"Here we are, a bunch of psychopaths helping each other out."
The psychopaths are out tonight — and they're hungry for their just desserts. But just like at a fancy dinner — it's easy to fill up on all the early courses. There's just so much to ingest, digest, and enjoy. But Thursday night's all-new episode of Hannibal reminded us what the point of such a decadent display is all about: to complement the main course. And with "Entreé," Bryan Fuller reminded us, quite ominously, who the center of attention really is: that icky-tricky Dr. Lecter.
It's easy to forget this isn't a show called Will, since so much of our attention is paid to the fragile-but-brilliant profiler. But it's because in so many ways, Will and Hannibal are inextricably linked — and this is but the origins of that link, not the main event. But just as our dear Hannibal Lecter has so often done in the past: we need a negative to see the positive. Enter: Dr. Abel Gideon, aka the Chesapeake Ripper (or is he?), aka Eddie Izzard.
Izzard's Dr. Gideon has landed himself in a local hopsital for the criminally insane after killing his family in style that in no way mirrored the Ripper's past crimes (especially the taking medical trophies). The reason, he explains, is that it was a "crime of passion." I mean, we all know how tough family can be around the holidays — now imagine being around your family when you're a stressed out serial killer.
Still, Jack is not convinced Izzard is their guy — despite his expertly executed, ritualistic return-to-form. Because he has hope, you see — hope that the Ripper's last known victim is still out there, waiting to be saved. Because if not, that victim's blood is on Jack's hand. Or it's just because Hannibal Lecter is actually the Ripper they were looking for and has done what he always does quite well: evade.
That victim is Miriam Lass (played by Veep's Anna Chlumsky), the Clarice Stirling-esque protégé of Jack who (just like Will) he pushed hard to figure out the mystery of the Chesapeake Ripper. In Chlumsky we see a lot of the qualities Will possesses — as far as being a profiler goes — but in her we also find the roots to Hannibal and Jack's origin story. Because while trying to find out who the Ripper was, Miriam stumbled into Hannibal's office looking at another potential suspect, and ended up losing her life for it. And, since the show is about how past events (for those unaware, the show is set five years prior to the events of Red Dragon), it seems that Lass' involvement in Jack and Hannibal's life is what ties them together, as well.
Regardless, Dr. Gideon seems to be our man as far as Dr. Frederick Chilton is concerned — unequivicably so. The markers are all there: timing, the surgical precision, the instrumentation. But why now? And why is Jack so unconvinced? Because the real Ripper knows there's someone out there plagarizing his work. And Izzard's murdering of the nurse was proof to Jack that there's someone else out there. (Negatives and positives abound!) Regardless of how egomaniacal his intentions may be, it's a helping hand to Jack that he just can't seem to take. Because accepting it will mean that Miriam was (and still is) very much dead this whole time.
Hannibal's displaying of Miriam's kill acts as a warning to others that there's another serial killer in their midst, taking credit for work that was not of his design. (Gee... wonder who that could be, eh?) But ultimately, Jack was right: the Ripper was letting somebody know he was being plagarized. The plagary being the nurse's death, which Dr. Chilton was so desperate to believe was the Ripper. The only problem is that Chilton is wrong: Gideon isn't the plagarized, he's the plagarizer.
Of course Will is brought in on the case: despite his continued, persistant worry about doing so — and Jack bringing him to a mental hospital surely isn't helping matters. "Don't worry, I won't leave you here," Jack assures him. "Not today." But here, again, we see why: Will enters the mind of Dr. Gideon so fluidly, understanding every movement and process so intimately. No wonder it's getting harder for him to look. The eye-gouging moment and subsequent bloodied, blind crawl were particularly gruesome. They sent a literal chill down my spine. As a viewer, the intensity was so viseral I nearly felt the surgical instrument get rammed into the back of the nurse as if it were my own.
We also had the lucky fortune of meeting Raúl Esparza's mesmerizingly ambitious Dr. Frederick Chilton. In the game of chess that is Thomas Harris' series of novels, the pieces are slowly being placed on the table, unknowingly prepping for future play. It's their entrance into the main meal we all know is well off in the future.
