Season 2, Episode 9: “Shiizakana”
Directed by Michael Rhymer
Written by Bryan Fuller & Jeff Vlaming
“No one can be fully aware of another human being unless we love them. By that love we see potential in our beloved. Through that love, we allow our beloved to see their potential. Expressing that love, our beloved’s potential comes true.“
Nice opening dream scene between Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen). Revealing talk, as Lecter seemingly expresses the love in him for Will, while the other – in dreamland – is determined mainly to make him suffer. So, we’re seeing that Will most certainly would still love to kill Hannibal. The feelings are bubbling inside him.
At the same time, Hannibal keeps close with Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne), continually feeding the unsuspecting FBI man what I assume to be human meat.One of the reasons I love “Shiizakana” so much is because the Killer of the Week in this episode, Randall Tier, is played by a gentleman named Mark O’Brien who’s from Newfoundland & Labrador, my home province. It’s a little spot on the east coast of Canada, so not often do we see many people hit it big. Although, funny enough, another Newfoundland & Labradorian played Will’s lawyer earlier in the season, so hooray for us.
Anyway, Randall Tier is a pretty messed up individual. His methods, his design, they are savage and pretty damn scary. While he’s not exactly a physically threatening man, when Randall puts on the ‘suit’ he made there is a terrifying quality to him; he all but literally becomes the beast. And just so happens, Randall has a relationship with none other than the naughty doctor himself, Dr. Lecter.Something I don’t talk about enough, and should, when discussing the Hannibal series as a whole is the amazingly effective sound design, as well as the score itself. Brian Reitzell has done other things; the only film I’m a big fan of that he’s done is 30 Days of Night, which is fun because the director of that movie, David Slade, has done several episodes for this series. I love the way he uses percussive sounds to fill up most of the space – rolling toms, wood blocks, shakers, all kinds of things. But then there are other moments, particularly when Hannibal’s influence is spreading its dark wings over Will Graham, where these ominous electronic sounds come out; reminds me of a running vacuum sound, except with octaves. Very neat and it always makes me perk up when I hear it. One of the first clear times I remember hearing it in the series is when Will first saw the Nightmare Stag becoming the Nightmare Man. This piece of the score comes back in this episode, a great little grim treat.
I like how Peter Bernardone (Jeremy Davies) shows up briefly in this episode, as Will Graham goes to talk to him about the apparent animal attacks Jack Crawford and the FBI are investigating currently. Davies is a wonderful character actor, as I mentioned about him in my review of the previous episode, so to see him and Dancy work together at least for another short time it is fantastic. They’re both wounded, intelligent men trying to hold onto their morality and sanity after being pushed to the limit by an outside manipulator. Great writing to have them together once more.
Again, the Killer of the Week format Bryan Fuller & Co. employ through the series works so well in terms of how it relates to the relationship between Will and Hannibal. In this episode’s opening scene – the dream – we’re seeing how Hannibal expresses a love for Will. Which is no real secret, it’s easy to tell especially in that last episode how eagerly Hannibal lusts after the friendship of Graham. And it’s because of understanding. Just as Hannibal talks of love equating to the potential of the two people in love, he wants to be able to reveal himself to Will completely. Of course, in the previous episode Will began to – apparently – reveal his true nature to Lecter, so the stage is being set for something. Whether it’s a true bond between these men, or a trap Will is luring Hannibal into for Jack, we’ve yet to see so far in Season 2. Now with Randall Tier in the middle, Hannibal is ready to test his love for Will; and in turn, Will’s love for him. By the end of the episode, this all comes to bear.
Furthermore, I love the makeup effects happening in this episode. There’s again a ton of blood, lots of messy, rough business the FBI have to comb over. Tier leaves behind nothing but guts and slashed flesh and broken, smashed bones. Very nasty type stuff. There are so many incredibly well-done special effects throughout the series. Here, we get those mixed with an interesting killer, which makes things a lot of fun in that department. The makeup is another aspect I don’t discuss enough. Rest assured, it is god damn excellent. I’ll make a note to start talking more about it because the artists doing this show re: effects are earning their keep!
