Hannibal: Coquilles   Rewatch 
September 25, 2014 3:40 PM - Season 1, Episode 5 - Subscribe

The one with the angels. And I don't mean the Victoria's Secret kind either.
posted by tel3path (14 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The scene where Jack figures out that his wife has cancer is really an excellent bit of television. It respects the viewer enough to know you'll pick up just what Jack suddenly realizes from Mrs. Budish's comments about her husband's slow withdrawal, and just from the look on Laurence Fishburne's face you can see how the bottom has dropped out of his world (also a musical cue and a camera push in, but hey).

It's clear as day to the audience but no one else in that room has any idea what just happened or even notices that he can barely stand, not even the empath. It's rare, but when TV or film manages to tell you exactly what a character's thinking with nothing more than suggestion and nuance I get a little frisson of something.

Also, yay Gina Torres.
posted by figurant at 6:57 PM on September 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

It's clear as day to the audience but no one else in that room has any idea what just happened or even notices that he can barely stand, not even the empath.
I think that Will picked up that something was wrong with Jack. He jumps in on the interview when Jack can't continue.

I'm curious as to whether folks think that Jack is a good husband. We know he's an asshole to most people, and we've only seen a few glimpses of him in his marriage. I know the "I wanted her to be my Bella" line drove me right up the wall, but Bella seemed to find it endearing.

But on the other hand, I can't even imagine how hurt I would be if Mr. Motion did to me what Bella tried to do to Jack (hide his pain to "protect" me). And Jack seems to respect her wishes, even if he doesn't understand them.

It's clear (from this an later episodes) that he selfishly wants her to fight to live as long as possible and she selfishly wants to die while she still has the strength to make that choice. Is either of them wrong to feel the way they do? Is all of Bella's suffering just a MacGuffin to give Hannibal a chance to save her and get into Jack's good graces later on?

Why doesn't Gina Torres get more work? Seriously, she is so great.
posted by sparklemotion at 8:22 AM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm curious as to whether folks think that Jack is a good husband.

I do, I think he's a good husband.

I also think that he can't really help being manipulative and controlling, and Bella knows that, and goes to pretty extreme lengths to protect herself (literally her "self") from him. One of those extreme lengths is apparently to make Jack's wife/Bella into a different person than Phyllis is -- she goes by a different name with Jack (i.e., Bella) and she is as vulnerability/pain/cancer-free as possible when she's around Jack.

As the script is written, I think that Jack could be interpreted as just wanting to possess Bella instead of loving her as a person. But given how Laurence Fishburne acts the role, I think that he definitely does love her, but doesn't really understand how to connect with or express that to her. Even when she's smoking up with him and he tells her what he'll miss about her when she's gone, it's all physical stuff having to do with her body (ex: how her hands smell when she comes in from the garden) and not about her-as-a-person (as opposed to her-as-a-meatpuppet). Which means that she's unable to truly let down her guard and connect with him.

I think that Bella is afraid that Jack has fallen in love with a cipher, plastered a dream-girl persona onto her, and if she reveals the truth -- that she's not the dream-girl he fell in love with/imagines, she's just a human being -- that he will reject her. And I think that Bella loves Jack too much to risk his rejection.

I think that Jack and Bella are definitely in love, but I think that they're too guarded and compartmentalized to actually connect with one another or fully know each other.
posted by rue72 at 1:01 PM on September 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

My recollection of watching the show as it initially aired was that this is the first episode where at the end of it, I sat back just kind of in awe at what I'd just watched. I think it's among the best hours they've ever done, though plenty of others certainly rate. I still sort of can't believe this aired on network TV in the US, and with more blood added to cover dead person buttcrack to boot.

I remember everyone remarking on it at the time but: OF COURSE FANCY CANNIBAL'S COFFEE MACHINE LOOKS LIKE THAT.

I didn't have time to read the script for this one before watching it, though I wish I had. You can find them all here, I think. Fuller posted them around the time S2 started airing (here's hoping he'll do the same this year).

There's the usual couple of knock out scenes between Hannibal and Will (in particular "did you just smell me?" launching 1000 GIF sets and fanfics)... But this episode really belongs to the Crawfords. Laurence and Gina are perfect together and give this little meditation on grief and death a lot of poignancy that I don't think it would manage if they weren't so good. The scene where Jack figures out what's going on with his wife and has to go sit down for a minute and then his later conversation with Bella in Hannibal's office are both heartbreaking.

