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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Hannibal: “Yakimono”

Illustration for article titled Hannibal: “Yakimono”
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Down goes Chilton. The self-preservational psychiatrist didn’t become Hannibal’s dinner as he had expected, but instead became Hannibal’s fall guy, leading to his death at the hand of Miriam Lass. It was Lass’ action, along with a nudge from Todd VanDerWerff’s interview with Bryan Fuller, that answered at least one question Hannibal posed to Will during their kitchen showdown: Why Miriam? Miriam was never meant to be the last. As Fuller refers to her, she’s Hannibal’s get out of jail free card, and any smart Monopoly user keeps that card squirreled away until it’s absolutely necessary. Considering Hannibal gave Will his get out of jail free card with the death of the flayed guard in “Futamono,” he now needs another patsy, which he easily finds in Chilton.

The death of Dr. Chilton is the biggest departure from Thomas Harris’ source material. While Beverly makes it to Red Dragon in the series, her part is not nearly as important as Chilton’s. He plays a prominent part in Silence of the Lambs and is alluded to in the original Hannibal. But as series creator Bryan Fuller has mentioned time and time again, he and his writers room use the Harris source material as more of a template, constantly nodding toward it without following it religiously. It’s an important distinction. Fuller and company’s comfort with taking Harris’ work as suggestion rather than as immutable documents, is one of the show’s greatest strengths, not only in the present, but for the prospect of future seasons as well (Fuller discussed a seven-season plan with Entertainment Weekly, that will eventually get to well-known works like Silence of the Lambs). Yet, as a viewer, I continually forget this. I’ve been lulled into this sense of safety because I assume I know how this is all going to turn out, because I’ve read and seen Hannibal Lecter’s future. But “Yakimono” was a jolt in line with the series’ main theme: Everything is not as it seems. In the Hannibal vs. Will kitchen showdown (it’s so wonderfully apt that those two consistently meet in kitchens), Hannibal says it all, “Don’t you want to know how this ends?” I thought I already did, but this show keeps reminding me that I have no idea.

“Yakimono” didn’t feel as thematically rich or layered as previous episodes, especially in relation to how dense this season has been so far. But there were quite a few plot elements to get through and it sets off how the rest of the series will go. For Will, his goal is no longer to convince others that Hannibal Lecter is the Chesapeake Ripper, but to convince others that the Ripper did not die with Dr. Chilton, that’s it’s all Hannibal-ian style misdirection. Will returns to the fishing metaphors he began to use in his mind palace with Abigail Hobbs. Hannibal can’t be hunted, he must be lured. Will’s next step is figuring out how Hannibal covered up his previous connection to Ripper victims so that it could never be found again: “Catch a fish once and it gets away, it’s a lot harder to catch a second time.” The hunting portion of Hannibal’s season appears to be over, the necessary silverlining of Chilton’s death. Now it’s time for Will to start luring, via the friendship that Hannibal craved. I’ve always enjoyed the Hannibal-Will interplay scenes, and “Yakimono’s” kitchen showdown was no exception. While Hannibal ostensibly prevents his own shooting by piquing Will’s curiosity—kill him now and never know why—I also think there’s a sense of justice that has reemerged in Will. Will says that he’s claiming the killer instinct that has laid dormant within him, but now that he’s back on the side of good, could it be not that the needs the answers, but that Hannibal needs justice?

There were two particularly powerful performances in this episode. Laurence Fishburne’s look of utter despair while replaying Miriam’s last message was a beautiful piece of acting that extended throughout the episode. Anna Chlumsky’s take on Miriam Lass, though, was of particular note. Here is a woman so clearly traumatized but even she isn’t fully aware of the full extent of her damage, if only because years of her life have effectively been rendered hazy. Chlumsky’s ability to appear completely on-the-edge was fantastic. She’s been trained to control her emotional response, yet she’s simply unable to. I can’t stress the importance of Miriam coming off as a fully realized character enough, if only because Beverly is gone, Cynthia Nixon’s Kade Purnell is nowhere to be found, and, after an auspicious start, I’m once again losing a sense of what Alana’s purpose is.

Miriam’s descriptions of Hannibal’s continued mental manipulation was of particular interest: “I remember a dream about drowning then being awake and not awake, being myself and not myself.” (To further the water metaphor, she later describes the Ripper’s voice, pulling her to him a like a current.) That description mirrored Will’s own first season state. As the encephalitis took over, Will was often covered in sweat, wet as if drowning. He was not aware of his condition but knew that he was off. He was himself, but not himself. But forcing both Miriam and Will to abandon this sense of self is what gives Lecter his power. Lecter is able to use them as pawns to prove his own innocence, taking the actions to set them both free. But, then again, neither of them are free, metaphorically, as Miriam says herself: “Neither of us is free, he’s not done.”

Stray observations:

  • “The Chesapeake Ripper has set you free. Mazel Tov.” Seriously, RIP Dr. Chilton.
  • Man, if the real FBI was run like Hannibal, there would be conflict of interest issues all over the place.
  • It should be noted how much Will’s appearance has changed in the final scene. Is hair is no longer long and unkempt, he’s more put together. Is that a function of no longer being incarcerated or, rather, a part of his disguise?