Among the many things I like about the show, I enjoy the way that ‘Hannibal’ regularly breaks from its procedural case-of-the-week formula to integrate recurring storylines that will come back around. Last Thursday’s episode saw the return of a guest star who’d previously created one of the most memorable characters on the series.
Eddie Izzard returns as crazed murderer Dr. Abel Gideon in ‘Rôti’. When we met him, Gideon claimed to be (and perhaps believed that he was) the Chesapeake Ripper. This upset Lecter, who is the real Ripper and doesn’t care to be imitated. To set the record straight, Lecter allowed Jack Crawford to find the severed arm of a notable Ripper victim (an FBI cadet under Crawford’s command) while Gideon was still incarcerated, thus proving that Gideon couldn’t have committed the murder.
In the new episode, Gideon is rather upset with Dr. Chilton, and in fact any and all psychiatrists he ever met, for scrambling his brains and confusing his sense of self identity. As revenge, he escapes during a prisoner transport to Death Row and sets off on a kill spree against anyone he believes wronged him. The first victims include the guards and orderly in the transport truck. Gideon uses his surgeon skills to extract their major organs and leave them hanging like ornaments on a tree at the side of the road. This is his way of saying that he knows he’s not the Ripper, because the Ripper would have taken the organs with him. Next, he moves onto a couple of shrinks who’d written papers on his case. These he executes with a “Colombian Necktie,” wherein the victims throats are slashed and their tongues pulled down through the open wounds, as punishment for their blabbermouths. If you’ve watched the show before, you know that it won’t shy away from reveling in the gore.
Will Graham’s condition continues to deteriorate. He’s developed a fever, and Lecter convinces him that fatigue has weakened his immune system. Of course, Lecter really knows that this is a symptom of his untreated encephalitis. Graham hallucinates, and tells Lecter that he feels like he’s becoming someone else. Like Gideon, he’s losing his sense of identity.
Gideon contacts Freddie Lounds, pretending to be another doctor interested in the Lecter case. He kidnaps both her and Dr. Chilton, and forces her to assist as he removes some of Chilton’s organs while the man is still conscious.
Despite his worsening mental state, Graham manages to figure out that Gideon is hiding in the observatory where the Ripper left the severed arm, hoping to meet the real Ripper. Crawford and the FBI race there, finding Gideon gone but Lounds left standing there, trying to hold Chilton together. He’s in bad shape, but will live. (After all, he’s still alive during the events of ‘Red Dragon’ and ‘The Silence of the Lambs’.)
Gideon actually watches the raid play out from nearby. When he gets in his car, he discovers Graham in the back seat with a gun, waiting for him. But Graham is such a mess that he isn’t sure that any of this is real. He forces Gideon to bring him to Dr. Lecter. When Lecter asks Graham what he believes is happening, Graham tells him that he sees Garret Jacob Hobbs, who he knows is dead. As Gideon sits there right in front of them, Lecter tells Will that there’s nobody in the room with them, and that Will is hallucinating the whole thing. Graham has a small seizure and passes out. Lecter then lets Gideon go, more or less admitting that he’s the Chesapeake Ripper and suggesting that Gideon may want to pay Dr. Bloom a visit as the next stop on his revenge tour.
When Will awakes, Lecter still insists that there was never anyone in the room with them. However, he subtly drops the hint that Bloom may be on Gideon’s hit list, curious to see how the chain of events he’s set in motion will play out. Graham races to Bloom’s house, finding Gideon standing outside watching through the window. Gideon seems unconcerned to be discovered. Still unsure of his grasp on reality, Graham lowers his weapon and has a chat with Gideon, discussing the nature of reality and identity. Then Will shoots Gideon.
By the time Bloom and Crawford get to him, Graham has a fever of 105 degrees. They rush him to the hospital, where tests will be performed, and soon enough someone will have to discover his encephalitis. What this will mean for Lecter is unclear, though I’m sure he can talk his way out of it.
In a wrap-up scene, Lecter meets with Dr. Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson) again. Lecter confides in her (in his own way) that he has conflicted feelings about whether Will Graham is merely a patient or a friend.
I hesitate to say that this is one of the best episodes of ‘Hannibal’ yet, because frankly they’ve all been really good. However, this one has a particular thematic and psychological richness that impresses even for this show. It’s also suspenseful as all get-out. I’m still amazed that anything this good could possibly air on network television, much less on NBC.