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Elementary Has Good Ideas but Poor Execution in Fidelity

Veronica

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After Sherlock was dramatically arrested in last week’s twist ending, we find our hero in an ominous interrogation room. The mysterious red-haired villain, who has the appropriately evil sounding name of Anson Gephardt, shows up with the usual spiel of threats to warn Sherlock off investigating the deaths relating to the Kotite case. In a shocking twist, as soon as Sherlock is set free, he decides to – wait for it – continue investigating the case. Strap in, kids, because this week’s plot is positively labyrinthine.

A bit of investigation reveals that Gephardt is a member of a American intelligence agency with a grudge against the Iranian government. Going over the files from Kotite’s hit and run case reveals nothing of interest, so Sherlock theorizes instead that something happened in the area that would have made the jury members of interest to Gephardt. Perhaps they saw or overheard something in the court case that needs to be covered up. In order to find out more, Joan heads off to speak to the widow of Cy Durning, the prosecutor of Kotite’s case, while Kitty and Sherlock go to speak to Farrell and Putnam, the law firm that  Kotite’s defense attorney, Tom Saunders, worked for.

Sherlock and Kitty sit in awkward silence at the firm until Sherlock, god bless him, tells Kitty that her son was beautiful and that he’s happy for her. I’m so proud of him. Kitty accurately points out that Sherlock doesn’t exactly sound happy about it. Before they can discuss further, it’s time for them to talk to Sydney Garber, the managing partner of F&P. He refuses to give them access to the case files they request, but he does reveal one intriguing piece of information: Saunders had paranoid schizophrenia. Meanwhile, Cy Durning’s widow is more helpful. Durning was secretly recording all of his cases on cassette tape, including the Kotite case.

The team’s new discoveries come together when Joan finds a section of the tape in which Saunders breaks into a diatribe clearly influenced by paranoid delusions. He made several extreme claims about astronauts, a Venezuelan bomb, and buried gold. Joan believes one of Saunders’s delusions must have been actually true, and that everyone in the courtroom at the time was killed for hearing it.

Not only does Sherlock find this claim plausible, but he knows immediately which claim is true. A few days earlier, shortly before Kotite’s murder, a bomb was set off in a library restroom in Venezuela, killing dozens of people and nearly killing the president. The president then went on to win his re-election bid due to the sympathy vote earned by his apparent near assassination. Sherlock concludes that Gephardt, a rogue agent, orchestrated the bombing in order to help the Venezuelan president win. The connection to Saunders must be that his law firm, Farrell and Putnam,  has locations around the world, including Venezuela. Sherlock thinks that Gephardt must have used the law firm to get in contact with a Venezuelan corporation that helped him with the bombing. The question now is why, and who. Sherlock and Joan break into F&P’s offices to go through their files to try to find answers, and find an unexpected one.

A note on a file proves that Sydney Garber also knew about the Venezuelan bombing well before it happened. Gephardt wasn’t using the law firm to get in contact with Venezuelan companies; he was working with Garber and Saunders, and that’s how Saunders knew in advance about the bombing.

Joan and Kitty head back to the law firm to speak to Garber again. But before they can get anything out of him, a man on a motorcycle appears and attempts to gun them all down. Joan and Kitty narrowly save Garber’s life, through the heroic measure of Kitty kicking him in the groin to force him to dive to the ground.

Realizing that Gephardt has turned on him, Garber willingly talks, spinning them a tale of international intrigue spanning decades. Back in his university days, Garber was roommates with a man who went on to become the head of Venezuelan intelligence. Three years ago, Gephardt asked Garber to put him in contact with this man. Gephardt arranged a deal in which he would fake an assassination attempt on the president so he could be re-elected in exchange for something called the Fidel Files. The files are supposedly a collection of all the information that Fidel Castro shared with his communist allies over roughly fifty years. (Did you notice the episode title is “Fidelity”? Har har.) In order to prove his story, Garber hands over his own copy of the files.

Here’s where things get even weirder, and start to not quite make sense. Naturally, Detective Family assumes that this file must have been Gephardt’s ultimate goal all along. They dive into the files, trying to find just what it was that Gephardt was looking for. But before they can get very far, Gephardt uploads to the internet a video of himself confessing to his crimes. He also uploads a copy of the Fidel Files, but with one key difference; in his version of the files, there’s a film clip that seems to prove that the Iranian government has nuclear weapons. The team realizes that planting this clip must have been his goal all along.

So, quick summary, because I’m having a hard time following this myself: Gephardt, who considers the Iranian government a threat to U.S. safety, decided to engineer a video that would motivate the US to go to war with Iran. But he knew that if he simply put this video on the internet, people would be rightfully suspicious of its authenticity. He needed a context that would make the video seem believable. Thus, the Fidel Files. Because everything else in the Fidel Files is true, it would make Gephardt’s fake video clip seem believable too. But to get the files, he had to kill people in Venezuela. In order to cover that up, he murdered the handful of people that knew about the bombing in advance. Then, immediately after covering up his crimes, he…confesses to his crimes. Wait, what?

