i am a coward [notes]

Unhitched chapter notes …

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Hopper’s first option is his natural instinct kicking in: fly or fight. He’s never been a fighter and there is no one to fight, so he flees, back to a world that used to bring him comfort. Of course, 20 years have passed and that world is now long gone.

So he hides under a desk.

There is symbolism here, but I won’t expound because I have four damn chapters to juggle right now.

So Hopper prays. The praying was interesting because he’s terrified. He is not a religious man, obviously. He calls God “the pervert above” and thinks the church is rife with hypocrisy. And yet at his darkest hour, he does what any good southern boy does, he prays. It’s not faith he’s counting on. He’s overwhelmed and has no one to call upon for help. He prays for aid, for death, for a weapon, for his mother … it’s pathetic, but it’s supposed to be. A terrified man does things he wouldn’t do under normal circumstances. When confronted with enough pain, we all do unexpected things.

So Butcher comes and talks to him. This whole conversation goes back and forth between Butcher talking to himself and to Hopper.

My head is engulfed in the flames of his stare, but my lungs feel filled with icy water that aches and burns in my chest. Then that thick, hot, mumbling blanket wicks the water from my chest, dries my back, and dampens that fire as he speaks.

“Even a strong man will run when dealt enough pain,” he says, and I finally inhale with a gulping stutter. “You’re not dead yet, Hop, so I suggest you keep breathing.”

I want to tell him that I don’t want to breathe. I don’t want to be alive any more than I want to be in the black, foggy prison inside my head.

There are these little things I keep mentioning. Butcher’s mouth is an interesting part of this story and Hannibal’s canon. Teeth, lips, chewing, breathing, etc were all parts of canon Hannibal. He was very oral in the books. It doesn’t get as explored in the show, however. The most intimate mouth scenes, for me anyway, were the obvious ortolan eating scene, but also the scene where Hannibal pricks his finger with Will’s fly. In Unhitched, Butcher’s blowing smoke, smiling, baring his teeth. He’s smelling, and tasting, and sucking on fingers and other parts … very oral is all I’m saying. Hopper hyper focuses on his mouth sometimes as he listens to Butcher’s voice and moans. He finds his sexual noises particularly intoxicating. Butcher is constantly telling Hopper to breathe and Hopper suddenly gasps when he realizes he’s holding his breath. There is this fixation on breath like the focus on eating and thriving. Hopper can barely keep breathing in tense situations (he often talks about drowning) and he passes or blacks out a lot. Its all a strange mix of Hopper both losing control of his body while simultaneously hyper-controlling it by holding his breath. It’ll all play itself out.

So we suddenly start talking about torture … this is actually the first peek into Butcher’s past.

“You are your worst enemy, Hopper – not me, and not your father. You’re not only living in a nightmare of your own making, but you torment yourself because of it. You’re a torturer, and you’ve made yourself your most cherished victim.”

“Stop psychoanalyzing me,” I snap. The last thing I need is this monster putting his own damn spin on my worthless life.

“Why? I’ve witnessed what cowards are capable of doing to other men. They are kings of flawed justification. You, however, are capable of far more than them, because you don’t have to be a coward. You have a very rare gift, friend – choice. It’s a shame that you’ve chosen to waste that gift hiding under a damn desk.”

“I don’t have a gift; I have a goddamn curse.”

“Every gift you neglect becomes a curse. It’s time you stopped neglecting it and started cultivating it. What exactly are you running from?”

Butcher’s past is a sad one but it is similar to canon. More eventually.

But here we see Butcher relishing Hopper’s beautiful gift. Hopper has the ability to choose what to do with his life and he often seems wildly spontaneous to Butcher. On the other hand, Butcher is not necessarily unpredictable, himself. He is very goal focused and likes a certain order. He enjoys each facade he carries, but they are all simply a means to an end. He is controlled ultimately, by his unquenchable desire to trick, eat men, and watch human behavior. His compulsion controls him so when he meets Hopper, a man with a uniqueness about him that mirrors his own, he is intrigued.

Don’t take this to suggest that Butcher is sad. He isn’t. He loves his life. He loves his life so much that he basks in the glory of all that is around him. But that love is suddenly upended when something more important than himself enters the picture, and he will not abide by that.

We see Hannibal stumble when he meets something he desires.

In this chapter we see the object of his desire backslide and struggle to cope with a situation that Butcher finds ridiculous.

Since all my readers want a love story and there is a compulsion to make Hannibal a softy, I give him the very human trait of compassion here, though it is brief. This compassion, however, is in the form of lightening Hopper’s overwhelming morbidity and his hatred for himself. Butcher doesn’t want Hopper to punish himself, but if he must punish something, he might as well do it constructively. So he basically lights a match and flicks it on the diesel drenched man and sees what happens.

If Hopper can control the burn, all the better. He’s betting he’ll be fine. Much like Hannibal waited out Will encephalitis to see where it went.

The hardware store scene is pretty self-explanatory, I think. It’s a bit of a mental exercise for Hopper, like a session. We get to see some of Will’s empathy peeking out but also his fascination with fear and the dastardly deeds of men.

And we wrap up the chapter with them collecting all the tools Hopper had just described being used to torture him in their mental exercise, and they leave.

If you left the chapter creeped out, worried for Hopper’s safety, confused, or slightly aroused, you are right on target.

If you enjoy my writing, please consider dropping me a comment here or, if applicable, on AO3 or by supporting my hot beverage habit on Ko-fi. Thank you!

—joanielspeak
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