Hannibal Episode 4: “Coquilles”

Hugh Dancy
That’s no angel
“Coquilles” was an episode laced with sadness and mortality. Tonight’s killer gave a thought to humanity and just how little we know about how the human brain works.

There were several themes in the show tonight, but the strongest that stood out to me was change. Almost every character in this episode is going through some change, and they are all in differing stages.

With religious undertones involving this new killer, aptly named The Angel Maker, the story goes beyond that, to much deeper depths. Meet Elliot Boudish. Five months ago, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor that is causing him to change at a rapid pace as it is killing him. As the tumor manipulates different parts of his brain while it grows, his behaviors, beliefs, and even what he sees all change. He’s become a killer, ironically, because he seeks peace. By killing his victims, then fileting the flesh off their backs to make them resemble angels with wings, which he also puts hooks through and hangs from the ceiling, he is creating his own guardian angels. Later in the show we learn that Elliot had a near death experience as a child when he almost suffocated in a fire. The fireman who saved him told him he had a guardian angel. The tumor must be causing memories to resurface, and his ability to perceive them, along with proper placement, have become skewed. He’s desperate to find his guardian angel before he succumbs to the cancer. We also see his visions of his victims as having flames engulfing their heads. Again, this can be attributed to his childhood trauma. It is quite coincidental that the victims that he chooses also happen to be criminals with very nasty backgrounds. Perhaps he also feels he’s doing a duty, performing a service if you will, by killing them; one good last deed for his last days on earth. For what it’s worth, I’m reminded of the scene in The Silence of the Lambs in which Lecter escapes and hangs the guard on his cage, backlit and resembling an angel. Maybe Lecter copycats from many different killers per the series.

Graham is going through changes of his own in this episode. His sleep is becoming more disturbed, now culminating in episodes of sleepwalking. Lecter says this could be brought on by post traumatic stress. Given the fact that Graham just returned to the field, he’s been hit hard with an unrelenting barrage of graphic crime scenes. Not only that, he is also expected to jump into the minds of the killers. That’s enough to give anyone post traumatic stress, but we know that Graham is already somewhat mentally fragile. Where Graham’s dreams used to be a safe place for him, they no longer are. Lecter believes there’s a parallel between Graham and the Angel Maker. They both seek peace. It’s a great connection, and true enough, but also sad and tragic. Also, both men have the ability to be destroyed by what’s inside of them, the Angel Maker by his tumor, but what’s different is that Graham has a choice.

We see Graham stand up against Crawford briefly tonight, but it doesn’t last. Before he can take a breath he’s backing down. Graham will have to become stronger if he wants to stand on his own two feet. With Lecter’s keen sense of smell, the scene in which he smells Graham is somewhat concerning, leaving me wondering if Graham has some unknown malady present that Lecter could smell—not just the cheap aftershave.

Tonight we got to see a little more about Jack Crawford and his wife. His wife has been hiding the fact that she has stage four lung cancer. When Crawford becomes privy to the information, I was a bit astounded at the lack of emotion present between husband and wife. I believe the coldness shown by Crawford’s wife, Phyllis, was supposed to have been attributed to her own changes as she deals with the cancer. As for him, I suspect he doesn’t show a lot of emotion anyway and is dealing internally with all of this. This suspicion was confirmed when the final scene showed Graham sitting next to Crawford, waiting for him to open up and talk about his problems. It cut to black with silence, Crawford’s pain echoing in the dark.

With Elliot eventually killing himself, angel style, it was a different kind of ending for the show so far, but a profound one. This episode needed no big reveals, no loud music to make it hit hard. The quiet, chilling, emotionless quality exuded both tension and self-reflection. I felt bad for the killer in this one. I think this show is trying to bring a bit of sympathy for the killers to the plate. I felt a twinge at mushroom guy for just wanting to be understood. A tiny and quick twinge, but a twinge. I had my own stunning loss from cancer, and maybe that’s why tonight stirred these feelings in me, I don’t really know, but the melancholy feeling lingered.

I hope the best for Crawford and his wife, and I think Graham had a bit of a breakthrough by going to Crawford and refusing to leave until he talked. That’s uncharacteristic of Graham, and yep, it endears him to me even more. Team Graham! Ahem. Sorry. Lecter took the backseat tonight, but I’m sure he will be resuming his position up front soon enough. It’s good to change it up. It makes me wonder if next week will be a wild ride…

What were your thoughts on the Angel Maker?


  1. Johannes

    I was just wondering how the guy was able to kill himself like that – I mean is it even physically possible or was that a kill for dramatic sake ignoring what is actually doable for one person? 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.