I follow everything else about this story. It’s a little over the top in how elaborate it is, but I can follow the chain of events. What I don’t understand is why Gephardt would go to such extreme ends to cover up a crime that he planned on confessing to the entire time. There was most likely only a slim chance that Kotite and the others would realize that a rant they heard three years ago from a delusional man was related to a current crime. And even if they did figure it out, Gephardt planned to confess anyway, so the truth would come out regardless.

Murdering those people was not only pointless, but made things more difficult for Gephardt. It drew the attention of Kitty, Sherlock, and law enforcement and triggered their investigation into him. If the police had arrested Gephardt before he received the Fidel Files or was able to post them, his plot would have failed. Why would a man as careful as Gephardt take an unnecessary risk like that? It simply doesn’t make sense. And considering Kotite and Durning’s murders was what kicked off this entire story, that’s disappointing.

Bell is that guy who hovers over the play button while watching a video

But anyway. The stress of trying to keep up with Gephardt at last prods Kitty into confronting Sherlock about his behavior to her. She angrily criticizes him for how cold he’s been to her since she told him about her baby, and accuses him of being angry with her because she’s quitting detective work. If being a detective is requisite to being Sherlock’s friend, then they’re over.

Sherlock counters that he isn’t angry with her for quitting; he’s angry because when she fled the country two years ago, she never contacted him again, not to let her know that she was okay…and not to let her know that she had a baby. He’s happy that she’s happy, but he had thought their friendship meant more than that.

I have to say, I felt pretty vindicated by this part, as I was also frustrated by the fact that Kitty just completely vanished after she left, with barely any mention of her ever again. But I have a ton of thoughts about how Kitty and Sherlock’s relationship was represented in this episode, so I’m going to save it for the end so as to not clutter things up.

Sherlock thinks that the only way to ease the nation’s rising paranoia about the supposed proof of Iranian nuclear weapons is to get Gephardt to confess to faking the video. But before he can get to Gephardt himself, governmental forces find and take him down. Sherlock’s chances seem lost, until Sherlock realizes that Gephardt’s home has all the proof he needs that the video was faked. He assembles his proof and passes it on to various governmental sources. And that, rather underwhelmingly, is how the Gephardt plot is wrapped up. It’s just…suddenly over.

The episode itself wraps up with Kitty asking Sherlock to come meet her in front of a church. She explains to him that when she returned to London, she expected to have a hard time alone and to need to dive in her work, only to discover that she felt fine and happy. The word she uses is “fixed.” She realized she didn’t need detective work anymore, and had been thinking of quitting even before her pregnancy. But knowing that Sherlock did not feel “fixed,” she didn’t feel comfortable contacting him and just kept putting it off. She admits that if it wasn’t for the Kotite case, she might have never contacted him again. But she knows he deserves better than that, and she promises to not do that again. To cement her promise, she invites Sherlock and Joan to Archie’s christening as his godfather, and promises that from now they are family.

This was a feel good ending, and it was definitely cute to see how surprised and happy Sherlock was, but overall, I don’t feel good about this ending or this episode.

First of all, the whole thing felt really rushed. I suspect that the writers had Kitty’s actor, Ophelia Lovibond (what a great name), available for only a few episodes and wanted to give her a satisfactory goodbye in this limited space. That’s an admirable goal, particularly because I was dissatisfied with how she was written off before, but I just don’t think two episodes was ever going to be enough. I mean, as I’m sure I’ve made clear, I love Kitty Winter, so I was probably never going to be totally happy anyway. But I just don’t think they could ever wrap up the complex feelings that Kitty and Sherlock’s relationship encoded in just two episodes. How do you explain why Kitty vanished for two years, prove that she’s happy now, give a believable reason for why she won’t be back permanently, deal with how Sherlock would feel about that, and provide an emotional conclusion to a powerful friendship, in just two episodes?

And they didn’t help themselves by coming up with such an over the top murder/conspiracy plot to go with it. Again, I think they were being ambitious with this plot, and ambition is to be applauded. But maybe it wasn’t such a great idea to put the super complicated plot in the same episodes as the super complicated friendship. Both stories ended up being rushed and full of holes, which is the inevitable result of trying to shove so much into less than two hours of television.

As well as being rushed, I’m also pretty uncomfortable with the way that Kitty and Sherlock’s relationship was treated. For me, Sherlock and Kitty’s relationship has always been highly symbolic. In season one and two, Sherlock still essentially considers himself as a one man island who does not need or want connections with other people. His partnership with Joan begins to break down this perception of himself, but to me, it was his friendship with Kitty that really proved to him that a) he is capable of connecting with people, and b) these connections actually are something he wants. Kitty is the person that proved Sherlock was capable of loving more people than Moriarty and Joan. That’s a big deal. How can a five minute conversation at the end of an episode possibly encapsulate all of that emotion? And to suggest that it can is a disservice to the significance of their relationship, even if you do say some sappy stuff about how their really family.

