The Proverbs of Hell 14/39: Kaiseki
KAISEKI: An umbrella term for multi-course meals in the Japanese style – roughly equivalent to what renaming “Apéritif” to “Haute Cuisine” would imply. The gesture towards the whole season makes sense for an episode that opens with a flash forward to the finale. (I should disclaim that my knowledge of Japanese cooking is wildly less than my knowledge of French cooking, and that I’m going to be much more reliant on Wikipedia for these than I was for the first 13 parts.)
The flashforward to the Jack/Hannibal fight scene from “Mizumono” is interesting. The flash forward in general was trendy in television around this time, mostly due to the influence of Breaking Bad, which used them habitually. But Breaking Bad’s default use of them was cryptic – they’d show short flashes of something that would hang over episodes or seasons as a mystery. This, on the other hand, is more of a promise at the expense of suspense. Hannibal pledges up front that Jack is going to figure out what Hannibal is up to, thus reassuring viewers before the season even starts that all of this business with Will being in prison will eventually be over. This has obvious narrative function – asking the audience to sit through six full episodes of Will in prison is a big ask even with the reassurance. But it’s striking how little else there is that actually relies on this flash forward, to the point where it begins to become easy to forget.
HANNIBAL: Kaiseki. A Japanese art form that honors the taste and aesthetic of what we eat.
The first time Hannibal has done a title drop. It’s a bit over-obvious, but a reasonable concession given that, unlike the first season, the episode titles are rarely cognates of identifiable English words. (The second season remains the only one where I routinely have to go look up which episode is which, and I’d be surprised if blogging it changes that.) Hannibal’s framing of Kaiseki in terms of uniting taste and aesthetic is, of course, utterly characteristic.
JACK CRAWFORD: I feel guilty eating it.
HANNIBAL: I never feel guilty eating anything.
JACK CRAWFORD: Can’t quite place the fish.
HANNIBAL: He was a flounder.
Hannibal’s really laying the “I’m going to tell you point blank that I’m a cannibalistic serial killer then chuckle silently as you miss it” on a bit thick today.
HANNIBAL: I last prepared this meal for my Aunt Murasaki under similarly unfortunate circumstances.
JACK CRAWFORD: What circumstances were those?
HANNIBAL: A loss. This is a loss. Will is a loss. We’re mourning a death.
The namechecking of Lady Murasaki is a rare acknowledgment of Hannibal Rising, very much the runt of the Thomas Harris litter, and the line characterizes Fuller’s approach to that book: acknowledge its canonicity while mostly ignoring the details. The loss in question is almost certainly Hannibal’s sister Mischa.
HANNIBAL: We can’t define Will only by his maddest edges.
JACK CRAWFORD: We can’t define Will at all.
Without fully realizing, Jack identifies the aesthetic result of Hannibal’s manipulations in season one, and in turn begins to codify the way in which Will has ascended and become an utterly singular entity definable only in terms of himself.
The hunting/fishing distinction from season one becomes a fully realized aspect of Will’s dreamscape here. The transition to the opening credits, meanwhile, provides a map (or perhaps menu) of the season in full; the flash forward raises the question of how Jack will come to figure out what Hannibal is. Will’s dream provides an answer: Will will fish him.
HANNIBAL: Will Graham has asked to see me. (pause) I would like to see him. I continue to be curious about the way he thinks despite all that’s happened.
BEDELIA DU MAURIER: He’s still influencing you. Will Graham asking to see you betrays his clear intent to manipulate you.
HANNIBAL: And if I agree to see Will?
BEDELIA DU MAURIER: It betrays your clear intent to manipulate him.
Bedelia is markedly ahead of the rest of the cast (including Will and Hannibal) in understanding the show’s central ship. What’s interesting here, however, is the way in which she casually conflates their motivations. Yes, Will intends to manipulate Hannibal, but this is because Will wants to get out of prison for crimes he didn’t commit. Hannibal, on the other hand, just wants to fuck with people.
HANNIBAL: Will is my friend.
BEDELIA DU MAURIER: Why? Why is he your friend?
HANNIBAL: He sees his own mentality as grotesque but useful, like a chair of antlers. He can’t anticipate his thoughts. He can’t block them. He can’t repress who he is. There’s an honesty in that I admire.
BEDELIA DU MAURIER: I imagine there’s an honesty in that you can relate to. What can’t you repress, Hannibal?
At last, the chair of antlers line, previously utilized in a line from “Potage” that was cut when its scene was moved to “Œuf,” makes its appearance. It’s hard not to think that the delay was worthwhile – its invocation on Hannibal’s part is far more interesting than Will asserting it, not least because of Hannibal’s association with a stag.
KADE PRURNELL: There is a general desire to see this go away quickly and quietly. Dr. Bloom, with that in mind, I would appreciate it greatly if you were to recant your report.
ALANA BLOOM: No. Will Graham’s life has been destroyed. How that happened has to be a matter of record. I’m sorry, Jack.
JACK CRAWFORD: Dr. Bloom is not easily swayed.
KADE PRURNELL: This is going to get ugly.
JACK CRAWFORD: It already has.
