‘Hannibal’ Season 2, Episode 5 Recap: “Mukozuke”

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For a killer as shrewdly calculating as Hannibal Lecter, making a literal public display out of Beverly Katz seems…ill-advised. Hannibal hasn’t just stopped Bev from snooping around his basement house of horrors. He’s taken her kidneys, preserved her body, and mounted sections of it on slides like a nightmare version of a high school biology class. To top it all off, he even reuses an old crime scene and sends off an anonymous tip to the Hannibal-verse’s version of Rita Skeeter. Freddie Lounds is one of two recurring characters who shows back up on the scene in “Mukozuke.” The other, thank God, is Eddie Izzard.

“Mukozuke” plays off of two primary themes: the game of psychological ping-pong that is currently the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, and Will’s near-breaking bad. With the reentry of Izzard’s Dr. Abel Gideon to the hospital, its already tangled web of deception and surveillance descends into chaos. Will attempts to manipulate both Abel and Dr. Chilton. Hannibal tries to manipulate Chilton and Abel. Abel tries to manipulate Alana Bloom. Sometimes there’s a third party listening in on these interactions; sometimes there’s not. Everyone achieves varying degrees of success, but once the points are tallied, “Mukozuke” counts as yet another win for Hannibal.

Beverly’s death has a profound impact on Jack Crawford, who’s just seen his wife attempt to commit suicide and who’s been struggling with guilt over the danger in which he places his employees all season. The real target of Hannibal’s display, though, is Will, who Hannibal knows has been investigating him by proxy. Despite the straitjacket, Will initially takes the sight of his friend’s dismembered body better than Jack, who breaks down on the spot. Instead, Will does what he needs to do: assume the mindset of the killer in order to confirm his suspicions.

That’s when Will decides to go on the offensive, asking for Abel Gideon’s return to Baltimore in order to prove that neither of them is the Chesapeake Ripper. Unfortunately for him, it backfires. Clinging to his delusions of grandeur for dear life, Gideon’s in no mood to reveal that he’s been making up his murderous identity all along. Which is why he’s all too happy to play canary when Will decides to turn murderer after all.

Will’s copycat/admirer, it turns out, has been in the hospital this whole time: a deranged orderly who joined the profession the better to be around others like him. Now that he finally has an ally who believes him and doesn’t plan on skipping town, Will decides to leverage this tiny amount of social capital into revenge for Beverly. He issues a death sentence on his tormentor, though as his vision of sprouting stag’s horn shows, he’s well aware of the morally compromising nature of adapting Hannibal’s own tactics against him.

Before Jack and Alana bust in on the scene, we get a tableau that’s magnificent in its irony: Hannibal as Christ figure, struggling to keep his balance with a noose around his neck á la Solomon Northrup. The orderly doesn’t seem particularly bothered by the fact that he has the wrong man; he’s successfully corrupted Will, and besides, now he can take credit for Hannibal’s crimes. Given the Sophie’s Choice between literally kicking the bucket and bleeding out, Hannibal faces what the orderly deems an adequate punishment for a traitor.

Rescue comes just in the nick of time, though, and Hannibal lives to see another dismemberment. What we’re left with is the knowledge that Will’s experiences have finally caught up to him. Whether or not he started as a murderer, both Abel and the orderly point out, is irrelevant. Hannibal (and Jack, and Kade, and Chilton) have turned him into one.