Digesting Hannibal – Season 1, Ep7

Episode 7 – Sorbet [the palate cleanser]

Will lectures his class on the Chesapeake Ripper.  The Ripper kills in groups of 3 at a time, every 18 months, and views his victims as pigs.  He claims the removal of organs and mutilation of the abdomen suggests someone with anatomical or surgical know-how.  Yes and no.  I’d say it would be more certain if the way organs were removed was important, or that the mutilation avoided any of the vital organs.  That would make the case more convincing that it’s a surgeon or a physician.  Will mentions that Lass’s severed arm was found, because he wanted it found, and that Ripper has been “consistently theatrical.”  Theatrical, perhaps.  Meticulous in presentation, almost artistic, I would also say.  Similar to Hannibal’s meal preparations.  

Hannibal is at the opera, savoring every sound.  He’s a hedonist, savoring all his senses.  Franklin watches him applaud.  After the show, Hannibal is critiqued by a woman for not cooking for her.  “It’s a whole performance.”  Indeed.  He states he will, when the inspiration comes.  “A feast must present itself.”  And now we’re leading into the twisted logic of Hannibal, that his victims are presenting themselves as the future main course in a dinner party.  And so it does.  Franklin interrupts and introduces his companion Tobias.  Hannibal is reticent to state their relationship, and Franklin proudly proclaims that he’s a patient.  This is actually proper etiquette.  Unless a psychiatrist has gotten permission beforehand to acknowledge a patient, they’re often removed.  Many people do not want it known that they are a patient or in treatment.  Franklin actually pursues it, and there’s an uneasiness in admitting the relationship, as if it’s a bit of a power play.  Tobias reveals that Franklin watched Hannibal more than the show.  So we have the seeds that Franklin could be a bit too much of a fan of his doctor.  Hannibal shakes hands with Tobias and smiles.  The next feast has presented itself.

Jack walks through the lab, hearing a phone ring in the morgue lockers.  Lass’s severed arm with the phone in hand.  A dream.  Jack answers a call, waking him from sleep.  Cut to Jack and Will driving to a crime scene.  Will accuses Jack of trying to get him overly invested in catching the Ripper.  Jack expects more bodies if this is the Ripper.  Will thinks the Ripper is just taunting Jack with Lass’s arm.  They speculate about the Ripper, how he might be killing, how he would reach out to Jack, and why he didn’t display Lass’s body.  Maybe he respected her.

They discuss the body as they examine the scene.  He was operated on, kidney removed and then sewn up.  He got to the bathtub and apparently tore open his own sutures.  The killer apparently was going for his heart too, but didn’t get it.  Will metronomes the experience, but sees the stag in the reenactment, strangely.  The victim woke up with his wound, freaked out, and attacked someone.  But the time the fight got to the tub, his heart has stopped.  The individual cut open the chest to try to massage his heart.  A little more direct than just CPR.  So Will concludes it wasn’t the Ripper.

Will argues with Zeller, who believes it’s the Ripper.  Jack presses Will on it.  Will thinks some trainee did this, in a botched organ harvesting surgery.  Jack asks Will of how he conceptualizes the Ripper.  Will describes someone who started out as a baby, but was never put on the machines to keep it alive.  The implication that through that neglect, part of it died.  But the baby survived to look normal, and no one knows what he is.  A chilling description of a psychopath.  Many (not all) psychopaths have histories of neglect or abuse (very different), sometimes head trauma, and they can stay under the radar.  They can be superficially charming and appear quite normal.  

And so Hannibal welcomes his patient Franklin.  They sit down for therapy.  Hannibal raises the issue of their “chance” encounter.  Franklin admits he went there with the hope of running into Hannibal.  Starting to creep towards stalking.  Franklin obviously wants a bigger relationship with Hannibal.  Frankyn attempts to show how well he knows Hannibal.  Hannibal explains the “ethical” rules about talking to a patient in public.  It’s not really an ethical issue, in terms of the normal bioethical principles, but a matter of confidentiality.  I suppose one could twist it into terms such as beneficence and non-malefiecence, but most psychiatrists just think about plain old rules like confidentiality first.  Franklin wants to know about Hannibal and his life, though asks indirectly — “I don’t know who you are outside this room.”  Hannibal maintains the therapeutic “frame.”  “I’m your psychiatrist.”  Franklin admits he wants Hannibal as his friend.  Hannibal coolly rejects this, attributing it to the nature of the relationship.  By knowing someone’s secrets, there’s a level of trust that can go with that.  And so some patients want more of a relationship.  “It makes me sad that I have to pay to see you.”  Franklin is pushing the therapy boundaries.  

