Hannibal: Shiizakana Review (Mania.com)

By:Curtis G. Schmitt
Review Date: Sunday, April 27, 2014
Source: Mania.com

With “Shiizakana” HANNIBAL gets a minor dose of THE X-FILES. I’ll admit, at first I was thrown off quite a bit by the pre-credits “monster” attack at the snowy truck stop. Oh no, my greatest fear second only to my own death -- HANNIBAL has jumped the shark! As the camera slowly panned away from the bloody violence and the screen went black, in my head I heard Mark Snow’s “doo duh duh, doo duh duh, doo” opening theme music. But my fears were unwarranted; this is indeed HANNIBAL, where the monsters are all human and “man is the only creature that kills to kill.”

As the pace of Will’s becoming rapidly accelerates and the “Willdigo” (the name Bryan Fuller has given to the Wendigo aspect of Will’s personality) in him finally emerges, we meet a new serial-killer-of-the-week that has evolved himself into an animal predator, too, but much more tangibly so. Randall Tier has fashioned himself an animal suit equipped with a prehistoric jaw and claws powered by “pull ratchets and pneumatics” that allow him to literally tear his victims to pieces. It’s an animal version of the “person suit” that Hannibal and his psychiatrist so often discussed in Season 1. And it mirrors back to Will the dangerous transformation he is allowing (even encouraging) in himself, under the supervision of his “trusted” psychiatrist, of course. As it turns out, the good Dr. Lecter ALSO treated Randall Tier many years ago. And so Hannibal sees an opportunity to encourage the homicidal evolution of both patients by arranging for a deadly confrontation between them. Even murderers need personal empowerment, right?

We also get more great scenes with the creepy Margot Verger. For those unfamiliar with the source material, she’s the sister of Mason Verger, who plays a prominent part in the third book. (And on a related note, who else caught the glorious MANHUNTER homage when the killer leaps through Will’s window in the climactic scene?) This week, Margot leaves Hannibal’s office and meets Will. I absolutely loved when Margot and Will, while sipping whiskey together, each confess their “private carnage.” I tried to murder my brother, she says. Well, I’ve got that one beat, he retorts. I tried to murder my friend, our mutual psychiatrist. If you’ve ever wondered “What would happen if Hannibal’s patients started talking to one another?” you got your answer.

Story elements aside, “Shiizakana” exemplifies what I love most about this show: HANNIBAL is a show of paradoxes. It’s a show where characters never say exactly what they mean, yet somehow ALWAYS say exactly what they mean. It’s a show where the violence is both horrific and beautiful. It’s a show were best friends try to murder each other. And it’s a show that explores one of the most fundamental psychological paradoxes we experience as human beings: What we desire most is so often the same thing we most fear -- to be seen by another as who we really are.

Hannibal desires a friend worthy of knowing him, but he fears that by revealing himself he’ll be locked up in a dark cage in the basement of a psychiatric hospital. So he dons a carefully constructed person suit to keep people at a distance. Will desires human connection with someone who can help him understand who he is, but he fears the pain of extreme empathy and risk of betrayal that comes with getting too close. But unlike Hannibal, Will doesn’t don a person suit to keep people at a distance. He keeps them at a distance to avoid donning THEIR person suits.

Before Hannibal’s framing of Will, I think each believed the other could “save” him. Much of this season has been about them each trying to reconcile their own paradoxical feelings since then. In “Shiizakana,” Will and Hannibal seem to have reached an equilibrium -- for a moment at least. Both have found their match yet on opposite sides of right and wrong. Another paradox, or is it the perfect marriage, like matter and antimatter gravitating towards an inevitable explosion? Even though they are at odds and they know it, there’s a respect for what they recognize of themselves in the other. In Will’s dream, Hannibal tells him, “No one can be fully aware of another human being unless we love them.” They’re peers -- intellectually, in terms of understanding human behavior, and in their isolation from the rest of society.

In other words, they’re even-steven.


Curtis G. Schmitt’s day job is Chief Health Nut & Weight-Loss Specialist at Smarter-Weight-Loss.com but in his spare time he blogs about movies on his Curtis Loves Movies blog. He’s written a non-fiction book on stress reduction called Peaceful Productivity Now, and a collection of speculative fiction called The Other Worlds, both available on Amazon.

Mania Grade: A
Episode: Shiizakana (Season 2, Episode 9)
Starring: Hugh Dancy, Mads Mikkelsen, Caroline Dhavernas, Laurence Fishburne
Written By: Jeff Vlaming
Directed By: Michael Rymer
Network: NBC
Studio: Dino De Laurentiis Company, Living Dead Guy Productions, AXN: Original X Production