Even worse, I was really uncomfortable with the simplistic way that they talked about Kitty’s mental state. “Recovery” is such a complex idea. It’s an admirable goal, and there’s nothing wrong with striving to attain it. At the same time, it’s not possible for everyone, and that’s okay too. Elementary usually takes the stance that Sherlock probably will not ever attain a point of “recovery.” He will always be a recovering drug addict, and he’ll probably always be depressed. Normally, I really appreciate that. The idea that “recovery” is the be all end all goal of mental illness is a concept that can be used to harm mentally ill people and even suggest that their lives aren’t meaningful or worthwhile unless they can attain that. Seeing a flawed but ultimately admirable individual like Sherlock simply live with his mental illness is a wonderful thing.

They didn’t give Kitty the same kind of complexity when it came to this big question. Was that really an accurate representation of how recovery from trauma works? From Kitty’s description, she was just okay one day. Does that really happen? I felt that in order to reassure the watcher that Kitty was leaving the show happy, they just erased her emotional struggles and told you she’s all better now, and that rubs me wrong.

Even if the portrayal of her recovery is accurate, the language that they used was so simplistic that it made me really uncomfortable. Let me say again that they literally used the word “fixed.” “Recovery” is one thing. “Fixed” is something else, particularly since the opposite of fixed is “broken.” People who don’t or can’t obtain a state in which they feel they are now okay or recovered are not broken and it is hurtful to suggest otherwise.

To be fair, Sherlock does conceive of himself as being broken. He has said as much. And I know that many mentally ill people (including me!) feel that way at times. But it’s one thing to feel that way about yourself, and another thing for someone else – for one of your closest friends! – to indicate that she thinks of you as being broken too. I know that Kitty and the writers meant well, but I felt like the potential to interpret her words in a hurtful way is too high. And even if you didn’t take it that way, it’s still a really shallow explanation of Kitty’s behavior. It’s an injustice to Kitty and to trauma survivors, and it’s disappointing to see in a show that usually tries to portray mental illness in a nuanced way.  

Overall, my conclusion to this episode is something I have heard said on many a cooking competition show: the ideas were good, but the execution needed work. The conspiracy was a cool idea but it was too complicated and rushed, and that lead to plot holes. A proper farewell to Kitty is a lovely thought, but in order to wrap up a highly complex relationship and character in one episode, they ended up simplifying Kitty and Sherlock’s feelings in a disappointing way.


Images courtesy of CBS

Veronica is a recent English graduate who likes to spend her time reading way too deeply into science fiction, murder mysteries, and children’s cartoons.

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Fall 2017’s TV Successes and Disappointments

Shahar

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November is a fun time in television. While shows are winding down for their winter hiatuses and networks are picking up scripts or pilots for next year’s shows, they’re also ordering “back 9s” for new shows premiering each fall. That is, the 9 episodes to bring a 13 episode series order to a full season. (Though the first full season of a show can run as short as 16 episodes these days.) Getting a back 9 generally indicates high renewal chances if the ratings stay good enough for the network. Renewals and new show pickups are announced in May during Upfronts.

Upfronts this year was a weird time. The major broadcast networks picked up the least number of new shows in five years. 19 of the shows cancelled were one season and done. Though we’re only three months into the 2017-2018 TV year, I have a feeling next May will have similar results.

After all, of 19 new shows, only 8 received back 9s/full season orders. Only two of those have received second season pick ups thus far.

Successes

ABC’s The Good Doctor received a full season (18 eps) pick up after only two episodes. Its success is unsurprising because last year’s hit was a family feel-good (though very dramatic) show. I can’t speak to the actual content but it’s clear that somewhere, a lot of Nielsen families are loving it; its yet to move below a 1.8 in the 18-49 demo, which is the most important piece of measuring a show’s success.

There’s only been one other success not related to an already existing franchise, and that’s Fox’ The Orville which received a second season renewal halfway through its first season. CBS’ Young Sheldon, a prequel to BBT received a full season pickup after one special premiere airing, and NBC’Will and Grace revival received a renewal before even airing its first new episode.

Disappointments

Everything else. No, really.

ABC

ABC had two “limited season” shows that if successful would have likely seen a second year. Unfortunately, the network pulled Ten Days in the Valley from the schedule, and will air its remaining episodes in December. The much maligned Inhumans just finished its season but with terrible ratings, barely making a 0.5, and on ABC nonetheless.

The network did give a few more episodes to Kevin (Probably) and The Mayor. This likely only indicates the need to fill airtime. Kevin‘s additional episodes give it a full season (16 eps) but The Mayor is finished.

CBS

Me Myself and I holds the honor of first cancellation this year, and 9JKL received three more episodes. That really only means the network doesn’t want to open the timeslot up yet. Consider it done, too.

Among the three dramas, two are very slight renewals. Both Seal Team (22 eps) and S.W.A.T (20 eps) received back 9s, but neither have ratings to call home about. CBS expects a 0.9 demo later in a show’s life, but not within six and three episodes respectively.

