Hannibal 2×09 ‘Shiizakana’: Becoming a monster

Hannibal 2x09 Cover

“Man is the only creature that kills to kill.”

It would be easy for this case-of-the-week format to become stale again, to fade into Season 1’s content without bringing anything new to the table.  But, in bringing together Will and Hannibal in a way that explores their transformed relationship, it offers a new perspective on Will’s therapy.  Now that Will has the upper hand on Hannibal, considering how he’s plotting his therapist’s downfall, this episode continues to bring into shape the overwhelming storyline of the season, as well as the huge link between both halves of the season.

Hannibal 2x09-1

Source: NBC

Earlier in the season, in “Mukozuke”, we saw how Will was able to hire another man to try to kill Hannibal.  Here, we’re asked to reflect on Will’s transformation, how he’s gone from being able to order a murder to desiring to commit one himself.  Even though Hannibal stopped him in last week’s “Su-zakana” from murdering the man who tormented Peter Bernardone, he can’t stop thinking about killing him, and he can’t stop thinking about killing Hannibal.  It’s not clear exactly the depths that Will is going to sink, but this episode takes the idea of “embracing the madness” (the season’s tagline) and shows how Hannibal wants to push people to do just that.

Hannibal 2x09-3

Source: NBC

While Will has been going on the offensive, “Shiizakana” reminds us just how omnipresent Hannibal’s influence is.  Margot Verger appears again in this episode, and her presence is much more welcome this time around.  Hannibal continues to entice her, pushing her to lash back at her sadistic brother, pushing her to try to kill him again.  “Shiizakana” also gives us a killer of the week who was an old patient of Hannibal’s, a man who wants to become an animal and creates an exoskeleton of animal bones in order to kill like an animal.  Instead of treating his patients and helping them move past their murderous desires, he fosters those desires and pushes those patients into action.  It’s something that Hannibal does out of love, out of a desire to have those around him empowered by their darkness.  Because Hannibal legitimately believes that what he’s doing is good, that he’s giving his patients the tools they need to feel powerful.

“You were hiding behind the gun.  You must allow yourself to be intimate with your instincts, Will.”

Hannibal - Season 2

Source: NBC

If Hannibal wants to feed a person’s worst instincts, then what exactly is happening to Will?  Will believes that Hannibal tried to have him killed at the end of the episode, but how likely is that?  Hannibal spent all of this time keeping Will alive, all of this time playing around with him, that it doesn’t quite connect that he’s now trying to kill him.  If the end of the episode is any indication, Hannibal is still trying to make a friend, only this time he knows how.  He’s trying to nurture that darkness inside of Will, forcing him to kill in order to stay alive.  If anything, he wants to use that darkness in order to forge a connection between the two of them.  It’s as Peter said to Will, “You can train a bear to be a wolf, or a wolf to be a bear.  Train them long enough and they will hunt together, feed together.”  If Hannibal can train Will to become something different, something more like himself, then he can have the friendship he’s wanted for so long.

Hannibal 2x09-2

Source: NBC

If last episode showed how Will was gaining power over Hannibal, this episode pushes in the other direction, not only be showing how much control Hannibal still has over him, but also by showing how Hannibal has control over everybody around him.  Whether it be Margot, Randall, Will, Jack, or Alana, Hannibal is still pulling everybody’s strings, acting as the demonic force that he’s been portrayed as thus far.  The more that Will fantasizes about killing him, the less he’s actually acting on his impulses.  Because it’s acting on impulse that has killed Hannibal’s enemies so far.  Beverly descended into Hannibal’s basement and was killed.  Chilton tried to run and was gunned down for it.  The more that Will gives in to impulse, the less likely he’s able to lure Hannibal in.

“Shiizakana” establishes a new conflict for us.  Instead of focusing exclusively on Will vs. Hannibal, it emphasizes Will’s struggle with himself, as well as his desire to give in to his darkest impulses.  Obviously, we’re going to see Hannibal revealed at the end of the season, his violence unhinged as he attempts to escape from those around him, but we still don’t know what is going to happen to Will.  What happens when, at the end of all of this, the darkness is still there, only this time it’s emanating from within?

So what did you think of “Shiizakana”?  How do you think we’ll get from here to the inevitable fight in the finale?  Let me know in the comments!

Michael St. Charles

is just a Michigan State University grad who loves a good story. If he’s not off teaching the young ones how to solve quadratic functions or to write an expository essay, he’s watching old-school HBO shows, indie horror movies, or he’s playing Resident Evil 4.

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