But let's get back to Chilton. Esparza plays him as calculating, ambitious, and slightly pompous — no doubt irritating Hannibal's very last nerve as Jack, Alana, Chilton and Dr. Lecter sit down for a dinner between (and of?) friends. Also because his own ambition and desire for credibility in the industry has led him to believe that which isn't: the true identity of the Ripper. Chilton is always looking out for his next potential claim to fame and esteem — so naturally he had an aggressive interest in the mind of Will Graham and wants to study his brain.
The real brains behind the episode, though, are Hannibal. While Gideon is trying to get the attention of the FBI to prove that he is the Chesapeake Ripper, Hannibal is working on his breadcrumb trail of murders to attract the attention of Will and Jack, while simultaneously proving how superior he is. And Jack is trying to get the attention of Hannibal because he needs someone to talk with about his troubles. He certainly has a lot on his mind between work and Bella's terminal lung cancer. Using the guise of information gleaning to bring it all up, Jack doesn't realize (obviously) how these meetings with Hannibal will shape their future relationship and interactions. But his guilt about Miriam is at the forefront — does he feel regret? Guilt for pushing her too far? For essentially trying to use her to figure out the case? "You'll probably spot him before anyone else," Miriam says at one point "...Or you will," Jack shoots back.
But Jack's been getting calls from Miriam in the middle of the night. A recording of her voice, coming from within the house — complete with planted evidence of her being there (a hair on a pillow, fingerprints clear as day) "I was so wrong, I was so wrong." Was it a dream? Was it real? No one believes him, but he's adamant. So he asks Freddie Lounds to confirm Gideon's guilt to stir up some trouble with whomever is the real Ripper. Naturally, the calls and exhibitions of Miriam's death escalate in tandem. Cue the image of Hannibal reading Freddie's website, should you have any doubts here.
In the end, what Hannibal was doing as the Ripper versus what Gideon was doing as the copycat Ripper was this: Hannibal wanted to cloud Jack's vision with hope (the false kind), whereas Gideon was actually showing him the truth, as much as Jack refuses to see it. But as we know, Jack likes to pick the opinion that best serves his own agenda. And right now, that agenda is hope, no matter how illogical or improbable.
This episode felt different than the others in a lot of ways. There was a lot more development of the relationship between Jack and Hannibal, rather than just Will. It's easy to forget that, even though the show's called Hannibal, that it isn't about Will Graham, it's about Mr. Lecter. This episode almost felt like the perfect jolt-reminder of who's really at the heart of this, lurking just below the surface — the answer staring right at you without you even realizing it — just like each of his crimes. The devil is dancing tonight.
So here they are, a bunch of psychopaths helping each other out. What could possibly go wrong?
Some Other Things to Note:- Jack's line: "I know when I'm awake" was a wonderful juxtaposition to Will's not knowing when he's asleep.- The specter is back, and he's invading Will's classroom. Walking towards him and oh look, Alana and Jack are there.- LOVED Izzard during this moment: "Why didn't you put her on display?" "What makes you think I didn't?" Immediately preceeding the Miriam call from "Home." It's hard not to want Izzard to be the Ripper if for nothing more than more Izzard moments.
What did you think of the new episode of Hannibal? Sound off in the comments!
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Nobody tells a story like Vince Gilligan and his team. This week’s Breaking Bad, titled “Hazard Pay” for reasons obvious to anyone who holds attention past the first scene, is an especially proficient example of the show’s consistent triumph in furthering plot, building character, and establishing reality — something you won’t find to this same degree on any other program on television.
“Hazard Pay” offers progress to a few different plot structures. On the forefront — Walt, Jesse, and Mike in their new operation: the post-Gus crystal meth creation/distribution business. Via Saul, the team goes on a house-hunting expedition for the perfect venue for their illegal entrepreneurship. Fully armed with excuses on behalf of each, Saul takes his clients through factories and warehouses, even a laser tag emporium (director Andrew Bernstein does not forego his comedy background in this episode), until Walt has the brilliant idea to cook in fumigated houses… working in line with the exterminating company, and getting in and out of the tented homes before the poison is pumped in. Inconvenient, but feasible, and their best option.
