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OFFICER: Do you have a history of sleepwalking, Mr. Graham?
WILL: I’m not even sure if I’m awake now.

(NOTE: This review contains graphic and pretty fucking gnarly images – so, if that’s not your cup of tea…well, you’ve been warned. As for the rest of you sick bastards: Enjoy!)

Greetings, fellow gourmands!

Before we proceed to the main course, I think we should address the elephant (or nightmarish feathered stag) in the living room:

Yes, this is Episode Five of Hannibal. Yes, last week I reviewed Episode Three. Yes, I know how to count. If you’ve been keeping up with the fun-filled world of H-Lec, then you’re aware that Episode Four: “Ceuf”, was pulled by Bryan Fuller and NBC due to concerns that its plot might be in poor taste given the recent tragedies in Boston and Newtown. This ep will apparently be made available overseas, but in the US and Canada it is currently available as a series of six webisodes with all the “insensitive” content removed…an entrée reduced to a mere appetizer.

Take my word for it: You don’t need to have seen any of these webisodes to follow “Coquilles”, and they’re so bereft of anything truly substantial that they won’t ruin anything for people (like me) who intend to track down the full, unadulterated Episode Four.

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Anyhoo, onto the fun:

As the dialogue snippet above indicates, “Coquilles” begins with Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) sleepwalking. He’s found by the police wandering down the road in his underwear in the middle of the night with one of his many adopted dogs (“Winston”, the dog he found in “Aperitif” , if you’re keeping track). The events of the past episodes are beginning to take their toll on his already fragile psyche….more on that to come.

“Coquilles” returns to the “Killer Of The Week” formula with a charming individual who becomes known as the “Angel-Maker” (looks like quotes will be this review’s over-utilized punctuation). This fellow likes to flay the skin from his victims’ backs and spread it out into wings. Then he poses them like praying angels at the foot of his bed so they can watch over him as he sleeps (Image courtesy of Graham-Vision™)

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Why does he do it? Well, according to the meds found in the pile of hurl he conveniently left on the nightstand by Crawford’s Scooby Gang: Brian Zeller (Aaron Abrams), Beverly Katz (Hetienne Park), and Jimmy Price (Scott Thompson), he’s suffering from an inoperable brain tumor. Graham believes the Angel-Maker is afraid of dying in his sleep.

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Time to see what the good doctor (Mads Mikkelsen) is cooking up: Once again, we get to see Hannibal Lecter’s culinary prowess as he serves a lovely dinner to Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) and his wife Bella (Gina Torres – Zoe Wasburne of Firefly and Fishburne‘s IRL spouse!). Earlier, the doc had a nice chat with Graham about his sleepwalking. In his subtly insidious way he painted Crawford as the root of Will’s current problems, and there’s a tension between the two men throughout the episode.

But the Angel-Maker’s exploits and Graham’s surliness aren’t Crawford’s only woes. It seems Bella has begun therapy with our friend Dr. Lecter: Apparently she’s been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer (lots of cancer in this ep – I don’t mean to be flippant, it’s just an observation), and has yet to tell her husband, reasoning that Jack has more than enough things to worry about. Eventually, of course, the truth comes out. Fishburne and Torres have great chemistry together – it’s easy to imagine them as an off-screen couple.

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Back to the Angel-Maker: Crawford’s bunch tracks him down via a registry of cancer patients, and Will and Jack discover the image you see above.

That’s the Angel-Maker himself. For once, the killer saved the FBI some trouble and eliminated himself (exactly HOW it’s even possible to flay the skin from your own back, AND pose your body in such a manner without assistance is beyond my comprehension…but we’ll talk about that momentarily). Graham isn’t happy about this outcome, though. He sees it as a failure that he wasn’t able to find the Angel-Maker before he killed himself, and he’s seriously considering quitting the FBI…He’s finding it harder and harder to employ his “gift” for thinking like a serial killer…

But learning about Crawford’s wife and her condition gives Graham pause – and it looks like he’s gonna keep doing his thing for the feds….at least for one more episode.

STRONG POINTS

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“Coquilles” begins to show us Hannibal’s design regarding his relationship with Will Graham: Slowly and subtly he’s attempting to sour Graham on the FBI, and Jack Crawford in particular. My assumption is he knows that Graham is the only one who could take him down, were he to use his killer-hunting Jedi mind tricks against him. Furthermore, he knows that Jack Crawford is the one man who’s clever and suspicious enough to convince Graham to turn his attention on Lecter. In other words: Graham and Crawford by themselves are harmless to the good doctor, but together they’re his own personal Kryptonite. The scenes with Lecter and Graham are fascinating to watch and marvelously entertaining, as always…there should have been more of them.

Gina Torres is wonderful as Bella Crawford. When I heard this character would be introduced, I’d wondered if they would go with the notion that she had cancer, which is Thomas Harris canon, but not mentioned until Silence of the Lambs. Anyway, Torres is playing it just right: Fatalistic without being maudlin or morbid – strong without being delusional.

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I was glad to see Crawford’s team get some face-time. These are three gifted actors (particularly Kids In The Hall’s Scott Thompson), and they play off each other beautifully.

WEAK POINTS

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“Coquilles” is the slowest-paced episode of Hannibal so far. Parts of it almost approached being actually boring. I don’t know if it was the new director (Guillermo Navarro) or what, but I found myself wishing they’d just get on with it more than once.

The Angel-Maker, however gruesome his signature was, has to be the series’ least interesting killer. I mean come on! A brain tumor? THAT’S the best they could do for a motivation? That’s what you give a fictional killer when you want him to do something really fucked up to his victims, but you can’t come up with an interesting reason for WHY he does it:

Ah, screw it! We’ll just say he has a brain tumor!”

Plus, as I mentioned earlier, how in balls did he manage to “Angelize” himself like that? I mean I know the tumor made him insane enough to do it – I just can’t quite figure out the physics behind it….

You can do better, Hannibal…Look at the Mushroom Man in “Amuse-Bouche”: That was inspired! Let’s see more killers like that.

Oh, and no Dr. Bloom or Freddie Lounds this week, or Abigail Hobbs. Good thing they introduced Bella Crawford – or “Coquilles” would have been a total sausage-fest (and DON’T ask what’s in those sausages 😉 )

All in all, “Coquilles” had more faults than any episode of Hannibal I’ve so far seen, but it’s STILL better than just about any new show out there. OH! And after teasing me ever since the damn Pilot, next week we’re finally getting the magnificent Eddie Izzard as the “Chesapeake Ripper”!!!

For that, I can forgive “Coquilles” for its shortcomings…

See you folks next week: Don’t fill up on bread!

Category: Featured, reviews, TV

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