Dr. Abel Gideon is found unconscious in his cell. He is restrained and brought to the medical facilities for treatment. He kills the nurse tending to him and mounts her on instruments in an eerily similar manner to how the Chesapeake Ripper did with the antlers. Jack and Will visit the crime scene and have to go through Dr. Frederick Chilton, the asylum’s administrator. Chilton knows about Will and is very interested in his abilities. Chilton says that Gideon was the ideal prisoner until the recent incident. Chilton mentions specifically that the nurse’s organs were removed in a manner similar to the Ripper’s victims. Chilton consulted on the Ripper case during the Ripper’s previous spree. Chilton believes that Gideon is the Ripper and has been all this time. Jack has a flashback to the Ripper’s last victim (from his last spree) – almost two years ago. Gideon was also arrested two years ago. The last victim was Miriam Lass, a student in the FBI academy that Jack sent after the Ripper. Alana visits Chilton, but it is clear that she does not hold him in high regard. Will does not think that Gideon is the Ripper – Gideon was arrested for brutally murdering his wife in a fit of anger, but the Ripper is more methodical and deliberate. Chilton, however, is adamant that Gideon is the Ripper. Alana and Will both interview Gideon to evaluate his mental state but he is able to evade questions very easily, having some amount of training in their techniques. Will is far from convinced that Gideon is the Ripper – their techniques are too dissimilar and Will suspects that someone has convinced Gideon that he is the Ripper.
Jack visits Hannibal unexpectedly to inquire on his wife’s mental state. Bella has become closed off and Jack is upset about this and the stress of her worsening condition is wearing Jack thin emotionally. He has another flashback to another woman he couldn’t save – Miriam Lass. In the flashback, Jack and Lass inspect the Ripper’s victim’s corpses. In the present, Jack gets a phone call in the middle of the night from Miriam Lass, frightened and anxious saying that she was wrong and lost. He investigates the next day, but his staff are suspicious. Jack thinks that the call was from the Ripper, who is angry that someone is plagiarizing his work. Jack, Will and Alana offer Freddie Lounds exclusive access to Abel Gideon. Lounds is suspicious about whether Gideon is actually the Ripper or not but agree to write an article saying that he is, in order to lure the real Ripper out into the open. She gets her interview and Hannibal reads the article. Jack confronts Gideon about his alleged crimes as the Ripper and Gideon confesses to murdering Miriam Lass. Jack receives another phone call from Miriam, but this time from his home. There were three sets of prints on the home phone –Jack’s, his wife’s and Miriam’s. Miriam’s blonde hair is found on Jack’s pillow.
Alana suggests to Gideon that he may have been pushed to commit the murder. Chilton dines with Hannibal and Alana. He is very happy that he has a pure sociopath under his care. They discuss Gideon as the Chesapeake Ripper but Chilton refuses to entertain any ideas that Gideon is not the Ripper. Hannibal is able to get Chilton to open up by saying that he likes unorthodox methods. Chilton stops short of admitting that he has pushed Gideon to murder but the implication is clear. Miriam calls again and is traced to an abandoned observatory. The call is made from a cell phone found in the amputated hand of Miriam Lass which is accompanied with the note ‘What do you see?’ Hannibal and Jack talk later. Jack admits that the Ripper got to him – for a while he let himself think Miriam was alive. Hannibal says he’s sorry about Jack’s wife and about the trainee and asks about the trainee and what she was like. There is a final flashback, but this time from Hannibal. Lass is inquiring about medical records and asks Hannibal for some. She finds a diagram in Hannibal’s desk that perfectly matches the Ripper’s victim’s injuries. Hannibal sneaks up behind her and suffocates her.
While the previous episodes in this season have focused rather heavily on the dynamic between Will and Hannibal, this particular episode takes a step back and widens the narrative a little. We see some new characters and the mystery of the Chesapeake Ripper broadens. I don’t know how I feel about this broadening, frankly. On one hand, it does expand the story and add some depth and diversity that the story could certainly use, but on the other hand, we already know who the Ripper is and the introduction of Gideon as a scapegoat seems like another distraction and another hurdle that is going to get in the way of a satisfying resolution to all the tension that is building up. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the story of Abel Gideon didn’t really interest me all that much but I was more interested in how Gideon’s story would impact Will and Hannibal.
One of the many things that fascinate me about Hannibal Lector is how, despite being fully knowledgeable about the expectations that others have of the Ripper will react, he is unable to fight those very instincts. Take for example, how Jack theorizes that the real Ripper will be angry that someone is being given his identity and Hannibal is unable to resist the urge to prove him right despite the unnecessary risk that it poses. I honestly find this to be the perfect Achilles Heel for Hannibal – it is very much in his character to possess enough arrogance to think that no one can catch him even if he took such risks. He also has the added benefit of possessing ideal emotional proximity to the head of the FBI’s Behavioural Analysis Unit and its best profiler. His subtle analogy of grapes to get Chilton to open up was very well done and it gives more and more credence to some of the things Hannibal is able to get away with. While Hannibal gets bolder and bolder, Will’s own state is diminishing quickly, and he can no longer tell when he is awake. The recurring symbol of the stag means something but I’m still too stupid to realize what exactly – the stag is linked to Garret Jacob Hobbs, to hunting, to killing, to death. Perhaps it is also a subconscious realization of how close to these things Will is, but that doesn’t feel right either. It might be a manifestation of his guilt and discomfort, or more likely a representation of the evil lurking inside and around Will.
