Digesting Hannibal – Season 1, Ep6

Episode 6 – Entrée

The episode opens with Dr. Abel Gideon (Eddie Izzard), on the floor of a maximum security ward.  The guards stand outside his cell, warning him to comply, or they will be forced to “restrain him.”  The imagery is a clear reference to the cells of Silence of the Lambs.  He’s clearly dangerous, and the fear is that he’s playing possum.  They check his pulse and call for a gurney.  The tension increases, now that he’s out of his cell.  Who is this guy?  Is he playing possum?   A nurse, now alone, puts him on a monitor.  She turns away for a moment, and he’s standing in front of her.  Especially impressive since we can see he’s handcuffed to the bed.  

Jack and Will approach the hospital.  Will articulates the fear that he belongs in a place like this, a forensic psychiatric hospital.  Usually forensic hospitals are for those considered to have a mental illness and a criminal history.  Psychopathy (being a psychopath or a sociopath) isn’t necessarily considered a mental illness on its own (though some believe it should be).  There are gray areas such as if someone has been deemed NGRI (not guilty by reason of insanity), and placed in a forensic hospital for “treatment.”  Being insane in the legal sense doesn’t specify a particular mental illness, and there are plenty of cases where it’s not entirely clear there’s any mental illness aside from psychopathy, yet the court rules what it rules.  Another gray area is if someone gets placed for “evaluation,” such as if a judge finds someone not competent to stand trial.  They might be placed in a hospital for treatment to “restore competency.”  I am not a forensic psychiatrist, but I try to keep up on the field.  

Jack and Will meet with Dr. Chilton, the head of the hospital.  He notes that Gideon was on good behavior for two years, so security was downgraded.  Jack wants Will to see the crime scene.  Chilton offers a creepy curiosity at Will’s process, stating that psychiatric circles have been discussing him.  They really nailed making Chilton a creeper, in how he treats everyone like a lab rat to be dissected.  Even when sitting in front of them.  In that way Chilton has his own level of psychopathy, without an apparent conscience and enjoying psychologically dissecting other people.  He is just not as calculated as Hannibal.  Chilton has done an assessment of Will.  Psychiatrists usually don’t do such formulations or at least don’t talk openly about them, because of the Goldwater rule.  And yet Chilton wants to analyze Will further.  He pushes harder.  This plays right into Will’s fear that he belongs there.    Chilton leads them to the cells, describing the mutilation as consistent with the Chesapeake ripper, but Jack counters that the ripper is still out there.  This will be important later, obviously.  Gideon picked his handcuffs, we learn, and yet didn’t escape the facility.  We see the body of the nurse, skewered with many tools, eyes removed.  Chilton tells them they’ve failed to capture the ripper. “Because I already had him.” This really shows Chilton’s narcissism.  Not only does he want to prove the FBI wrong and him right, but it’s all about him.  “I had him.”  Not we.  It’s all about him.  This is his playground, and he’s the master.

We follow Will reimagining Gideon’s experience, including the spike in heart rate prior to killing.  Interestingly, psychopaths have been found to have a deceleration in their heart rate prior to violence, namely predatory violence.  This may even be a biological characteristic of them, and lends to the hypothesis that psychopaths are “intraspecies predators.”  We watch a pretty gruesome stalking and murder.  It takes a toll on Will.  Exposition — The Chesapeake Ripper last killed two years ago, and that was when Gideon was admitted.  Correlation, not causation.  

Moving to a flashback, we find Jack interviewing a young FBI agent Miriam Lass.  She’s wanted to work with the BAU since a trainee.  They discuss the Ripper and her formulation that he will have no conscience, but not have the legal/criminal history on his record.  She’s a prototype for Clarice Starling, just as Gideon is a prototype for Lecter in Silence of the Lambs.  There is not clear reason to think he’d be careful to not have a criminal history, aside from his meticulousness at each crime scene so as to not get caught.  Jack lists her credentials (for us), and wants her assigned to the case.  We return to present day, with Jack remembering.

