Digesting Hannibal – Season 1, Ep5

Episode 5 – Coquilles

We open with Will walking barefoot down a two-lane highway, in only his underwear.  The stag walks behind him.  He’s sleepwalking.  A police car pulls up to him and the two officers question him.  He doesn’t know where he is, and still isn’t sure he’s really awake.  This tells us Will questions his own reality.  This doesn’t quite reach the point of Zhuangzi, but there’s clearly a similarity.  

Will visits Hannibal in his home, early the next morning.  Hannibal remarks that sleepwalking is less common in adults than children.  True.  Will wonders if it could be a seizure.  Hannibal suspects it’s PTSD, from the work they do.  He blames Jack, and that Jack “manipulated” Will into going back into the field.  Perhaps, though this is more likely Hannibal using “splitting,” by creating an alliance with Will while simultaneously creating a divide between Will and Jack.  If so, we would expect Hannibal to later do the same with Jack, badmouthing Will behind his back.  Hannibal hypothesizes that the intensity of the experiences have just overwhelmed Will’s defenses, leading to a “loss of control.”  He also says that sleepwalking is associated with difficulty handling aggression.  This was a finding when testing sleepwalkers using the MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory), and found an association with outwardly directed behavior patterns, suggestive of problems with aggression.  Hannibal continues to blame Jack as pushing Will too far, which presents Hannibal as Will’s ally, the only one who cares about his wellbeing.

Outside a motel, we meet a man scooping ice, trying to hide fear as he watches a couple walk by.  To him, this couple seems to be on fire.  He’s upset but not alarmed.  As if he’s seen this before.  Cut to Title Sequence.

We return to motel, with authorities investigating.  Jack presents the info they have — nondescript name, paid cash, no cameras.  Jack warns Will to prepare himself.  Will brushes it off.  Jack reiterates it to him.  This is not in line with Hannibal’s characterizations of Jack.  Jack seems to care about Will.  And the case.  

The couple previously on fire have been cut up and posed as praying angels.  The forensics team discusses similarities to other rituals, such as the vikings.  Will intuits that the killer did this to “transform them.”  As usual, we aren’t let in on the evidence he’s using to deduce that.  Katz notes that the killer slept there, leaving hairs and sweat.  She also finds vomit, and Jack deduces that he couldn’t stomach what he did.  Will believes the killer felt he was “elevating” his victims.  Will lays down on the bed to do his metronome regression.  He imagines that this killing is a way of helping the victims, and that it gives the killer a sense of peace.

Meanwhile, Hannibal brings out a carefully prepared dinner to Jack and his wife.  She declines the foie gras due to the cruelty to animals.  Hannibal relates that he uses an ethical butcher.  “No need for unnecessary suffering… Human emotion is a gift from our animal ancestors… Cruelty is a gift humanity has given itself.”  There isn’t quite a value judgment in that statement, but it implies that being cruel is something uniquely human.  As a psychopath this must help him to feel elevated from others, by the ability to cause suffering when he chooses.  Hannibal pours wine, and detects Bella’s perfume.  She notes his keen sense of smell.  Hannibal tells a story of being to smell that a teacher of his had cancer.  This may actually be legit.  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/24/magazine/what-does-cancer-smell-like.html  It is also a hint for the episode.  

The team performs autopsies.  They discuss whether the killer might be christian/religious.  They learn that the woman lived while she was cut up, and that the killer used vecuronium to paralyze her.  “They weren’t praying to him.  They were praying for him.”  Based on the drugs they found in the vomit (chemotherapy, steroids, and an antiepileptic [keppra]), the team deduces he has a brain tumor.  Will takes another leap that he is afraid of dying in his sleep.  This seems less substantiated.  Their guess about the medical condition at least makes sense.  As does the vomiting — brain tumors can cause nausea and vomiting from pressing on the vomition center of the brain, in the medulla.  “He’s making angels to watch over him.”  Now unless he has a particular religious preoccupation or a staunch belief system, few would attribute their problems to the devil, and even fewer could justify killing to create angels to protect themselves, unless perhaps they had a hallucination or delusion that pushes such a belief.  That a normal person could become both hyperreligious and kill to create angels to protect from dying would be a particularly bizarre delusional system.  

Bella goes to visit Hannibal for a session.  Typically this would not be done, especially by someone as psychodynamically oriented as Hannibal.  It would be considered a conflict of interest, and that Hannibal would have trouble being “neutral.”  Bella implies she’s having an affair, and doesn’t want to tell Jack.  Not clear why she would go to Hannibal for advice on this.  She questions whether there’s a conflict of interest, and Hannibal minimizes it as only “unorthodox.”  Unclear who requested the meeting.  She resents Jack and his work responsibilities.

