[Review] - Hannibal, Season 2 Episode 7, "Yakimono"

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television
When discussing Justified, I noted that episode seven of a thirteen episode season is the fulcrum episode. It's the top of the hill. It's the vertex of the parabola. Or, in storytelling terms, it's where things start to go wrong. It's where the building momentum of the narrative takes off, plowing through the characters on a death drop towards the finale. Payoffs start hatching in the last half from eggs laid in the first half.

But episode seven exists in an equilibrium, the Lagrangian point of a season of television. The old trembles with desire to burst with the new, awaiting only the sounding shot to break from the gate (and word count hungry reviewers mix their metaphors with wild abandon). So, of course, on a show like Hannibal, this clam eye of the storm means that huge character and series shattering things happen, and something unexpected shoots someone in the face.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that allowed Hannibal Lecter into their head.

Let's get this out of the way: I believe Chilton is alive. We'll come back to that later.


Last year, the writers did the unexpected and had Will locked away, accused of Hannibal's crimes. The veil was pulled back from Will's eyes, and since then he's seen Hannibal for the monster he really is. My question at the time was, how can they have the main character of the series claiming that the title character is a serial killer, and not that have plot thread wear itself thin? This season, they have amazed us (or me, at least) by keeping that story going by undermining Will's confidence and credibility at every turn. Other lesser shows would have freed Will from his imprisonment in episode one, but Hannibal kept him locked up for six episodes. In those six episodes, Will shored up his belief in the evils of Hannibal Lecter, and watched as his foe manipulated those that Will was counting on. He studied his enemy from a safe distance, rather than meet him head on. He learned his methods. He became what he hunted. And now he's free, to attack.

Will has two options. The easy one is to kill Hannibal, to become the thing that everyone has spent the last six weeks telling him that he is. He nearly got there, had accepted his transformation into something less than. His first plan failed, so he turned to something elegantly simplistic: shoot him yourself, and damn the consequences. In Will's mind, the truth will eventually vindicate him, and all that matters is that he was right. It was a bold scene, and not just because Will is aware of what happens when people threaten Hannibal. It was also a telling moment for both characters. Hannibal felt, and exhibited fear. He cringed. He honestly didn't know what was going to happen. He has spent a year and a half tormenting Will, manipulating him, pestering him like a child hitting a bee hive with a stick. Now, he's confronted with something he can't predict, something he has no control over. He played his hand, and now he can't tell a bluff from a straight play. He has succeeded in corrupting Will, into helping his "friend" embrace the darkness that Hannibal already inhabits, but in doing so he's created his own personal demon, and here he came face to face with it, and recoiled. 

Will, for his part, realized the better solution is the second option: do unto others. He is curious, like Hannibal. Hannibal wants to see how people react when things happen. Will wants to know why they do what they do. And he wants to know why Hannibal kills and eats people. The easiest way to do that is to catch him. And the only way to do that, is to play Hannibal's game. Now that he knows the rules, knows how to play, Hannibal has no advantage in the game. Will, at the end, by returning to his therapy, isn't seeking Lecter's help, he's squaring his shoulders, and looking down the barrel. Will is able to get into the mind of the killers he hunts, he feels what they feel, he acts how they act. And now he's focusing all of his attentions on Hannibal, using Hannibal's own methods against him. 

Which is why I believe Chilton is alive. Disregard the fact that he play an influential role in the events of both Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs, and that killing him creates potential narrative issues down the line that dismissing Beverly doesn't. Disregard the fact that killing off two major characters within two episodes of each other isn't really this show's style (three if you consider Bev->Gideon->Chilton). Death means more than that on this show; death is a statement. And so is life. Hannibal doesn't foresee events, but he prepares for eventualities. He couldn't have known that framing Chilton would ever be something he'd need to do, but he did it. He didn't know that he'd ever have a use for Miriam Lass, but he kept her just in case. He plays the long game, based on odds and probability. So, if he's pushed into a corner, he can reveal his ace and make a break for it. Shame on gullible Jack for so easily taking his eyes off the prize. He was nearly there, he's ready to believe that Hannibal is the killer, but as soon as the evidence of Chilton's guilt appears, he moves his line of sight entirely. 

But Chilton. He's alive. I know he is, because Miriam was. Will is now playing Hannibal's role, and Hannibal is the prey. Miriam was security, Hannibal's way of distracting attention, and it worked. With Chilton dead, and "obviously" the Ripper, the case is solved, the heat is off, and Hannibal is safe. Except Will knew it was coming. Will warned them, that attention would direct away from Hannibal. Miriam Lass was too easy, the evidence to cleanly dirty, and her assassination of Chilton too orchestrated. As Will said, Miriam "had to kill him." Had. Didn't say did. He's playing with Hannibal, because Chilton is his ace in the hole. Fuller admits that a gun shot to the face can be survived, and even in the episode, the only wound we see is a bullet hole in the cheek. So I am one hundred percent convinced that Chilton is alive, and being kept secret. 

So long as Hannibal thinks he's dead, he is out of danger (we've seen what happens to those that know Hannibal's true nature). But he's also an eye witness. Somewhat unwisely, Hannibal revealed himself to Chilton, and let him live afterwards. Like Will, he created a fault in his own design. I believe that Will is storing Chilton, keeping him safe, and just when Hannibal lets his guard down, they will spring revelation on him, and it will end him (by which I mean, he'll end up in a cage). It'll also explain the animosity between Chilton and Lecter in later books, more so than professional rivalry ever could. I don't think we'll see him again until season three, when Lecter is brought into custody (I'm convinced that next season will be mostly Lecter on the run), but he'll be back, I'm sure of it. Seven hells, if Able Gideon survived his gunshot to the head, than Chilton won't have any problems shrugging off his.

Lastly, I wanted to make mention of the sound and set production. The writing, acting and visual effects get all the glory on this show, but with sound and set design is just as impressive. A few weeks ago, the soundtrack was dominated by a rhythmic dripping, first of blood, later of water. This week, it was a building, twisting thumping. The sound, from week to week, is like a coiled cobra, constantly on the verge of striking. It builds tension from the first second, and never relents. The entire episode, you expect the worst to happen. My blood pressure skyrockets before they get the words "Previously..." out. And the sets bleed atmosphere. From the stylized habitats of Hannibal (which bring to mind one of those shrimp that can see thirty colours that humans can't), to the stark, empty, and sterile home of Chilton, a man with a personality deficit problem. My favourite scene of the night was when Chilton discovered Gideon, recently deceased, in his guest room. It was dripping with meaning. The empty walls and shelves, the wasted spaciousness, the abject horror of having someone in the guest room. It was Chilton, painted in static white. I wrote recently about the importance of character in Hannibal, and this scene was perfectly illustrative of that. The environments are expressions of the characters, down to the finest degree. 

I had more words to say on the subject of Miriam, but I'll save those in case we see more of her (and I hope we do). In the mean time, we'll have to look forward to the introduction of the Verger siblings in the coming weeks, and the next stage for Hannibal, and Hannibal.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.

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