannibal's own thoughts about human life.
"I have indignity to look forward to, don’t I?" Bella asks Hannibal, which, ha, right? Something tells me that if Bella didn't have cancer, she would've ended up on Hannibal's table in his next iteration of the "foie gras" dish he served the Crawfords at dinner that she wouldn't eat. Too cruel a meal, she says (oh and if she only KNEW), even with the "ethical butcher" Hannibal employs. He doesn't believe in animal cruelty, but no one said anything about cruelty towards humanity, right?
The word "cruel" is brought up again in Bella and Hannibal's therapy session, where Hannibal notes her anger towards her husband. "You seem more betrayed by Jack than your own body," he states. That's because humans have the capacity for cruelty, whereas "cancer isn’t cruel." No, cancer is just "a tiny cell wanders off … it's just trying to do its job," but that job only makes things worse. In a lot of ways, this is exactly what Jack is doing — a liver cell (interesting that it's a liver cell, eh?!), just trying to do his job without realizing he's slowly killing other people in the process.
Cancer continues its thread through the episode in the madness of this week's serial killer, Elliot. Poor Elliot. I mean, sure, he's a total murderperson, but he also has a brain tumor, which is both slowly killing him and also driving him insane. In a move pulled straight out of Dexter, though, he murders only those that he sees are bad — a serial rapist here, a criminal security guard there — through his firehead visions. He sees their madness, and in his madness we see Will. Oh empathy, you really are a form of madness, aren't you?
Seriously, though. Throughout the episode Will's mental stability is called into question. Hannibal wonders if Will's sleepwalking means he's lost control. He wonders aloud if Will is having a hard time dealing with aggressive feelings. Will wonders if he's even awake, if his brain is a trustworthy companion. I wager that Will is starting to have some weird feelings about who Hannibal really is (why else would he be so bold and turn Hannibal's question around on him to ask about his own mother in "Ceuf"?), but he can't tell if the madness is within him or all around him. Probably because Dr. Lecter's personality seems wildly duplicitous — I mean he really does have two sides to him. Madness shared by two! It all comes together, folks.
But madness has many forms, and according to the FBI on the scene, "madness slept here last night." The continued parallels between Will and the killers he captures is a fascinating one. It would be easy to grow tired of it, but so far, showrunner Bryan Fuller has towed the line well. And in Elliot, we see more of Will than ever before: he has a serious case of the flop sweats, indigestion (of the righteous variety, natch), can't sleep. Which is why he makes these bad people into angels! To watch over him while he sleeps: they're his guardians. They pray over him when he sleeps, but his actions also prey on him while he sleeps — yet another parallel to Will and how his own thoughts and feelings about those thoughts prey on his mind when he sleeps. Fuller wants to you see ALL of the parallels guys — are you gettin' 'em?
But Elliot's madness seems to be a byproduct of the brain tumor that's killing him. It's an anomaly in his head, changing the way he thinks (gee golly gosh could that apply to a few people here on this show?). The rest of the FBI crew think Elliot is playing God, but Will knows that's not the case. "This is not who you are," Will states during his empathetic trip into Elliot's mind at the scene of the crime. "This is my gift to you. I allow you to become angels. And now, I lay me down to sleep." He's turning these bad people into something "good," angels, and in turn absolving them of their own madness in order to help the madness of others.
Elliot's ex-wife comes in for questioning and reveals that our troubled murderperson had a near-death experience as a child that he, by all accounts, shouldn't have survived. A fireman on the scene said he must've had a guardian angel on his side. But now, near death, Elliot is frantically searching for his guardian angel to save him from his own brain. He needs an angel to pray for him because he’s afraid of what he sees.
So it seems like maybe there is a God Complex at play here, eh? Despite Elliot's wife's assertions that he wasn't religious (and really, do you have to be to think you're God?). But in her words, two things are realized: 1.) The farm where Elliot grew up is where they will find him strung up like an angel himself, and 2.) Jack realizes his wife has cancer. Either way — rough stuff all around.
Will and Jack head up to the farm and see Elliot's final act: to become an angel himself and have control over his own death rather than a tiny anomaly in his brain controlling him. And it is interesting that at this moment Will finally attempts to assert control over his own life, as well.
