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Hannibal — TV review (S3E3, Secondo)

This is my review of the third episode of series three of Hannibal. I’m following the UK schedule, although a little patchily. My write-up of episode four will be up soon, just in time for episode five. As always, spoilers below!

This episode broaches Hannibal’s back-story, giving us both more Hannibal and Bedelia in Italy (lovely!) and a dash of eastern Europe.

The focus of the episode is on Hannibal’s first cannibalistic act, eating his sister, Mischa. The details of the event are left deliberately vague. In Harris’ story, the young Hannibal is fed his sister by men who have taken them captive. Here, things are more unclear. At Castle Lecter, in Lithuania, Will finds Chiyo, relation to Hannibal unknown, although she clearly gestures (in ethnicity and her positioning towards Hannibal) to Harris’ Lady Murasaki, Hannibal’s uncle’s wife, who features in Hannibal Rising. The snails from episode one, which Hannibal told Giddeon about, are here in rather menacing numbers, and Will lurks creepily in the woods surrounding Hannibal’s childhood home, stalking Chiyo as she stalks game with a shotgun. The castle itself is quite bewildering. Enormous but decrepit, with a rather creepy dungeon, the cage adorned by mannequins that appear to be made partially from bone. Here, Chiyo tends to her prisoner, a man denied the “social graces” usually afforded to people, who Hannibal has told her killed and ate Mischa.

The A.V. Club review reads Hannibal as having played Chiyo by lying to her with this story, although I think it is more complicated than that. In some way, I suspect that Hannibal has taken the truth and weaponised it. Hannibal tells Bedelia that “nothing happened to me. I happened”. He tells Bedelia that Mischa “influenced him to betray himself” — quite how is another matter. This is an episode obsessed with hows and whys, such as when Chiyo insists upon learning how Will knows Hannibal. When she firsts asks, he replies with how well he knows Hannibal: intimately. She suggests that they are ‘nakama’, very close friends, and Will asserts that they were thus, until Hannibal attacked him. Chiyo invites him to tell her the story of those sorrows, still needing to know how Will knows Hannibal and to understand the why of the situation.

The relationship between Bedelia and Hannibal seems to have developed since we last saw them, becoming more balanced. The first scene between them is a redevelopment of their relationship as therapist and patient; it’s not clear whether they have formally returned to that relationship or whether, when Hannibal quips about her expressing concern for her patient, he is needling her about trying to take back power for herself. She assures him that she knows “exactly” he she will “navigate her way out of whatever it is she has gotten herself into”. The combination of ambiguity and certainty feels convincing, whereas Hannibal now seems to be drowning in uncertainty. He did know how to escape, but now he is no longer sure. He is not even sure whether he betrayed Will or Will betrayed him. He is a wounded lover bewildered by his pain.

Accordingly, his interest in defending the peace has perished. Contrary to what he appeared to believe in the first episode, Hannibal no longer believes in the possibility of preservation; rather, entropy is the order of the day, or at least fated disaster, with fiddling while the Titanic sinks a key image for the episode. Over Punch Romaine, he impulsively (but deliberately) murders his nemesis, Professor Sogliato, in one of the funniest moments of the series so far: “that may have been impulsive”, he admits, noting “technically, you killed him”, when Bedelia removes the icepick stuck through his temple. Although squeamish, Bedelia is content now to participate when she sees it as the lesser evil. At the later dinner party, the erotic eating of Professor Sogliato is overwrought, as her involuntary response shows, but while she is still not eating anything with a central nervous system, she seems more at ease.

Reflecting the thawing of their relationship, this episode features a second bathtub scene, with Hannibal now joining Bedelia in the bathroom and washing her hair. Undoubtedly erotic, the scene offers something of the deep and probing conversations that lovers might have, learning each other’s depths and secrets. Bedelia wants to know what Hannibal was like as a young man — contemptuous of Faust and rooting for Mephistopholes, is how he describes it — and invites him to talk about his first ‘spring lamb’, not a first lover but the prime ingredient of the dish he made Mischa and Professor Sogliato into. The suggestion of the last scene of the episode is that some further confession came out of this provocation, but what it is we will have to find out.

One question that the episode does leave me with is why Will travelled to Lithuania. In speaking to Chiyo, it is clear that he wants to find Hannibal, but knowing as much as he does about Hannibal’s history, he clearly cannot have expected to find him at Castle Lecter. So why, knowing that he was in Italy, has Will gone to Hannibal’s childhood home? And why has he adopted Hannibal’s flair for the dramatic in hanging the body of the supposed cannibal, bound to resemble a butterfly, when the display cannot be for Hannibal, who can never go home. Perhaps it is simply a symbolic gesture for Will himself, a symbol of resurrection, or a symbolic resurrection of the man who Hannibal’s whims imprisoned, but it feels forced, as though Will is trying too hard to find Hannibal by embracing his behaviour.
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