The way Hannibal openly talks with Will about murder, about Graham’s fantasy about killing, we can tell there’s a shedding of the skin, so to speak. Lecter, more and more, wishes to bare himself to Will as the monster he is, as the Chesapeake Ripper, and in turn he wants Will to give in to the violence inside him and become a full-on murderer. We’re only seeing this leak out bit by bit, but as they talk in Lecter’s office it’s clear he is so curious that it almost physically excites him. The look in his eyes, that tender curiosity behind them, so eager, it amazes me. Great acting alongside equally wonderful writing.I’ve got to mention Mark O’Brien more than simply saying he’s from Newfoundland. First off, you can see him more in the Newfoundland based show Republic of Doyle, as well as in nine episodes of AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire. He plays the character of Randall so well. In the little time we see him interact with Dr. Lecter, it’s incredible. Their dark and quiet rapport is incredibly intriguing. We’re also seeing more of what Bedelia Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson) has said before – Hannibal’s penchant for patients who end up becoming violent. O’Brien brings out the genuine darkness in Randall Tier. While the savagery is there, most of that comes from the special makeup effects and the look of the animal suit he wears. What O’Brien does best is work with the subtle, sombre qualities of Tier and I honestly felt terribly for the character. Then of course he’s a brutal murderer, which nothing can excuse, but much like Richard Armitage in Season 3 with Francis Dolarhyde, O’Brien does a fabulous job conveying the tortured inner being of a serial killer. I’m overjoyed he was cast in this because I love to see people from my home province succeed and get their name in on something big and wonderful, such as this series.
Then Graham and Randall are paralleled. Will consciously knows he is becoming someone else, and does not want to become a beast. Meanwhile, it’s as if Randall believes the change is inevitable and that he might as well go along for the ride and become the beast willingly, wholeheartedly.
“What clings to your teeth?”
“Ragged bits of scalp trailing their tails of hair like comets”
Another thing I’m enjoying lately is the further adaptation of Thomas Harris and the material out of Hannibal, as Margot Verger (Katharine Isabelle) has been showing up. Now, she and Will Graham are becoming closer. She’s more and more curious about Dr. Lecter, while Will no doubt doesn’t want anyone else to fall too deep into the clutches of, who he knows to be, the Chesapeake Ripper. What I enjoy is that Bryan Fuller and the writers are doing interesting things, combining characters out of Hannibal by Harris with stuff from his earlier novel Red Dragon. Bringing together characters such as Margot and Will is fun and allows the writers to take the subplots and the story into different places than ever before. Some fans apparently don’t dig that, but I do. Dig it so hard. Because I don’t come to a television or film adaptation for a book/series of books to be completely done, word for word, spit back to us. There’s no sense in that for me. I want to see a different take on it. And ultimately, how can you EVER expect writers/directors to be able to adapt something and match ALL the different perspectives EVERY SINGLE reader of a novel/series have in their own minds? Impossible. Some franchises and films succeed, somehow, but there’s still no way you’ll please everyone. I think Fuller & Co. are doing a fun, interesting, and FRESH take on the Harris world of Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Impressive writing, in my opinion.
The best of the episode obviously comes near the end. Hannibal does the unthinkable, however predictable. He sends Tier off to do his beastly business, except he aims the young man towards a target of his choosing: Will Graham.The finale went down incredibly well. Not only that, it’s savage and intense. There’s this quiet before the storm, as Will backs into his house and turns off the light. He knows who and what is out there. No doubt, he already knows exactly why he/it is there, too.
I love this scene. Once Randall comes through the window, I expected a wild and chaotic style scene, but instead it’s a beautiful cut to Hannibal, classical music guiding him, walking in to his dining room table. There stands Will Graham, with the beaten and dead body of Randall Tier displayed across the table, declaring they are “Even Steven”. We’ll most certainly flashback to what happened between Will and Randall. For now, the subtle approach does well.Also, some silly people online actually gave up and said “Oh well Will is a killer now this is gone too far”. First of all, this series is not based in realism. Hannibal takes place in a heightened reality, if you didn’t know that from Episode 1, then you shouldn’t even be watching. Second – Bryan Fuller & Co. go for writing in terms of the long game. Remember how we opened the season seeing the eventual altercation between Hannibal and Jack? This series doesn’t play everything out immediately. Some times you have to really wait an episode or so for an angle to play out, some times longer. I love it that way, and if you can’t handle that/need completely expository episodes full of explanations and revelations, then Hannibal, my friend, is NOT FOR YOU.
This is a solid episode, featuring a good ole Newfie boy like myself. So happy to have seen Mark O’Brien here and he played well off Mads Mikkelsen in their scenes together; great little pairing.
“Naka-Choko” is next.