"It’s getting harder and harder to look … and you know what looking at this does," Will nervously asserts. But Jack keeps pushing him (he really is a pusher, that one), and not even flat-out declaring "this is bad for me" seems to change Jack's mind. He leaves Will alone in the crime scene.
Which, of course, immediately leads to Will's overactive imagination to go into overdrive. The Angelized Elliot appears by Will's side and says, "I see what you are … inside. I can bring it out of you ... I can give you the majesty of your becoming." "Not all the way out," Will says. It might be there, brewing just below the surface, but that doesn't mean Will is ready to act on it. It's hard enough for will to be strong now, I can only imagine how much more these feelings will bubble, bubble, toil and trouble away while we watch our poor hero struggle through the season. It's a potent potion he's got on the stove there, eh?
Hannibal can tell something is brewing within Will, too — only this creepy motherf**ker can smell it on him. (Seriously, Mads, you're killing me with creepy on this show. I hate slash love it.) But that quick whiff sets off alarm bells for Will once he realizes its happening. He calls him out, but Hannibal asks about headaches, and insinuates they might have a simple remedy: "change the aftershave," Hannibal suggests. His musk...his mask...his own SHELL, perhaps? And it all comes full circle.
OK, I think we're sufficiently awake now. You?
Other Things to Note... - That moment when Will touches the stag statue in Hannibal's office was a wonderful way to show how Will's sleeping mind is actually trying to talk to him about what he sees when he's awake: "my brain is playing tricks on me." So awesome. He's slowly starting to wake up from the trance that Hannibal seems to have him under, though I think we still have a bit of time before that big unveiling.- Anyone else wonder about what's going on in Will's brain after Hannibal used his creepily accurate sense of smell on Will and asking if his headaches have gotten worse? - Beverly quotes The Doors' Jim Morrison and tries to relate him to Elliot by saying "even a drunk with a flare for the dramatic can believe himself to be God." Which: red wine + God complex + (Human) = Hannibal.- Also speaking of Beverly, homegirl either has a crush or is worried for Will. She recognizes he's "a little different" and that "it's a good strategy," but it doesn't work on her. Do we think he'll actually ever open up to her?- Sleeping in a sleeping back to stop sleepwalking is a real thing! Just ask Mike Birbiglia; he's made a career off the fact that he has to do just that because of his severe sleepwalking disorder.- We got a mention of next week's killer, The Chesapeake Ripper. I, for one am SO amped for Eddie Izzard to be on this show. And let me tell you: Fuller and Izzard need to work together way more often.
What did you think of this week's episode of Hannibal? take a stab at it in the comments.
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It was the trickle of pee heard around the world. Cannes attendees were aghast and/or amused an infamous scene from The Paperboy that shows Nicole Kidman urinating on Zac Efron; this is apparently a great salve for jellyfish burns which were covering our Ken Doll-like protagonist. (In fact the term protagonist should be used very loosely for Efron's character Jack who is mostly acted upon than active throughout.)
Lurid! Sexy! Perverse! Trashy! Whether or not it's actually effective is overshadowed by all the hubbub that's attached itself to the movie for better or worse. In fact the movie is all of these things — but that's actually not a compliment. What could have become somethingmemorable is jaw-droppingly bad (when it's not hilarious). Director Lee Daniels uses a few different visual styles throughout from a stark black and white palette for a crime scene recreation at the beginning to a '70s porno aesthetic that oscillates between psychedelic and straight-up sweaty with an emphasis on Efron's tighty-whiteys. This only enhances the sloppiness of the script which uses lines like narrator/housekeeper/nanny Anita's (Macy Gray) "You ain't tired enough to be retired " to conjure up the down-home wisdom of the South. Despite Gray's musical talents she is not a good choice for a narrator or an actor for that matter. In a way — insofar as they're perhaps the only female characters given a chunk of screen time — her foil is Charlotte Bless Nicole Kidman's character. Anita is the mother figure who wears as we see in an early scene control-top pantyhose whereas Charlotte is all clam diggers and Barbie doll make-up. Or as Anita puts it "an oversexed Barbie doll."
