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MARGOT: They think I’m weird.

HANNIBAL: I’m much weirder than you will ever be. It’s fine to be weird.

I suppose no show can bat 1000 every episode for an entire season: I guess there’s kind of a need for “throwaway”, filler episodes that won’t totally throw the viewer off if they miss.

Thus we have “Su-Zakana”, courtesy of director Vincenzo Natali, best known for helming the teen werewolf flick Ginger Snaps. ‘”Su-zakana” isn’t bad, really–it’s just kinda unnecessary.

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“Su-zakana” returns to the form established in season one, and re-introduces the KOTW (killer of the week). A dead mare is discovered in a local stable, with the body of a strangled woman sewed inside its abdomen. Later, Jack Crawford’s (Laurence Fishburne) boys discover a live bird in the woman’s chest during her autopsy.

But what looks like a gruesome new calling card for a serial killer is actually something of a misdirection. But to determine that, Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen)–who is still working for the FBI suggests that Crawford re-enlist Will Graham (Hugh Dancy). It is Graham who realizes that the woman was not murdered by the same person who put her inside the horse.

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The trail leads to a brain-damaged stablehand named Peter Bernardone played by Jeremy Davies (Daniel Faraday of Lost, and Dickie Bennett on Justified). Davies, by the by, is wonderful–and his performance is easily the best thing about this episode.

Bernardone, however, proves to be a smoke-screen behind which hides Clark Ingram (noted VO artist Chris Diamantopoulous)–Bernardone’s social worker: A brutal, pitiless psychotic who has murdered 16 women. Ingram hopes Bernardone’s mental problems and unstable nature will make him a more attractive suspect than a clean-cut, respected social worker like himself…..Guess how well that works out for him.

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Moving on, we find the “B” Plot–which is pretty much the entire purpose for “Su-zakana’s” existence. That’s Katharine Isabelle (also of Ginger Snaps) as Margot Verger–sister of the delightful Mason Verger.

As a Thomas Harris fan, I’ve been waiting all season for this: The Vergers are patients of Dr. Lecter’s and characters first introduced in the novel Hannibal–as in the sequel to Silence of the Lambs.

Mason Verger, if you haven’t read the novel or seen the movie based on it, has the honor of being the only Hannibal Lecter victim who lived. He’s an insanely rich, and even more insanely evil douchebag and rapist. In the novel, Lecter drugged Mason with powerful hallucinogens, then told him to cut off his own face and feed it to a pair of dogs he was purposely starving to see if they would attack each other. Hannibal then broke Verger’s back and left him for dead. When Lecter escaped from incarceration at the end of Silence of the Lambs, Verger put a plan in motion to recapture him and have him fed to pigs.

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But back to the show: In this episode we only hear Mason’s voice–we’ll see him later. After being sexually assaulted by her brother, Margot begins counseling with Dr. Lecter. Most of the best moments of “Su-zakana” involve Margot and Hannibal’s conversations.

Back to the KOTW: Will and Hannibal pretty easily determine that Ingram is the killer, and Bernardone is just a confused dupe. Will nearly shoots Ingram–but is stopped by Lecter.

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STRONG POINTS

There IS one interesting development in the Graham/Lecter dynamic in this episode: Despite everything he’s now telling Crawford, Dr. Bloom, and everyone else on the show, Will still believes Lecter is the Chesapeake Ripper…and although he has resumed his therapy with Hannibal, he’s not keeping this a secret from the good doctor: He openly admitted to Hannibal that his beliefs have not changed….Though he claims he no longer desires Lecter’s death–not now that he finally finds him “interesting”.

The co-stars are the best thing about “Su-zakana”, as indicated earlier. Katharine Isabelle’s Margot Verger does not remotely resemble the Thomas Harris character, but that was to be expected. Regardless, she’s marvelous, and has a wonderful look–I’m looking forward to getting to know her and the Verger family better.

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WEAK POINTS

For once, it won’t be an effort to come up with material for this section:

Once you get past how the relationship between the disturbed Bernardone and the manipulative Ingram mirrors the relationship between Will and Hannibal, the KOTW gets kinda stale: Ingram is given no background, no personality, no motive or “design” to explain the murder of 16 women: He’s a generic “Bad Guy”–evil for evil’s sake–tedious, quite tedious.

There just wasn’t any real point to “Su-zakana”–beyond the establishment of Margot Verger, something that could have been handled in any number of more interesting ways.

Hoping for a return to form next week.

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