Hannibal sighs.  He has to be firm.  “I’m a source of stability… I’m not your friend.”  Franklin tells a story of feeling sad that Michael Jackson is dead, and that if he had known him he could have helped save him from himself.  Indirectly Franklin is asking to not just be friends, but to reverse roles extremely.  He could then be the saviour, if given permission to have that level of closeness.  As viewers we might even feel a sense of suffocation from Franklin.  He pushes and he wants, and he doesn’t seem to listen to normal social cues to back off.  Even when it’s said directly to him, he doesn’t back off.  In some ways he’s communicating that he believes his gift of friendship is so important, that a person’s refusals are worthless.  Franklin admits he just wants to “touch greatness.”  Flattery.

Hannibal is greeted by Dr. Du Maurier.  They sit down for Hannibal’s therapy.  She begins by stating she’s going to be “perfectly honest,” because one of them needs to be.  Hannibal claims that he’s honest.  She states that  she has a conversation with a version of him, with the hope that other part gets what it needs.  This is fantastically written insightful dialogue.  In ego-state therapy, as well as some other models, it could be expected that there’s different versions of us.  Du Maurier though speaks about the level of meticulous construction and really how defended and locked away it is.  For a psychopath to seek therapy for anything other than to be told he’s right is already fascinating to me.  And so we must presume that Hannibal actually respects the process of therapy, enough to want to develop himself.  Or there’s an ulterior motive we have yet to discover.  She describes him having a well-tailored “person suit.”  She also reveals that he “ignored” her retirement.  She’s a little young to retire.  Many psychiatrists practice into their 70s or later, especially in private practice.  She mentions he must be lonely.  Hannibal claims he has friends, “and the opportunity for friends.”

He makes advances toward her, to be friends.  Obviously this parallels Franklin’s advances.  Of course this raises the artificial nature of the therapeutic relationship and therapeutic boundaries.  They exist for reason that make sense, but it’s not like 500 years ago anyone thought about such a thing.  They are a modern construct for a modern profession.  She rebuffs this, setting boundaries.  And yet she says at the end of the session she’ll pour him a glass of wine.  Um, no.  If you’re maintaining therapeutic boundaries, you usually don’t drink with your patient.  And you especially don’t pour it for them.  Not to say that therapy relationships always stay therapy relationships.  Anecdotally, many psychoanalysts, the most rigid of all therapists, ended up marrying their patients in the 60s and 70s.  Nowadays such a thing could cost someone their medical license, or even bring on criminal charges.  

Hannibal sees Will into his office, and Will knows he’s been drinking.  Hannibal just notes he has “an unconventional psychiatrist.”  We aren’t really shown yet why she’s unconventional, aside from that.  But my curiosity is piqued.  Hannibal asks straightaway if he’s Will’s psychiatrist, or if they’re just “having conversations.”  In prior episodes Hannibal has specifically stated they’re only having conversations.  In this episode he seems a bit more invested in making himself human, and so wanting a friend.  Hannibal goes on to pour them a bottle of wine, stating it’s “conventional” before seeing a patient.  Um, not so much.  This was the first lecture of the first week of med school — don’t drink and be around patients, even when only a student.  Hannibal has ulterior motives, though.  He’s hoping to develop the kind of relationship with Will that he wants to have with Du Maurier.  They discuss the new murder, and the Ripper.  Maybe it’s an organ harvester.  This would make sense for the killing of the episode.  Removing a kidney might not be expected to kill someone, so if death was not intended they might try to save them.  

