26th Apr2013

Hannibal 1×05 – “Coquilles” Review

by Nathan Smith

Stars: Hugh Dancy, Mads Mikkelsen, Caroline Dhavernas, Laurence Fishburne | Created by Bryan Fuller


‘Coquilles’ is an outstanding hour of television. It’s equal parts horrifying and heart-wrenching while mixing in a dark standalone story. It’s a cocktail that Hannibal seems to have down pat and this episode is absolutely no exception. It skirts the plot of Abigail Hobbes this week but still allows for some deep, deep digging into the psychological plumbing of the people in this world all functioning around Hannibal Lecter. The best thing about all of it is this, it gives us a newer insight into a character that we’ve only seen from a distance thus far and the show is all the more better for it because it gives the episode a different tack than what’s to be expected about a show that features all sorts of salacious murderousness.

We continue to dig deeper into what drives Will and we see the toll that seeing the things he sees is physically affecting him. He’s sleepwalking and even more so at a potential risk to himself, waking up in the middle of the street and towards the end of the episode, standing on the roof of his house teetering on the edge. And his relationship with Jack subsequently is going through a change something akin to this. It’s unclear as to why Hannibal is trying to drive a wedge between the two men but it seems to work, and the best part is that Will sees into Hannibal’s attempts to do so almost immediately. The scene where Will lashes out at Jack in the alley while examining the second victim is great because it allows for a crash of the volatile relationship that we’ve seen this far on the show, and even if it is only five episodes in, we understand that they have a clashy relationship. And we see briefly that Will is slowly loosening up and even has a quiet, nice moment with the medical examiner, Beverly.

The main plot of the episode actually works in the context of the show because how it smoothly locks into the stealth plot aspect involving Jack Crawford. It works better than most of the serial killers we’ve met (including the one we’ve never met). The plot is reminiscent of a great Millennium episode called ‘Kingdom Come’ about a man murdering priests as a way of lashing out at his loss of faith. The story involves the darkly, comically named “Angel-Maker,” aptly named because of his gruesome tableaus (nice visual reference to Charles Napier’s death scene in Silence of the Lambs) of slicing the flesh of victims to make angel wings and posing them as if they were praying over him. We only learn briefly that he’s suffering from a brain tumor and that he’s killing because he’s either coping with his death or bargaining with his inevitable doom.

The bigger twist is that the “Angel-Maker” is killing the victims because he sees deeper into them, sees them as the killers and miscreants that they are. It provides it even more so with a Frailty-esque twist to the episode. There’s allowance of the theological and religious implications of this killer and even throws in sprinklings of Judeo-Christian history. It’s awfully weighty.  The best part of the episode is how the killer again affects all around him, and that he dies before we really know why he’s killing people or even how he knows how the people he’s killing are the unsavory characters that they are. He dies but not before haunting Will (and what an effective jump scare that was in the barn) and revealing that he sees darkness inside of him. There isn’t catharsis for Will in anything here because he only sees the killer inside of his head. And this allows for the most beautiful relationship between what Will sees and what is real. Will’s frustration that he may catch a killer one day and another will pop up again and again is palpable and believable.

One of the most exciting elements of the “Angel-Maker”/cancer subplot because is that it ties deeply into Jack’s relationship with his wife. In ‘Ceuf’ we only see that he and his wife are having problems but there isn’t any reveal of what is causing any dissolution. Until now. The best part is how they play the distance in the marriage as a potential affair until we see it isn’t and it sneaks up so damn subtlety that she has cancer. Laurence Fishburne had been previously seen as someone who pushes and pushes Will into going into the field way before he was ready, and we see that he’s capable of grace especially in the amazing scenes between he and his wife. The scene in the bed is great because we see Jack accept whatever is going on in her life, even if it is an affair. But, it’s cancer attacking her body and as she reveals this to Hannibal in her therapy session, she gives a sense of heartbreak to something that is heartbreaking and Gina Torres sells the hurt of how little and how huge the cancer could affect her. Even better, the scene where Jack listening to the wife of the killer talk about how her husband was acting before their divorce, Fishburne plays his reaction and understanding of the fact that his wife has cancer so beautifully. It lends shading to Jack for what we’ve seen in how grumpy he’s been thus far. And their scene together is stunning because of her admission that she didn’t want change in their lives so she mentioned nothing and he says he’d be there for her as much as she needed him. Wow. Just powerful.

The final scene with Will and Jack, attempting to heal all their rifts and arguments thus far is, not to run the same ground, brilliant. Because Will is clearly not the person to understand exactly emotions or even care for someone so clearly hurt, but he sees in Jack something akin to anguish. And sitting next to him and saying that he won’t leave until Jack talks, but doesn’t want him to talk before he’s ready gives much more depth to the relationship that the two have.

One Response to “Hannibal 1×05 – “Coquilles” Review”

  • Eddie

    “Coquilles” was just a perfect episode. This show has singlehandedly redefined what a network horror show can be, and what a crime procedural SHOULD be. Hannibal pays attention to each character’s personality and motivations, and cultivates them in an organic way that makes the audience root for them—yes, even Lecter.