Wynonna Earp Season 2, Episode 10, “I See a Darkness”
The one that’s a telenovela in the best possible way. Near deaths! A secret wife! A secret twin sister! Amnesia! This episode has it all. The only thing it’s missing is a secret love child, and that’s only because everyone knows that baby Earp is (probably) Doc’s lovechild!
Seriously, though. Words cannot express how delighted I was by everything in this episode. I laughed. I cried. I screamed “What the fuck?!” multiple times. All in all, a top shelf episode of Wynonna Earp.
The episode opens with Mercedes attacking Nicole, whom she mistakenly believes has the third seal. Waverly busts in, quoting Ripley from Alien and busting out her sweet escrima moves. In the ensuing fight, Mercedes realizes they don’t have the rings after all, but not before biting, and poisoning, Nicole. Wynonna asks a favor of Nedley while at the hospital visiting a faceless Mercedes. She hears Waverly in the hall as Nicole is rushed in; she’s not breathing. Waverly recognizes one of the nurses as Greta, Mattie Perley’s (the white witch known as the Blacksmith from S1) twin sister. She then lets slip that Rosita’s a revenant and tells Wynonna and Dolls the Widow Mercedes was looking for the third seal. When Waverly goes to get air, Dolls tells Wynonna Nicole only has 2-3 hours to live. Wynonna demands they find a cure, whatever it takes.
“Neither of us knows where the third seal is, Mercedes, but we are available for nose jobs.”—Waverly
Outside the hospital, Waverly runs into the Widow Beth, who promises an anti-venom in exchange for the third seal. Nicole asks Wynonna to pull the plug should she succumb to the venom because Waverly would forgive her. Wynonna agrees. Waverly and Nicole exchange apologies. Nicole confesses that she loves Waverly more than anyone just before the doctor induces a coma. Team Earp discuss Jeremy creating a cure. Dolls goes to get more venom from the Order, and Wynonna to find a test subject, with Doc’s help of course.
“No matter what happens, I need you to know that I have never loved anyone the way that I love you.”—Nicole, to Waverly
Doc plays poker with a revenant named Stevie who seems awfully keen to go into the Shorty’s basement. Wynonna interrupts. Doc’s no longer quite so amenable to helping her take down the Black Widows as he was last week now that he’s mortal, but agrees once he hears Nicole is dying. The widow Beth taunts Waverly, who then runs into Nedley asking for the key to Nicole’s place so he can pick up her cat, Calamity Jane. He informs her he spoke to Nicole’s next of kin. Waverly finds out what this means when she returns to Nicole’s hospital room and meets Shay, Nicole’s wife.
“If you’re trying to pass for normal human, maybe don’t jump women in broad daylight.”— Waverly, to the Widow Beth
Dolls confronts the Order to get more venom, but they’ve already burned the Widows’ victims, including Juan Carlo. Ewan offers to take care of unborn baby Earp and returns the plate weapon as an act of faith so Team Earp can take out the Widows. At the hospital, Shay and Waverly exchange awkward pleasantries. Shay explains that she and Nicole had a whirlwind Vegas wedding that cooled off. Meanwhile, Wynonna confronts Rosita at Shorty’s and ‘finds’ a test subject for Jeremy’s anti-venom experiments. Dolls picks up Waverly at the hospital. Jeremy feels super guilty for testing the anti-venom on Rosita.
“Every step is like an adventure in discomfort. Miracle of life my ass.”—Wynonna
At Nicole’s apartment, Doc major side-eyes Wynonna using Rosita as a test subject for the anti-venom; just because she can’t die from it doesn’t mean she can’t feel the pain. He then finds blood that leads them to Calamity Jane, and the realization that Mercedes must have kidnapped Nedley when he came to pick up the cat. Mercedes, meanwhile, tortures Nedley for information on the seal while he uses the only weapon available to him: a big fat load of sarcasm. At BBD, Waverly stops Jeremy’s experiments on Rosita and explains the deal the Widow Beth offered. Dolls tells her to take the deal and blame it on him, only he doesn’t know where the seal is. He then offers himself up as a test subject instead of Rosita.
