Hannibal Season 1 Review “Coquilles”

Hannibal Episode 5 Coquilles (2)On the latest episode of “Hannibal”– or should I say the latest episode allowed to be aired, that is (for more about that, see this article) – we got some pretty gruesome stuff on “Coquilles.” The title is French for scallops, FYI. I like how much thought goes into Lecter’s dishes. They really are like mini-works of art, you know? I’m not sure if I’d rather eat them or frame them. Actually, given what seems to be in them, I’m gonna go with framing.

Anyway, the main story at hand here was a doozy, with a wacko that liked to kill people in highly elaborate tableaus, not unlike Hannibal’s dining flourishes, only a lot grosser on the surface. Basically, the guy flayed open his victims’ skin on their backs, displaying them like angel wings, with the help of fishing wire.

The imagery- especially the crime scene set in the alleyway (see above)- was pretty similar at times to things we’ve seen in the movie versions of Hannibal’s adventures, in particular calling to mind the scene where Hannibal escapes and leaves behind a guard displayed hanging on the prison bars in the same manner. I assume the implication was that this was the case that inspired him to that end? Whatever the case, it was mighty disturbing (um, hello rando genitalia!) and pretty strong stuff, especially for TV. Go, NBC…I guess?

The scene in the hotel room was equally nightmare-inducing, with the killer’s victims posed as if kneeling in prayer before the bed. (Even the explanation of a so-called “Blood Eagle” was scary.) I’m not sure what was worse, that the killer slept afterwards in front of his handiwork, or that Will did the same, lying down on the bed to meditate on the killer or whatever. Either way, it was all pretty disgusting, and the special effects were alarmingly realistic.

Speaking of sleeping, Will was having issues with his own resting easy having woken up in the street and again on his roof. Having never sleepwalked before, to the best of his knowledge, he’s understandably upset by this new development. Gee, I can’t imagine what would have brought this on.

In the killer’s case, it turned out to be a brain tumor, and a fear of dying in his sleep. Eventually, the fear grew too great and he offed himself, though I’m not exactly sure how one manages to flay one’s own back and hang themselves from the rafters of a barn to boot. That was pretty icky when he appeared in front of Will, flaps dangling askew. It was all very Clive Barker, circa Hellraiser– especially when the killer said: “I can give you the majesty of your becoming.”

I think I’m with Will on perhaps this not being the healthiest line of work to be in. Of course, if he actually quits, we wouldn’t have a show, but those of us who read the books know that that doesn’t happen until after he captures Lecter, so we’re good for the foreseeable future.

We also got a lot more Bella, including the origin of her name, which I’m pretty sure was straight out of the books, as was her diagnosis. That was pretty freaky when you realized later that Hannibal actually smelled the cancer on her. Yuck. We discovered that she was seeing Lecter without Jack’s knowledge and that he didn’t know about her affliction yet.

Thanks to the case, which also revolved around someone with cancer, he was able to puzzle it out for himself, leading to a touching scene between the two that felt pretty authentic. Some have felt star Laurence Fishburne’s performance thus far has been a little over-baked, citing the scene in the bathroom in the pilot as a prime example (it even cropped up on “The Soup”), but this felt achingly real.

Knowing that the role of his wife was played by his actual real-life wife, Gina Torres, actually worked in his favor here. It was clear that he was imaging how he’d really react to such a thing, and it was pretty heartbreaking to see. Not that he really needed much redeeming IMHO, but if he did, then he did a bang-up job of underplaying things just right here. It was just the right amount of subtle while still remaining effective.

Line of the night has to go to Will’s bemused reaction to Lecter’s taking a whiff of his scent: “Did you just smell me?” Although, bonus points to quoting, of all things, Jim Morrison: “Death makes angels of us all and gives us wings where we had shoulders, smooth as raven’s claws.” As Dr. Katz put it: “Even a drunk with a flair for the dramatic can convince himself he’s God…or the Lizard King.”

Well said, and can I just say, I am so loving the writing on the show? It’s nice to have Bryan Fuller back in his element, even if this show is a bit darker than his other fare, which included “Wonderfalls” (also with Caroline Dhavernas, who plays Dr. Bloom here) and “Pushing Daisies.”

Ditto the direction, which is uniformly great, no matter who’s directing. This time out, it was Guillermo Navarro, best known for his work with another Guillermo- Del Toro- on the superlative “Pan’s Labyrinth” and the “Hellboy” movies, as well as his collaborations with Quentin Tarantino on “Jackie Brown” and “From Dusk Till Dawn.” Though the show has a pretty uniform look overall, there’s no denying the main murder set-pieces were as strangely beautiful as they were disturbing, and staged brilliantly.

So, a pretty solid episode. Aside from the lack of suspense in having the killer off himself, and the unlikelihood of that particular death being feasibly pulled off, it was pretty engaging. The imagery undeniably made it, but the writing and direction were uniformly strong as well, so really it was everything working in tandem with one another that sold it on the whole.

What did you think of “Hannibal” this week? Did you find the killer’s methods as gross as I did? How about those special effects? What about the chemistry between Fishburne and Torres? What did you make of Will’s ongoing issues sleepwalking? How about Hannibal rifling through his stuff while he was gone? Did you like the way the episode played out in the end? Or did you think it could have stood for a little more suspense?

Let me know what you thought in the comments section!