As I mentioned in my last recap, NBC pulled the fourth episode of ‘Hannibal’ from the planned broadcast schedule, allegedly out of “sensitivity” to the victims of the real-life Boston Marathon bombing, and skipped right to Episode 5 instead. The decision doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. As far as I’m aware, the storyline didn’t have anything to do with a bombing, and the new episode still features plenty of graphic violence. Disrupting the show’s continuity only serves to confuse fans who’ve followed it thus far.
I’m told that selected scenes from the missing episode are available as webisodes on the NBC web site, but I haven’t bothered to seek them out. I’d rather watch the episode as a whole, not isolated clips. The “Previously on…” teaser at the beginning of the new episode was comprised mostly of clips we’ve never seen before that don’t make any sense out of context. Fortunately, ‘Coquilles’ is mostly a standalone case-of-the-week story that doesn’t heavily rely on events from the missing episode.
In this one, Will Graham is assigned to the case of a killer dubbed “Angel Maker,” who carves up his victims to create wings out of their flesh, and conscientiously poses them in gruesome dioramas depicting angels in prayer or in flight. Over the course of the episode, we learn that the killer is dying of a brain tumor, and has hallucinatory visions of his victims as flame-headed demons. He believes that turning them into angels “elevates” them and will allow them to ascend to heaven. Curiously, it turns out that all of his victims indeed were bad people – criminals and con artists and the like – which leaves some ambiguity as to whether there was any truth to his visions.
At one crime scene, Will and the FBI discover a pair of testicles that don’t belong to the victims. Angel Maker has castrated himself in anticipation of elevating into an angel as his own final victim. An interview with the killer’s ex-wife leads them to a barn where they find his corpse trussed up, hanging from the rafters, with wings carved from his back. Will questions how much longer he can do this job, given the psychological toll it’s taking on him. Jack Crawford counts this as another successful case for his best profiler, but Will has to point out that he didn’t actually catch the killer in time to prevent any murders. The killer ended his own reign of terror.
Throughout the episode, Will suffers from bouts of sleepwalking, and eventually has a hallucination where Angel Maker (still alive after his own mutilation) tells him that he’s a demon, but that he (the killer) can bring him peace. Will continues to see Lecter for his required therapy, but senses that Lecter is trying to pit him against Jack Crawford.
Meanwhile, we’re introduced to Crawford’s wife Bella (Laurence Fishburne’s real wife, Gina Torres). Their relationship has been strained lately. Jack suspects her of cheating on him. Bella visits Dr. Lecter for a counseling session and reveals that she’s dying of cancer but hasn’t told her husband, because he’s so consumed with his job that she thinks he won’t be able to handle additional pressure. Although she doesn’t want to, she’s begun to resent him for this. After hearing about Angel Maker’s cancer, Jack puts together some clues from his personal life and realizes what’s happening with his wife. He pledges to be more attentive to her, even though she tells him that she doesn’t want chemotherapy to ruin the quality of whatever little time she has left.
Despite being aired out of order, this is a solid episode that continues to exhibit great psychological complexity among its characters. However, the flamboyance of the murders is a little much, especially the killer’s suicide. How could he have possibly carved his own body apart and trussed himself up to be suspended in an angelic pose without help? It’s difficult to suspend disbelief over that. I’d like to see the show tone down the creativity of its killings before they go too far over-the-top.
On the other hand, the episode makes a clear call-back to a scene from ‘The Silence of the Lambs’, and was perhaps intended to foreshadow murders that Lecter will later commit. I suppose that I should give the writers the benefit of the doubt that they’re planning this stuff carefully.