Wisdom of the Crowd’s ratings were subpar and with the allegations against lead Jeremy Piven, there’s no way the show was going to get a back 9. It didn’t even garner a mention in the first press article from CBS.

The CW

Sigh. Valor, one of four military/special ops themed shows premiered to a 0.3 (!) rating. Dynasty (also 0.3) on the other hand did receive a back 9, but the show is part of a deal with Netflix. Its renewal chances are dependent on the rest of the shows.

Fox

Ghosted and The Gifted were this network’s only other fall premieres. Though their ratings aren’t as exciting as other shows, both are firmly in the middle of currently airing Fox shows, and The Gifted will finish airing its 13 episode first season in January. Fox has yet to make an announcement on Ghosted so anything could happen. (Likely it’s done.)

NBC

Law and Order: True Crime, the lowest rated of NBC’s new shows, and The Brave just above it failed to receive back 9s. The former is a limited season show so a final decision won’t be public until May. A press release for NBC’s mid-season premieres states the same for the latter. However, Brave was always meant to be a back 9 contender.

Looking Forward

With only 1 show per Big 4 “winning” the fall, and only 8 receiving back 9s, the network’s mid-season shows must succeed. NBC’s Rise, a mix between Glee and Friday Night Lights, should be an easy ratings win for the network especially airing after This is Us finishes its season. From one feel good story to the next. The CW has Black Lightning starting in January, which should also do well considering the amazing cast and The Flash lead in.

Otherwise we’re still waiting for announcements on the rest of the new shows’ premieres.

It’s also clear that the networks’ attempt at reaching certain audiences via its military/special ops shows fell short. ValorThe BraveSeal Team, and S.W.A.T. all failed to bring in high ratings. No surprise if only one of the latter two receives a renewal, similar to when last year’s time travel shows all died except a last minute un-cancellation for Timeless.

Of course any one of the shows I marked as done could still conceivably receive a second season. That’s in the case of an across the board failure for spring premieres/shows past their first season. It’s clear live TV watching (what advertisers care about and thus what I care about) has decreased every year since Nielsen has calculated ratings. The 13% overall decrease in the 18-49 demo this year, however, is slightly more than the usual 5-10% decrease per year. So either shows need to be more interesting, Nielsen needs to expand its ratings measurement, or both.

Either way, mid-season shows must succeed or networks will be operating at major losses financially. Without inventive and entertaining pilots, 2018-2019 is just as likely to fail.


Image Courtesy of ABC, CBS, The CW, FOX, and NBC

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The Flash Shows How The Thinker Came To Be

Matthew

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After last week’s horribly boring episode, “Therefore I Am” comes to formally introduces everyone to the mystery that The Thinker is. We learn much more about the villain and his helpful partner, the Mechanic, but we don’t figure out his main goal. Still, a better The Flash episode as the show closes in on its fall finale.

Recap

This flashback ridden episode starts with a less than inspired Professor Clifford DeVoe, barely catching anyone’s attention during class. He is joined for lunch by his wife, Marlise, and Clifford whips out a design: a cap that could enhance his own intellect given Mrs. DeVoe can manufacture the device. In the present, we pick up from last week, with Barry and Joe interviewing the DeVoes.

Their first meeting seems to go well, as in nothing quite looked off from the DeVoes, but Barry is suspicious. Iris assigns all of Team Flash their own missions to dig deeper into Clifford just to be thorough. A new peek at four years previously shows Mrs. DeVoe had built Clifford’s thinking cap, but they would need a huge energy source for it. Thankfully — or should I say thinkfully —Harrison Wells/Eobard Thawne is right on the verge of launching the particle accelerator.

Barry decides to pay DeVoe’s class a visit to ask him a few other questions and seize the opportunity to grab his mug for a DNA’s test. However, the test comes up empty as his genetic material doesn’t fit what one would expect from meta-DNA.

A new flashback goes straight to a scene from the pilot: the press conference Wells held before the launch. After Barry ran off to retrieve Iris’s bag, Mrs. DeVoe asked Wells questions as she is concerned about the safety of the accelerator. This scene is particularly interesting because Wells’s attitude is a nice throwback to him being a villain from the future. His compliments for DeVoe’s work come across far more as “big fan of yours, hope you wreck the shit out of Barry” than anything else. Nonetheless, despite Marlise’s warning that there will be an explosion, Clifford decides to proceed as planned with the charging of the cap.

As the accelerator goes off, the thinking cap definitely does things to Clifford, but he also happens to be struck by lightning. Marlise arrives and resuscitates him just in time to witness Clifford feeling “enlightened.”

The cringy part of the episode starts as the DeVoes go to Captain Singh to report Barry’s inadequacies as harassment. As this particular form of lowkey gaslighting usually goes, the people around Barry don’t believe his instincts and ask him to stop looking into DeVoe which, spoiler alert, we also know he won’t and it will backfire eventually. Very cringey, very cliché, and not particularly well scripted drama.