Chilton talks with Will and Alana Bloom about Gideon.  “Sometimes I feel like his secretary rather than his keeper.”  Another reveal that Chilton views others like objects, to be kept.  They discuss Gideon’s fans, and how he impulsively killed his wife, unlike the Ripper who was careful and meticulous.  Alana had interviewed him when he was first institutionalized.  Chilton comments that her notes were “more or less helpful,” as he interviewed Gideon on his own.  Chilton as a true narcissist, sees himself superior to others, even his own colleagues.  At best others can be helpful to his work, but never the reverse.  He would presumably have difficulty seeing any fault in anything he does, even though it immediately turns off Alana and Will.  He has no insight.  

Alana heads in to meet him.  She stands with a slight smirk on her face.  Curious.  He remembers her, because she was “sublime.”  A little flirty.  She sits down to talk with him, and he inquires as to the purpose — he admits to the murder, so what’s the point?  On a sidenote, I love love love Eddie Izzard (in general, but also in this show).  The scene cuts between Will and Alana doing interviews, presumably asking the same questions.  Gideon states he doesn’t like the name Chesapeake Ripper.  This isn’t to say he did or didn’t do the crimes.  Subtext.  Gideon pushes them to do something other than “inventorying” his personality with the “psychopathy checklist.”  This is presumably referring to the PCL-R (by Hare), which has had some controversy.  Gideon and Alana trade witty barbs about assessing him.  He’s had the MMPI (a standardized psychological instrument).  She taunts that he’d prefer the Rorschach.  The inkblot test is a projective test, which allows for more free association about the meaning of the shapes.  He counters talking about a pressure cuff around his testicles.  This alludes to an actual procedure performed on sex offenders call penile plethysmography, AKA phallometry.  This measure any changes in blood flow to the penis, and can monitor even low level stimulation.  One might even wonder if Chilton did such tests on him.  I wouldn’t put it past him.  

Will questions the purpose of killing the nurse.  Gideon claims the killing was itself the purpose.  Will points out he mutilated the body after she was dead, whereas the Ripper did it while alive.  Some displacement in the language reveals that maybe Gideon isn’t trying to convince anyone he’s the Ripper, but Chilton is.  Presumably for his own fame and ego boost, rather than the truthfulness of it.  They may also just be referring to Lounds.  Both profit from the discovery.

The story moves to Hannibal leaving his office at the end of the day, finding Jack waiting for him.  Jack wants  Hannibal to tell him what’s happening with Bella, since she isn’t telling Jack anything himself.  Hannibal plays the confidentiality card.  Jack counters with Will, where confidentiality doesn’t seem to apply.  Hannibal doesn’t consider Will a patient.  “We have conversation.”  Kinda bullshit.  Hannibal treats Will like a patient in everything but name, yet not making him officially a patient allows him to pretend to be Will’s “friend.”  Even if he isn’t fully aware he’s doing it himself.  Jack is distressed about her dying and her distance, and is reaching out to Hannibal for help.  Jack admits he’s dreading the loss of Bella, and the loss of Agent Lass (in flashback).

In flashback, she’s examining a body with Jack and finds that the Ripper removed the liver and thymus but left the heart.  I can’t see clearly, but it looks like he did not take the thymus, actually.  The more important hint is that these are organs we eat (thymus — shortbread).  Lass guesses that Jack believes the Ripper is a medical doctor.  Jack pushes her to state her rationale.  She notes psychopaths are attracted to surgery (true), but that’s the extent of the rationale she offers.  Easy additional reasoning might be the meticulousness with which organs are removed, or the process by which they’re removed shows awareness of the anatomy so as not to damage them.  Stuff like that.

