Well, that’s three for three.
Granted, “Futamono” may not stand quite at the same level as “Takiawase” or “Mukozuke” but it’s made to serve a different purpose. It works as the show’s halfway point and, as such, does an amazing job of instigating the changing of the tides.
Most of the episode centers around the fall-out of Will’s attempt on Hannibal’s life last week. This action not only infuriates Jack but also causes Will’s friend/former love interest Alana Bloom to sever all ties with him and, to add insult to injury, shack up with Hannibal. Poor Alana—I can’t even imagine the intensive amounts of showers she’ll need to take after discovering Hannibal’s true nature.
On that note, the idea of a Hannibal-Alana coupling is my one reservation about his episode. Not just because it’s creepy as hell (as suspect I’m meant to find it that way) but also because it highlights how limited a role Caroline Dhavernas’ Alana has played in the show thus far. In the first season, Alana was presented as Will’s protector as well as one of the few characters he could express any sort of romantic feelings towards. With her somewhat diminished role this season, Alana now feels like little more than a desired object to be passed between Hannibal and Will. Knowing Fuller’s ability to write fantastic female characters see Pushing Daisies’ Olive Snook and another Caroline Dhavernas character, Jay Tyler, in Wonderfalls—I hope there are plans to give Alana a bit more agency in future episodes. With Beverly now gone, Freddie Lounds written to be an opportunistic leech and Bella only making sporadic appearances, I just don’t want the series to turn into too much of a sausage fest.
Thinking back over the episode, it’s amazing that, despite the vast amount of plot progression that occurs, it never once felt overstuffed or rushed. Between the Hannibal-Alana plotline, Hannibal’s kidnapping of Eddie Izzard’s Abel Gibeon and Jack’s last-minute shocking discovery, there’s enough to fill an entire episode. Instead, the episode also throws in a new murder case. This time the victim is a man placed in the middle of a parking lot, with roots and branches growing out of his body and a bundle of poisonous flowers sticking out of his stomach. No doubt due to the time restraints, this last plotline is mostly put on the backburner for future episodes, demonstrating once again the writers’ fascinating, if unorthodox method of structuring plotlines. The show essentially eschews the traditional case-per-week mentality of most procedurals in favor of several multi-episode arcs that allow the writers to both give the audience a creative murder scenario while never letting it overshadow the essential character work of longer-running plotlines.
What makes “Futamono” feel all the more assured are the predictably juicy character interactions, in particular the hilariously morbid Hannibal-Gideon dinner scene near the conclusion. There’s also, of course, the show’s reliable visual beauty. Director Tim Hunger, in particular, really indulges in the creative scene transitions this time around. One of the trippiest ones occurs right before the opening credits when a reflection of a flower in a character’s eye morphs into a near kaleidoscopic montage of blooming flowers that eventually become the flowers jutting out of “The Treeman” victim’s torso.
Moreso than previous episodes, “Futamono” also brings back the dark humor that characterized several first season installments. Of course, with Bryan Fuller and his writers being on the record as big Thomas Harris fans, there are the knowing nods to future events, as during Hannibal’s dinner party when Dr. Chilton comments to Jack, “Hannibal the Cannibal—that’s what they’ll call him you know.” And, in perhaps the most winking references the show has made to date, Hannibal responds to an early morning doorbell ring by claiming, “the last time someone rang the bell this early it was a census taker.” And, as we all know from Anthony Hopkins’ immortal line delivery, that man’s liver tasted great with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.
Perhaps the most memorable bit of dark humor, however, comes with the aforementioned Hannibal-Gideon scene. After learning that Gideon is threatening to compromise his secret, Hannibal abducts the newly paraplegic mental patient (he was beaten and pushed down a stairs by the guards as punishment for killing a colleague last season). Then, in a beautifully macabre set piece, Hannibal forces Gideon to eat a clay-roasted dish prepared from the meat of his own severed leg. “You intend me to be my own last supper,” a surprisingly calm Gideon wryly asks. “how does one politely refuse a dish in circumstances such as these?” The real kicker of this scene comes at the end when Gideon tries the meal and discovers it’s quite delicious. “My compliments to the chef,” he says after taking the first bite.
Finally, the episode ends with one hell of a final reveal. In kidnapping Gideon, Hannibal also strings up the man’s prison guard using a handful of lures made from his previous victims. An analysis of these lures by the FBI team leads Jack to a warehouse where he finds Miriam Lass, the former FBI student who disappeared years ago while investigating the Chesapeake Ripper, still very much alive and being kept in a hidden pit (no doubt a reference to Buffalo Bill’s preferred method of imprisoning his victims). Miriam’s return would, at first, appear to be the smoking gun regarding Hannibal’s guilt. Still, as careful as Hannibal is, I can’t imagine he would be so careless as leave such incriminating evidence so accessible. Add in the fact that we still have six or seven episodes left and there’s no way things can be that easy.
While following two of the best hours of TV this year can’t be easy, “Futamono” successfully pushes the narrative forward while never feeling like anything approaching a “stepping stone” episode. We certainly leave the characters in a very different state than we found them at the beginning of the season, with Jack not only realizing that Will cannot have been the Ripper but also that Hannibal may not be as trustworthy as he once thought. In any case, despite this being a show that thrives on uncertainty and deception, it’s truly amazing how deeply I trust Fuller and his writing staff to deliver the goods and craft ground-breaking, deliciously morbid TV each week. Hopefully, this doesn’t result in me eating my own body parts further down the line.
Mark Rozeman is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.