Hannibal: “Mukozuke” Review

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On another amazing Hannibal, Will seeks revenge for the loss of a valued friend and colleague.

“He is the devil, Mr. Graham. He is smoke. You’ll never catch the ripper, he won’t be caught. If you want him, you will have to kill him.”

While its still unclear if Hannibal will get a third season, I’m at the point now emotionally where anything less than seven will devastate me. The series is outrageously good here in its second season, and if you’ve read creator Bryan Fuller’s seven season plan for the show (which would, after the third season, essentially play out the Thomas Harris novels), then I’m sure you also have similar feelings.

And the more I watch Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal, the more Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal slips away from me. I’m not knocking it per se, but now that I see a wholly different take on Hannibal, in both performance and interpreted motivation, all I notice now is what Hopkins isn’t doing. Or sharing. But then again, comparing the two is unnecessary. As are most comparisons between great things.

So it looks like, in “Mukozuke,” that Hannibal’s little soft plays for sympathy are paying dividends as, due to him (cruelly) saving Bella’s life, Jack simply refuses to believe that Hannibal is the Ripper and/or the Copycat. And Will knows this. He knows this so well that when directly asked who was responsible for Beverly’s death, he kept quiet. Basically realizing that Jack will unfortunately have find out the hard way. And hopefully not the sort of “hard way” that befell poor Agent Katz. Though by the looks of the way we left Jack in the big season premiere fight, he’s experiencing a huge, bloody unspoken “I told you so.”

“Mukozuke” was a bit tricky, because there were slightly cliched elements to it that could have worked to drain the greatness. Like the aforementioned moment when Will didn’t bring up Hannibal’s name again. A complete and total “character” moment in place of logic. So while it may have frustrated, it still made sense.

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Or the way the Admirer didn’t, say, let Hannibal drown in the swimming pool after darting him. I mean, he was asked to kill him and that would have been easy enough. So we then had to buy that the Admirer was someone who’d set up Hannibal in a sort of crucifix-hangman scenario, complete with slit wrists. And, honesty, buying it involved a little give and take. Fortunately we knew the Admirer to be someone who could be theatrical. Plus, the whole thing was given another “character” spin when we found out that the Admirer had designs of offing Hannibal in order to assume his role of the Chesapeake Ripper – aka Hannibal’s worst nightmare.

Overall though, it was pretty much the first time we’d seen Hannibal fall to another killer. He scrapped with, and overcame, Tobias back in “Fromage,” but this was utter defeat. The kind of defeat where he could only have been saved at the last possible second. So, even though it was the chess equivalent of getting angry and knocking all the pieces off the board, Will’s plan would have worked. And the irony would have been that Hannibal died at the hands of someone who admired all the things that Hannibal had done and framed someone else for.

I don’t want to make it sound like I thought this episode fell short in any way, just that it contained a couple of short cuts that Hannibal usually doesn’t take. Like Abel Gideon not only surviving Will’s gunshot from Season 1 and returning (though we saw him last week in Will’s flash-lucination), but also overhearing Will’s plan and ratting him out to Alana. I am happy to see Gideon back, though I also quite liked his exit last year and I’m usually pretty big on people playing their part and then leaving us wanting more.

And, after admitting to getting the identity of the Admirer wrong last week, I can at least now claim to have been only half-wrong. Since we found out that he only killed the bailiff and not the judge. So he only tried to aid Will once and wasn’t the one who sabotaged the entire trial there right at the end. It was also interesting to see the Admirer not really blink when Hannibal told him that Will wasn’t a killer. As if he actually did know, down deep, that Will was innocent – despite having commended him for being able to hide within ranks of the FBI.

Beverly’s death, only shown to us through Will’s own mind-reenactment (where he was the killer), was just insanely wrenching. And the way she was displayed was magnificently de-humanizing. So clean and artistic that it almost robbed her of her own soul. Of course, Hannibal putting her out there like that brought the Ripper back to the forefront of Jack’s mind when he could have just eaten parts of her and then disposed of the rest – making everyone think she’d just vanished. So Hannibal’s playing with proverbial fire again, taking risks for the curiosity’s sake. Though, this week, it nearly caught up to him in the deadliest sense.

Because so many people want to catch the Ripper now. Whether it’s Jack, Dr. Chilton, or even other killers like the Admirer – the Ripper’s very name lures them in. And it’s just funny that Jack would bring Will in (complete with restraints and bite mask) when he wasn’t ready to hear the real truth. Because even if Will had said Hannibal’s name and Jack didn’t buy it, Will’s essentially now been exonerated for the crimes of the Copycat. Which only leaves him with three murders now instead of five.

Grade: A-


Matt Fowler is a member of the Television Critics Association. Follow him on Twitter at @TheMattFowler

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