The slapdash plot is that Jack's older brother Ward (Matthew McConaughey) comes back to town with his colleague Yardley (David Oyelowo) to investigate the case of a death row criminal named Hillary Van Wetter. Yardley is black and British which seems to confuse many of the people he meets in this backwoods town. Hillary (John Cusack) hidden under a mop of greasy black hair) is a slack-jawed yokel who could care less if he's going to be killed for a crime he might or might not have committed. He is way more interested in his bride-to-be Charlotte who has fallen in love with him through letters — this is her thing apparently writing letters and falling in love with inmates — and has rushed to help Ward and Yardley free her man. In the meantime we're subjected to at least one simulated sex scene that will haunt your dreams forever. Besides Hillary's shortcomings as a character that could rustle up any sort of empathy the case itself is so boring it begs the question why a respected journalist would be interested enough to pursue it.
The rest of the movie is filled with longing an attempt to place any the story in some sort of social context via class and race even more Zac Efron's underwear sexual violence alligator innards swamp people in comically ramshackle homes and a glimpse of one glistening McConaughey 'tock. Harmony Korine called and he wants his Gummo back.
It's probably tantalizing for this cast to take on "serious" "edgy" work by an Oscar-nominated director. Cusack ditched his boombox blasting "In Your Eyes" long ago and Efron's been trying to shed his squeaky clean image for so long that he finally dropped a condom on the red carpet for The Lorax so we'd know he's not smooth like a Ken doll despite how he was filmed by Daniels. On the other hand Nicole Kidman has been making interesting and varied career choices for years so it's confounding why she'd be interested in a one-dimensional character like Charlotte. McConaughey's on a roll and like the rest of the cast he's got plenty of interesting projects worth watching so this probably won't slow him down. Even Daniels is already shooting a new film The Butler as we can see from Oprah's dazzling Instagram feed. It's as if they all want to put The Paperboy behind them as soon as possible. It's hard to blame them.
Spanning from WWI to the 21st century Eric Roth’s screenplay (based loosely on a 1922 short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald) tells the unique story of a man named Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt). He is born in New Orleans as a very old baby the equivalent of a man in his 80s who then ages backward into youth over the better part of a century. The film is told in flashback by a very old dying woman Daisy (Cate Blanchett) who recounts her tale to her daughter (Julia Ormond) from a hospital bed during Hurricane Katrina. Left on the doorstep of a retirement home one night by his father (Jason Flemyng) Benjamin is brought up by Queenie (Taraji P. Henson) who runs the place. While there he meets a young girl Daisy who will become a key figure -- romantically and otherwise -- in his life. Ben does have some grand adventures: He goes to work on a boat sees sea battles during WWII finds love with an older married woman (Tilda Swinton) -- and gets progressively younger as the decades fly by. It all manages to be alternately haunting romantic funny epic emotional and incredibly moving and will likely to stay with you a lifetime. Brad Pitt manages to deliver a thoughtful and subtle performance through all the special effects makeup and CGI. He does so much just by using his eyes. Cate Blanchett is equally fine as she plays Daisy from a teenager to an old woman and matches Pitt in bringing an entire lifetime skillfully to light. Her aging makeup is completely natural and she’s very moving in the hospital scenes opposite Ormond. Henson is just marvelous as Queenie a warm and understanding soul. Swinton is elegant and memorable in her few crucial encounters with Ben and plays beautifully off Pitt. Jared Harris (TV’s The Riches) as the colorful Captain Mike who hires Ben on his tug boat and Flemyng (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) as Ben’s father are also effective in their brief screen time. Interestingly Benjamin Button has been gestating for decades in the Hollywood firmament but needed time for the proper technology to catch up to it. Director David Fincher (Zodiac Fight Club) with his early background at George Lucas’ ILM proves to be the perfect choice to marry a compelling story with spectacular visual effects achievement. He did not want to do the film unless the technology allowed one actor to play the role throughout the course of the film. Remarkably they were able to achieve this superimposing Brad Pitt’s face and eyes into all the incarnations of Ben Button. In one sequence Pitt looks just like he did in Thelma and Louise. It’s an amazing feat. He has seamlessly created a unique universe without ever bringing attention to it advancing the art of screen storytelling leaps and bounds ahead of everything else that has come before. Benjamin Button is a plaintive and provocative meditation of life death and what we do while we are here. It’s the stuff of dreams.