But nothing can be simple smooth sailing for this team. Another standing issue is the line of former Gus employees who Mike now has to make sure won’t spill the beans on the dead boss’ secret operation. To do this, he has to continue their “hazard pay” — the profits Gus supplied in return for silence. Walt is none too pleased with this, as some of the money comes out of his shares; more than this, he’s never thrilled with being shifted back in the line of authority. This jar to Walt’s pride even commands a lapse in strategic poise from the chess master: at the end of the episode, Walt, beady eyes and all, implies to Jesse that Mike needs to be killed. Whereas most of Walt’s words are very carefully crafted and placed, he seems to be forgetting just how much Jesse cares for and looks up to Mike, and just how recently he escaped Jesse’s wrath in regards to the near death of Brock. But Walt’s pride often makes him blind. It makes him blind to the sick horror on Skyler’s face whenever he walks in a room — let alone when he tells her he’s moving back in at the beginning of this episode.
We see Walt take a few new plunges, in fact, this week. We see Walt betray Skyler’s secret affair to Marie in an effort to keep his own secrets more firmly hid: Marie wonders why Skyler breaks down and throws a fit at work — Walt credits the episode to Ted Beneke’s hospitalization, revealing that Skyler had an affair with him a few seasons back (he obviously doesn’t say “a few seasons back,” although that’d be pretty funny if he did), and swearing Marie to secrecy. We see Walt in his first interaction with Brock: Andrea and Brock drop by Jesse’s while Walt is over; the quiet young boy is duly ill at ease around the strange man, who unbeknownst to him, almost killed him. Walt telling Brock how brave he was in the hospital, sitting side by side with the boy on the couch, and calmly explaining that he has “two of his own,” reassures the viewer that we’re dealing with a monster. Still, there seems to be some discomfort in Walt when Brock is around. So much so that it might even contribute to his wry manipulation of Jesse that leads him to break up with Andrea — although, this could be fueled entirely by the interest of keeping Jesse’s loyalties dedicated to the job.
The show drops a few other hints in the episode that Walt’s darkness is all-encompassing. He chuckles when he comes across a copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass — a nod to his victory over Gale Boetticher and the law enforcement’s pursuit of “Heisenberg”… and also a nod to one half of Bryan Cranston’s character’s namesake, (with the other being Mr. White from Reservoir Dogs). Also in the meta-references department, a late scene has Skyler walking in, grief-stricken, to Walt and Walter, Jr. (when is he going to start going by Flynn again? Does anyone else miss that?) heartily enjoying a viewing of Scarface. Fans know that Vince Gilligan’s M.O. for the character arc of Walter White was to turn him “from Mr. Chips into Scarface.” Obviously, this is a nod to the end game being right around the corner.
And that’s apparent by Marie’s mention of Walt’s upcoming birthday. The opening scene of this season’s premiere episode depicted Walt as a lone drifter, scruffy beard and full head of hair with a fake ID in tow, eating in a Denny’s on his 52nd birthday, just before purchasing a gigantic gun from a shifty character. Granted, Walt is presently 50, making the Denny’s scene over a year away — a fact I hadn’t truly recognized until Marie’s comment about his upcoming birthday. Seems to me that Denny’s felt much closer to the present action.
As mentioned above, “Hazard Pay” is an extraordinary case of the establishment of Breaking Bad’s world, both tangibly and in the realm of mood. The illustration of this interconnected world, wherein Saul knows all of these crooked businessmen, wherein hired muscles like Mike and Huell cross silent paths, wherein the people we haven’t seen in ages are still proven to exist — the triumphant return of Skinny Pete and Badger earns this episode so many points — proves just how much Breaking Bad cares about its reality. Furthermore, “Hazard Pay,” and every Season 5 episode so far, proves that Breaking Bad is invested in making its story feel as much like real life as possible. Even in a world of deceit, drug theft, and murder, there can be laughs. The show is never exclusively dedicated to one mood or another. It’s not a strict thriller or a strict drama insofar as being unwilling to become something else entirely for a line, a scene, or even an episode. The show knows that life is extremely versatile, and so it becomes such.
“Hazard Pay” is a near perfect episode of television. With the exception of some of the dialogue delivered by the inmate visited by Mike (a little hokey), and the heavy-handed delivery of the Scarface scene, everything feels organic, emotionally dense, and exquisitely enjoyable.