In a real sense this is Alana’s best scene to date, although as is typical for the character, this isn’t quite because of anything she does. Rather it’s because of the interaction with Jack, who quietly stands behind her decision to write a damning report of his conduct even in the face of institutional pressure to let him off the hook. Jack’s motivations here – both respect for Alana and a self-destructive impulse born of his guilt over Will – are tremendously interesting. But so is Alana’s complete and conscious refusal to interact with the system as though its unfairness is a foregone conclusion.
WILL GRAHAM: I used to hear my thoughts inside my skull with the same tone, timbre and accent as if the words were coming out of my mouth.
HANNIBAL: And now?
WILL GRAHAM: Now my inner voice sounds like you. I can’t get you out of my head.
The first of two key reversals in approach in the episode, as Will finds himself unwillingly adopting Hannibal’s modus operandi, consuming him.
HANNIBAL: Friendship can sometimes involve a breach of individual separateness.
WILL GRAHAM: A blurring of self and friend?
WILL GRAHAM: You’re not my friend. The light from friendship won’t reach us for a million years. That’s how far away from friendship we are.
Will’s estimate is off by approximately nine hundred ninety-nine thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine and three-quarter light years.
HANNIBAL: I got to be Will Graham today. I consulted at an FBI crime scene. I stood in Will’s shoes. I looked through his eyes. And I saw death how I imagined he would see it.
The other reversal, as Hannibal not only gets to be Will Graham, and in doing so takes on his pathology.
HANNIBAL: I’m being as open and honest as I know how.
BEDELIA DU MAURIER: You maintain an air of transparency while putting me in the position to lie for you. Again.
HANNIBAL: You’re not just lying to me.
BEDELIA DU MAURIER: How far will this flirtation with the FBI go?
HANNIBAL: It would seem Jack Crawford is less suspicious of me than you are.
BEDELIA DU MAURIER: Agent Crawford doesn’t know what you’re capable of.
HANNIBAL: Neither do you.
Hannibal is escalating the scale of his openness with Bedelia, making allusions to his homicidal tendencies that are pointedly not designed to go over her head. What’s interesting, however, is his suggestion that he’s being as open and honest as he knows how. Not as he can afford to be, which is what one would expect. Rather, there is something closer to an inability to engage in the sort of intimacy revealing himself would involve.
The visual of the metronome hypnotizing Will for memory recovery mirrors the pendulum that defines his murder reconstructions. Note that the metronome is blue, the complementary color to the orange pendulum.
Alana’s form within the memory recovery becomes a negative image, black-skinned like the Wendigo, occupying a disturbing midpoint between Will’s sexual desire for Alana and his relationship with Hannibal.
HANNIBAL: Salted and ash-baked celeriac with foraged sea astra. Frederick, you have tested me. It is rare that I cook a meatless meal.
DR. CHILTON: I lost a kidney. I have to watch my protein intake.
Compare to his reaction to Freddie Lounds’s vegetarianism, where he apologizes for his lapse in hospitality. Here he is much more visibly annoyed at the fact that he cannot continue to play his games with Chilton.
WILL GRAHAM: You want to know how he’s choosing them, don’t you?
BEVERLY KATZ: Thought you would have some ideas.
This is, of course, dialogue from the first Will/Hannibal scene in Red Dragon, one of the two most iconic Hannibal Lecter scenes in the canon.
And so the most mysterious and satanic of Hannibal’s manipulations last season gets an unsatisfying, albeit pleasantly gross, explanation. Although this really just raises a different question, how the hell did Hannibal pitch “so I’m going to have to cut your ear off and feed it to Will” to Abigail?
WILL GRAHAM: I had nothing to prove to myself or anyone else that Hannibal was responsible. Not even a memory.
JACK CRAWFORD: Had nothing? You have something now, Will? You recover a memory?
WILL GRAHAM: Yes.
JACK CRAWFORD: You know that’s meaningless.
WILL GRAHAM: Not for me.
Jack is correctly skeptical of the notion of recovered memories, but he has insufficient regard for Will’s needs here, which are only secondarily focused on exoneration. His main priority is the recovery of a sense of self.
An odd note to end on, as the killer of the week for this episode had been a tertiary concern at best. But the purpose of the ending is much like the opening flash-forward – an explicit note about the structure of this season. By making a cliffhanger out of the killer of the week the show establishes that its killers are no longer confined by individual weeks, its attention turning towards more arc-based structures. Although to be fair, this is a monstrously upsetting sequence.
July 27, 2017 @ 2:41 am
Insightful as always, and a pleasure to see you continue this series.
I wonder if you are one of the viewers that is hoping for a new season or is content with the three existing ones.
August 24, 2017 @ 1:44 pm
“Compare to his reaction to Freddie Lounds’s vegetarianism, where he apologizes for his lapse in hospitality. Here he is much more visibly annoyed at the fact that he cannot continue to play his games with Chilton.”
Continuing with my “Hannibal’s meals are fairy food” thought from season 1, Chilton thinks refusing the meal will make him immune to Hannibal’s sinister workings. But of course it doesn’t work like that. Once you’ve eaten, you’re marked forever. So each season Chilton will suffer another wound, made by the Hannibal’s emissary (and, in season 3, Will’s, which will of course be very appropriate thematically).
July 29, 2020 @ 5:46 pm
The loss shared with Lady Murasaki, referred to through the meal, is more likely to be Robert Lecter’s death. Mischa had been long dead when Hannibal met Lady Murasaki, but her husband died during the years they have been living together.