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!

  • simon says

    when we first walked into the hotel room and saw the ‘angels’ praying infront of the bed i started laughing out loud. i’m not sure why but i thought it was pretty funny. the whole murder of the week was pretty weak. it took the backseat while the episode revolved around other things, which is fine. but the conclusion to that storyline was just nothing. as you said, how did he even do that to himself? are we to believe hannibal did that? i didn’t see any evidence of that, so it was really weird how it ended. so fast and anticlimactic.

    and i always love to see gina torres but i just don’t care about her character or that she is dying. i suppose it will shape jack in a certain way and that’s why it’s important but so far they haven’t showed us much about him. he never really had anything to do besides talk to or about will and eating humans with hannibal. was that a jaw on the plate hannibal set infront of bella? wtf? and no one gets suspicious? i loved the fact that he said he employed an ethical buthcer, however.

    so all in all i thought this episode was pretty boring and i get closer to stop watching every week. how come this show can be both so fast paced and very slow at the same time? will’s struggles came way too early for me. i think it’s great to have a main character who’s flawed. but instead of showing us his troubles with interacting with other people a bit more and build him up professionally to tear him down later, they get hannibal place doubt in him last week with killing another one the same way and now they make him break down completely in the 5th episode? i wished they spent a little more time exploring or establishing the status quo (but maybe there isn’t supposed to be one) before messing the world up completely.

    on the plus side i know now why the series is called hannibal. he is clearly the center of the show. he has fingers in every storyline and is manipulating everyone. but while i feel that this part of the show is progressing a little too fast is think nothing else is happening. that’s why it feels very slow to me as well. i can’t really explain it. i also have trouble connecting all of the things hannibal is doing. maybe it’s because i only understand half of what he’s saying. but i also think that he doesn’t even know what he is doing. he just keeps manipulating will, jack, abigail and the rest. he doesn’t seem to have a master plan. he’s just winging it and is wondering where it leads. which is fine in theory but that makes the show for me very pointless and confusing, and not in a good way. it’s too scattered to make sense and not senseless or absurd enough to be brilliant. i think that might describe it. i hope you understand what i’m trying to say.

    so i think i will turn in next time to see how it will develop. maybe the butchered webisode threw me off but i doubt i will see this season through.

    • Mark Trammell

      I totally meant to mention the ethical animal killing thing! I can’t believe I forgot it.

      Anyway, it’s way too soon to really comment on Gina Torres character and whether she’s effective or not. I like her (the actress) from other stuff she’s done, but the character Bella is a bit troubling. You may be onto something with her being there more to flesh out Jack (Fishburne) than to be a compelling character on her own.

      That’s kind of a shame because I find the other female characters to be really strong, especially Dr. Bloom and Abigail. I also like Dr. Katz, though we don’t know much about her yet. I like that’s she’s trying to help Will be a little more normal & fit in, and that’s she’s a bit on the snarky side. Also, that was cool that she quoted Morrison.

      The ending was troubling, as I mentioned. As for the other stuff you said, I think the show on the whole is pretty deliberately paced to be sort of a dreamy mood piece. I think maybe they’re trying to put us in Will’s shoes the majority of the time, to see and fel what he does. The only time it seems a bit fast paced to me is when they’re doing the typical “CSI”-type stuff and walking Will through the crime scene, and you get all this quick info on the fly, but then it goes right back to the slower pacing. To me, the show is kind of saying without saying it: okay, here’s the “real world” invading Will’s space, with all its accompanying huste & bustle, but in order to do what he does, he needs to get all of that out of the way becasue he functions best at what he does alone. So, he’ll either get everyone to leave while he takes it all in or he’ll go somewhere to mull it over. The problem is, it takes its toll on him and is invading his dreams and now it’s even starting to affect him to the point that he’s doing stuff he can’t recall, like sleepwalking. That’s my take on it anyway.

      As for the case, I’ve always found the whole “crime of the week” thing to be troubling. I mean, in “real life” things don’t get wrapped up so neatly, you know? I thought this show was going to be different when the Hobbs stroyline didn’t end even after he was caught, and in that respect, it is, especially with the Abigail thing. But the other crimes, like the Angelmaker and Mushroom Man and so on were all wrapped up in one episode. It’s like they’re trying to do both to satisy both people like me who want something a bit more ambitious, as well as people who prefer things to be more self-contained. I don’t know if you can do both.

      I would be fine with a case that was spread out more over the season. My favorite “CSI” episodes were stuff like the Minature killer and the Tarantino stuff, where the story continues over the course of several episodes. Ever since Joss Whedon & JJ Abrams got a hold of me, I prefer long-term story arcs, but I realize not everyone does. I think this show is still trying to figure out what it wants to be, but I like the writing and directing and special effects enough to stick with it…for now.

      On a side note, I’ve been trying to watch the show with captions when I can because I have a hard time understanding Hannibal, so I feel you on that front! Unfortunately, the weather here is all over the place, and the show keeps getting rained out on my end (as in the satellite goes out), so I end up watching it online or with a friend of mine that can’t abide captions. I mean, it’s literally been severe weather every Thursday since the show started! And then they don’t air an episode to boot and I have to watch it online anyway! Ugh. I can’t win with this show, but I do enjoy it for the most part.