In the forensics lab, the team reviews the body and the MO of the Ripper.  No clear consistency in victims, but the nurse has same wounds as the last victim they found of the Ripper.  Jack interjects that they never found the Ripper’s last victim.  Miriam Lass.  Will “sees” the Ripper but doesn’t “feel” the Ripper, calling it plagiarism (copycat).  A beautiful line of dialogue, psychologically.  Will is guided by instinct, by his gut, by what he feels.  His metronome imaginations are not just visual, they’re experienced viscerally, intuitively.  And this doesn’t fit.  Will thinks the Ripper won’t let an imposter get away with it.

Jack’s in bed, alone.  He gets a call from Miriam, who says she doesn’t know where she is, and can’t see anything.  “I was so wrong.”  She pleads, then hangs up.  The story jumps to the BAU team, where Katz can’t find any trace of the phone call in any phone company database.  Some doubt him.  Jack believes it was a recording that the Ripper made, which proves the Ripper isn’t Gideon.  Will questions if Lass might be alive, and Jack adamantly believes she’s dead and this is just a comment by the Ripper about the plagiarism.  Interesting that it’s Jack that now makes the point about the Ripper trying to comment about the plagiarism.  It’s portrayed in a way that’s supposed to show his guilt about Lass.  Dr. Zeller continues to push the case that he might have been asleep, but Jack maintains he knows when he’s awake.  A clear lead-in to Will’s sleep/wake issues, and possible hypnogogic/hypnopompic hallucinations.  

Will sits at his desk, probably drifting off.  The stag walks in.  Will can’t believe his eyes, as if he’s fully awake.  Instead of Hannibal arriving, though, it’s Alana and Jack.  They want to provoke the Ripper into showing himself.  Will thinks it might provoke the Ripper to kill again.  Jack wants to be on the offense, by using Freddie Lounds.

Jack, Will, and Alana sit down with Freddie.  Will opts to not shake hands.  They point out her credentials, but that she’s a tabloid journalist.  This plays a little to her ego.  As if saying “you could be so good, but you do this crap, so let me help you be more reputable.”  He offers to help her confirm an unconfirmed story that Gideon is the Ripper.  This factoid was dropped very quickly, early in the episode.  She wants it, an exclusive with Gideon.  They use the opportunity to insult her and her work, since they have on the hook.  The show clearly plays with themes of predators, in their various forms.  Freddie Lounds is predatory, and they’re counting on that.  They go on point out the rationale that Gideon is a psychopath (as a surgeon), as might be others in the room.  “Here we are, a bunch of psychopaths helping each other out.” Hardly.  To call anyone opportunistic a psychopath is to not really understand the nature of it.  Of course there are questions of ethics for Lounds, but she doesn’t have the stomach for violence.  Probably.  

She meets Gideon, and writes an article supporting her previous hypothesis.  The story moves to Hannibal reading her story.  And he’s not so happy with it.  The implications have always been there, that he’s the Ripper.  What has never quite been fleshed out (pun intended) is the WHY he kills.  As a psychopath, is it the rush of killing?  The ego?  The food?  This episode adds a new side to Hannibal, that he takes pride in his work as a killer, which we’ve never seen.  The closest we’ve glimpsed is perhaps some satisfaction in his layered manipulation of others.  Not quite the same.  

Jack grills Gideon.  Gideon maintains he’s the Ripper.  Jack casts doubts — no trophies with the nurse or his family.  Gideon gets to the core, though, by using Miriam’s name.  Jack digs deeper, wondering if this is all true, why open up now?  Gideon says that at this point he has nothing to lose, while qualifying his answers.  “I didn’t mean to kill her.  Don’t be mad at me.”  Not a particularly convincing rationale.  And it appears like he’s playing the one-down position a little bit, which encourages the other person to be in the one-up position, and thus the other person not try so hard to dominate.  It’s playful, though.  Jack gets a call from home, presumably Bella, but hears instead a nearly identical recording from Lass as his last phone call.