I was also struck this time by just how perfect the shot in the alleyway is of Jack walking forward into darkness, leaving Will standing with Horrible Things all by himself. It's a reference to an iconic shot from Silence, of course, but I think the show does a great job of making it its own here.
posted by sparkletone at 4:00 PM on September 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

I was reminded by this episode's pretty insightful AV Club review that it was directed by Guillermo Navarro which totally explains touches like that incredible shot of Jack, Will and the second murder scene, which the review also touches on.
posted by sparkletone at 11:14 PM on September 28, 2014

But given how Laurence Fishburne acts the role, I think that he definitely does love her, but doesn't really understand how to connect with or express that to her.

I don't know if I was the only one who only recently found out that Fishburne and Torres are married IRL, but I wonder how that dynamic played into how well they play together on screen.
posted by sparklemotion at 10:56 AM on September 29, 2014

If the way they talk about their marriage is true, they are very into exalting and supporting each other, and not into competing with each other as some career couples (horrifically) are.

If you have that kind of relationship then I imagine it would make for a high quality of collaborative work.
posted by tel3path at 3:12 PM on September 29, 2014

This is the season one episode I liked the least.

On the plus side, it was strongly reminiscent of Millennium (which is, you know, awesome.) However, the episode feels like something of a one-off. Maybe it was the completely impossible death of the suspect - yeah I know, the Damon Hirsch-esque murder tableau is equally implausible but this one doesn't even line up with dream logic. I'd argue that in many ways this is the weakest episode of season one.
posted by echolalia67 at 8:01 PM on October 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Okay, finally getting caught up again after a big decluttering project.

The thing I like about this episode is that it's confronting natural death as an enemy that nobody (including Jack and Hannibal) can defeat. This is important in a crime show that you would normally expect to be all about revelling in violent death, and defeating the causes of violent death.

I am wondering if, on further viewing, this will turn out to be the episode where Jack's Relentless Pursuit Of Catching The Guy starts to diminish. Will, who unbeknownst to himself is suffering a life-threatening illness as well, cites his own weakness (which is in large part because of his illness AS WELL AS combat fatigue) as a reason why he can't continue. And Jack says - in three phrases - that Will caught the last three and he's gotta catch the next ones, and he'll never be able to escape the awareness of it, that he'll always want to Save Lives.

Buffy dealt with natural death, and the impossibility of defeating it, in The Body, but here is Hannibal building it right into the fabric of the story from the first half of the first season.

And there's another thing. I've dealt vicariously with a succession of big struggles against cancer, including a family who died one after the other, over a period of two decades, from various rare forms of the disease. The mother of the family was a neuroscientist and was endlessly pushing for more experimental studies that could save the daughter. The mother was the last one to go, about four years after the daughter died. And she was telling our church how dying is as natural as eating, and I feel like Hannibal would say the same thing, only in an entirely different spirit. I think Hannibal deeply resents death (not that he shouldn't resent it either! Christ Himself wept when he saw it!) and that death is the literal aggressor that Hannibal identified with long ago in his childhood; he thinks that by becoming an agent of death, and having a grandiose vision of himself as above humanity, he can get on top of it all.

Maybe Jack's zeal to catch the Ripper fades over time because, through Bella, he's accepting that death will have its way - and his maintenance of Hannibal's position in his inner circle reflects a sort of death wish of his own? Except how about not projecting that death wish onto everyone you're supposed to be responsible for, Jack, thanks.

I've been speculating that black and white are the colours of a chess metaphor, and the first we see of Bella is in a gorgeous draped white top in which she really overtly looks like an angel, and the episode is about the angel-maker in case we couldn't make that connection for ourselves. But when I looked closer I saw that the back of that top is black. And then during Bella's visit to Hannibal the next day, she's wearing a very structured, armor-like white top (determination, shielding her heart) but the back of that top is also black!

So maybe I am right about white being Team Hannibal and black being Team Anti-Hannibal, I'm not sure; but what if Bella were on Team Hannibal now, while she's approaching him, but switches to Team Anti-Hannibal later, when she retreats? I can't imagine that Jack would have been able to make himself ignore Bella's changed opinion about Hannibal after he Brought Her Back From The Dead, even if he wanted to. That had to have contributed to his change of opinion.

Another thing is people refusing to communicate with each other and pushing away intimacy in order to keep up appearances. Watching my friends deal with cancer really brought home to me that science and medicine, like the church itself, are ways humans have to deal with reality that acknowledge that we as humans need each other, and are reliant on each other to get through life and get through death. Because Bella wants to protect Jack (he's so busy, I'm so busy) and she doesn't want to present a less than ideal image of herself before him, she hides, but hiding just causes him more distress. And Jack knows he's not at work and he can't yell at her to get his own way, doesn't want to, and has a deep need to ask for something he can't ask of her. And then he shies away from hearing the truth at the last second... which, you know, is one of a range of normal and average ways of dealing with communication and intimacy in a family. In extremis, though, it doesn't work very well. It reminds me of *The Killing* season 1, in which the family is kind of averagely deceptive in that they hide things from each other because they think telling the truth will do more harm than good, so they're doing the wrong thing for the right reasons. And it's not deep within them - not wishing to spoil it but there is one occasion where a family member uncovers an important truth, is brushed off, but insists on it because they know they'll be believed if they stick to their guns. That they insist on it is important - in a system of learned helplessness, there'd be no point in insisting and so that would never have happened. But the effects turn out to be more pervasive because by hiding certain realities, it turned out that they were also misperceiving certain other realities.

