The trial of Will Graham gets off to a bloody start in this week's episode of Hannibal.
We open with a disorienting dream of Will BBQ'ing himself in an electric chair, then get a mirroring scene, set in reality. The morning of the trial's opening sees Hannibal and Will suiting up for the day in their contrasting homes. A well-appointed room, a dungeon cell. Cufflinks and handcuffs. It was a pointed visual reminder of how connected these two intelligent psychopaths are. For the whole hour, we see witnesses on the stand talking about Will—but the subject could just as easily be Hannibal. Because, after all, we know it was Hannibal, "the smartest person in this room." I loved and hated Hannibal's secret little smirk: his weaknesses are really showing. If Mads Mikkelsen is playing Lecter as the Devil, then he's doing a great job of giving us glimpses of the Devil's sin: pride.
"Hassun" had all the elements of a courtroom drama—the unrelenting prosecutor, the roll call of witnesses we know have agendas against Will—but it's coming too early to feel cathartic. Instead, we get quiet revelations. Oh, and another severed ear. Jack Crawford's testimony spoke to his personal guilt, not his professional duty to the FBI, and in the scene following we get further insight into why Jack feels so inclined to throw away his career. We haven't seen nor heard of his cancer-stricken wife until tonight and it makes sense that Jack is feeling fatalistic as his wife gets sicker and sicker. How upsetting was it to watch Hannibal give (admittedly sound) advice on grief and love to Crawford? All I could think of was the "person suit" Hannibal wears and the betrayal Crawford will feel in twelve weeks' time as this psychopath worms his way into Jack's psyche.
Doubt and denial also gnaw at the people around Will when he gets a special love letter: that severed ear. There were a lot of great one-liners in this show, but the defense attorney's "I think I got your mail" was pretty close to the top. So there's another killer in Maryland -- seriously, that whole region seems infested with artistic murderers and I hope Bedilia ran away to sunny California -- who's got an inappropriate infatuation with Will. Hey, that's Hannibal's job! Again demonstrating how Hannibal is trying to change things up this year, the killer goes unrevealed. Because the killer isn't really important yet. It's more about how this new evidence can be interpreted for Will's defense.
While the BAU team and Crawford entertain the idea that this new killer could be the one behind Will's crimes, it's Hannibal and Will who know it can't be true. But they both want to believe and agree to let this dark love poem change the course of Will's trial. I really believe Hannibal wants Will to "believe in the best of him." Because he still misses his friend and spends their former session time staring forlornly at Will's empty chair. Because Will is the only other person close to being the smartest person in the room.
But by denying the truth of the evidence and putting Hannibal (and that creepy man-stag) on the stand instead of Alana, Will is letting Hannibal be in a position to manipulate the situation further. Did Hannibal know that his testimony would lead to the judge throwing out the bailiff's death as admissible evidence?
So who is the killer? Is it Hannibal purposely misdirecting the defense and the prosecution by changing his methods? He's created "field kabuki" before, but always on living victims. Which is really messed up to think about. True Detective fans still yearning for crazy conspiracy theories point to Alana as the new killer because she likes poking around in Will's brain a bit too much beyond professional curiosity. Will's take on the crime stated that the killer knew the bailiff as a friend. So, I was guessing a concerned third party.
The final shocking tableau is the judge, blindfolded, heartless, and mindless. Aside from mutilating the body post-mortem, this murder does seem like something Hannibal could do. There's poetry in it. The heart and brains are on scales and if there're any two metaphors being weighed by everyone on this show, those would be it.
The judge's death means a mistrial and I inwardly groan a little bit because now the previous hour feels a bit like wheel-spinning. I know Will can't be freed this early in the season, but it's sure frustrating. Not nearly as frustrating as the prison storyline happening on Justified this year, but close. Will Jack cave under the pressure he's getting from Kade Purnell to do his job and keep Will's trial from becoming an even bigger circus? Will Hannibal's advice to "not go into the ground" with Bella give Jack that extra push to find long-term emotional satisfaction in his career when he's a widow?
• The romantic tension between Dr. Bloom and Will deepened this week, even as her feelings were hurt by Will's desire to introduce a new defense, thereby rendering all of Alana's hard work unusable in any future trials. Good thing there was a mistrial, I guess. And there was hand-holding. But how could a relationship grow when one person does think, at the end of the day, the other person did commit horrendous crimes, however unwittingly? Trust issues in spades.
• I have no love-hate feelings for Dr. Chilton. Just hate. Also, sometimes this show pushes my suspension of belief just a little too far. Will must be hiding his "controlled and orderly" nature so expertly that he's just pretending to have floppy hair and a house overrun with stray dogs. Meanwhile, Hannibal's kitchen looks like a surgical theater and he finds time between murders to tailor his suits and get highlights. How did we not see this coming?!
• Hannibal got #stoolsample to trend worldwide for an hour. Love the levity Scott Thompson and Aaron Abrams bring. And that ever-so-slightly perturbed Hannibal reaction shot. Yeah, smart guy, bet you didn't think about that. Covering your tracks and tampering with evidence could be messier than expected.
• Early buzz is that next week's episode is going to be a real rollercoaster, so Friday seems especially far away.
• Palate Cleanser of the Week: "Will is, and has always been, my friend." Hannibal is Spock! Or a closet Trekkie!
Does Shep Smith ever roll his eyes? Asking for a friend.
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