Unexpected TV deaths seem to be all the rage these days. Of course, there was that scene on The Good Wife that caused Twitter to nearly break, but the death train also recently snatched up another main character from Teen Wolf (yes, I sporadically watch Teen Wolf).
With that in mind, it seems we must now officially accept that Hettienne Park’s Beverly Katz now sleeps with the fishes. Whatever ambiguity stood at the conclusion of last week’s episode is rendered effectively null by the time Jack Crawford walks into the lighthouse crime scene and finds Beverly’s body meticulously dissected into vertical pieces. While certainly not the most gruesome death tableaux Hannibal has delivered (I still get a chill thinking about that human mural), it’s by far the most gut-wrenching. Though Park never really had any scenes to shine in the show’s first season, these past four episodes of Hannibal have worked to effectively to build up her character in a way that gives her demise infinitely more meaning—much like how, in Lost, the writers would give a departing character some emotional meaty story material before they shuffled them off the mortal coil. For Will, Beverly was a major conduit to the real world, and now she, like most things in his life, have been taken from him by the man he once thought to be a friend.
The latter half of Hannibal’s first season was constructed as a gradual descent into a bizarre fever dream, with Will fearing that he had allowed too much of the evil he witnessed during his job to enter his psyche and fester. The second season has presented us with a more clear-headed Will but also one who now must struggle with his heart as opposed to his head. Will already believes Hannibal to be the cause of his imprisonment, and the death of Beverly only pushes him further over the edge in his desire for revenge.
Much of this setup of this season has been crafted as bitter irony, with the show’s protagonist trapped in the traditional Hannibal Lecter position while the actual Hannibal is free and living large. A bit in the opening even has Will placed in the iconic Hannibal Lecter attire—hooked upright on a dolly, dressed in a straightjacket and bite mask. More than ever before, “Mukozuke” truly explores how Will is forever one bad day away from becoming like those he once hunted. While his overwhelming sense of empathy will never allow him to be the cold, calculating monster that Hannibal is, such strong emotions could lead the sanest of people to murder. And Will is not the sanest person, by any stretch.
Here to hammer this point home is none other than Eddie Izard’s Dr. Abel Gideon, apparently not as dead as we previously thought. As someone once convinced he was the Chesapeake Ripper, Gideon is certainly the expert on being molded into a killer. “He’s in a biblical place right now,” he says of Will during his interview with Alana Bloom. No, Gideon does not believe, as many others do, that Will is the real Chesapeake Ripper, but he is quick to point out that he very well could be when the right buttons are pressed.
On cue, Will’s instrument of revenge emerges in the form of orderly Matthew Brown, who reveals himself to be a secret killer and the one behind the bailiff death from “Hassun.” (The judge, he claims, was the victim of another.) Brown claims to be a massive fan of Will’s “work” and asks if there’s anything he can do for him. With Beverly’s massacred body freshly etched in his brain, Will does not take long to respond. He wants Brown to kill Hannibal.
As first I found it odd that Bryan Fuller, a notorious planner and someone who maps out multiple seasons in advance, would have dropped in such a deus ex machina without thoroughly seeding it for several episodes. Only later did I realize I had not been paying proper attention and that Brown had appeared in smaller capacities in both “Hassun” and “Kaiseki.” Still, if I had any criticism of this episode, it’s that Will has the worst luck when it comes to having killers and psychopaths always a stone’s throw away.
Brown proceeds to capture Hannibal at a pool and, because this show can’t half-ass any potential murder scene, hangs him up by his neck and shoves rods into his arms and legs to achieve that “Jesus on the cross” look. Of course, we all know Hannibal cannot die before he and Jack have their duel to the death, so the good doctor is saved—ironically enough—by Jack, who gets a tip off from Alana and is able to track the two down. Jack shoots Brown who, in one last act of defiance, kicks away the bucket holding Hannibal up and gives him a brief taste of suffocation.
Because Hannibal cannot realistically ever die, this episode is not about what happens to him but how this counterattack plays into Will’s character. As Will sits in his jail cell, contemplating the extreme actions he’s just set into motion, he envisions his cell sink slowly filling to the brim with blood. Considering the writers’ predilection for referencing classical films, this appears to be quoting an equally haunting scene from The Conversation wherein Gene Hackman’s Harry Caul, filled with guilt about a death he might have indirectly caused, watches as a toilet bowl overflows with blood. (Whether Caul’s vision is real or not has been the subject of much debate.)
This is as good a time as any to mention this episode’s prevalent water motif. A basic foundation of life as well as a universal sign of renewal due to its association with cleansing—both literal (bathing) and spiritual (baptisms)—water comes into play during several key moments. The first comes in Beverly’s crime scene, when the dripping water from her frozen corpse mingles with her blood. The second, more obvious one appears during the aforementioned scene where the leaking water in Will’s sink transforms into a fountain of blood. Then, there’s also the fact that Hannibal’s capture occurs while he is swimming laps at a pool. Such imagery points to a different sort of renewal—a baptism in blood, if you will. While I can’t say for certain what will happen going forward, I believe we can all safety assume Will’s actions in this episode will leave him, much like the water, a bit more tainted than before. Hannibal might be the one left bleeding this time around, but Will may end up being the one with the true scars.
“Mukozuke” serves as an equally powerful, if more focused, companion to “Takiawase.” While never allowing the show to get too far into let’s-mourn-Beverly territory, Fuller and company nevertheless efficiently touch upon exactly how Beverly’s death affects each character, from Will to Jack to her colleagues, Jimmy Price and Brian Zeller, who, despite their emotional attachment, examine her body because they believe it’s what Beverly would have wanted. With this hour, Hannibal looks to be on a major roll right now, airing two of its best episodes back-to-back in what amounts to the second one-two punch of the season. Unless the writers totally screw the pooch going forward, which I highly doubt at this point, it looks like we’re in for one hell of a roller coaster ride.
Mark Rozeman is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.