Supergirl Season 2 Reviews: Episode 11, “The Martian Chronicles”
Last week was the Martian forgiveness episode that gave us all the feels. This week, we get the climax to that arc when the White Martians come to Earth in search of M’gann. It’s a fast-paced thriller of an episode, one of the tightest this season, if not ever, and we had such a great time watching. Though we might need to go cry some more about our favorite Martians. At least we got some nerdy t-shirts and Kara x food fluff alongside the heavy-hitting emotional arc that is “The Martian Chronicles.”
Guess what? Tonight is also officially halfway through the season. *cue Bon Jovi*
At the alien bar, Kara confronts Mon-El directly about their conversation and confirms they’re “not a good match.” She basically says, “It’s not you, no wait it is you.” Whew, now that’s over. Mon-El leaves and Alex joins her, at which point Kara gushes about what she wants to do for her “Earth Birthday” (the anniversary of her arrival on Earth). But, Maggie surprised Alex with concert tickets to Barenaked Ladies (?!), and she wants to go. Supportive Kara is supportive and tells Alex to go have fun. M’gann takes out the trash and calls out J’onn for following her around. J’onn warns against the White Martians (hereafter, WM) and just as M’gann says they’re NBD, one shows up. Kara joins the fight, but the WM gets away.
WM show up at M’gann’s work, and we learn it’s her former hubby that she thought she’d killed. Hubby threatens her friends unless she turns herself over. J’onn confronts her again in the alley to tell her to let him and Team Super protect her (*cue crying*). Maggie wants Alex to be honest about her feelings and tells her to talk to Kara before the concert. Alex and Kara both apologize to each other at the DEO. M’gann shows up to apologize to J’onn, then another M’gann shows up to apologize to J’onn. This means WM is in the DEO! He attacks J’onn and the lights go out, allowing WM to disappear. J’onn puts the DEO on lockdown to trap WM, but WM is a shape-shifter and can look like any of them. And he can read minds. Cue everyone shouting and pointing guns. (Yay! Vasquez is back!)
J’onn can’t find the WM through mind reading because there’s psychic interference. J’onn tells them that fire reveals the WM skin, so they take turns holding their hands up to a lit Bunsen burner. Turns out WM is Winn, and he attacks everyone. Also, WM sabotaged the reactor that powers the building; it’s gonna blow and take out a chunk of the city with it. They need to find the real Winn to shut it all down, so they split up. Alex and Kara have a heart to heart about communicating better and are more honest. J’onn tells M’gann how much he cares about her. They find Winn attached to the ceiling with webs. They also find another body on the far wall: Alex. Turns out there are two WMs! Kara and WM!Alex duke it out. J’onn takes Winn to shut it down the reactor while M’gann stays with Alex.
J’onn dukes it out with WM!Hubby until M’gann joins him. While Winn hacks them all to safety, Kara knocks out WM #2, and M’gann kills her former hubby, for good this time. When WM #2 wakes up, Alex shoots it with her snazzy gun from Maaldoria. Alex checks in with Maggie. M’gann tells J’onn she’s going back to Mars to find other WMs like herself who want to break the cycle. Alex shows up with a cupcake at Kara’s door, and they have a heart to heart for realsies this time. M’gann admits she cares for J’onn and they share a Martian moment of intimacy with the mind meld before she leaves for her former hubby’s ship to go back to Mars (NO!! DON’T GO!!). Kara runs into Mon-El at Catco heading out to lunch with Miss Tessmacher, and she seems disappointed that he’s moved on so quickly.
Best quote: “We’re the monsters Armek, this skin is beautiful.”—M’gann M’orzz
Thoughts & Feelings
Boy, this one didn’t sit well with a good chunk of the fandom, did it? We’d like to start off by making a small suggestion to the writing staff: if a significant chunk of your viewing audience could have an otherwise excellent episode ruined by the last five minutes, perhaps it’s time to abandon this course?
Now, obviously we run in the queer circles on social media, but we both saw almost nothing about the incredible rising tension of the episode, J’onn and M’gann’s amazeballs scenes, or even just the great fights between the White Martians and our heroes. Almost everyone from our Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook feedback sampling was talking about how awful Alex’s suggestion to Kara was, and how equally abysmal Kara’s reaction to it was. Elizabeth has been through the episode twice, and despite the fact that she consciously knows that 90% of it was good, she’s having trouble articulating that because fuck Mon-El.