“What are you a witch? A pokemon? You think this is my first demon rodeo? You know we had an actual demon rodeo?”—Nedley
Mercedes continues to torture Nedley for information; Nedley continues to snark (never change Nedley). At the hospital, Shay says Nicole truly loves Waverly. Unwilling to say goodbye since Nicole is close to death, Waverly leaves to find Greta, Mattie’s sister, aka “The Iron Witch”. Greta agrees to help, but for a price. Waverly agrees to anything, and the spell Greta casts leads Waverly to Doc’s ring, hidden in Nedley’s mug. Doc and Wynonna flirt track Nedley and the Widow Mercedes to an abandoned barn. They kick the shit out of her, then take her prisoner to extract venom directly from her glands. Wynonna jaunts over to the hospital with the anti-venom to discover Nicole is already better. She realizes Waverly must have done something and questions her. Cut to the Widow Beth with the ring walking into what looks to be the burned out church, ready to resurrect her husband.
“My tracking skills are quite virile.”—Doc
While Greta finds Waverly at Shorty’s to exact her payment (the marzaniok demon in the trophy), Dolls shows Wynonna the ‘weapon’ the Order returned to them. At Shorty’s, Doc tries to stop Greta’s spell, but disappears when he touches the trophy. Meanwhile, Wynonna disappears just before she can tell Dolls how to use the plate as a weapon. Greta tells Waverly she made Wynonna disappear. As Waverly screams for Wynonna. Jeremy busts in, asking her who “Wynonna” is. Waverly can’t remember, and the two leave to plan a wedding. The episode ends with Doc once again trapped in the well.
Favorite One Liner: “Kill ‘em hard, Wynonna. Town’s had enough of this shit.”—Nedley
I Gotta Say…
This feels more like the Wynonna Earp I adore. Last week’s episode was a bit rough around the edges, but this week’s was dynamite. Snark, fast paced action balanced with emotional heft, excellent fight choreography set to suspenseful music, meaningful character interactions. This is Wynonna Earp at it’s finest. It honestly might be one of my top five episodes of all time.
I dig the Johnny Cash reference—“We got married in a fever”, the first line of the Johhny Cash/June Carter duet “Jackson”—John Callaghan included in the episode. Especially since the title itself is a Johnny Cash song. I suddenly feel the need for a WayHaught (or Waynaught) vid set to “I see a Darkness” stat. There were a few other nerdy easter eggs sprinkled in the episode, as well, and I loved every one.
On the acting front, Meghan Heffern is killing it as the Widow Beth. The level of creepy bubbliness she embodies reminds me of Aquamarine from Steven Universe in the best possible way. Dani Kind continues to impress me with her depth and range; it takes a lot of skill to evoke that much rage without it turning melodramatic, and she nailed it.
While we’re on the topic of acting prowess, Melanie Scrofano’s scene talking to comatose Mercedes. Top shelf, man, top shelf. She’s simultaneously fierce mama bear and hero with a chip on her shoulder. It’s beautiful to see a female protagonist given such an emotionally meaty and nuanced part to embody.
Also, Haught damn. Nicole may have been in a coma much of the episode, but her brief scenes with Waverly touched me in my core, and Kat Barrell knocked it out of the park. Of course Nicole would say that the DNA test matters, because she’s a Suffering Empath who puts others emotional needs before her own. Likewise, Waverly’s heartfelt apologies and dismissal of Nicole’s lie stems from the same place. They’re both so concerned about the other’s emotional well-being, and I just want them to be happy.
Nicole’s confession of love, echoed later in the episode by Shay, is both a lovely confession on its own and a subtle hint at what’s to come with Shay. For a part of Nicole’s backstory that comes completely out of nowhere, the writers did an excellent job setting it up just enough that I accepted it at face value. Nicole has been pretty quiet about her life, family, and history. A secret shotgun Vegas wedding might be the stuff of telenovelas, but that doesn’t mean it’s out of place. In fact, I kind of loved the weirdly understated melodrama of it all. (Yes, that sounds like a contradiction, but it works, doesn’t it?)
Speaking of telenovela style reveals that didn’t feel out of place at all, Mattie Perley has a twin sister! She was honestly pretty awesome as an unexpected antagonist, and I hope she sticks around. I was sad to see Mattie go and would love to have another Perley sister on the show again.
And lets not forget the telenovela-style memory wipe/amnesia! God, I love this show so much. Only Wynonna Earp can serve up so much melodrama while maintaining a sense of gravity and levity alongside it. When I call it a telenovela, I mean that as a compliment. I grew up watching them with my mom, who speaks fluent Spanish and would help translate for me while I used them to learn Spanish for school. So trust me, this is a good thing.