Meanwhile, we finally get to see a more vulnerable, human side of Jack Crawford. Fishburne plays his emotional side rather well. He doesn’t oversell the tears nor does his pain become angst filled whining. His anxiety over his wife’s condition is humanizing and makes the character, who is otherwise rather blunt and a little cold, much more sympathetic, but I really hope that the entire character arc concerning Jack’s wife’s condition isn’t there just to humanize Jack. I sound like a terrible person for saying this but it would be cool if this came back in some way to bite Jack in the ass at a crucial point – maybe Hannibal could use his knowledge of Bella’s health to manipulate Jack further. On a related note, I was surprised to hear that Bella was still being distant – I thought that Jack and Bella had resolved their issues earlier in the season. I didn’t really like how Bella becomes less sympathetic by remaining distant. It feels like they’re picking on her for some reason without giving the character a chance to really explain herself. Jack’s concern over Lass is also touching and his guilt is very real. It helps the audience feel for Lass, who was just introduced this episode, and makes the grisly discovery at the end of the episode a lot more impactful. I don’t know whether or not to hold Jack responsible for sending Lass after Hannibal – on one hand, he didn’t know she would get so close, but on the other hand, surely he could have unofficially gotten an update on where she was going and what she was doing? I wonder whether his guilt over the loss of Lass will affect his attitude towards Will. Meanwhile, Alana continues to be likeable. She’s too old for it, but I would use the word ‘spunky’ to describe her though on second thought, ‘steely’ would be a better term. While Jack and Will routinely come face to face with terrible murders and even worse murderers, as far as I know, Alana has a more conventional position and is not exposed to this kind of madness regularly. Despite that, she faced down Gideon fairly well. I myself don’t know how well I would fare in front of a known serial killer but Alana is clearly able to connect with Gideon and keep the plot moving.
This episode also introduces Frederick Chilton. Chilton is a slimy character, but doesn’t necessarily seem evil. He is perhaps the most ‘real’ of all the characters we’ve seen thus far, apart from Jack maybe, in that he is not driven by any higher principles like Hannibal or Will. Rather he is a pure opportunist – he has seen a spree of new murders that resemble those of the Ripper and seems to have taken the opportunity to convince Gideon to admit to being the Ripper. It’s very clear that Gideon cannot be the Ripper (since we know that Hannibal is) but even without that knowledge, Chilton seems much more suspicious that Gideon himself. That’s quite an achievement given that we’ve seen Gideon murder and butcher a poor nurse. Chilton’s shameless profiteering from tragedy is nevertheless a great example of the kind of legal, socially tolerated sociopathic behaviour that is all too common in the real world. On the other end of the spectrum, we have Miriam Lass who seems extremely similar to Clarice Sterling from The Silence of the Lambs, though it’s really weird seeing Anna Chumsky in such a serious role after seeing her in Veep. She has a rather minor role and I can’t even be sure that she will be recurring but I cannot emphasize enough just how well done that final flashback was. We all knew that Hannibal was the Ripper, but seeing Miriam come up face to face with the Ripper and not even know it is the fundamental pillar of every good thriller. There is a genuine danger and fear in that scene that is very rare to perfect but that scene managed to hit almost all the right buttons.
Among the other new additions is also Dr. Abel Gideon. Gideon reminds me a great deal of Hannibal in a lot of ways. He is well-spoken, deliberate and yet, full of menace. I’m not entirely sure that Eddie Izzard was a good choice for Gideon though. I can’t remember if the character was in the books, but the character of Abel Gideon doesn’t seem to fit Izzard’s mannerisms and appearance. I know this is an odd thing to say, but it’s almost as if Izzard is playing a character who in turn is playing a character. Of course, this would make a lot more sense if Chilton has in fact been implanting the Ripper’s identity into Gideon (is that even possible?) but I’m not entirely sold on the execution. Still, I enjoyed Izzard’s performance as Gideon and his evasive interactions with Will and Alana was surprisingly satisfying to see in a series where psychologists seem able to magically invade the minds of lesser mortals. I suppose the similarity between Gideon’s mannerisms and speech and Hannibal’s is to be expected since Gideon’s character is trying to be as alike the Chesapeake Ripper (Hannibal) as possible. Still, Gideon reminded me more of the Hopkins Hannibal rather than the Mikkelson Hannibal. I’m not sure if that was intentional but it was a nice touch nonetheless. I won’t say that I found Gideon’s character to be entirely fascinating – in fact, in a lot of ways I found the character to be a little too passive, but there is certainly an aura of danger around him and I hope we see more of him in the future.
By itself, this was an excellent episode. It broadens the mystique around the Chesapeake Ripper and develops the characters of Jack and Hannibal further. However, having said that, I think it is important that the pieces introduced in this episode remain relevant in the future – I would be very disappointed if we never heard from Gideon and Chilton again. Miriam seems like a temporary addition at best since her amputated hand seems like a clear sign she’s dead but since there’s no body…