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Hannibal Ep 2.09 “Shiizakana” an extremely well-crafted slasher

Hannibal Ep 2.09 “Shiizakana” an extremely well-crafted slasher

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Hannibal Season 2, Episode 9 “Shiizakana”
Directed by Michael Rhymer
Written by Jeff Viaming
Airs Thursdays at 10pm ET on NBC

NBC’s Hannibal returns with its latest entry “Shiizakana,” an episode that explores the strange and complicated relationship Will Graham and Dr. Hannibal Lecter share. Shiizakana’ begins with a clear-cut dream sequence in which Will has Hannibal tied to a tree with the end of each rope cinched around the legs of a black stag. Will exerts control over the animal by signalling the stag by whistling. With each whistle, the stag steps a bit further away tightening the cordage around Lecter’s neck. Will tells Hannibal he is waiting for an admission, but Lecter isn’t interested in a confession, and so as the stag is commanded to fully engage the rope and pulley system forward, our favourite psychopath is beheaded with a geyser of blood splashing across the screen. Will’s command of the both the stag and Hannibal speak volumes about his current state of mind. The opening scene reiterates Will’s capability, and perhaps desire, to do whatever it takes to beat Hannibal at his own game. The two have had their differences, but now their relationship has advanced to a new level. Will is more than willing to unleash the monster inside, and in order to defeat Lecter, he must become like Hannibal.

It seems his entire life, Hannibal has played the role of the Pied Piper, and now Hannibal’s control over Will is his biggest accomplishment. However, the game is far from over. When Will killed Jacob Hobbs back in season one, he didn’t feel guilty about shooting the man with his gun, but rather felt guilty for liking it. Will is playing with fire now that he is once again under the dubious guidance of Dr. Lecter. Hannibal has tried a number of successful methods to get Will to explore his dark side, and now he wants him to evolve into something more dangerous. His desire is to get Will to acknowledge and accept the monster growing inside him, and in the end, become more like him. This week’s case adds another layer to the psychological warfare between the two men, and “Shiizakana” leaves us with one big important question: Is Will truly as evil as Hannibal, or does he just believe he needs to get his hands dirty and sacrifice his well being, in order to destroy Lecter once and for all?

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This week, Bryan Fuller has netted a subtle theme into the killer of the week storyline, as “Shiizakana” is concerned with the concept of metamorphosis. At the center of the episode is Randall Tier (Mark O’Brien), a former patient of Dr. Lecter, who wants to become the predatory animal he believes himself to be. In order to achieve this metamorphosis, Tier creates a skeleton-modelled-mechanical suit that enables him to attack using fossilized jaws and claws to devitalize, and dismember his victims (much like a bear, or wolf would). Yes, I know it seems pretty far-fetched, but this is Hannibal, the same show that recently put a live starling inside a dead human, inside a dead horse. As I mentioned several times in the past, one must suspend their disbelief while watching Hannibal, and simply enjoy it for its dark poetry. Randall’s history of an identity crisis adds some real depth to his character. “Do you know what it’s like when the skin you’re wearing doesn’t fit?” says Randall, echoing Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs. Thanks to Hannibal, Randall’s found ways to control his impulses and compartmentalize them. There is a clear sense of pride when Hannibal tells Randal, “You’ve come so very far.” The idea of Randall becoming intimate with his instincts, parallels Will’s ability, and difficulty, to adapt and evolve. Using Randall as a pawn, Hannibal sends Randall after Will. He doesn’t want Will dead; instead he wants Will to surrender to killing again. Still, it seems like a huge gamble sending a beast like Tier, and assuming Graham will make it out alive. I guess we can’t complain since the scene gave us a beautiful nod to Michael Mann’s masterpiece Manhunter.

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Speaking of which, “Shiizakana” is a prime example of Hannibal’s ability to feature the best visuals in television today. Much like the greatest slasher films, the episode, directed by Michael Rymer, favours atmosphere over explicit onscreen violence, and amplifies the suspense almost entirely through visual means by allowing viewers to assume Randall Tier’s perspective. The widescreen frame, expert hand-held camerawork, gauzy cinematography, hyper-stylized art direction, and terrifying foreground and background imagery – along with the simple but creepy score (courtesy of music supervisor Brian Reitzell) – is what makes Hannibal a resounding success.

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The final scene in “Shiizakana” is one of the best yet, easily matching the final sequence in season one. Tier is dispatched off-screen and Lecter arrives home to discover Will with Randal’s dead corpse lying on his dining table. Will calls it justice: “I sent someone to kill you. You sent someone to kill me. I’d say this makes us even Steven.” With that, ‘Shiizakana’ shows how proficient Dr. Lecter is in unleashing the evil residing deep within his patients. “Shiizakana” is just the beginning of Will’s transformation, and I can’t wait to see what is next!

– Ricky D

Other thoughts:

I absolutely love the scene with Will asking Pete to consult on the case. His pet rat was really cute and, his performance along with Kevin, reminded me of the great horror film Willard.

I really hope Buster is going to be okay.

Will saving Buster, with a shotgun under his arm – how hot is that?

Randall: “You think I killed someone with a fossil?”

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Will: “I’m the guy who didn’t kill all those people”

Jack: “I used to be afraid of losing my memories.  What I wouldn’t give to forget some of them now”

Hannibal: “Memories hold moments in immortality, but forgetfulness promotes a healthy mind”

I love the continuous reflections in eyes.

Peter: “Man is the only creature that kills to kill.”

Margot: “What kind of psychiatrist are you?”

Will and Margot comparing notes on Hannibal, while drinking whiskey, may have been the highlight of the episode.

Will: I tried to murder Dr. Lecter.

Margot: Did he have it coming?

Will: What do you think?

Margot: I can’t say that I know.

Will: Neither can I.

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