Alright, let’s start with some good, like Kara and Alex continuing to inch their way into some very necessary conversations. We’re also glad Alex is getting caught up in her relationship with Maggie because it shines a spotlight on how overly involved Kara and Alex are in each other’s lives sometimes. Alex blowing off Kara’s Earth Birthday is not a nice thing, but it’s not entirely surprising that this is something that would happen. We would like to emphasize that while Alex’s actions are hurtful and selfish, Alex is allowed to be an imperfect character. It should also be pointed out that Alex apologized later in the episode, and while Kara is clearly going through some… things… Alex is still there for her, if not necessarily on call 24/7. And this is a development that needs to happen because Kara really needs to start addressing her abandonment issues.
Though Alex reassures Kara that she’s not going anywhere, it’s pretty clear that Kara doesn’t entirely believe that. Considering how often this season Kara appears in a specifically framed shot all alone, this is building up to something big within the narrative. We despise that Mon-El might play an integral part in this development, however, we do like the potential directions it could take. The thing is, we can’t fairly make a judgment call on this plot until we actually see it.
Believe us; we’re just as frustrated as you. But the show does have a tendency to take a hard left when you expect it to go right. Alex and Kara’s relationship has always been the emotional center of the show, and we suggest that this relationship is being deliberately tested. We’re only halfway through the season; there’s still time for this to go in an epic direction. Patience is a virtue, after all. Especially with Supergirl.
A quick pause to take an aside to talk about how supportive Maggie is. For all the haters out there who have ragged on Maggie, we’re not here for that. At every step of Alex’s journey, she has listened, understood, and respected her. Last night, she proved once again that she understands Alex really well. Not only did she gently call Alex out for repressing her feelings, she knew Alex needed to talk to Kara to work it out and encouraged her to so. She also understood Alex’s situation with the DEO and the alien attack. It’s exactly what we would expect from two people in the police force/DEO. We’re glad they didn’t make this into drama. Plus, Maggie bought Alex concert tickets so they could go to a concert together. *cough* another fanfic trope *cough*
Now let’s talk about something not so good. We’re going to call BS on Kara’s “Every time I put myself out there it backfires.” Citation needed Supergirl. In the history of this show, Kara’s had exactly two official relationships, both of which ended with her doing the breaking up. Winn doesn’t count since it was one-sided. Girl, I get you’re frustrated with life right now, but if you’re the one telling the boy to pack up that’s not “it backfiring.”
Also, new love triangle, alert; this time, it’s whiter! Watch two blonde white girls in love/lust with an annoying jerkwad who fucked Miss Tessmacher and then never called her back until now! Yay! Sheesh, Mon-El does not deserve either one of these ladies, much less both. Neither of us is buying into Kara’s ‘pining’ when all their interactions have been either awkward, one-sided (on his side), or platonic.
We’ll admit he’s grown up a bit. We liked the moment where he commented on toxic masculinity and the limitations on men expressing their emotions. Moving on instead of pining was mature, especially after Kara’s foot-in-mouth “it’s you” at the beginning of the episode. And at least Kara didn’t find them in the supply room again. Still. There’s a huge gap between “he’s grown a bit” and “he’s established a pattern of being a decent human being rather than an entitled tool who treats women like servants.”
Anyway, we would be far less fussed about it if the show had bothered to truly establish any strong romantic feelings on Kara’s part for Mon-El. Her repeated and consistent reaction has been “I don’t like him that way.” She said it point blank earlier in the same freaking episode. For her to ‘suddenly’ feel that way now feels very unearned. We’re supposed to believe that one conversation with Alex turned “never you” into “pining”? When all she’s ever said is that she doesn’t like him that way? It smacks of lazy storytelling intent on ‘tricking’ the audience by revealing her feelings at an appropriately Dramatic moment (like when you want to start a love triangle). We admit that sometimes people don’t know the depth of their feelings for someone. Life gets complicated; we get overwhelmed by other things. It happens.
At the same time, the “she doesn’t know her feelings until she almost loses it” is such an over-used trope we’re sick of it. And all too frequently, it is used to reward entitled Nice Guys for being ‘persistent.’ Basically, Mon-El is being rewarded for being an entitled asshole to Kara, never accepting her ‘no,’ refusing to respect her agency and personhood, and valuing his feelings above hers. It sends the message that if a woman tells a man multiple times she’s not interested, all he has to do is wait around, and she will be. Because saying “I don’t like you” secretly means “I do like you.” And we’ve had our fair share of that bullshit growing up watching teenage romcoms in the 90s tyvm.