[Photo Credit: AMC]
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Merry Whatever-You-Celebrate! Hopefully by now the shopping is done, the turkey is defrosting, and all those relatives you can't stand are firmly ensconced in your otherwise comfortable domicile. If there is one thing you can count on this year, besides having to share quarters with a cousin who snores like a diseased grizzly bear, it's the onslaught of holiday specials both classic and contemporary that will put a stranglehold on the airwaves over the next few days. If you find you are growing tired of the same old holiday fare, I mean how many times can you really watch Jimmy Stewart scream like a joyful lunatic at buildings in his hometown, consider the following list of not-so-traditional viewing fodder as a substitute. If that aforementioned cousin really bugs you, these would be the specials to make him suffer through as glorious retribution.
Christmas in Eternia (He-Man and She-Ra: A Christmas Special)
Oh He-Man, what a marvelous disaster are you and your fellow Masters of the Universe. Despite your deceptively macho title, you are about as manly as a day of pedicures and seaweed wraps at the Four Seasons Spa. In this super awful Christmas special, Orko manages to accidentally bring a couple of Earthen kids back to Eternia while Skeletor and Hordak try and kidnap them to curb the tide of cheer and curry favor with Lord Prime and…boring! I don’t know if it’s the “we’re totally not Transformers” transforming robots, the puppy that keeps turning Skeletor into a softy, or the fact that all the monsters on Hordak’s ship look like the K-Mart knockoffs of the exact monsters on Skeletor’s ship, but at some point I wished a rocket would launch me into January.
Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny
You remember that production studio based out of a theme park in Florida? No, not that one. In the late 60s, just before the inception of Walt Disney World, Florida was populated with a number of smaller, less amusing, amusement parks. One of those parks was the enigmatically titled Pirate World. Unsatisfied with the returns at the gate, Pirate World decided their fortunes lay in the fast-paced world of holiday children's films. A few ill-advised efforts later, Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny was let loose upon theaters. This film is inexplicably bad, but I shall do my best. Santa crash lands on the beach, his reindeer abscond, and he enlists the help of several different animals who each attempt, and fail, to pull his sled. That is until the Ice Cream Bunny arrives in his magic fire truck and saves the day! What?! If that's not perplexingly terrible enough, at one point Santa regales the children with the story of Thumbelina, which is then fully enacted to pad out the film's run time. Because if there’s one story that gets me into the Christmas spirit, it’s Thumbelina. There is not enough spiked eggnog in the world to make this bearable.
Santa vs. Satan
Although I think the actual title for this 1959 Mexican holiday flick is Santa Claus, for me the title and the absurd plot are inextricable. Santa flies down from space where he is apparently keeping children from all over the world who sing for him with the sonorous timbre of seasonal depression whenever he pleases. He must then battle the devil who is trying to turn children evil and only with the help of Merlin can Santa win back their souls get them back on the nice list. Are you stoned yet? Then you won’t appreciate this festering sore of a holiday film.
The Magic Christmas Tree
Where to begin, where to begin. This is your classic boy-meets-witch, boy-is-given-magic-seed-to-grow-magic-Christmas-tree, magic-tree-kidnaps-Santa story. An oddly shaped, ghostly waif of a child manages to drift through what looks like a Young Americans public service announcement film with some of the most ridiculous plot points and bad special effects ever captured on celluloid by human beings. There is an extended segment with a runaway lawnmower that is especially useful for getting everyone in the Christmas spirit? The kind of epic failure immortalized here really does demand viewing. It may be the best Christmas movie ever made…for $14.
The Star Wars Holiday Special
I can both already hear and totally agree with your resistance to this entry. Yes, by now more than a few people are aware of the intergalactic stinkburger that is The Star Wars Holiday Special but good luck finding it. George Lucas, in a rare demonstration that he does in fact possess a modicum of shame, has all but disowned the thing and has made it his life’s mission to see it never released on home video. If you are lucky enough to find it online or have a friend that taped it when it aired in the late 70s, you are in for the greatest test of your Star Wars fan mettle. Almost the entirety of the first half hour is spoken in Wookie with no subtitles, Mark Hamill appears just after his car accident looking like a living waxwork, there is a Boba Fett cartoon apparently drawn by blind weasels, and if you ever wanted more Cirque du Soleil from the famous hologram chess scene you will not be disappointed.