Hannibal: 105 “Coquilles” Review
Reviewed by Gabriel Bergmoser.
Before I delve into the meat of this episode, I want to get the inevitable out of the way. Yes, the crime of the week is both interesting and disturbing and no, it is not brought to an even remotely satisfying conclusion. But this has been the problem all the way through the show, so by now it’s hard to feel really disappointed, and I’ve harped on about this before so I’m going to move straight on to the things that really worked.
So far, Laurence Fishburne had not had a huge amount to do. Sure, his Jack Crawford is an integral character, but compared to the acting challenges given to Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelson, Fishburne’s role has more than anything seemed to be a studio decision to include a ‘name’ actor for the sake of ratings. While he has been good so far, he hasn’t really had to stretch himself. He hasn’t shown us anything ground-breaking.
Coquilles changed that quite drastically. It introduces a so far unseen character from the books; that of Crawford’s wife Bella. In the novel The Silence of the Lambs, Crawford deals with his pursuit of the killer Buffalo Bill while simultaneously trying to come to terms with his wife’s slow demise from lung cancer. It’s a moving subplot that seeks to humanise a character that could otherwise begin to seem fairly manipulative and unlikable. Here, in the context of the television series, her introduction serves the same purpose, but is arguably handled far better. See, in the novel Bella was already near death when we met her. In the series, we see her struggling with the decision of whether or not to tell her husband, and the scene where she finally admits her condition to Jack is incredibly moving. It probably helps that Bella is played by Fishburne’s real life wife, Firefly star Gina Torres, as their chemistry is excellent. Torres takes a character that never truly had a personality on the page and makes her into a woman of strength and dignity, quietly accepting her fate and struggling to hide the fear and terror that threatens to overcome her. She makes a stunning impression in just one episode, and the way she and Fishburne play off one another is very effective.
Understandably, our dynamic duo of Will and Hannibal take a slight backseat this week. We get the usual discussion of Will’s gradually fracturing mental state, but we’ve seen it all before and compared to the powerful humanising of a previously unsympathetic character in Crawford, none of Will’s plot here leaves too much of an impact. Hannibal meanwhile serves as the catalyst for Bella finally admitting the truth to her husband, and the scenes between Mads Mikkelson and Gina Torres are as strong as any of the excellent duologues this series has served up thus far. It’s interesting to see the liking Hannibal takes to Bella; a risky move, as anybody Hannibal respects had damn well better earn it, but Torres acquits herself so well that there is no question as to why Lecter sees her as special.
Meanwhile Will hunts a killer who strings up corpses to look like angels, peeling the flesh off their back and positioning them to watch over him as he sleeps. True to form, it’s a stunning piece of gory design, and a visual that is hard to forget, but as I said before the resolution is far from satisfying. Will and Jack don’t catch him; the man kills himself, becoming the last of his guardian angels. I’m not sure how he was supposed to have managed this alone, but whatever. I won’t split hairs.
But when all is said and done, this is Fishburne’s episode, and he shines in so many moments. His realisation of his own wife’s secret while talking to the wife of the cancer ridden killer is a stunning bit of acting, as his face says so much that his words don’t make clear. Likewise his final scene with Will in the office is a touching little moment, where we see that these two professionals do actually care for each other. For the first time Jack Crawford is the man who needs help, and Will is the friend who is there for him. It is one of the first moments on this show where two people connect and one of them is not a serial killer. Personally? I think that’s progress.