So, after Clifford got hit by lightning, he becomes a really fucking smart person. To prove that, the writers ask him to reveal who Jack The Ripper is — call me foolish, but I would have rather they tried to explain who the Zodiac Killer is to see if it is more believable than American Horror Story: Cult’s ill attempt at doing so. Nonetheless, he starts having a seizure on the spot.

At STAR Labs, Barry hears a buzzing from the Samuroid head and finds a camera inside. He goes to perform some late night stalking at the DeVoes and find Marlise leaving the house, which is super convenient. However, she returns literally 45 seconds after with a full load of groceries so Barry has to quit his sleuthing. Flashbacking again, a doctor gives Clifford a grim prognosis, as his mind is feeding off his body.

After Barry reveals he broke into their house, Team Flash fully flips on Barry’s idea that Clifford DeVoe is the actual bad DeVoe. To make matters worse for my enjoyment of television, the part where Barry gets scolded a second time by the police happens as Marlise brings pictures from the invasion to the Captain. Barry gets suspended for two weeks — and somehow is 100% surprised by the Captain’s decision to suspend him after he broke into someone’s house… — and also a restraining order.

Back at it, it’s time for another cliché: Clifford goes all infomercial as he falls from his wheelchair trying to grab a book from the fireplace. Mad at the world, he begs to die, but Marlise won’t let him. In fact, she even developed the machine that DeVoe currently to help him with his fatal disease.

Even with a restraining order, Barry goes to Clifford at his lecture hall and finally something interesting happens: cards on the table, the professor acknowledges everything. He knows Barry is the Flash. He exposes his backstory, how he became a metahuman, and how superior he is in terms of intellect in comparison to Team Flash. In fact, he is only telling him who he is because “he has nothing to fear.”

Now, maybe this is just me, but I feel like this would be the time for Barry to engage and tell DeVoe that he lowkey already knows how to defeat him? I mean, Savitar did tell him the name of the device. But he doesn’t. He mostly brags about defeating speedsters, which are nothing compared to DeVoe’s powers.

Back at STAR Labs, Barry tells everyone that Clifford confessed and NOW everyone believes him even without any additional evidence — silver linings? At least they believe him now. This ‘No One Believes Barry’ nonsense could have carried on for more episodes. Cisco comes up with the Thinker name as Wally arrives to help out with supervillain but, if we’re being honest, he probably won’t because Kid Flash has been utterly useless. I blame it on the writers.

Finally, the DeVoes go back to their secret base and Marlise has her villain attire (slicked back hair and a lab coat instead of natural waves and sundresses) back on. It sort of makes you wonder about the practicality of having a whole villainous wardrobe just for the thrill of it.

As Clifford starts shaking again, it is time for him to return to the device we’ve seen him in before. The coolest part is that I was right about his hair: the Mechanic has to literally rip his scalp off in order to connect him with a machine that feels too tight on his head. As the romantic he is, Clifford is even “allowing” West-Allen to get married because “what is knowledge without love?”.

Not a lot went down again, but better than last week’s by a mile. So now we gotta get ready for the wedding crossover next week and hopefully an interesting fall finale!


Images Courtesy of The CW

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The Heart is a Lonely Manhunter (Rewatching Hannibal Season 1)

Angela D. Mitchell

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Spoiler Warning for Hannibal, Season 1

“At night I leave the lights on in my little house and walk across the flat fields. When I look back, from a distance, the house is like a boat on the sea. It’s really the only time I feel safe.”
—Will Graham, Hannibal 1×04

Confession: I am one of those people who watches a show and can’t quite accept that it’s gone. The show instead lives on for me internally. So, basically, do not tell me The Wire is gone. Nope. Nor Deadwood, The Sopranos, Parks and Rec, Justified, Veronica Mars, and a handful of others, just… for me, they’re not gone. The show’s still out there. Immortal. Ever-present. So, for me, yes, somewhere Tony still watches the exits. Somewhere, Raylan works out his inner demons. Somewhere, Leslie Knope is President. Somewhere, Dan and Casey are still wittily tossing out sports metaphors under Dana’s eagle eye. Somewhere, Veronica’s fighting for justice next to her Dad. And somewhere, Hannibal and Will are still embattled. Or engrossed. But they’re out there, somewhere, somehow. Living on, in a smarter universe.

Fellow fans of Hannibal will no doubt especially feel my pain on this. And as someone still deeply mourning the end of the show all these years later, I thought the best consolation might be to go back and watch the show from the beginning, and it’s been a joy, offering new nuances and moments galore. It’s been especially fascinating to be able to go back to the beginning, and most especially to see how far back Bryan Fuller and his talented team set up the relationships, conflicts, and inspirations on the show, which are present even in the pilot episode.

The Table is Set

The blood splashes in the credits, Brian Reitzell’s superb score surges ominously, and Hannibal begins. Boom. Grossness. Ooky murder victim close-ups. Dating taboos. Ships, ships, and more ships sail into the distant horizon (how were we ever possibly this young?).

