Amazing Stories

Recap: “Shiizakana,” Hannibal, Season 2, Episode 9

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So much bondage in Hannibal. If that’s your thing, I suspect you really enjoy this series. I also wonder, sometimes, if I knew Foucault better, would I see a lot more in this show? There’s certainly some Foucault in the panopticon that was Chilton’s Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, but I wonder about control and punishment issues, too. Any readers know Foucault well enough to weigh in?

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Examples of the surprising, arresting imagery of Hannibal: Will dreams of torturing Lecter with a rope, winch, and the nightmare elk. He closely questions Lecter’s dark double.

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The beauty of Hannibal: the splayed lines of the tree mimicked by the similar sprays of blood; the washed out, nearly grayscale imagery contrasted with the rich, syrupy torrents; the shot from behind the action making it at once gory and restrained (in comparison to what it would be seen straight on).

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Among the things that makes the series visually distinctive is its use of close ups. Here, the camera is close enough that we can make out Hugh Dancy’s pores, the individual whisker in his stubble. It establishes an intimacy and sensuality that central to the show. We can’t get away from uncomfortably close relationships with bodies—whether being killed, butchered, eaten, or just, as in this case, being so close to Will (and Lecter in the reverse shots) that it feels too close, too intimate.

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As a series, Hannibal is more interested in characters’ hobbies than virtually any other show I can think of. Series will make occasional head fakes in the direction of characters having hobbies in order to give the impression of fleshed-out people, but usually those hobbies mean little to nothing about the characters. In Hannibal, hobbies are central to so many characters. Will ties his own flies and fishes. Hannibal butchers his own meat and is a gourmet chef (and, in this episode, we discover that he “collects” information about church collapses, which stoke his sense of irony). Here, Randall Tier builds a savage apparatus. Everyone in these mid-Atlantic states has some kind of home workshop, it seems.

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The main character off to the side, the backgrounded element spotlighted, but not in focus, nothing in the center of the shot. This sort of filmic composition is rare on TV and part of what makes the series visually pleasurable.

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It’s a pretty show, no doubt, but also savage, brutal, blood-soaked, animalistic. At least Will’s psychology is.

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Two predators, standing over the skeleton of a dead thing, as if they’d killed it.

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It’s not just a visually, disturbingly beautiful show. The writing is similarly horrifically sublime: “Ragged bits of scalp. Trailing their tails of hair like comets,” Tier replies when Lecter asks about his inner life.

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The classic face-to-face shot composition of Hannibal. For the first time in many episodes, though, we have a new pairing: Will and Margot Verger (Katharine Isabelle), comparing notes about Lecter’s therapy and the ways in which he prompts them to kill. Isabelle is so controlled and fascinating here. I’ve liked her since Ginger Snaps, but her acting is more subtle, refined, and mature here than I’ve seen before. Next-level stuff for her.

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You’d think that a therapist’s office is a place for exploration, discovery, understanding. If so, shouldn’t that place be bright and comfortable? Not Lecter’s office. But he’s not that kind of therapist anyway.

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As in a fairy tale, there’s a monster in the woods, awaiting the woodsman (in the form of Will), who’s chasing in after him.

Shiizakana is a hot-pot dish, part of the Japanese Kaiseki meal, as the rest of the episodes this season have been.

(As in previous posts, I’ve slightly lightened these screenshots to make the detail easier to make out.)

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