Hannibal 2.08 Review: “Su-zakana”


Su-zakana, within the kaiseki dinner, is used as a palate cleanser. So, it’s no coincidence that this episode is used to reset Hannibal‘s second season in its post-Chesapeake Ripper phase (even though the Ripper is still at-large). “Su-zakana” has many of the same qualities that a season premiere of television might, including the unfortunate task of trying to juggle too many things at once. This episode might slightly suffer because of that, but this groundwork needs to be laid, and there is enough material to latch onto and be invested in so that it still feels of the high standard that this series has set for itself.

While Hannibal tends to visualize or explain its metaphors in ways that would be impossible to miss, I’ve taken this more to be part of its charm. For instance, whenever Hannibal sees a crime scene or is in a therapy session, Mads Mikklesen’s lines are always designed to do the analytic work for us that seems natural to how he responds to life. It rarely feels heavy-handed or poorly executed. That said, and even though there’s a sort of humorous tinge to it, the opening of “Su-zakana” might be the first time that use of metaphor–fishing, in this case–comes off too strong. Yet, I still really appreciate how obvious the ties to Will Graham and Peter (Jeremy Davies, who many will know from Justified) are. The first new case that Will gets to immerse himself in is one that involves someone so utterly and completely in the same situation as his own. Peter has been manipulated to think certain things about his social worker after being comforted by that relationship to begin with. Now, that social worker has made it so that even though Peter has seen the real person behind the facade, no one will believe him. Again, there is absolutely nothing subtle about using this as a mirror to the Will-Hannibal relationship, but it’s also the perfect way to challenge Will at this stage.

What’s most interesting about that challenge is how it is resolved. Several characters, including Alana in this episode, have talked about Will passing through a door when he consciously made the decision to have Hannibal killed. We see Will standing in that doorway at the end of “Su-zakana” with a gun at his hand, pointed at someone he could kill but whose murder wouldn’t make him feel any better about Hannibal, who is standing right next him, still living in relative freedom. The wonderful part of it all is that Hannibal is the one who talks him down, which I think is as good a case as any that Hannibal still genuinely wants to connect with Will as a friend and that he’s no longer worried about that bridge being permanently burnt. We know that Will will never have those inclinations ever again, but by feeding into Hannibal’s vanity when Will says that he finally finds Hannibal interesting, Hannibal believes there’s potential there that isn’t necessarily one-sided. Weird internet shippers will undoubtedly have a field day with that shot of Mads and Hugh Dancy’s faces being so close while Hannibal is touching Will’s face (and you people are weird; but then, so is Hannibal, he admits), but that scene is a great representation of the care that Hannibal feels and how he sees Will as an interesting project that he’s nurtured to some degree like a caterpillar and who is now a predictable butterfly of sorts.

The Peter story of the episode, which serves as a case-of-the-week, is also somewhat interesting in and of itself in the ways Hannibal is used to being. The difference here, though, might be that instead of the display of the murder victim being a product of hyper artistry, it is more the process of the display here. So, while there’s nothing particularly intriguing about the corpse itself, putting it in the carcass of a horse (this makes The Empire Strikes Back just a little more gross than it already was) is as elaborate and ridiculous of a staging as is the norm in Hannibal. And it has to be said that Jeremy Davies is fantastic in this role and actually gets a lot of director Vincenzo Natali’s (Splice) attention. I specifically enjoy the shaking camera moments that focus on Peter’s face when he’s trying to keep his stress levels in check. We don’t see him attack his social worker–we can only infer the events–which is a smart decision that uses more ambiguity effectively. Davies does a great job of evoking the Peter’s thought processes, which are understandably difficult to communicate. Like with many characters in this series, I’m left wondering what his fate is after this episode (no scenes with either Miriam or Chilton this week; boo), but “Su-zakana” is another episode that ties both the stand-alone and serialized plots together in a smart, if obvious, way.

What will be much less obvious for many viewers is how Margot fits in as Hannibal’s new patient. There won’t be spoilers here, but there will be information from Harris’ novels and from a casting decision in the coming episodes of the television series, so I will bold where that section begins and ends for readers who don’t want to know any of that. Those readers should skip ahead now.

Margot is, of course, Margot Verger, the sister of Mason Verger, who features heavily in the novel Hannibal. There are a few interesting departures here, most notably how much older Margot is at this point, since Mason was meant to have sexually abused her when she was a child, psychologically messing her up so much that she becomes homosexual and transgender. The Margot we get in this episode is certainly firm in her speech and composure and her outfit could be considered slightly masculine from a business perspective, but I don’t think I’m all that interested in speculating on who she is as a person at this point. The other nods we get to the source material include seeing Mason’s pet eel. The ridiculously talented Michael Pitt was cast in the role of Mason for this series, but I couldn’t quite tell if Pitt delivered the one line we hear from Mason in her flashback scene, “You should have taken the chocolate, Margot.” Going forward, I’m interested to see if Bryan Fuller draws on some of Hannibal’s personal history and suggests that his interest in Margot partially has to do with Hannibal’s relationship with his dead sister.

There is no more discussion of Harris’ novels starting now. How Margot functions in “Su-zakana” as a new character to the series is two-fold. Firstly, she is another strong addition to the supporting case of female characters that sometimes tries to balance out how male-dominated Hannibal is (and I’ll go on record saying that the fact it is male-dominated is not only not a “bad” thing but that it is the point of the series, and it would suffer if it tried to shoehorn in anything that took away from that). More importantly, however, it re-introduces Hannibal’s therapy sessions as a component. Hannibal has such a strong resentment for human beings, and we’ve seen how that’s bled into his role as a therapist before. But Margot appears to be of interest to him–not as much as Will, but he goes as far as to suggest that he might be willing to kill Margot’s brother if she asks Hannibal to. Hannibal has been so tied to the regular cast members lately, that it’s easy to forget about the many other people he must encounter in his day-to-day life. This is the perfect time to highlight that and to introduce someone who could have a very strong role going forward.

The last point I want to make is that it’s a wonder that Will can control himself so well around Hannibal right now. He is playing his game, but I can’t imagine any part of the game being anything less than mind-blowingly difficult. Sarcastic comments creep through the cracks here and there. And then we’ll get something like the session Will and Hannibal have, in which Will tells him he’s not going to pretend with Hannibal and that he doesn’t want Hannibal to lie. But every waking moment of Will’s must be dominated by crawling skin. Hannibal only makes it worse by both continuing to sleep with Alana and trying to convince her that Will only did what he did as a last ditch effort to protect her, which will make that triangle even more complicated and it sure to anger Will further. At the same time, it’s both fun and logical to see Will and Hannibal teaming up again to track down psychopaths, since both characters are still capable of losing themselves in the minds of others. When Hannibal steps aside to reveal right behind him, pointing a gun at the social worker, it’s clear how perfectly matched the two are that they can’t even escape the complement visually. It’s just one of many other feelings “Su-zakana” elicits that reminds us of Hannibal‘s first season and functions only ironically, since we know where we’re headed with these two.

[Photo via Brooke Palmer/NBC]

Sean Colletti received his MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia. He writes television criticism for @Sound on Site and at his personal blog, There is nothing on. His current favorite shows are Mad Men, Louie and Parks and Recreation.
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