Welcome to the world of Hannibal. So let’s drive right in, to episode one, for instance, and that beautiful first meeting of Will (a wonderfully twitchy Hugh Dancy) and Hannibal (a chilly, graceful Mads Mikkelsen). Where, if you watch closely, you’ll find extra enjoyment in all the little subtleties to Mads’s and Hugh’s performances—because they’re setting the foundation for every single moment to follow.

It’s all right there, the entire show. Hannibal’s focus and detachment, mixed with that strange fleeting tenderness. Will’s disgust, empathy, and fear that also mask his inevitable fascination and self-loathing. Cue the mental metronome as it sweeps ominously across the frame in red. We begin, and even within 40 short minutes in episode one, as Garret Jacob Hobbs dies, whispering, “See?” to a horrified Will, the table is set.

The finishing touch on this scene (that will echo back so tragically at the end of the season) is the fact that Hannibal, watching Will, seems to decide to save Abigail because it is something that Will wants. So he gives it to him, the gift of Abigail’s life, placing his hands gently on Abigail’s throat in order to save her. He further does this, I think, because for Hannibal everything comes down to power, because he can, and because it will tie both of those people to him in ways he wants to watch play out further.

But perhaps the nastiest trick he plays on Will here is his facade at the episode’s end, as Will enters Abigail’s hospital room to find Hannibal already there, holding Abigail’s hand as if he is not the monster her father was, but as if he is, in fact, the caring savior he pretended to be. Everything that occurs between the two men from here on out, occurs because Will mistakenly uses this image of Hannibal as a baseline. It’s diabolical and tragic.

Just because Hannibal tortures Will, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t love him. For Hannibal, feeding someone an ear is practically like sending flowers and a box of chocolates…

Cat and Mouse

I think my favorite aspect of the rewatch is that I have changed my opinion slightly when it comes to Hannibal’s reactions and motivations. Upon a second viewing, most of the time, I now do think that Hannibal seems to play out his scenes with others as honestly as he can, at least, to a point.

I remember that I thought Hannibal was smirkier the first time I watched it; I felt like he was playing them. But now I actually think he’s weirdly transparent. I do think he likes and respects the team and genuinely (and quite quickly) grows to care for Jack and Will. It doesn’t mean he won’t torture them, mind you—Hannibal’s so warped that I truly believe he has no concept of how normal, non-psychotic people feel or demonstrate tenderness.

Shoot, for all we know Hannibal considers everything he does to poor Will in Season 1 to be nothing but simple foreplay. (“What are you complaining about?” I can imagine him saying to Will. “I fed you an ear!”)

Speaking of love, however, I most definitely missed how closely Beverly (played with subtle wit and tenderness by Hetienne Park) is involved with Will in many scenes the first time I watched the show. Her shooting range scene with Will in Episode 2 is terrific. Sparky and fun, on rewatch, it’s evident to me that Beverly likes Will. I mean, I think she like likes him. Which just adds to the tragedy of her entire arc.

Every bit as much as Jack and Alana, Beverly seeks Will out, to goad him, to study him, to offer support. She visits him several times (including in “Ceuf”) just to talk to him, for instance. And in the Angel episode (“Coquilles”), Beverly approaches Will again, offering help and asking him to confide in her; they interact closely once more in episode 6 (“Entree”). I’d really missed how close these two are in my first viewing of the show, and this makes Beverly’s devastation at Will’s arrest that much more heartbreaking to witness as season 1 moves toward its close.

The Wolf Visits the Sheep

In Episode 4 (“Oeuf”), in one of the best scenes across the entire show, Hannibal explores Will’s house. And I think upon rewatch this is just an incredibly rich and fascinating scene. Hannibal enters as a guest (and we later learn that Will asked him to feed the dogs for him while he was gone), and absently feeds Will’s beloved dogs, who adore Hannibal instantly. Hannibal, of course, feeds them what we assume is yikeshannibalsoylentsausage. Of course, he then simply wanders through Will’s home, and it is just sort of mind-bogglingly, quietly amazing to watch him do so. I think it’s easily one of the most naked moments for Hannibal in the course of the story. We get this rare opportunity to simply watch him study and react without the need to play the role of the guy in the human-suit that Bedelia calls him out on being.

As he enters Will’s home, Hannibal pats and feeds the dogs, then (in a poignant note for me as a classical musician) notes that Will owns a piano but that it is out of tune.

I found this moment lovely and subversively interesting for what it says about both men. Hannibal is a person who writes and plays music at a superb and virtuosic level, and who listens in the same way. Now he enters Will’s home and sees, unexpectedly, another fraction of his heart. Another realization, piercingly, that Will is like him. He is not alone. So yes, my favorite part of this scene is how Hannibal sees the piano and his glance lingers on it.

And right there, to me, I think is when Hannibal becomes a love story.

