With four episodes to go until the Jack-Hannibal blowout this season’s opening scene promised, Hannibal has briefly opted to return to its status quo. “Su-zakana” hews the closest to the show’s first-season procedural format than any episode since Will was imprisoned. Our protagonist isn’t just out of prison: he’s back in the field, assisting Jack Crawford, and back in the patient’s chair, consulting with Hannibal. The case of the Chesapeake Ripper is temporarily solved, and Will’s entrapment of the real killer has moved from a high-speed chase to a slower-speed seduction. Conveniently, though, as soon as Will and Hannibal stop duking it out for real, they find a couple of foils—perfect for a proxy war.
We get the sense that “Su-zakana” is going heavy on the metaphor with its very first scene, in which Jack and Will discuss the relative merits of ice fishing. How do you catch a fish that’s no longer hungry?, asks Jack. Make him come to you, answers Will. And in case you didn’t get the symbolism the first time around: “I’m a good fisherman,” Will declares. Hannibal’s been lulled into a false sense of security by Chilton, who we can reasonably assume is dead since Hannibal hasn’t bothered to follow up with his shot to the face yet. Will’s taking advantage of that by reentering therapy, a honeypot Hannibal’s unable to resist.
It’s an almost embarrassingly transparent tactic, one that even Alana can see through. We know this because she warns Hannibal after the series’ very first sex scene, a softcore montage of sheet-clutching and blurred faces I could have done without. What’s interesting is that Will doesn’t bother to hide his intentions. He keeps up appearances in front of Jack at the dinner party, but even there he’s happy to bring up his attempted assassination. In private, he’s even more blunt, sounding almost sympathetic as he tells his therapist that he understands Hannibal can’t tell the truth. Will doesn’t have to hide his true self to stay out of jail, though, so he’s happy to talk with his nemesis candidly now that he finally has the chance.
Lest the plot slow down too much, however, we get two new threads. First, the one that will likely play out beyond this episode: a female patient of Hannibal’s, who’s suffered some unspeakable trauma at the hands of her brother. (We don’t know what it is, except that it involved a martini glass, a fish tank, and gauze soaked with her own sweat.) She’s unable to forgive him, and Hannibal, who’s temporarily abstaining from killing himself, appears to be nudging her towards doing away with her sibling. He’s coldly up-front about it, too, telling her killing him would be a therapeutic act, then advising her to wait until she can get away with it.
The rest of “Su-zakana,” though, is dedicated to a dynamic that so closely resembles Will and Hannibal’s that it’s almost a parody of the murder-as-symbolism trope. A live bird is trapped inside a dead woman trapped inside a horse, but the presentation isn’t as gruesomely gorgeous as the typical Hannibal crime scene. In fact, it’s depressingly mundane; it’s just a dead animal with some surgical scarring, until a vet cuts it open. That’s our first clue that Peter, the man who put the dead stable worker inside the horse, isn’t the killer we’ve come to expect of Hannibal. In fact, he’s not a killer at all.
The details that emerge from Peter’s case are familiar: Peter is a sensitive soul, with a brain injury that puts him at the mercy of a psychopathic manipulator. The mastermind in question is a social worker as opposed to a psychiatrist, but that’s about the only major difference between Peter’s case and Will’s. The urge to prove the social worker’s guilt thus becomes a personal crusade for Will, satisfying his need to catch Hannibal, vindicate his own suspicions, and rescue someone about to fall into the same trap he once did. And it all culminates in an echo of last week’s confrontation, except this time it’s the social worker and not Hannibal at the other end of the gun.
Will tells Peter that part of the reason he couldn’t bring himself to kill his nemesis is that even he doesn’t know his feelings towards Hannibal. It appears the feelings mutual; as Hannibal confesses with admiration, no matter how much he’s manipulated Will, he’s never been able to predict him. “Su-zakana” confirms the symbiotic relationship between our two main characters. As Will puts it, Hannibal makes him feel less alone; each is fascinated by and possibly dependent on the other, and for the moment, that codependence puts them at an impasse.