After the relative quiet of last week's episode, "Takiawase" threw one punch after another, with a few eyeball kicks to round the hour out. There was cause for screams, squirms, giggles, and tears in a perfect, poignant counter to any lingering accusations that Hannibal is empty gore for gore's sake.
Hannibal's fourth episode was a true standout with a gorgeous, disgusting tableau at the center of a story about the end of life versus the death of dignity. It's a difficult topic to tackle and not one that would naturally lend itself to a human beehive -- because really what would?-- but that's what Hannibal does so richly. So, we get an insane acupuncturist named Katherine Pimms played with beatific malevolence by Amanda Plummer. Yeah, Honey Bunny from Pulp Fiction was making human beehives as an act of warped mercy. Nicely done. Even Pimms' name was meta; it was an alias used by Chuck, an avid beekeeper, on Fuller's Pushing Daisies. He sure loves those in-jokes.
The only thing creepier than a human beehive is watching the creation of one. Pimms happily hammering away at a lobotomy procedure gave me panicked flashbacks to Takashi Miike's Audition. The only thing creepier than that was watching the poor bee-stung, hollowed out shell of a victim shambling around in broad daylight. It was truly disconcerting to see him sitting up for his examination with the BAU team. That just ain't right.
In contrast to the Old Testament judgment bees, we got a painfully real scene between the Crawfords when Gina Torres returned as Jack's wife Bella. As her cancer worsens, her resolve to be in control of what remains of her life grows stronger. What started as a gently funny moment with the Crawfords enjoying some 420 time soon became a tearjerker when Bella informed Jack of her advance directive. Would she agree with what Pimms was doing with her ill patients if she was given a choice? Maybe not literally, but on a fundamental level, she very likely would and Jack can't work on that case without thinking of his wife's final wishes.
And then there's Bella's therapist Hannibal, who seemed to talk her toward ending her life on her own terms in one session, then decides Bella's fate with the flip of a coin. It's a vicious irony that Hannibal's biggest cruelty here was letting someone live. Hannibal had that slap coming for a long time. He's the opposite of Pimms. Right down to her inability to eat the honey made from her patients. "That'd be too morbid." Nothing is out of bounds for Hannibal. Did Hannibal revive Bella out of mere caprice, because it gave him a feeling of power over death, or because it buys him more time with Jack and an "object" that can be used to distract Jack from Will's case?
Will's largely side-lined in prison, but his plot moves forward every week, so it's compelling in its own right. This week, things took a devastating turn.
I take back what I said about Hannibal being the rare horror show where smart characters behave smartly. Beverly was plain stupid. Is it unfair to say that? Of course she doesn't know what we and Will know about Hannibal, but she was starting to suspect and wouldn't that mean she'd know the kind of extremely dangerous mind she'd be maneuvering against? And then prepare accordingly? It feels more like someone else close to Will has to die in order for Jack and the BAU to start suspecting Hannibal. I just wish it wasn't Beverly dying in the service of the plot because she's so fantastic. But that's kind of the point, right? She hunted when she should have gone fishing.
That final scene of Beverly creeping through Hannibal's basement and discovering Hannibal's... what? Meatlocker? I think it's got to be more than corpses. We would've seen corpses. There were a lot of chains. A dramatic prisoner? Was the last thing Beverley saw before she saw Hannibal... Abigail Hobbes? I'm still bothered that no one else seems to be looking for Abigail's body. But seeing Beverly see the truth was more important than what she actually saw. I couldn't think too much between crying "No! No! Don't go in the basement, dummy!" and being impressed at the nod to Clarice Starling in Buffalo Bill's basement of terror.
Meanwhile... "He's eating them." As satisfying as Will's Soylent Green moment was, his face when he learns of Beverly's disappearance will be heartbreaking. He can't say he didn't warn her, but that won't do much to alleviate the guilt.
• One of the things that makes Hannibal so great is the standout female cast. To lose Bedilia and Beverly and almost Bella in the span of four episodes would've been too Game of Thrones for me. The bad ones always live; I'm looking at you and your giant hat, Freddie Lounds.Kudos also for having some great female serial killers. First Molly Shannon and now Amanda Plummer? Yes, please.
• Will's getting a lot to do behind bars. Aside from using Beverly as his mouthpiece on the outside, he's trying and largely failing to use Chilton and his vanity against Hannibal. While he was successful in getting Chilton to help him recover more lost memories, does he know how in league Hannibal and Chilton are? Giving Hannibal any more clues into what Will wants is a fail in my book.
• The score during Will's therapy session with Chilton was a funhouse nightmare of noise. Totally terrifying. Also deeply disturbing was Hannibal's Picasso face, features all rearranged like one of Will's melting clocks. I'd rather see the bees.
• Palate Cleanser of the Week: Eddie Izzard spotting. Dr. Gideon will be back next week.