The Search for Connection

It’s not really about romance, to me, however, but about something more subtle and fragile—about recognition. Kinship. Fellowship. The pleasant, guilty surprise of bondage. Forget romantic love. Love’s less complex in this universe, and I’m not even sure it’s given anywhere equal weight. What the show is seeking and exploring, ultimately, is a dozen times more complex: the connection of equals, a speaking of souls. The mitigation of loneliness.

Hannibal as a character or person may not believe in love, but I’m certain that he (and the show) believes in soulmates. More casual viewers, I think, may miss that about this show. Hey, ship anything you want, any character combo that floats your boat. Seriously, I get you. I ship Hannibal and Will, at varying moments, with pretty much every adult who shares a scene, not least because Mikkelsen and Dancy both have chemistry with everyone around them.

But what Hannibal is ultimately about, to me, what sets it apart and makes it real genius… is loneliness. And connection. Hannibal seeks it, and is surprised and charmed to find it in Will, even in his home. We already know how much Will desires and fears the same thing.

And everyone else we glimpse, don’t they want that same sense that someone knows and understands them? Jack? Alana? Beverly? Every single cop, medical examiner, or killer we meet?

Of course. Cue drama.

For Will, every social encounter seems agonizing, so it’s ironic how palpable his loneliness is: “When I look back from a distance, the house is like a boat on the sea. It’s really the only time I feel safe.”

Make Yourself at Home

So back to my point. I mean, Hannibal’s visit to Will’s home is fantastic. And pivotal. To me, it’s the core moment in their evolution as compatriots and friends and, perhaps, lovers. It’s so intimate.

Moving on. In his home visit for Will, Hannibal also notices a full outboard motor evidently in repair in Will’s living room (tellingly, later, in the “therapy” session with Hannibal, Will talks about his father’s work in boatyards from Biloxi to Erie).

Hannibal then checks out Will’s bureau and oh, Lord, gloriously, yes, there are the white tee shirts and socks, neatly stored, although I imagine the filmmakers simply cut out Hannibal’s full-body recoil at the sight. Hannibal then goes over to Will’s desk, looks through the magnifying glass there (nice subtext) then plays with one of Will’s fishing lures, carefully adding one of the feathers from the tray on the desk, before deliberately cutting himself with the hook he has just perfected. Then he licks the wound. And, yeah, it’s weirdly erotic.

This is also the episode when Will confesses to Hannibal, in one of the show’s most beautiful moments, that he only feels safe from a distance: “At night I leave the lights on in my little house and walk across the flat fields,” he says quietly. “When I look back from a distance, the house is like a boat on the sea. It’s really the only time I feel safe.” It’s yet another in a long line of beautiful boat references that help us to get to know Will that will also come back into play in later seasons.

Hannibal, potential anchor that he is, merely gives the tiniest hint of a smile. Because he is in control. He doesn’t need an anchor… or does he?

Fiendish Friendships

But although it’s fun to watch Hannibal become fascinated with Will, I forgot that Hannibal initially befriends Jack much faster than Will. Jack joins him for many more dinners at this point, actually. Jack and Hannibal become good friends, and Hannibal’s friendship visibly means something to both men.

Meanwhile, complicating those waters, is Will, of course. I mean, “Coquilles” is also the episode where Hannibal sniffs Will! And Will notices! It’s weirdly awesome. (Will: “Did you just… smell me?” Hannibal: “Difficult to avoid. I really must introduce you to a finer aftershave. That smells like something with a ship on the bottle.”)

I also love Will’s conversation with Jack here:

Will: This is bad for me.

Jack: I’m not your father, Will. I’m not going to tell you what you ought to do.

Will: Seems like that’s exactly what you’re gonna do.

Jack: You go back to your classroom, when there’s killing going on that you could have prevented, it will sour your classroom forever.

Will: Maybe. And then maybe I’ll find a job as a diesel mechanic in a boatyard.

Jack: You wanna quit? Quit.

Interesting that Jack smiles to himself as he says that. He knows Will can’t quit. When it comes to duplicity and hidden meanings, Jack is every bit as subtle as Hannibal himself. And he’s willing to do it because he’s willing to risk Will’s sanity in order to save lives—and because he’s also confident enough that he can see Will through it without harm.

“At a time when other men fear their isolation, yours has become understandable to you,” Hannibal tells Will. “You are alone because you are unique.” No surprise that he is actually describing himself.

Getting Help

Onward to therapy!

Episode 7 (“Sorbet”) is pure genius with its series of therapy sessions—Hannibal with Franklyn, Bedelia with Hannibal, Hannibal with Will. In each session there’s this tangible subtext of yearning and loneliness yet again: of Franklyn trying to impress Hannibal, of Hannibal trying to impress Bedelia, and then having a glass of wine with Will. There is something sort of poignant and lonely about Hannibal saying, “I have friends.” And we know who they are and how much he hides from them. (Note: I also think that it’s telling and important that Jack dreams of a mutilated Will in this same episode, as well.)

Episode 8, meanwhile, features one of my favorite exchanges between Hannibal and Will when Will says, “I feel like I dragged you into my world.” And Hannibal quite truthfully replies, “No. I got here on my own. But I appreciate the company.”