Back to good character moments. Waverly’s emotional breakdown in the hospital was one of the best acted scenes of the episode. Dominique Provost-Chalkley serves up a heaping slice of feels. Her begging for them to act like they’re winning for once, then freaking out about breaking Jeremy’s mug felt so raw and real. “What if he can’t fix it, Wynonna?” just about killed me. We all know it isn’t about the mug, yet we all have experienced what it’s like to project while we’re grieving and in shock. The littlest things become conduits for our pain, like a transformers mug.
As far as the overarching plot, this was such a good way to do an ‘impossible choices’ situation. Waverly’s willingness to trade the ring for Nicole’s life instead of wait on a cure from Wynonna is of those times that a tired trope for straight couples is refreshed/subversive when applied to a queer couple. Waverly fighting to save Nicole’s life functions as a cipher for her fighting for their right to exist as a couple. And yet, the show doesn’t make it overtly about that. The result is a story that both normalizes the love they share and Waverly’s desperate exchange to save her lover’s life—a common trope for straight romance—and challenges the idea that queer women must die for Drama™.
That’s not to downplay the theme of difficult choices reflected in almost every character’s arc this episode. The plot played out as a series of Sophie’s choice/Catch-22 situations of which Waverly’s was one. But that’s part of the beauty of it. It’s both one among many ‘impossible’ choices characters had to make and a choice that thumbs its nose at Hollywood’s recent spate of queer female character deaths. At the same time, it also reflects the struggle queer women have in fighting for their right to exist and be taken seriously. Yet, it does so without going to the other extremes of either sanitizing/infantilizing their story or overdramatizing it. It has the appropriate emotional weight for what it is.
The final blow was the Gift of the Magi-esque reveal that Waverly’s deal with the Iron Witch wasn’t necessary. It works so well as a plot device here. The outcome (Clootie coming back) could be reasonably predicted, but the route to get there this episode was a magnificent, emotional, heartbreaking rid because of the multiple Catch-22 scenarios.
While Nicole being bitten is the precipitating event, one could argue the tangled web of Sophie’s choices starts with Wynonna. Her “whatever it takes’ mentality at the beginning drives Dolls to urge Waverly to take the deal with Beth. That same mentality also leads Wynonna to being willing to subject Rosita to physical torture to save Nicole’s life. Her choice affects Jeremy, who must then live with his own choice to go along. There’s never a straightforward ‘way out’. Everyone is making what they believe to be the best, or shall I say least shitty, choice based on the options available to them. That still doesn’t make them good choices. They’re reasonable choices under the circumstances, but they’re also choices that hurt people and have real, negative consequences for the characters and their relationships.
I just love how tangled up everything is. This is one of the best executions of “no good choices” I’ve seen in a long while. The best part is, the show didn’t have to tout itself as specifically addressing that in universe to draw attention to how Clever™ and Nuanced™ it was being (unlike another show I watch). They told the story and let the audience come to it’s own conclusions; this episode did a hell of a lot of showing and did very little telling, and it paid off big time.
The only part that confuses me is why Wynonna now wants to keep Clootie from rising. Last week, she was all about resurrecting Clootie and killing him. She delivered a whole speech to Doc about it, and he agreed to help her, which is why he gave her his ring. Her desire to protect the ring and his initial standoffishness about helping her don’t fit neatly with last week’s characterizations. Still, it isn’t a big deal. If I didn’t overlook a beat somewhere that would explain this, I can chalk it up to last week’s episode being a bit rough overall.
I will end with how much I love Nedley. He’s the dad friend who is sometimes awkward about life choices, but always loving and supportive. I adore his sass, and he had some of the best one liners this episode, hands down. But his steadfast belief in Wynonna even after all the trouble she caused in her youth? That’s heart.
I see you, Andras Callaghan
- 3 women fighting, and not over a guy, bless this show
- I see that Alien reference
- Waverly saying komodo dragons are cool to make Jeremy feel better even when she’s losing the love of her life just kills me.
- I see that mug pun, and I 100% endorse it.
- Jeremy’s Silence of the Lambs joke, A+
- Waverly got so many hugs this episode, and I’m so glad. She needed them.
Tune in next week for Emily Andras being a troll with the title, “Gone as a Girl Can Get”. There will be Black Widows and demons and Wynonna no longer being pregnant?! But the real question is, WHO IS GETTING MARRIED?? If it’s Waverly and Champ, I might die. But I’m here for a WayHaught wedding!
Oh, and thanks to Kori for the review title! It’s perfect.
Images Courtesy of SyFy
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…