The show may not have intended this to be the message. Maybe it’s an accidental side effect of Benoist’s/Wood’s lack of on-screen chemistry and mishandled ‘growth’ arc for Mon-El. If he hadn’t been quite so entitled at the start or had been a bit less sexist and a bit more awkward. If he hadn’t treated Miss Tessmacher as if she existed for his pleasure and to make his life easier (so…a slave, given what we know of Daxam). Maybe if Mon-El had been goofier and less gross, we might not have resisted this so much. Maybe if they had bothered to have her verbally express some kind of ambivalence about him rather than relying entirely on subtextual clues that were clearly muddied since so many watchers were not invested in it.
Alright, we’ve said enough about it by now. We don’t want to spend the whole time talking about this maybe relationship because we’re not invested in it. But we are in other things! Like M’gann and J’onn. We loved the hints about White Martian culture – the arranged marriages, less tender home life – and wanted more (though we’ll probably have to wait to get it). And we got some pretty awesome fight scenes tonight; the choreography and cinematography for them were on point.
More than anything, J’onn’s and M’gann’s relationship drove this episode in an organic way after last week. J’onn’s forgiveness of M’gann was the most poignant moment last week, and we weren’t disappointed with where it led this episode. J’onn tailing M’gann to keep an eye on her is exactly what we would expect from our favorite grumpy Martian space dad. He may not open up quickly, but once he’s accepted someone entirely, he’s 100% loyal. Like, Kara, he holds on fiercely to what little family he has. It’s what tragedies like genocide and surviving a planetary explosion can do.
Don’t underestimate the importance of his willingness to admit he cares about her, has made a place in his heart for her. It isn’t just that he wants to protect her. He all but admitted he loves her. J’onn lost everything to the White Martians: his wife, his children, his culture, his entire race. He has every reason to hate them. The last episode he forgave her, this episode, he opened his heart to her. He hasn’t just found a woman to admire, respect, and care about; he chose to love a White Martian. (This is some epic Hatfields/McCoys type good shit here, folks.) And? He’s willing to let her make her own choices, even if it means losing her.
J’onn reached out to her when she was afraid and asked her to trust him. He knows what it felt like to live on the run and in hiding. He spent centuries not trusting anybody. It took Jeremiah Danvers protecting him for J’onn to regain his trust in others. But J’onn hasn’t fully needed to offer that trust to anyone since then. He hasn’t had to ask someone to trust him as Jeremiah asked him, someone, who could reject him. At that moment, he was asking M’gann to let him be for her the person that he needed for centuries and found in the Danvers. That’s huge growth for J’onn.
Speaking of growth, M’gann herself. When attacked by the WM, she instinctively chose Green Martian form, despite the WM form being both larger and probably more physically powerful. And she chose to do so in front of her people. It’s yet one more moment showcasing her breaking ranks and rejecting her culture’s history of violence. And also a giant ‘fuck you’ to the WMs.
As if she couldn’t get any more amazing, we learn she tried to (and believed she had) kill her husband Armek as part of her escape from Mars. She was willing not just to turn her back on her people, but on her mate. She’s willing to stand her ground and, when faced with the possibility, call her own people out for their violence, bigotry, and genocide. Doesn’t get much more badass than that, people.
It’s worth pointing out that her interactions with Armek were coded as a woman escaping from domestic violence. He doesn’t refer to her by name, but rather by her status as a possession: wife. He treats her as belonging to him and wayward for leaving. Then, he threatens her life and takes pleasure in telling her he’s going to hurt her, kill her, and then desecrate her body. When she doesn’t back down, he threatens her friends and demands she turn herself over to him.
These are all classic tactics of an abusive husband seeking to intimidate a spouse into returning home. And she responds in similarly coded ways. She stands her ground and shows her allegiance to her new way of life. Only when her loved ones are threatened does she show any sign of fear, but it is on their behalf. Rather than endanger them, she plans to draw him away, preferring to potentially bear his wrath alone than see people she cares about hurt. When we find out that she physically injured him in her escape, we can’t avoid the implication that he is one of the ones she was directly defying the order to kill the child.