Hannibal meets with Will, and relates that there’s no single center of the brain that’s religious.  Indeed.  Thus the unlikelihood that this symptomatology could come from only a single tumor.  “How do you profile someone who has an anomaly in their head changing the way they think?”  This is foreshadowing of what is to come for Will.  Hannibal believes it’s more likely due to a sense of mortality rather than hyperreligiosity.  Will believes the killer feels abandoned.  Hannibal attempts to direct this at Will, asking if he himself ever feels abandoned.  This could be a valid line of questioning.  Since we never see the evidence by which Will is making his deductions and leaps in logic, it’s quite possible for him to be projecting his own issues into the case.  By imagining himself in the shoes of a killer, he would likely bring in the issues that he himself suppresses or struggles with.  Hannibal continues to push that Jack has abandoned Will.  Will picks up on this — “Are you trying to alienate me from Jack Crawford?”  I’m surprised it took him this long to notice.  Hannibal evades, claiming he’s trying to help the profiling of the killer.

Jack tries to have a conversation with Bella, in bed.  She doesn’t want to talk.  He offers support, she declines and mainly wants to be left alone.  “I won’t insult you by asking if there’s someone else.”  A test.  He’s asking.  She evades and they pretend that everything will be fine without ever talking about it.

In Cleveland we see the killer in an alley, watching a security guard appear to be on fire.  We cut to after, when with Will seeing that same guard now posed as an angel and hung from a scaffolding.  They find human testicles, and deduce that the killer castrated himself.  They take this further to infer that the killer is now turning himself into an angel.  Which in my opinion doesn’t track with his supposed fear of death and need for protection, nor the ignoring of the religious consequences of murder.  If it was explained that his hallucination led to a belief that he’s killing demons, that might track.  But we aren’t shown that only some people are on fire.  Nor that he believes he’s saving souls.  So the logic jumps don’t make sense to me in their profile.  But they’ll get to that.  The writer is purposely withholding some information.  Will takes this further that he’s now accepting his impending death, or “bargaining.”  Not really clear to me how castrating himself becomes a bargain.  Jack asks for more, and Will pushes back, telling Jack to basically do his own profile if he doesn’t like Will’s.  Hannibal’s divisiveness is taking hold.  

Katz challenges Will on his backtalk to Jack.  Will admits he was out of line.  They find out that the dead couple were serial killers, and that the security guard was actually a felon.  He’s making demons into angels.  A twist on Frailty, a fantastic little movie with Bill Paxton.  Will states that the killer doesn’t need to know that his victims are demons, he just has to believe it.  That still leaves a hole in how he deduces who are demons.  Because somehow he knows.

Bella meets with Hannibal again, and she brings him up to speed on Jack’s suspicions.  Hannibal interprets that she feels more betrayed by Jack than her own body.  Bella reveals she has cancer, not that she’s having an affair.  And even moreso, it’s terminal.  Hannibal identifies that she holds Jack responsible somehow.  He also points out she’s withdrawing from Jack.

Elsewhere, Will has trouble sleeping in the middle of the night.  He blinks and finds himself on the roof of his house.  It’s morning.  Sleepwalking again.

Will tries to process this with Hannibal.  Hannibal goes back to the case, about how the “Angel Maker” chooses his victims.  Will sees a statue of a stag.  A hint as to who the stag symbolizes in Will’s mind.  Will carries the influence and manipulation of Hannibal with him all the time, even in his dreams.   Hannibal believes Will is similar to the killer, in that they both want peace.  Hannibal smells Will.  We now wonder what he smells on Will, namely his illness (to be revealed as season continues).  Hannibal asks about the headaches.  Hannibal clearly can tell that he’s sick.

The team identifies the killer, Elliot Budish.  Jack and Will interview the wife, who talks about how he withdrew, paralleling how Bella has been withdrawing from Jack.  They learn that Budish wasn’t religious, did have anger problems but not a history of violence, and had a near death experience when young, when he survived a fire as a child, and was told he must have had a guardian angel.

They go to the farm where this happened to investigate.  They find Budish hung up in the barn like an angel, just as he’d done to others.  I would presume he had an accomplice, since such a feat is difficult to do on one’s own.  It would be like nailing yourself to the cross (as poet Alan Dugan portrayed in his Pulitzer poetry).  Will remarks that he might not be useful much longer.   They argue, with Will conveying that it’s all taking a toll on him.  Jack rebuffs the role as his father, to tell him what to do.  Will still thinks he’s doing it.  Jack tells him that he won’t be able to stay away, when he knows he could prevent the next murder.  Jack tells him to go ahead and quit.

As Jack leaves, Budish stumbles up to him.  He says he can see who Will is on the inside (on fire).  But strangely this is all in Will’s imagination, as Budish is still strung up, dead.  Will is hallucinating while still awake.

Jack confronts Bella.  She admits she’s known for 3 months.  Lung cancer.  Stage four.  She doesn’t want chemotherapy.  Stage four means it has metastasized to a distant part of the body or the other lobe of the lung.  She still feels distant, and can’t let herself be comforted.

We end on Will offering Jack support.  In that way Bella served to keep Jack and Will together, despite Hannibal’s efforts. 


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Digesting Hannibal – Season 1, Ep5
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Paul Puri

Dr. Puri is a board certified psychiatrist, in private practice in Los Angeles. He practices multiple forms of psychotherapy, including hypnosis, in addition to managing medications. He attended medical school at University of Rochester, and specialty training at University of California, San Diego. He is currently on the Vol Clinical Faculty at UCLA. In his non-clinical time he writes TV pilots, and designs iPhone apps.

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