Jack and the team pick apart Jack’s bedroom for evidence.  They find Lass’s fingerprint on the phone, and likely her hair on their bed.  Will hypothesizes that this is an attempt to poke at Jack’s guilt over her death.  Yet we’re left wondering could she be alive?  

In flashback, Jack scolds Lass for her proposal to examine medical records of each of the deceased.  He indirectly tells her to do it off the books, and that it’s easier for her to do it as a trainee than him as a “guru.”  So she does.

Alana chats with Gideon, hypothesizing that he might have been manipulated by someone.  The supposition is it was Chilton.  Or Lounds.  Gideon sidesteps but doesn’t say no.

Alana, Hannibal, and Chilton sit down for dinner.  Chilton remarks how “rare it is” to have a true sociopath in captivity.  As if Gideon is in a zoo, there for study.  Furthermore it’s probably quite common.  The penal system probably has a great number of sociopaths locked up.  Not all, but a far jump from “rare.”  They sit down to their entree of tongue (from a lamb), and Hannibal jokes about Chilton giving him ideas of cutting out his tongue for a future meal.  “It’s nice to have an old friend for dinner.”  Wonderful callbacks to the movie Silence of the Lambs.  Even the tongue itself is from a “chatty lamb.”  It’s silent, now.  

As the dinner continues, they question Chilton as to whether he might have planted the ideas in Gideon’s head that he was the Ripper.  Chilton denies that he would have done anything deliberately, and Alana maintains it was at most unintentional.  Chilton responds that “psychic driving is unethical.”  Here we have an apparent jump.  Psychic driving is a form of basically brainwashing through repeated messages on a taped loop, thousands and thousands of times.  That’s a clear deliberate procedure.  They aren’t proposing that.  So his denying that he did it is either a misunderstanding of what psychic driving is, or an unconscious conveyance of what he did do.  The conversation seems to use an inappropriate definition, that of suggestion and manipulation covertly.  That happens every day in advertising.  Psychic driving, however, is considered a form of medical torture.  

Hannibal defends psychic driving as defendable sometimes, such as reminding someone if they’ve repressed a memory.  This is actually a big big BIG no-no.  Coaxing or encouraging memories that might have been repressed can very easily leading to suggesting and creating false memories that were never there, which was what was believed to have caused so many false memory syndromes in the 1980s, such as the surge of people with “repressed” [false] memories of being in satanic cults as children.  It was an epidemic all believed to be false, through the unintentional misuse of hypnosis.  Memory is very malleable.  It does NOT make sense, though, for a sociopath to repress memories of being a killer.  It just doesn’t.  

Hannibal goes to the kitchen with Chilton to prepare dessert.  He openly tells Chilton that he would have himself tried psychic driving on Gideon.  He’s trying to make it acceptable for Chilton to open up about what he did, obviously.  

Jack gets one more call from Miriam, which they trace to a cell phone in an observatory.  It’s held in a severed arm.  We presume it’s Lass’s arm.

Jack joins Hannibal for a drink in front of the fire, attempting to dissect out the Ripper’s motive for trying to make him think Lass was alive.  He was given hope.  Hannibal asks about Lass, and we flashback to Hannibal being interviewed by Lass.  She asks about a former patient, “when you were a practicing physician.”  He responds that he “hasn’t practiced medicine in some time.”  A sore point for psychiatrists here about this inaccuracy, since it’s so common and disregards the foundation of how psychiatrists become psychiatrists.  Psychiatry is technically a branch of medicine, and psychiatrists are physicians first.  We go to medical school and then specialize in psychiatry.  So this is all inaccurate.  What she really means is when he was practicing a surgeon.  Hannibal trained in surgery before he trained in psychiatry.  

Lass asks about a patient he saw as a surgical resident.  He doesn’t recall, but states he kept journals at the time.  As he goes to find them, she notices sketches on his desk, including of a body skewered like the last victim.  He comes up behind her silently and chokes her out.  Quite a different fate than Clarice.  


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Digesting Hannibal – Season 1, Ep6
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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.