He embodies everything she left behind. As she put it, “he’s the worst of her kind.” After being on the run for centuries and hiding from WM culture and history, she comes face to face with the worst possible reminder of it. And she doesn’t fucking flinch. She wholeheartedly chooses the Greens and never looks back. She stands by J’onn’s side and wholeheartedly supports him when he’s afraid of the fire knowing that her former husband is in the room watching and hating.
When she fought and killed Armek as a Green alongside J’onn, we were cheering. It stands for every step of her growth. It’s the climax of her choice to break ranks and the cycle of violence. We can’t help but see it as a symbol of her killing every single murderous, racist (species-ist?), bigoted thought and belief she was raised on. And then she makes the choices to go back and try to inspire others to have the courage the way J’onn inspired her to have courage. This is Supergirl “choose your better angels” at it’s finest.
There’s a reason we chose her comment on the Green Martian body as our favorite. She was raised to believe herself better than the Greens, but she chose to be one and calls them beautiful. And she’s a black coded character saying this, a black coded female character no less, which adds even more depth and meaning. Just…we have no words. It’s one of the most poignant arcs we’ve ever seen on this show.
We’ll miss her, but by god, we love her and can’t say enough good things about her presence on this show. We only wish we had more and that we get to see her again! Please let this not be the end of Miss Martian!
- Vasquez is back!! Her hair is freaking amazing.
- Alex likes Barenaked Ladies. Girl, why? FINE. She’s a child of the 90s.
- Maggie has a periodic table Barenaked Ladies shirt. OMG, what a nerd. We love her.
- Why did Alex change into her DEO uniform just to apologize to Kara?
- We’re so here for Kara sassing J’onn about lining the DEO with lead.
- Heh, Winn complimenting himself. Dork.
- Kara’s “Power to the Girls” shirt is adorbs. We want one. Apparently, they’re from H&M and already sold out online.
- Kara eats her cupcake with a fork and knife. We love her.
- How does Mon-El know about Tinder enough to make a “swipe right” joke? This is the guy who didn’t know what club soda was.
- Would have been nice to know who the second WM was.
- Jeremy Jordan killed it with his acting tonight.
- OMG, did you all catch the shot of Lex Luthor’s war suit in the promo for next week??
This was a roller coaster of an episode, mostly in a good way. We’d argue it is the most cohesive, tense, and thrilling episode this season regarding danger and plot tension. The WMs are a real, tangible threat even to the superpowered Kara, M’gann, and J’onn, so there is real dramatic tension. The villain motivations both made sense and created a compelling arc. The Winn as WM reveal was excellent, and the second WM being Alex was even better. M’gann finally actually killing her brutal former husband was also really satisfying. Her development over the season, especially after the last episode, heightened the catharsis of seeing her choose Green Martian form, call it beautiful, and eventually decide to go home and find other White Martians who want a new, different way of life.
Trouble had been brewing between the Danvers sisters or at least the need for a heart to heart, and we’re so glad they didn’t let it build even further. Setting aside the unfortunate derailing to talk about Mon-El, the conversation needed to be had. It touches on wounds and worries they’ve both needed to talk about. Alex’s desire to have something for herself and not feel guilty for being happy after spending much of her life focusing on Kara. Kara’s fear of abandonment and isolation after the destruction of her planet and uncovering her parents’ mixed legacy. Their honesty and vulnerability were very much in line with what we saw in S1, and we’re thankful.
This is the third episode in a row that we’ve gotten a shot of Kara on screen alone with no one else. There’s no way this is an accident. Something’s brewing on that score, and we’re not entirely sure what. Abandonment and isolation are themes this season thus far, especially for Kara. Alex touched on that wound in Episode 2 when she mentioned Kal abandoning Kara with the Danvers family. Kara has been increasingly isolated from all her closest friends and family, each of whom has something/one in their life they’re more focused on Alex/Maggie, James and Winn/Guardian, J’onn/M’gann. We sense some kind of crisis for Kara on the horizon and look forward to seeing it unfold. We’re hoping the end result isn’t a fresh, new take on Injustice. Just sayin’.
Images Courtesy of The CW
Fall 2017’s TV Successes and Disappointments
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.
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’s Will and Grace revival received a renewal before even airing its first new episode.
Everything else. No, really.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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. Valor, The Brave, Seal 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
The Flash Shows How The Thinker Came To Be
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.
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
The Heart is a Lonely Manhunter (Rewatching Hannibal Season 1)
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.”
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.
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?
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…