Attempting to delve into one of Tinseltown’s most curious scandals--the mysterious suicide (or was it?) of the original TV Superman actor George Reeves--the story begins after Reeves (Ben Affleck) is found dead of a seemingly self-inflicted gunshot wound during a late night party in his Benedict Canyon home. The case then unfolds through the eyes of Louis Simo (Adrien Brody) a street-smart publicity hungry private dick hired by Reeves’ grieving mother. As Simo slowly peels back the layers of Reeves’ seemingly glamorous life he discovers an actor of charm talent and sophistication whose every opportunity for a big break fizzled forcing him to lead a frustrated existence slumming in the superhero show he deemed beneath him. Gradually identifying with Reeves’ failed expectations for himself Simo discovers a host of candidates who may have actually pulled the trigger on the actor including his young party girl paramour (Robin Tunney) his longtime lover and patron (Diane Lane) and his lover’s husband a powerfully connected studio “fixer” (Bob Hoskins). It is Brody not Affleck who carries the bulk of the film on his shoulders and the Oscar winner delivers a finely etched turn as Simo who’s fractured potential mirrors Reeves’ but quite simply Simo’s story isn’t nearly as dark or engaging as Reeves’ life or the mystery surrounding his death. Affleck an actor who has had his share of ups downs duds and disappointments in Hollywood delivers one of his most charming and fully realized performances to date even if his spot-on recreation of Reeves’ speech pattern is a bit distracting. The luminous Lane’s acting talents remain in full blossom in a character she’s well-suited to play—the aging beauty fearing the road ahead—and she commands every scene she’s in. Unfortunately there should have been many many more of them. She’s almost criminally underused. Hoskins more menacing then ever and the reliable stable of supporting players like Joe Spano are all top-notch as well; only Tunney apparently trying to channel both Betty Boop and Bette Davis simultaneously seems a bit off her game as the wannabe femme fatale. Best known for his strong turns helming many of the best episodes of television series such as The Sopranos Sex and the City and Six Feet Under first time feature director Allen Coulter’s cool assured hand and meticulous recreation of Cold War Los Angeles are major bonuses here. Even when Simo’s story sags in comparison to Reeves’ Coulter keeps us interested particularly when staging the Rashomon-like sequences depicting the various theories behind Reeves’ demise. But by skimping on Reeves’ story in favor of a less compelling fictional framework built around a private detective investigating the case we never see one key suspect’s possible murder scenario enacted visually and it comes off as a glaring omission.
When ordered to fire a long-time janitor named Stavi (Luis Avalos) Steve Barker (Johnny Knoxville) softens the blow by hiring him to mow the lawn at his apartment complex. Steve didn't provide him with health insurance so Stavi naturally loses a few fingers in a mowing accident and now it'll cost thousands to save the digits. What's a guy to do? Why of course fix the Special Olympics—a suggestion of Steve's degenerate uncle Gary (Brian Cox) who's also in the financial dumps. Former track star Steve reluctantly goes along with the scam and competes in the Special Olympics. His competitors are quick to pick up on his ruse but they decide to help him after Steve explains his motive. He must also try not to disappoint Lynn (Katherine Heigl) the beautiful volunteer who doesn't know of his real identity. What's a guy to do? Take the high road of course. Certainly Knoxville—of Jackass infamy and debauchery—would have no moral trepidation about headlining offensive exploitative crap like The Ringer but stardom beckons him if he only he stops aiming so damn low! His performance here was probably not as easy as it'd seem but it's reasonable to think that Jackass stunts involving a bottle of absinthe and some paper cuts to the cornea quickly eliminated any butterflies. What Knoxville has in spades is that rare charisma to prevent him from ever looking uncool. Then there's Cox the latest revered journeyman to sell his soul on the cheap for a role completely beneath him. Mostly disabled actors round out the cast uttering any and all funny lines but there's something fundamentally wrong when the audience erupts in laughter before the lines are even delivered. Though the Farrelly brothers—directors of There's Something About Mary and Dumb & Dumber--only acted as executive producers of The Ringer their lowbrow stamp is smeared all over. Directing chores were handed over to Barry Blaustein prolific writer of comedies like Coming to America making his feature directorial debut. The Ringer delivers on its promise of frat-dude humor and Blaustein certainly knows how to make his leading man shine—but it does so in cheap sophomoric ways.