It’s always a bit of a bummer when a series takes a detour from its main story arc in order to focus on the lives of supporting characters. These episodes are a bummer for the sheer fact they are detours and often develop dead-end story lines about characters we have not invested that much emotion into. These episodes feel like a series filler and often don’t contribute to the advancement of a season.
Yet, on tonight’s episode of Hannibal, the show proved once again that great writing coupled with great acting and sick, cinematic visuals, can make any episode within this series, no matter what or whom it deals with, brilliant. In fact, if they shot an episode about Hannibal’s love of fantasy baseball and Jack Crawford’s adventure at his local farmer’s market, it’d probably blow minds.
‘Takiawase’ puts its focus on Dr. Chilton (Raul Esparza of Law & Order: SVU) and his interaction with Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and Bella Crawford (Firefly’s Gina Torres) and her confiding in Hannibal Lecter (Madds Mikelsen). There’s also small subplots about a killer who lobotomized their victim in order to grow a beehive/honeycomb in his skull as well as Beverly Katz’s (Hettienne Park) continued interest in trying to clear Will’s name.
There are no references at all in “Takiawase” to the potential copycat killer nor Will’s trial. The “killer of the week” subplot involving Pulp Fiction alum Amanda Plummer is pretty disposable and until the end of the episode nothing really groundbreaking happens. (Oh, that ending does break some serious, serious ground.)
Yet, the episode is masterful. The Bella story is probably the most compelling. For those who forget, Bella Crawford, wife of Laurence Fishburne’s Jack Crawford (and portrayed by Fishburne’s real life spouse), is dying of lung cancer, a fate her own mother suffered. While Bella wished to die quickly, Jack persuaded her to try chemotherapy but the treatment is destroying Bella both physically and emotionally. She confides in Hannibal her wish to commit suicide and asks the good doctor to assist her. The scenes between the two are very well done, but it’s actually the scenes between Bella and Jack that are the show stealers. Having a real life couple act as a fictional married couple will almost always yield great onscreen chemistry, this is no different here. Fishburne and Torres have a wonderfully touching scene together — smoking medicinal marijuana and Jack reminiscing about he will always remember his wife as the love of his life. This is not a scene you’d expect in a show about a famed fictional cannibalistic serial killer. Nor would you think it would work either, but it really does. This scene between husband and wife only makes the climax of the episode that much more emotional. It’s hard not to get a little misty either during these scenes, especially if you personally have experienced a loss.
Then there’s Dr. Chilton who is played by the magnificent Raul Esparza. One has to guess this is where Esparza escapes to when he’s not on SVU; the man does need a place to actually show off his top notch acting skills. He portrays Chilton (famously portrayed in the movies by Anthony Heald) as such an oily and devious man, who wants to not only be on the same level as Hannibal and Will, but he wants to be their intellectual superior. Esparza eats up this roll with gusto and allowing this to finally have some moments in the sun makes the Chilton character so much more of a wild card in this series filled with wild cards.
Visually, this might be one of Hannibal’s top productions and that’s saying something. The hallucinogenic and psychotic cinematography and visual trickery was pitch perfect. When we’re with Will in this episode he is under the influence of some drugs Chilton has injected in him in order to help him tell the truth and hopefully remember everything that happened to him. These trippy sequences are so far out and just heighten the madness within poor Will Graham’s brain. We need to feel just as uneasy as Will and these visuals do the trick.
For an episode that didn’t really accomplish much until the very end, Hannibal’s “Takiawase” was another brilliant entry into the show’s sophomore season. Next week, the genius Eddie Izzard returns and Will’s supposed copycat admirer is revealed. Things are about to get really, really heavy on Hannibal now.