Cue Loneliness

What’s interesting as I rounded out Season 1 here is the way Hannibal interweaves that loneliness I mentioned earlier as an almost palpable, touchable aspect of the show’s fabric. I was constantly struck by how solitary everyone seems to be in Hannibal’s world, how disconnected—a fact emphasized in many scenes by the show’s lighting, which is moody and dark, with characters illuminated in stark relief as if trapped onstage. Every major character also seems caught in a dreamworld now and then, as if mute on the most important level—speechless about the things they truly want—yet all are yearning, and all are quietly starved for connection.

Not just Will, but Hannibal himself, and even Jack, Bedelia, Bella, and Beverly. They all seem like characters seeking connection and safety. Alana is the only one who, to me, implies a rich external life elsewhere, and it’s interesting to watch her move in and out of all these other lives with so much ease, especially knowing what lies before her in later seasons.

Final Revelations

One thing that really struck me upon my Season 1 rewatch was just how fantastic the actors are. I’ve talked about Will and Hannibal, but let’s just call out Caroline Dhavernas as Alana, for instance. She in particular is just wonderful, much stronger than I remember her being (and it really sucker-punched me when she goes to the car to scream and cry; at that point I realized then how much she did truly love Will). I also loved the chilly, gorgeous Gillian Anderson as Bedelia, and thought Kacey Rohl was amazing as Abigail Hobbs. It’s a performance where she has to walk so many lines in so many conversations, and Rohl was able to do that with a lot of delicacy and hidden nuance.

And then of course there’s Fishburne’s presence and gravitas, Dancy’s vulnerability and anguish, and wonderful Mads and just how much he’s able to communicate in every single graceful movement and microexpression.

While it’s hard to watch Will spiral downward in the final episodes of season 1, I do love the conversation in “Buffet Froid” (1×10) when Will is ill and floundering, and Jack is surprisingly warm and supportive:

Jack: Let me tell you what I think. I think that the work you do here has created a sense of stability for you. Stability is good for you, Will.

Will: Stability requires strong foundations, Jack. My moorings are built on sand.

Jack: I’m not sand. I am bedrock. When you doubt yourself, you don’t have to doubt me too.

Near the end, when Hannibal brings Bedelia the veal, what’s fascinating is that, in an entirely different awareness of context, I’d argue that she is absolutely aware of exactly who Hannibal is and of what (or who) they may actually be consuming. And before she does so, she unexpectedly and blatantly warns Hannibal:

Bedelia: You have to be careful, Hannibal. They’re starting to see your pattern.

Hannibal: What pattern would that be?

Bedelia: You develop relationships with patients who are prone to violence. That pattern. Under scrutiny, Jack Crawford’s beliefs about you might start to unravel.

Hannibal: Tell me, Dr. Du Maurier, have your beliefs about me begun to unravel?

The way she takes the bite, with her eyes on Hannibal, very slowly, implies to me that she is doing this deliberately, perhaps almost as an odd form of answer. Foreplay? Or communion?

Perhaps no show ever quite captured the spirit of loneliness as Bryan Fuller’s superb, late, and still lamented Hannibal.

The Last Bite

Every meal has a finish. And so we come to Will’s horrified, beautifully gradual realization of Hannibal as the real killer throughout episode 13 (“Savoureaux”), leading to the confrontation in Hobbs’s kitchen, the site of their first connection and mutual recognition:

Hannibal: At a time when other men fear their isolation, yours has become understandable to you. You are alone because you are unique.

Will: I’m as alone as you are.

Hannibal: If you followed the urges you kept down for so long, cultivated them as the inspirations they are, you would have become someone other than yourself.

Will: I know who I am. I’m not so sure I know who you are anymore.

There’s such symmetry in that final, raw and terrifying confrontation in Hobbs’s kitchen between Will, Hannibal, and Jack. And it’s awful to watch, to see Jack as adversary, to see Will led off as a criminal, to see him processed by the team (and to see their personal, anguished and angry reactions), and to then see Will locked up and facing Hannibal, who is of course still free and confident and smiling. And still there! Just on some level, you know, he’s still so creepily happy to see Will. To be a part of his life and world.

A caged Will is just more accessible, after all… more fun for Hannibal to play with.

Anyway, wow. I really loved taking another look at this first season of Hannibal, and what’s interesting is it’s my least favorite of the three, so I’m looking forward to the chance to rewatch the next two even more. Most of all, I’m so pleased to have found the show even more rewarding upon rewatch, not less. There’s so much detail to Hannibal‘s world that there’s always some new little treasure to notice.

What did you think? And what did I miss? And what do you think Will really smells like? I’m guessing Old Spice, sea salt, engine grease, and warm dog. Want to live on the edge? What does Hannibal smell like? My own guess on this is that he smells absolutely fantastic, like Italian cologne, fresh sage, and the faintest breath of electric wickedness…


Images courtesy of NBC

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