Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Idiot Box: Hannibal 4x11 - "Roti" Review

The latest episode of Hannibal is a direct sequel to an earlier installment of the season featuring the return of guest star Eddie Izzard as the psychopathic Dr. Abel Gideon, a serial killing medical professional who claimed credit for the crimes we know to have been committed by Dr. Lecter. At the time I noted how much potential seemed to be wasted in that episode, where such a talented actor's presence in such an anti-climactic story served only to remind me how much fun I'd be having watching Izzard in The Munsters remake instead of this show. Though I wish it didn't need it, I'd say this follow up easily redeems that episode in keeping with the uptick in quality we've seen in this series in the past few weeks.

Roti follows Gideon escaping from the asylum where we left him last and going on a rampage as he systematically goes about getting bloody revenge on every psychiatrist who ever tried to treat him, blaming them as a whole for his current identity crisis. I'm surprised they didn't go with something a little more creative as far as his method of killing, especially since his Columbian neck ties come so closely on the heels of the similarly mafia inspired Glasgow smile from last week. This is a show that seems to pride itself on a degree of almost fantastically imaginative kills, from angel wing flaying to corpse totem poles, and this just seemed a little easy. That being said, its no less creepy, and Izzard pulls it off with gusto.

It really feels like the writers were aware of the issues I had with the last Gideon episode and deliberately went as far as they could in the other direction in order to make up for it. It almost goes too far, coming a bit too close to killing off a character that we know doesn't die prior to the events of the books and resulting films. Though I question whether someone could actually survive what this character goes through, I wouldn't sacrifice the insanity of the moment even for the sake of logic. This episode is the writers' playing around in their universe with a new found sense of visceral glee, and in this case, visceral is both figurative and literal.

It hadn't occurred to me at the time, but now that we have a diagnosis for Will Graham's hallucinations, it kind of makes this whole element seem less interesting to me. Before, when it was assumed these stray stags and hillbilly zombies were just Graham going mad, I not only bought it, but thoroughly enjoyed it even as it became increasingly unbelievable that the FBI would still let him work for them. Now that he's got a disease to explain it away, you have to assume he'll be cured at some point (as I imagine something like this gone untreated would be lethal), at which point a major thematic and stylistic point of the show will either be gone, or won't make sense anymore. This has finally come to a head in this episode, and I'm curious to see how they write themselves out of this corner.

One of the most interesting facets of Hannibal Lecter's character in this series is how completely unreadable he is most of the time. This isn't the over dramatic villain of the Anthony Hopkins movies, but a more cold, amoral figure whose motives are almost always impenetrable. As we come back to Lecter's apparent annoyance at another killer stealing credit for his work, and finally get a face to face between Lecter and Gideon, this aspect of the character's personality comes to the forefront. At no point in this episode could I gauge what he was thinking or how he felt about what was going on, and as we see his manipulations of everyone play out, I'm forced to wonder if I should take what he does at face value, or assume there's more to it.

In any case, its enough of a puzzle to keep me going with this show, as if everything else that's good about it hadn't already convinced me to stick with it. It looks like we've only got two more episodes left to go for the rest of this season, and if you haven't already, I definitely suggest getting caught up with this series and giving it a chance if its one you've skipped over. The story is more cohesive and tied together than any other police procedural out there and the tone and visual style is the perfect level of creepy for any fans of these characters in other media, or just any fan of crime thrillers in general. This episode was easily one of the best examples of what makes Hannibal so good.

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