Hannibal flashes back someone doing an insurance physical on him who was dismissive and rude.  Hannibal asks for his card.  In modern day, he pulls that card from a Rolodex, and a recipe from a recipe bin.  The implications are clear.  Eat the rude.   This medical examiner pulls to the side of the road, his gas tank leaking.  Hannibal pulls up behind him.

The story moves to the lab, discussing this new victim.  Missing a heart and kidney.  We see Hannibal prepping his meal.  Now, though, he has planted the idea of organ harvesters, which gives him cover for taking organs that are worth harvesting.  So now the team is trying to tell which killer is which, and if they’re impersonating the other.  Interesting twist, to throw Will off his trail and yet give him space to keep killing.  

Hannibal preps a meal with Alana.  They discuss food, her palate, and eventually how she doesn’t want to talk about Will.  We learn that Hannibal and Alana have a history, that maybe she trained under him, but don’t have a romantic relationship.  Yet.  She offers that she wants Will left alone, but Jack is grooming him to catch the Ripper.  Hannibal gulps while Alana isn’t looking.  Here we have the briefest insight that Hannibal probably fears Will.  Hannibal is very smart and has evaded everyone through his intellect.  Will’s instincts, though, may rival Hannibal’s intellect, at least enough to worry Hannibal.  

Another Jack dream of walking through the lab (a waking dream).  Only this time he finds Will sitting up on a slab, stitched up post autopsy, minus an arm.  This appears to show Jack’s fear of sending Will to his death the same way he did Lass, when he tasks him to catch the Ripper as he did her.  

A cooking montage.  Hannibal pulls recipe cards, and business cards of the next victim to supply the organs for that recipe.  We go on to see the organs in the meal prep, indicating he’s killing again and again.  The team tries to make sense of it, and even jokes that he might be “making sausage.”  Will believes there’s still two killers, just not sure of much else.

Another session with Franklin.  “I discovered that we are cheese folk.”  Franklin is again attempting to make the session about Hannibal, rather than about Franklin, and thus change the nature of their relationship.  Franklin even taps Hannibal on the leg, clearly making him uncomfortable.  This violates Hannibal’s meticulous boundaries, which we all know aren’t really that meticulous.  Franklin comments that Tobias doesn’t eat dairy.  Hannibal questions the nature of their relationship, including that Franklin is Tobias’s best friend, but not vice versa.  Franklin can only admit he doesn’t like the dull ache of loneliness, and reaches out to Hannibal that he understands that feeling.  We don’t really know he does.  His person suit might.  Maybe.  And then Hannibal’s next appointment doesn’t show, which is Will.  That might actually bring out that ache, if anything can.  

Will is lost in a daydream, sitting with Abigail Hobbs, as her father.  Hannibal wakes him from his dream.  What’s clear here, though, is that this is occurring with his eyes open, which is distinctly different than nightmares or even common hypnopompic/gogic hallucinations.  This is suggesting that something else is going on with him, possibly organic.  Will’s unique psychology, though, puts an organic (physical) cause only on a long list of possibilities.  

Hannibal wakes him, and they review the photos.  Will knows the mutilation is a “public shaming,” to disgrace them.  Ever so slightly we see Hannibal’s surprise that Will knows this.  In the process he learns that Lass’s arm was very effective at humiliating Jack.  Stiffly, it almost seems like Hannibal is satisfied with that.  

Katz found a lead — an ambulance that drove away from an emergency, which would be a good place for a surgery.  They bring this to Will and Hannibal.  The group heads to the ambulance company, narrowing the suspect to Devon Silvestri, and find the ambulance is gone.  Katz learns about a tracker on it.

A tactical team moves on the ambulance, to find Silvestri in the middle of a surgery.  If he removes his hand, the person will die.  Jack calls in Hannibal to help.  Hannibal holds the bleeder.

As Hannibal finishes the prep of his feast, he discusses his transition from surgeon to psychiatrist with Will.  He claims it was because of not being able to save someone, and that it felt like killing him.  “Now I save minds instead of bodies.”  I heard from a colleague that a mentor of theirs switched from surgery to psychiatry, because surgery “wasn’t invasive enough.”  

The ep ends on serving the feast.


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Digesting Hannibal – Season 1, Ep7
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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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