And you have Will telling Jack that he shouldn't bring him in to consult only to ignore his opinion, and the Science Kids basically run for their lives because that is the most shocking thing they've ever heard. And it might not be diplomatic to say it in public like that, but Will says it because he's wound up, he's wound up because Jack is emotionally torturing him to elicit an opinion, which he then ignores. I mean, even if he didn't say it in that way at that time, it had to be said somehow and at some time.

And Hannibal encouraging Will to blame Jack for his mental state, when it should already be apparent that something physical is going on: not sleeping, night sweats, and then sleepwalking so serious that he damages the soles of his feet and is picked up by the police. I mean, he could have died of hypothermia. He could also have fallen off his roof. This is really fucking serious, and also, there has to be a police report of serious physical symptoms emerging this early - what ever happens to that? It's obviously Hannibal's job to report the sleepwalking to Jack; does he? Or is that "my kitchen is always open to friends" a way for Hannibal to weasel out of his obvious human responsibility here? And the "I felt like I killed her" is gonna be a clip that Hannibal selectively plays back to Jack when Will is accused later on - the cherry-picking bastard. If the court system were interested in anything but railroading Will, they could ask for all the audio recordings to be disclosed, and since Hannibal is already running off at the mouth to Jack about his "friend" he actually should do that since that horse has clearly bolted; he most likely has a disclosure agreement (or not, cuz he and Hanni are such BFFs).

"What kind of mother leaves her children at the mercy of someone who's losing his mind" or words to that effect - yeah, Will, what about the mental state of those dogs? Try to be a better parent there.

The communication theme gets raised again by Bev, who is appropriately observant at the appropriate time about how sick Will seems to be getting, and it's Will's own fault in many ways that he holds back. I get that Will is afraid that he's truly crazy underneath and that the best he can do is save as many people as he can before he slides into terminal mental decline, but that's kind of shit reasoning based more on self-loathing than anything real. As a layperson, if I know that, I really think Will ought to know it too. But then, he is dealing with it the way any of us would advise him to deal with it - by getting therapy and also seeing a medical doctor who knows how the human brain works, in case it's something physiological (which is what it looks like). I mean I'm surprised Will isn't wondering if he has a brain tumor himself - but we can't put the full responsibility for this on him, because his brain isn't working properly!

I mean, he's telling Jack he thinks he should quit, and I think Bev will be right later on when she says if he wasn't sure of himself he shouldn't have been there. And I'm connecting it to what Bedelia says when she tells Hannibal that each person has an intrinsic responsibility for their own life. It's as if Will's biggest temptation is always to sacrifice his own well-being for someone else's, and he falls prey to every momentary temptation that presents itself, and the effects of his self-sacrifice are often not to the greater good (he will really let down his family in *Red Dragon*, in the name of "saving lives").

We have Bev reaching out to connect with Will, but getting interrupted by case info from Jimmy. And then we have Will reaching out to connect with Jack, who sits there in stony silence... but gradually starts to seem more connected, just in silence. Sometimes there isn't anything useful you can really do or say, you can only be there. And we have Jack and Bella with Bella bitterly talking about Jack participating in her "fight" and Jack saying he's in her corner... part of it is that she doesn't trust him to just *be there* and simply *be*, which is what I think she really needs from him.

Jack overstepping his bounds to intercept Bella at the patient exit again. Oh, and notice that Bella is questioning the appropriateness of receiving therapy from Hannibal. BOUNDARY VIOLATIONS ARE WRITTEN AS AN INTENTIONAL PART OF THE SHOW, AND WE ARE MEANT TO NOTICE THEM, NOT HANDWAVE THEM AWAY AS WE WOULD IN OTHER SHOWS.

