The Proverbs of Hell 20/39: Yakimono
YAKIMONO: A course of flame-grilled meat. There are a number of episodes this would be a sensible title for, none of which are this one.
MIRIAM LASS: I remember a dream about drowning. Then being awake. And not awake. Being myself, and not myself. I remember I could smell salt air. We were by the sea. For weeks. Months. Longer. Days and evenings blurred, I’d wake up to the smell of fresh flowers and the sting of a needle. I wasn’t afraid. Fear and pain were so far away, on the horizon, but not close. Never close.
Miriam’s description is loosely adapted from a description of Hannibal’s brainwashing of Clarice from Hannibal.
ALANA BLOOM: They found a witness. A survivor. The only victim of the Chesapeake Ripper who lived to tell.
HANNIBAL: Is this witness watching me now?
ALANA BLOOM: Yes.
HANNIBAL: It seems I am the usual suspect.
ALANA BLOOM: I keep having angry, imaginary conversations with Jack Crawford about that. I wish I could tell you why this is happening.
Why are Alana’s conversations imaginary? She showed no hesitation in picking a fight with Jack in season one, nor at the beginning of season two when she started an investigation into his conduct. The charitable explanation – and it’s far from clear such charity is warranted when dealing with apparent inconsistencies in Alana’s characterization – is that she does not bring the matter up with Jack because she is afraid of what Jack will say to defend his position.
WILL GRAHAM: This is very sudden.
DR. CHILTON: The federal prosecutor has dropped all charges. Since you weren’t convicted of killing anyone, the basis for your sentencing to this institution is null and void. The Chesapeake Ripper has set you free.
Endearingly meta, given that we last saw Will early in “Futamono,” have seen none of the procedural wheels involved in this, and the cliffhanger had nothing to do with Will’s release. As a result, Will’s release feels slightly out of nowhere for all that it’s been anticipated for six episodes.
DR. CHILTON: Why didn’t Hannibal just kill you?
WILL GRAHAM: Because he wants to be my friend.
There’s no reason, in the script alone, why this line, which is mostly a restatement of previous sentiments, should be immediately iconic. It’s good, sure, but not in and of itself brilliant. Dancy’s delivery, on the other hand, full of both condescension towards Chilton and incredulity at the absurd thing he has to say in order to understand the basic fact of his drawing breath, is a thing of wonder and ensures that this is up there with “I love your work” and… well, we’ll talk about that next episode.
JACK CRAWFORD: You need a ride?
WILL GRAHAM: I was going to call a cab.
The untroubled ease with which Jack and Will resume their friendship is a nice callback to the tone of the final scene of “Coquilles.”
JACK CRAWFORD: Miriam thanked me. When we found her. For not giving up on her. I did give up on her. I gave up on you, too. I thought she was dead and I thought you were crazy. I stopped trying to find both of you.
WILL GRAHAM: You didn’t have to find me, Jack. You just had to listen to me.
JACK CRAWFORD: I put Miriam in a room with Hannibal Lecter. She stated definitively that he is not the Chesapeake Ripper.
WILL GRAHAM: Was that definitive enough for you?
JACK CRAWFORD: No. It wasn’t.
Their reconciliation is not so complete, however, that Will doesn’t get a dig in at Jack’s typically self-serving version of an apology, which both fails to actually apologize and positions Jack as the protagonist of Will being wrongfully imprisoned. Jack, however, quickly wins Will over with the carrot of the Ripper case and, more to the point, with the admission that he shares Will’s choice of prime suspect.
The calm application of the pendulum, which erases Jack without ceremony or discussion of the need for his absence, immediately demonstrates a new level of stability for Will. Using his abilities wasn’t this easy for him in season one.
WILL GRAHAM: I sewed the seeds and watched them grow. I cultivated a long chain of events leading to this. This, all of this, has been my design.
It’s a good speech, but it’s not entirely in keeping with how the show understands Hannibal, which has, as previously discussed, not been as a planner per se. The gardening metaphor is revealing, however – Hannibal cultivated events leading to this, as opposed to cultivating this directly. Hannibal will offer his own, more lucid account of this next episode.
WILL GRAHAM: He wants you to catch someone. Like he wanted you to catch me. Somewhere, in all this evidence, you’ll find something that will lead you away from Hannibal Lecter.
JACK CRAWFORD: Miriam Lass already has.
WILL GRAHAM: Two years is a long time to have Hannibal in your head. You can’t trust her, Jack. You can’t trust any of this to be what it seems.
Will’s advice is probably the single most helpful thing anybody has ever said in Hannibal, with utility extending well beyond this scene.
ALANA BLOOM: Welcome home.
WILL GRAHAM: Thank you. Thank you for taking care of them. They seem happy.
ALANA BLOOM: Happy to see you.
WILL GRAHAM: Who’s this?
ALANA BLOOM: Applesauce. She’s mine. She likes applesauce.
The unexpected return of Quirky Alana is a thoroughly irritating for a scene that exists mainly to emphasize the degree to which she is the one major character swimming against the current in terms of realizing the truth about Hannibal.
ALANA BLOOM: I was wrong about you.
WILL GRAHAM: Because you didn’t believe me? Or in me? Because you let me question my own sanity, my sense of reality? You’re wrong about him.
WILL GRAHAM: You’re wrong about him, Alana. You see the best in him. I don’t.
ALANA BLOOM: What was done to you doesn’t excuse what you did.
Will does, of course, see the best in Hannibal, and far more clearly than Alana does. Alana, meanwhile, demonstrates what happens if you apply the liberal argument against punching Nazis to cannibalistic serial killers.
The script for this is hilarious, with Fuller and Lightfoot noting that “the arm suddenly seems incredibly lifelike,” the point of the skin glove being so that they don’t have to spend money digitally erasing Anna Chlumsky’s arm every shot.
