Lions Gate via Everett Collection
When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
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"You cannot host a feast; a feast must present itself."
Just as there are two sides to every story, there is often more than one side to every person. And in the case of both, you have to wait for those hidden sides to present themselves of their own violition. And in this side of the story, we see the opposite side of Dr. Hannibal Lecter: the mental methods to his madness. Which, naturally, leads to a nice mental palate cleanser for all of the death, destruction, and cold-blooded murder of weeks passed.
Which is why this week's episode of Hannibal was called "Sorbet" — the portion of the meal dedicated to wiping your tastebuds clean of its last encounter. And after the high-stake antics of last week's "Entreé" course, it's nice to see a different side to the who/what/where/when and why of Dr. Lecter. Which is why, naturally, our attention has turned to Lecter's mental state following the realization that he is, in fact, the Chesapeake Ripper. And, that maybe the Chesapeake Ripper fancies himself a bit of plagarizer in the name of saving face.
Will's on the case, of course. And the more we learn about Hannibal and his methods, the more we see just how crazy-good Will is at his job — even if he doesn't realize just how on the mark he is yet. He knows the subtleties of Hannibal's murders so well: how they are "consistently theatrical," that he calls them pigs ("Sounders," meaning a small group of pigs, is the word Will uses), and that the Ripper sees others not as people, but prey: pigs who don't deserve the vital organs bestowed upon them at birth. Hannibal, though, cannibalizes his victims as a reward for killing such undignified behavior: in turn elevating them to a life-sustaning resource while simultaneously disgracing and shaming them publicly with their own death. He takes their organs away because, in his mind, they don't deserve them. So, yeah, I guess we can call Hannibal a bit on the dramatic side.
Theatrics are the name of the game for Dr. Lecter, and really, a sorbet course is mostly about theatrics, too: it serves a function but is only something that happens during very fancy affairs. So, naturally, we first saw Hannibal at the "Concert for Hunger Relief" (which, haaaaaaaa! Good one, Bryan Fuller.), taking a deep dive into the theatrics of operatic vocal achievement. And is there anything fancier than opera?
But it seems that there may be more than one psychopath at the opera: Franklin, Dr. Lecter's first client from the pilot has arrived, and he is freakishly obsessed with becoming friends with Hannibal. They both like cheese! They listen to opera! These two are naturally destined to be gullies for life, right? Not if Hannibal has anything to do with it, I'm betting. Regardless, it's fun to see a foil for Hannibal and his obsession with certain cough cough people, even if that means he's probably going to die.
But the Ripper's tendencies are being co-opted by a similarly-fashioned fella: Devon Silvestri, an EMT and medical student who's killed a man in such a way that, obviously, the tormented Jack (whose nightmares about Miriam are ingratiating themselves into his daily life now) feels it to be a lead. Not too fun to be haunted by one's work, is it, Jack?
But still, work is work, and this latest victim had surgical aspects that were both performed and unperformed by the murderer — including the gnarly detail that his sutures were removed with bare hands. But even with creepy details like pieces of the body left like bread crumbs, Will knows that Hannibal's handiwork (oh sorry, the Ripper) is not here, despite the FBI autopsy crew's insistence that 22 signature components were present at the crime scene. But Hannibal's signature component is the act of mutilations are to hide what he's doing — a serial killer disguising his work as that of other killers. Because he's not just one person, in his mind: Devon's murder provided a cloak under which Hannibal could hide: a new suit to don, if you will.
But wearing the suit won't change one big difference between the two: Devon was trying to save lives by stealing the organs of others — something the Ripper certainly wouldn't do. Because, as Will puts it, the Ripper is "one of those pitiful things sometimes born in hospitals. They feed it, keep it warm... but they don't put it on the machines; they let it die. But he doesn't die, he looks normal. Nobody can tell what he is."
This murder is too transparent, meaning no theatrics, which also means no Ripper. The Ripper is poking at Jack with a literal arm; he's not being subtle in any other way, so why would he do so now? He wouldn't, but Jack can't see that yet, and Will's not figured out why that fact makes sense in relation to the Ripper (because doing that would be unlocking a big piece to the Ripper/Hannibal puzzle). Gosh, Jack, stop trying to make the Ripper happen — that's so not fetch.
But what is totally fetch? Gillian Anderson as Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier, Hannibal's psychiatrist! Welcome back to television, Scully. Hannibal is her patient, and she's not f**king around: she knows he's not really honest, and that she only talks to a "version" of him. But still, Du Maurier clearly doesn't know him well enough because she "respects [the] meticulous construction" of his personsuit (aka the very intricate set of lies Hannibal tries to pass off as his true self — the "human veil" Du Maurier calls it). It's so well-tailored, after all! And who doesn't love a well-tailored get-up, eh? Nothing is more flattering than something tailored well. Hannibal seems to think the two are friends, but she is clear to draw the line: "You are my patient and my colleague, but we're not friends."
So, Hannibal is off looking for friends! Or in the very least, companionship or a sense of shared sameness. He tried it out with Alana — who seemed friendly enough with Hannibal, but he's still unsatisfied. Probably because what he really wants is Will, a.k.a. the one that stood him up. Will is not so quick to come over to Hannibal's house and play make believe, so Hannibal tries to make his bromanctical intentions known with a stopover at Will's classroom. The two end up being called in by Jack and Beverly and aid in discovering Silvestri — in turn proving Will's theory that even though they were cut from the same cloth, the Ripper and Silvestri are not one. Sort of like the mirroring of Will and Hannibal, in a way.
Because in the end, a well-tailored suit can't take the place of an actual person.
Some Other Things of Note: - "We're either looking for someone with short bowels or the Ripper is making sausage." Oh, Brian Zeller, if you only knew. If you only knew.- We saw a brief interaction between Will and Abigail in that dream-like state. He calls her dad. "Dad, there's someone else here." I wonder what it meant.- Hannibal had no reason to humiliate Miriam Lass — he was, as we saw, humiliating Jack. And did it work? "I'd say it worked really well."- Who is Tobias and why does he try to kill Hannibal next week?- And on another note: why is Tobias friends with that worm of a man, Franklin? - Do we think Tobias and Franklin have a fun serial killer club we don't know about yet?- Alana and Will vs. Alana and Hannibal: What's the deal? I'm dying to know her perspective on these two men. When Hannibal asks her "Why didn't we [have an affair]?"- Hannibal "sincerely" hopes that Will is the one to catch the Ripper. Oh I bet! While Jack is grooming Will to catch him, so is Hannibal. - Anybody else impressed by Mads Mikkelsen's knife skills? I say this pretending that he doesn't fake-eat people on TV, but: homebody can cook, yo.
Next week? Two killers collide! Will makes out with Alana! Oh MAN so much stuff coming up. To steal a phrase from Saved By The Bell: I'm so excited, I'm so scared!
What did you think of the new episode of Hannibal? Sound off in the comments!
Follow Alicia on Twitter @AliciaLutes
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