Futamono is, within the kaiseki dinner course, a lidded dish. In the case of the Hannibal episode, “Futamono,” that image serves as a neat tie to the conclusion, in which Jack uncovers a lid of sorts when he finds Miriam Lass definitively not dead (the other lid Jack uncovers before finding Miriam reveals water, which is also fitting given that soup is typically the futamono dish). The scene plays parallel to Hannibal playing and finishing what might be his first complete draft of his original harpsichord composition. We know how careful Hannibal is when revealing information to control the people and events around him. So, I can’t see why he would have missed something like the specific bark that leads to Miriam’s location. Thus, this must also be part of his design. Unfortunately, it’s all conjecture, but at the very least, the Miriam reveal is one heck of a way to surprise the audience in a season already full of surprises. Perhaps more importantly, it also makes it seem like Bryan Fuller wants us to be asking questions. How has Miriam been kept alive this long? What will this do for Jack, who has been so weighed down by guilt and trauma? Has Hannibal been able to keep his identity secret from Miriam, and will she point the FBI in a direction that Hannibal has designed? Could other characters, such as Abigail, still be alive somewhere out in the greater Virginia area?
One question “Futamono” does answer by virtue of what the team finds in Tree Man is when and how Will will be exonerated. The evidence from all the Chesapeake Ripper and copycat murders gives hard proof that those people are, in fact, one in the same and that Will is not that person. We will begin the second half of the season, then, with Will out of the psychiatric hospital and back in Hannibal’s twisted world, probably thinking every moment about a good reason not to just kill the guy. The problem is that even though Dr. Chilton is absolutely convinced that Hannibal is the Ripper, Jack is not. His clever ploy to get Haninbal’s dinner party food tested comes back negative (although, there is some really expensive beef there called wagyu, which literally means “Japanese cow,” in case you doubted Bryan Fuller’s ability to be the most meticulous person in the history of the world). Add to that Alana Bloom leaving Team Will altogether and shacking up with the opposing side, and Will is still going to have to continue playing his game to convince the right people about enough of the details (on a side note, I went back to re-watch the opening scene of the season, and Hannibal’s arm injuries weren’t there, so he either heals very quickly or those twelve weeks are going to fly by in the next few episodes).
“Futamono” might be the most interesting episode of Hannibal yet by posing these kinds of issues and communicating information through the normal ways in which the series fills its running time. As is usually the case, focusing on the details in the episode is an extremely rewarding undertaking. Just look around Hannibal’s home and you’ll see copious antler and horn imagery. There’s even this deranged Christmas tree, in the scene when Jack visits to ask about Hannibal’s whereabouts the night before, that appears to have mini antlers as a decoration. That fits with the idea of Christmas being tied to the image of Hannibal on the cross from last week, but it also enhances the recurring flower theme of the episode. And that opens up another rabbit hole of details, like how one of the flowers used in Tree Man is the Belladonna (or Deadly Nightshade), immediately calling to mind Bella, Jack’s wife, who is at death’s door. Or how, following in the use of honey from two episodes ago, Fuller extracts more Pushing Daisies inspiration with the usage of flowers in “Futamono.” This attention to detail is literally, not figuratively, as insane as the psychopaths on this show and situates Hannibal in a world that is hyper aware and utterly interconnected.
Tree Man is especially an interesting image, and not just in how beautifully staged the body is (or how wonderfully confusing it is to think about how the tree was brought to the scene). We get some analysis, suggesting that the killer views the man as poisonous to the core, having ruined an area that is home to a species of song birds. It shows some moral and philosophical motive behind the murder, which is something I greatly appreciate when it comes to Hannibal. In fact, “Futamono” addresses a motive question that I’ve been asking myself all season regarding Hannibal’s cannibalism and both why and who he chooses to eat. It seemed like there might have been some discrepancy in terms of respect towards the victim, perhaps with Beverly Katz and why he hate her kidney and not the Muralist’s. But it is suggested here that the “Ripper eats his victims because they are no better to him than pigs.” Later, Chilton says the Ripper “is attracted to medical and psychological fields because they offer power over man. Cannibalism…cannibalism is on act of dominance.” These ideas paint a better picture of who Hannibal is as a person–not simply the devil, but an entity worth examining and studying in the way he has carefully studied Will Graham.
That study of Graham has exposed each of Will’s weaknesses to his enemy. “I’ll give Alana Bloom your best,” Hannibal tells Will. She is next on the chopping block, presumably, but Hannibal also exploits the opportunity to dismantle Will’s feelings for Alana by beginning a sexual relationship with her. Hannibal tells Alana that it’s not just a post-“funeral” kind of sex but that they “have a lot of reasons to do this.” One of them, for Hannibal, is to get at Will. The whole thing is disgusting in how manipulative it is because of how wonderful Alana is as a person. It’s one of those things that makes you hate the character but is deeply effective for creating that feeling in you, providing as noticeable a sign as any of good writing.
“Futamono,” though, is a showcase episode for the supporting cast of Hannibal as much as it is a great piece-mover in the chess game Will and Hannibal are playing. Both Raul Esparza and Eddie Izzard kill it, to use a term appropriate to Hannibal. Just Esparza doing Chilton’s face when he looks at whatever the claw-like dish Hannibal serves at his party is priceless. He plays Chilton’s mild annoyance at every inconvenience perfectly, and how he handles Gideon lying to Jack and trying to turn the FBI against him for reasons of malpractice might be the best scene Esparza has done for the show so far. Chilton’s intelligent and careful not to let on to Hannibal what his opinions are, opting to distance himself from Jack at the party. With Beverly gone (and, sadly, Hettienne Park’s name being removed from the opening credits for the first time), Hannibal really benefits from having these characters turn in great scenes when possible. Izzard gets to revel in the material as Abel even more so, first by getting himself nearly killed by the employees who knew one of his murder victims and then by finding himself in a situation where he has to eat his own leg. It’s such a twisted scene, even for fans of the source material who know that Thomas Harris put readers through much more gruesome scenes. It’s also easily the best presentation of food in the series to date, as Hannibal cooks the leg in clay, adding a layer of theatricality to serving it. Izzard’s blank face throughout the sequence is the dry humor of Gideon compressed into one expression. If that really is his last supper, I’ll be sad to see Izzard go, since he’s been a delight recently (also, note how Fuller orchestrates some important imagery in Abel and Will’s conversation that visually sandwiches their cells together as a rat crawls down between the walls).
I find it almost a redundant task to try to explain how Hannibal is one of the best television series on, since the evidence is all there. And though it took a great bump up in viewership last week just to see it decrease with “Futamono,” people appear to be coming around (see, for instance, the show on its way to beating Game of Thrones in the Hulu’s 2014 Best in Show). There’s so much to like, and “Futamono” has just about every one of those things and then some. At its core, it is the study of its two current lead characters and how that relationship has become so obsessive that the two are almost joined at the hip in thematic ways. We see Will standing in his cage as antlers shoot out of him, outgrowing the limited space around him. Is it because Hannibal has walked into the building and is closing in on Will? Or is that Will, by virtue of going down the path of the killer, is becoming more and more like the Hannibal of his waking nightmares? Either one is good answer, and the option shows how Hannibal serves a wide range of people’s thinking habits.
[Photo via Brooke Palmer/NBC]