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“If I am the Ripper and you kill me, who will answer your questions? 
Don’t you want to know how this ends?” –Hannibal Lecter

Last night’s episode of Hannibal might well be the best of the season: Director Michael Rymer  (easily my favorite director on the show) took the engaging, yet at times overly complex framework of the previous episode–Futamono–and crafted an elegant, ingenious payoff….

WARNING: BIG DAMN SPOILERS–AGAIN!

It’s like all through last week’s show, there should have been a disclaimer saying: “BE PATIENT–I SWEAR WE’RE GOING SOMEWHERE WITH THIS!”

Not that Futamono was a bad episode–far from it, but it raised more questions than it answered. But Futamono and Yakimono TOGETHER tell a brilliant story of deception, skulduggery, guile, and tactical brilliance.

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I’m going to dispense with my usual style of recapping the events of the episode scene by scene, and instead I’m going to do my best to lay out Hannibal Lecter’s (Mads Mikkelsen) “design” as revealed in this episode. It becomes clear that everything that happens in Yakimono is part of a plan that was begun even before the start of season one.

We know that Hannibal’s manipulations are what lead the FBI to believe Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) was a psychotic killer, but just getting him incarcerated was obviously NOT the good doctor’s endgame: Will couldn’t possibly take the fall for all of the Chesapeake Ripper’s victims–the Ripper had been killing for years. No, getting Will sent to the booby hatch was just Hannibal’s opening move. It took pressure off him, since no one (well, almost no one) would believe the accusations of a psychopath.

The move bought him some time, though nearly came back to bite him in the ass when Will arranged to have Lecter murdered by a homicidal orderly–and very nearly succeeded. THAT was a countermove Hannibal didn’t see coming.

(Stay with me, friends–there IS a point to all this 😉 )

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Meanwhile, Will is convincing Dr. Frederick Chilton (
Raul Esparza) that Lecter is the Ripper (since he’s run out of credible, intelligent people who will listen to him). Chilton has a dog in this fight: He’s been following the Chesapeake Ripper case from the start, and once erroneously believed that his patient–Dr. Abel Gideon (Eddie Izzard)–was the Ripper. He even used “questionable” psychiactric procedures on Gideon to “recover” memories of things he never actually did. Chilton didn’t really care WHO the Ripper is–he just wanted the credit for being the one who caught him.

This gave Graham an “in”. He acquired Chilton’s help by appealing to his lust for fame and recognition–and eventually convinced him of Lecter’s guilt. But Hannibal was by no means idle through all of this: His most recent murders eventually lead the FBI to the place where he’d tucked Miriam Lass (Anna Chlumsky)–a Ripper victim and FBI trainee long thought dead–away for safe keeping. He also provided enough evidence in his most recent murder to totally exonerate Will.

So–now Will’s out of the nuthouse, Chilton is champing at the bit to have Hannibal replace him, Miriam is free–but insists Lecter was NOT her captor.

The Ripper is out there–and if he’s NOT Hannibal Lecter, who is he?

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I honestly should have seen this coming: It’s PERFECT!

Chilton has exactly the same profile as Hannibal–he’s just not a tenth as smart. But he has everything in his background that was in the profile of the Chesapeake Ripper: Knowledge of psychology and surgical skill, intelligence (well, relatively speaking), access to all the books and records that the Ripper would need, etc…

Both Will and Miriam were locked up and released through Hannibal’s actions–and both served his ultimate design: Framing Frederick Chilton.

The above photo is of Chilton after Hannibal visited his home with some chloroform and the remains of the partially consumed Abel Gideon. When Chilton came to, he was covered in blood–holding a knife in one hand and a gun in the other, and two FBI agents were dead in his kitchen–both were mutilated in typically “Ripper-tastic” ways.

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Chilton went immediately to Will Graham–probably the only person on earth who would believe he’s innocent. Will turned him in to Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne). Not out of spite, he just knew if Chilton ran, they’d catch, and probably kill him: Poor bastard was no Hannibal Lecter 🙁

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Now comes the denouement: Miriam identifies Chilton as the Chesapeake Ripper. It’s kinda vague exactly how Hannibal set this up, but he seems to have implanted some kind of post-hypnotic suggestion while attempting what was ostensibly memory recovery therapy with her at the request of Crawford.

But it’s not enough for her to have him locked up: Motherfucker  had her imprisoned for years, subjected her to all manner of psychological manipulations, cut off her hand and arm just to fuck with Crawford’s head.

So she swiped Jack’s sidearm, and shot Chilton in the back of the head–straight through the two-way glass they’d been observing him through.

WOW!

Hannibal’s plan would have worked fine if Chilton had simply taken the fall for all the Ripper murders….but then, I’m not sure how much physical evidence there was to link Chilton to all the killings. He’d go down for killing the FBI agents in his kitchen, and Gideon–that’d be enough to put him away for life, IF he managed to avoid capital punishment. However, the rest of the Ripper murders COULD remain suspicious.

Miriam shooting Chilton, on the other hand, sews everything up nice and tight: The Ripper case has been a PR disaster of biblical proportions to the FBI–they’ll be happy to pin ALL of it on Chilton posthumously. Fact is, the only person left who would still want to prove Hannibal Lecter is the Ripper is You-Know-Who (No…not Lord Voldemort).

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Will returns to Hannibal, after holding a gun to his head in a great scene earlier, just to see him sweat. Trimmed, groomed, and pretty–Will apparently wants to resume his therapy with Dr. Lecter.

This is an even more fascinating development than Miriam Lass redecorating the interrogation room with Chilton’s brains. Way I see it, Graham has tried accusing Lecter, tried investigating Lecter, even tried murdering Lecter–none of it has worked.

It’s time for a new strategy: Hannibal has been able to get away with murder for so long because of his way of getting into people’s heads….

It’s time someone got inside of his.

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STRONG POINTS:

Damn near everything. Michael Rymer has crafted a nearly perfect hour of television. Everybody brought his or her “A” game this week. It’s wonderful to see Hannibal and Will on equal footing again. They have such a marvelous chemistry as characters and rivals/friends/enemies.

Anna Chlumsky was marvelous as Miriam Lass: Appropriately haunted and traumatized, she sold the effects of her ordeal exquisitely. I hope we get to see more of her.

And Raul Esparza –more than probably anyone else in this wonderful cast–has TRULY taken his role and made it something unique from the way his character was portrayed in the novels and films.

He took a monumentally unlikeable douchebag like Chilton, and–while keeping his essence as a fool and charlatan–made him amiable in a twisted sort of way. We actually mourn his loss–even while laughing at him , like when he showed up at Graham’s soaked in blood, and the first thing out of his mouth was: “May I borrow your shower?”

This shouldn’t have worked: I’ve seen numerous fictional characters who were conceived to serve as lightning rods for fan hatred. They were MADE to be despicable–try to make them anything else, and you invariably ruin them. Somehow, that didn’t happen with Esparza’s Chilton.

He will be missed.

See you all next week, Hannimaniacs!

(PS: You’ll notice there’s no “WEAK POINTS” section….Observant, aren’t you? 😀 )

Category: reviews, TV

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