MIRIAM LASS: I remember the light. He always stood in front of it, at a distance from me, silhouetted, very still. Like we were in the garden of the hurricane’s eye. He would play chamber music. I still hear it. Then his voice, low and even, would pull me to him. Like a current.
HANNIBAL: You’re waking now. Waking, calm. Waking in a pleasant room. Safe.
The description is once again adapted from Harris’s account of Clarice’s brainwashing. Which, since it’s not like it’s going to come up in the plot itself unless Hannibal emerges for a fifth season, I may as well note is clearly the best actual idea in that novel, a self-evidently necessary consequence of the decision to allow Hannibal to be the protagonist of a story that exposes the fundamental horror of the populist move. The decision of the film to chicken out on the ending is emblematic of the film’s cowardice, and Ridley Scott’s stated objection to the plot point – that it’s “like a vampire movie” – is one of the most alarming missings of the point in cinematic history.
WILL GRAHAM: Our last kitchen conversation was interrupted by Jack Crawford. I’d like to pick up where we left off. If memory serves, you were asking me if it’d feel good to kill you.
HANNIBAL: You’ve given that some thought.
WILL GRAHAM: You wanted me to embrace my nature, doctor. Just following the urges I kept down for so long, cultivating them as the inspirations they are.
HANNIBAL: You never answered my question. How would killing me make you feel?
WILL GRAHAM: Righteous.
HANNIBAL: Aren’t you curious, Will? Why you? Why Miriam Lass? What does the Chesapeake Ripper want with you?
WILL GRAHAM: You tell me. How did Miriam Lass find you? You made sure no one could find you that way again.
HANNIBAL: If I’m not the Ripper, you murder an innocent man. You better than anyone know what it is to be wrongly accused. You were innocent, Will, and no one saw it.
WILL GRAHAM: I’m not innocent. You saw to that.
HANNIBAL: If I am the Ripper and you kill me, who will answer your questions? Don’t you want to know how it ends?
There is no point in excerpting this scene, every single line of which is fantastic. Hannibal’s three ploys to save his life are revealing, not least because the first and last are superficially the same argument, and yet it doesn’t resonate with Will until the second try. (The middle – an appeal to Will’s empathy – is an inevitable thing for Hannibal to try, but it’s hardly s surprise when it fails.) The key difference is that his latter attempt frames it in terms of art, treating the Chesapeake Ripper and Will’s life as a narrative. In this light, Will’s basic decision to stage this theatrical confrontation, literally restaging their previous meeting, instead of just putting a bullet in Hannibal’s head becomes tremendously revealing. In light of all of this, then, it must be pointed out that Will literally spares Hannibal because he wants to see what happens.
A striking visual, though it’s difficult to figure out the point of it given that Miriam is rather unceremoniously dumped from the narrative after shooting Chilton, so the detail of her having seen the wound man drawing is a callback that doesn’t really bother moving forward. (Miriam’s absence is somewhat conspicuous, so one is led to suspect there may have been scheduling difficulties with Chlumsky, who is also a regular on Veep.)
The sense of giddy excess in Hannibal’s framing of Chilton, especially in comparison to his framing of Will, is deeply entertaining in its casual demonstration of utter contempt. It also leads to one of the best comedy sequences the show has ever done as Chilton ineptly tries to escape out Will’s back door before being chased down by an increasingly irritated Jack.
DR. CHILTON: What did you do?
WILL GRAHAM: I called Jack Crawford.
DR. CHILTON: No, no, no.. No. Stay there.
WILL GRAHAM: You’re not a killer, Frederick.
In all of this, however, this exchange, as Will casually dismisses the notion that Chilton might shoot him by pointing out his innocence for the crimes he’s about to get arrested for, is probably the funniest moment.
And so Chilton suffers his seasonal disfigurement at the hands of Hannibal via Miriam Lass.
WILL GRAHAM: I have to deal with you. And my feelings about you. I think it’s best if I do that directly.
HANNIBAL: First you have to grieve for what is lost and what has changed.
WILL GRAHAM: I’ve changed. You changed me.
HANNIBAL: The friendship that we had is over. The Chesapeake Ripper is over.
WILL GRAHAM: It had to be Miriam, didn’t it? She was compelled to take his life so she could take her own back.
HANNIBAL: How will you take your life back?
WILL GRAHAM: I’d like to resume my therapy.
And so concludes the middle episode of Season Two. For sensible reasons people talk of the front and back halves of the season – and they are indisputably of differing qualities and have differing problems. But “Yakimono” sits oddly between them, belonging to neither half. The first half is defined by Will being in prison, which he’s not here, but none of the second half’s major concerns are introduced yet, and the whole thing is mostly an exercise analogous to Alan Moore’s opening issue of Swamp Thing, “Loose Ends,” all of it leading up to this ostentatious declaration of a new status quo. Even more of a sorbet course than “Sorbet,” in other words.
September 4, 2017 @ 2:49 pm
Is that roast yours Phil?
September 4, 2017 @ 3:46 pm
I wish. It’s Janice Poon’s, from a deleted scene in this episode.
September 6, 2017 @ 9:45 am
Watching “Hannibal” can sometimes be an exercise in frustration. It’s not that I want him caught – I realize that the thrill here is in the chase, not the capture – but I much prefer it when Hannibal wins thanks to his expert psychological manipulations rather than elaborate plans. (Hannibal winning because the good guys are incompetent also annoys me). Manipulating people, slowly breaking their psyche – that’s properly scary. Brainwashing victims so that they can be found years later and, through sheer luck, almost but not quite kill someone you despise and want to frame for your murders… that’s just mustache-twirling villainy. Nevermind how much of it was actually planned in advance. It just didn’t convince me.