‘Hannibal’ Recap: At Arm’s Length

Credit: Brooke Palmer/NBC

“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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