I sometimes wonder if you have to be a producer on Hannibal to get a writing gig, or if all the writers get producer credits. Scott Nimerfro is another writer with a long resume and a history of working with Fuller, and if I had to guess, the story-credit means he came up with the idea for the Angel Maker and then he and Fuller crafted that into the teleplay, working in the interesting developments in Will’s fragmenting psyche and the simply magnificent character work between Jack and Bella Crawford.
Because while the Angel Maker is an amazing visual image, as a serial killer, he left something to be desired. And that something was believability.
But more about that in a moment.
First I’d like to throw some praise at first-time director, Guillermo Navarro, because this man is a freaking genius with a camera. I ultimately didn’t care that the Angel Maker story was so thin I was surprised the title of the episode wasn’t “Gruel,” because this episode was just one beautiful shot after another. This should come as no surprise once you take a look at Navarro’s resume – his collaborations as Cinematographer and Director of Photography with Guillermo Del Toro stand out as the most obvious reasons to sit up and take notice.
The horrific beauty of the flayed bodies, the skin of their backs lifted and hung with fishhooks and line, is an image that stands out in a sea of gory episodes so far. But at the same time, we also have real-life couple Gina Torres and Laurence Fishburne sharing one of the most beautifully staged, gut-wrenchingly emotionally honest moments I’ve seen on TV in ages.
Granted, part of the reason for that may be how I avoid “serious” drama like the plague, but damn if the two of them didn’t just dive headfirst into Emmy contention.
Meanwhile, the bromance between Will and Hannibal shifts into a subtler gear with Hannibal’s continuing gentle urgings that Jack Crawford isn’t good for Will’s well-being. While it serves to hopefully throw Will off of Hannibal’s scent, he’s also COMPLETELY RIGHT. Will is being brain-fucked by forcing himself to live in the mindsets of these killers. That’s really the only truly compelling thing about Will, in my opinion, as without those glimpses into the darkness he’s kind of boring and one-dimensional.
Without the glimpses into the darkness we wouldn’t get that wonderful flash of disgust and self-hatred as Will asks for a plastic sheet so he can lie in the Angel Maker’s bed.
Ah yes. The Angel Maker.
At first, Jack thought the Angel Maker’s kill was the work of the Chesapeake Ripper, but there were no surgical trophies taken. Of course, we know (or should know) that the Chesapeake Ripper is actually our own Loveable Dr. Lecter. Instead, this guy murdered a couple, turned them into angels, and then slept in front of them because he’s afraid of dying from his cancer.
All in all, not a horrible idea for a serial killer. Even the brain tumor idea is a nice one, since it not only provides a thematic parallel with Bella’s own admission this episode that she’s dying from cancer, but it also shoves each and every viewer into the role of potential murdering monster. The tumor is driving him to turn sinners into angels, but it’s the “sinners” part that undermines this week’s story.
Will (and some reviewers) temper this element by saying that the killer believes that his victims are sinners, that maybe he’s reading body language, etc. However, when we see from the killer’s perspective, we see only certain people with flaming faces, and then those people turn out to be bad guys. It’s an uncomfortable dalliance with the supernatural that would be at home in pretty much every other Bryan Fuller property, but in Hannibal, it doesn’t ring true.
And was the episode called “Coquilles” because the angel wings were like scallop shells opened up? Someone please enlighten me!
I also found it a little hard to believe that the Angel Maker would be able to effectively kill his victims and string them up like he does. The first two, maybe. But the guy in the alley? And then he castrates himself? And then he drives to his childhood home and turns himself into an elaborately staged angel himself?
No sir. I don’t buy it.
And we won’t even mention that stupid, stupid, stupid little confrontation between Will and the Dead Guy.
But ultimately, it doesn’t really matter. This show isn’t about the serial killers. It’s about the people hunting them and what hunting them does to you. It’s about doing the right thing even when it damages you. It’s about emotional honesty between couples. It’s about a serial killer mastermind helping hunt other killers while covering his own tracks.
Unfortunately, viewers might want something more sensational and less artistic. Viewership was way down for this one. Maybe that was attrition caused by the NFL Draft; maybe not. In the world of later evening drama, Thursday night is a rough one, with ABC’s Scandal and CBS’s Elementary being strong shows to go up against (especially with their lead-ins of Gray’s Anatomy and Person of Interest). At its best, Hannibal didn’t pull those kinds of numbers even against reruns.
So please spread the word. This is a beautiful show that deserves some love. Don’t knee-jerk away because it’s about a cannibal serial killer. It’s also about love and friendship and social responsibility. And it’s really, really gross sometimes. We need that on network TV.