Love. Betrayal. What does it all mean? According to the “Hannibal” eponymous psychiatrist, the two concepts are intertwined, especially when it comes to his tumultuous and constantly-evolving relationship with Will Graham.
The third installment of the third season opens with a conversation between Hannibal and his hostage (?) Bedelia, whose demeanor has noticeably changed since we last saw her panicked & frightened in “Antipasto”. Now, she is at ease around Hannibal, sipping red wine and asking Hannibal how it was to see Will at the chapel.
“It was nice,” he replies, “Among other things. He knew where to look for me.”
Hannibal no longer speaks about Will as his pawn to be manipulated, but as someone akin to a star-crossed soulmate: someone on equal footing who knows him intimately. Bedelia listens to him pine, and when the subject matter turns to betrayal & forgiveness, she reminds him that betrayal is a two-way street by asking him if he is the betrayed or the betrayer.
“I am vague on those details,” he replies, mirroring Will in “Primavera” when Pazzi asks him what he will do upon catching Hannibal and he replies that he is “curious” about that himself.
At this point, Hannibal and Will have rubbed off on each other so much that the two have begun blending together, which is shown, literally, in the cinematography: Hannibal’s face melts into Will’s as we transition time & space and rejoin our favorite, tortured FBI profiler on his continued Eurotrip to Castle Lecter, Hannibal’s childhood home in Lithuania (family crest on the gates and all!).
According to Hannibal, he can never return home, but he knows that Will will be heading there next. We follow Will as he skulks about in the dark, dewy, mythical forests of Lithuania, attempting to dredge up clues about Hannibal’s past. The colors here are gray and dark, recalling the drab colors of the sets of seasons 1 & 2. He discovers the melancholy (and strikingly, morbidly beautiful) graveyard that houses Hannibal’s sister Misha’s grave, and experiences a fantasy sequence in which he tries to reconstruct Hannibal’s memory palace, starting from his earliest years. Will is literally and figuratively treading on Hannibal’s deepest, darkest secrets, prying in a very Dr. Lecter-y way to expose his demons. Hannibal would be proud!
In one darkly ambient scene, Will discovers the candlelit dungeon that houses the feral man who killed and ate Misha. It is here where Will meets Chiyoh (Tao Okamoto) face to face, Hannibal’s first Misha surrogate.This prison is just lousy with snails, by the way–this dude has had no interaction with anyone other than these snails, going so far as to fashion creepy dolls out of their shells. He and Chiyoh are doomed to remain there, bound to each other by Hannibal’s design until Chiyoh decides to kills the man and sets them both free….if she decides to kill him at all, which she has not yet. Will reveals his scar from Hannibal’s stabbing to Chiyoh, telling her that Hannibal “left [him] with a smile.” She responds cryptically, “All sorrows can be borne if you put them in a story.” (How meta!)
Incidentally, Will shares Hannibal’s curiosity as to whether or not Chiyoh will kill the man who ate Misha, even if he won’t admit it: he sets the man free as Chiyoh sleeps, forcing her to kill him shortly after. She calls Will on his and Hannibal’s folie à deux, their shared madness, and says that he would be proud of Will, his nakama (Japanese for “very good friend”). Will doesn’t acknowledge this, but he echoes Chiyoh’s earlier quote : “All sorrows can be borne if you put them in a story.” He then proceeds to create a very detailed Hannibal-esque firefly murder tableau out of the feral man’s corpse and snail shells, which he displays, presumably as an answer to Hannibal’s origami man Valentine. So sweet!
In my previous episode reviews, I have focused a lot on this season’s pervasive religious God/Devil imagery, but “Secondo” underscores another recurring theme of the season: the dark, twisted fairytale. Hannibal broke the fourth wall (so to speak) in the first episode by saying to the camera, “Once upon a time.” Additionally, the ethereal, dreamlike cinematography and languid, luxurious shots that can portray even the most horrifying blood spatter as something beautiful evoke images of the pre-Disney tales of the Brothers Grimm. This is complemented by the show’s pointed departure from the crime/police procedural format of the first and second seasons: “Hannibal” has definitely shed its person suit and let its viewers feast their eyes on the gorgeous, multifaceted chaos within.
Speaking of fairytales and awkward living arrangements, Hannibal and Bedelia have scenes interspersed with Will’s throughout the episode. They have the snooty Italian academic Sogliato (Rinaldo Rocco), who had previously publicly challenged Hannibal’s knowledge of Dante, over for a hearty dinner of human arm meat. At one point during the dinner, Hannibal drives an icepick through the pompous academic’s temple with comedic nonchalance. When Bedelia removes the icepick (after horror ghosts across her face), Hannibal leans in and says in a jovial fashion (!!), “Technically, you killed him.”
This is why I love this show: it constantly offsets its horrors with just the right amount of humor and lightness. The profound beauty of each frame as well as the poetic dialogue allow “Hannibal” to maintain its strange aura without veering too far into the realm of camp (and please don’t get me wrong, I love me some camp in the right context).
In another notable scene, Hannibal is tenderly washing Bedelia’s hair as she bathes (a trait one might say he inherited from Will’s influence–could you see season 1 or 2 Hannibal washing someone’s hair? Try as I might, I can’t). Bedelia asks him what he was like as a young man, and he responds in the only possible way he could: “I was rooting for Mephistopheles and contemptuous of Faust.” OF COURSE YOU WERE, HANNIBAL. Of course he identifies with Mephistopheles, who played off of others’ vulnerabilities in order to serve himself. Also, leave it to Hannibal to drop a pretentious Goethe reference in there (I loved it). When asked, he also tells Bedelia that nothing happened *to* him to make him the way he is, but he simply says, “I happened.” Bedelia proceeds to push the envelope by asking Hannibal how his sister tasted before silently slipping out of sight under the bathwater.
We know from Harris’ book canon that Hannibal gets caught, and Bedelia is acutely aware that Hannibal is drawing everyone he had literally left for dead to him. Also, surprise and joy of joys–Jack Crawford is back on the scene! He made a brief appearance in the chapel, where he spoke with Pazzi about whether or not Will deifies Hannibal.
The episode concludes somewhat abruptly with Hannibal calmly playing the piano and telling Bedelia that he has to eat Will Graham in order to forgive him. But wait! In “Antipasto,” Hannibal explains that it is only cannibalism if the people are equals, and he clearly does not see those who he consumes as being his equals. But WAIT! Earlier in the episode, he was pining for Will and their relationship and almost waxing poetic about Will’s ability to keep up with him. What has changed? What does this mean for Will, who is now on the hunt for Hannibal with Chiyoh in tow? Does Hannibal think that Will is lesser than him, or has he begun to acknowledge that Will is superior and is going to outsmart him? Does Will even know this yet? Also, how exactly does Bedelia think she is going to get out of this situation unscathed? Will there be more snail closeups next week? I don’t know yet, but I can’t wait to find out.