Hannibal's a little fucker, role-clashing, tormenting Bella with "hahaha I smelled your secret" at dinner (guess he won't eat her cuz, like Elise Nichols, there's something wrong with the meat), encouraging Will to blame his emerging neurological symptoms on work stress, and possibly not reporting the sleepwalking to Jack (I mean wouldn't you expect him to do that? Jack, Will is sleepwalking to the point where it's dangerous to him, I wouldn't let him drive or operate machinery or go into the field?)
posted by tel3path at 3:01 PM on October 26, 2014

...but I don't get why, if White is Team Hannibal, Will is seen in white so often in the early part of the narrative. I think that you don't have to be wittingly on Hannibal's side to be on his team, but I also think people don't typically switch from white to black with the possible exception of Bella, for reasons explained above?
posted by tel3path at 3:02 PM on October 26, 2014

OH AND Bella not wanting to tell the truth because she doesn't want her relationship with Jack to change... I think a number of characters are not facing the truth because they don't want things to change.

I think for example in this episode Will is not facing the truth (except he is, though, isn't he, because he does go right to Hannibal after his sleepwalking episode, and Hannibal's supposed to be qualified to help him?) or at least... no, HE'S facing the truth, it's just being withheld from him, and the part of it that he knows about is getting ignored by Jack when he tries to tell it. Because Jack doesn't want his relationships to change.

Also, Will is getting a lot better at talking to relatives. He's way way better at it than he was in Apéritif. They said on Eat The Rudecast that he's doing it *as* Jack, and he certainly does do some things *as* other characters at times, but I'm not sure his takeover of the discussion has a terribly Jack-like feel to it. He seems more like himself as he would like to be, in that conversation.

As for the KOTW, yeah, nice tableau, yawn. I mean, "how did he have insight that these people were evil/demonic" - he didn't? It was random? Or he did, but it didn't come from "God" or anything? I agree with Will's assessment that "God didn't give him insight, God gave him a tumour". I mean, Budish was going around in motels and alleys, places where you're likely to encounter people who are up to no good; maybe he read something in their faces, or maybe it was coincidental. That Budish was expressing his "insight" through wrath that he had no authority to unleash, and especially that he was verbally abusing his children, ought to show that nothing about it was "God-given".

I wonder if this is the show's attempt to discourage too much "illness as metaphor" thinking because that's very problematic, but more than that, Budish's behaviour was driven by a circumstantial physical illness and so is Will's. All the talk about Will's "instability" and Jack's driving him beyond endurance have some truth to them, but the actual cause of his deterioration is a physical illness plain and simple. You could chalk it up to the presence of Hannibal inducing fever cause Hannibal's element is fire, but you could also take it as an idiopathic inflammation of the brain that happened via natural causes and doesn't mystically represent anything else.

I don't care about this stuff about "how did Budish string himself up". Like, obviously he found a way, and was thinking about it ahead of time, other than that, who gives a shit. People hang themselves, apparently Budish found a way to wing himself, the end. I don't need to examine the rig and get a mechanical engineer in to validate the setup.
posted by tel3path at 3:17 PM on October 26, 2014

You know, am I alone in thinking Hannibal puts too many non-food items into his plating? I don't want to be constantly eating around feathers and skulls!
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:54 PM on October 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

Re: Angel dude- "It wasn't god, it wasn't man, it was his choice to die"... said to Jack, in the episode where we find out Bella has cancer. Is this deliberate foreshadowing of where Bella goes in Season 2?
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:20 PM on October 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I always thought it was interesting the ambiguity of Will saying "[I] never knew her" of his mother. We know from details of the auctioned props that both Will's parents are dead, but that doesn't necessarily mean his mother died before he was old enough to form memories of her.

How about this: Will's mother got cancer, and his Dad had to work like crazy to pay the medical bills, which is what started him and Will on the nomadic path of following the work around the boatyards of the South - he had to go wherever would earn him the most money, while Mom Graham was stuck in one specific hospital far far away. The dream may have been for Mom to get better and for the family to be reunited again, but she died before that could happen, having spent so little time with her son that he indeed never knew her despite her being alive for at least some time into his childhood.

The reason Will recognizes what's upsetting Jack is because he's seen it before, and the reason he stays by Jack's side is because Jack is his Dad, someone who had to work and who had to work him hard and demand more stoicism from him than was ever really reasonable.

It also explains some of the origins of Will's super-empathy as someone who extra very much got parentified by his own parent, and "chose" to make himself the caretaker of his parent's feelings from the earliest age.

While that's only a wild guess at explaining Will's relationship with his mother and father, I would bet it's close to the "truth" in the same way I would guess that Alana grew up the youngest child of an upper-middle-class, social-climbing family that protected an abusive brother while making another brother the Identified Patient. That she hooked up with Margot and found common cause with her mission to kill her Golden Child brother, and then went on to be the jailer of an incapacitated big-brother figure herself - tends to affirm that for me.

If Jack is the Father, and Will is the Son he never had, I guess Abigail is the not-wholly-unholy (she *was* allowed into a church, after all, even if the priest gave her the side-eye) Ghost.
posted by tel3path at 2:44 AM on August 8, 2016

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