The past two weeks have been crazy–both in “Hannibal” and IRL–and unfortunately, I haven’t had the time to sit down and write coherent thoughts about either “Aperitivo” (Season 3, episode 4) or “Contorno” (Season 3, episode 5) yet. So, lucky you–you are getting a JOINT REVIEW! *Insert climactic music here, preferably with a lot of cacophonous cymbal action*

“Aperitivo” catapults us through time to reunite us with all of those pivotal characters who were left in the wake of the season 2 finale’s massacre chez Lecter: Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas), Frederick Chilton (Raul Esparza), Mason Verger (whose role is being reprised this season by Joe Anderson), Margot Verger (Katharine Isabelle), and of course, Jack & Bella Crawford (Laurence Fishburne & Gina Torres).

The delightfully seedy Dr. Chilton, who has now survived both a disemboweling AND a bullet straight to the dome, makes the rounds in an attempt to mobilize a revenge initiative against Dr. Lecter. His first stop is to the Verger home, where Mason is recovering from his drug-induced, auto-face-cannibalism & broken neck. When Chilton arrives looking as spry as ever, Mason insists (in his weird, extra sassy, new voice) that the two speak about capturing Dr. Lecter face to face–“You show me yours & I’ll show you mine”. They engage in a disturbingly artistic striptease, of sorts: Mason slides off his mask to reveal a turtle-esque, mangled, lipless face whilst Chilton pulls out his left contact, a dental insert, & wipes off some makeup to reveal his own facial trauma. Yikes.

Chilton next visits the hospital where both Will Graham & Alana Bloom are recovering from their respective stabbing and defenestration. Will admits that he would have preferred to run away with Hannibal (in addition to not being stabbed, of course), while Alana pulses and seethes with quiet, vengeful rage. Once somewhat recovered, Alana finds Will in the hospital, who she initially mistakes for Hannibal, and Will asks her to leave him. Will separates himself from Chilton and Alana & dreams about being back in Hannibal’s house, where they kill Jack together. That’s probably not the healthiest way to pine, but hey–this is “Hannibal” we’re talking about!

Alana finds herself ambling into the Verger’s stables, wielding a cane, a crisp attitude, and fierce red lips. She meets Margot there, fresh from a horseback ride, for the first time on the way to counsel her brother. After a brief discussion about religion, some terrible, hardly-subtle-enough-to-be-called-innuendo, and Gollum-esque choking noises from Mason, he attempts to claim that his quest against Dr. Lecter is not merely related to vengeance. Alana counters, “I don’t need religion to appreciate the Old Testament idea of revenge.” Boom! There’s a new Bloom in town, and she is NOT messing around.

Jack Crawford does not escape a visit from Chilton, of course. He has since left the BAU, claiming that terrorism is a more pressing issue than psychopaths. Chilton vehemently disagrees, naturally, stating that it’s only a matter of time before Will leads Jack to Hannibal. However, Jack insists that he has let both Will and Hannibal go, even though we know differently from his presence in Florence in the previous episodes. He leaves Chilton after calling him out on his interest in the matter: “The first thing you did after getting shot in the face is trademark ‘Hannibal the cannibal.'” (Because…of course that’s what Chilton did. Of. Course. That’s the morally ambiguous scumbag doctor we’ve come to know and love deeply!)

The episode takes a heartbreaking turn as it is revealed that Bella, Jack’s beloved wife, has passed away. Will attends her funeral, and Jack finds that Hannibal has sent a flower arrangement and a handwritten note expressing his condolences–and he is understandably not happy about that.

Before Mason’s final encounter with Alana for the episode, we get a delightfully repulsive facial reconstruction montage set to surreal, folksy music composed by the brilliant Brian Reitzell. I had to mention that–it’s fabulous. He holds up a mirror at the end and proclaims in his altered voice, “Good as new.”

In any case, the episode ends with Alana and Mason discussing tracking Hannibal down in Europe. Alana notes that Hannibal’s fine taste would be the only crossover in his lives: “His name will change, but his tastes will not.” Finally, we see that Alana has been charged with Will’s puppy squad while he sails across the sea in a ship to find his fugitive BFF and stop pining already. Alana dubiously claims that Will “knows what he has to do.” Does he? Maybe if you think that creating a firefly murder tableau in your BFF’s hometown out of the dude who ate his sister specifically for him is “knowing what he has to do,” but….somehow I doubt it. Despite having been intensely gutted by the man, we’ve already seen that Will’s allegiance to Hannibal seems to continually outweigh his other allegiances. Also, sailing off on a boat to Europe doesn’t really scream, “angry revenge mission” to me, but, then again, Will and Hannibal’s relationship is a multilayered and complex one.

This brings us to “Contorno,” which opens with Chiyoh and Will en route to Hannibal in Florence, & Hannibal discussing Will with Bedelia whilst feeding her snails. Bedelia sums up the situation: “Will Graham is on his way to kill you while you lie in wait to kill him. That is the ultimate reciprocity.” Well, maybe in this relationship. Also, let me just say: thank goodness the snails are back. I was personally offended by the utter lack of snail representation in the last episode.

The Revenge Squad is still in high gear: Jack is staying with Pazzi and his wife in Florence, where he spreads Bella’s ashes (I’m not crying, you’re crying). Pazzi’s lovely wife prepares a meal for them, which we can assume with 98% certainty is not made of people! What a departure for Jack, and most characters on this show.

Meanwhile, stateside, Alana is…still rockin’ that fantastic red lip and a righteous pantsuit! Please forgive me for fangirling over the absolute treasure that is Caroline Dhavernas–I am LOVING seeing this cooler, mission-oriented side of Alana this season. Ahem. Anyway. It turns out that Hannibal’s exquisite, distinct taste in food, wine, and tableware has damned him: Alana and Mason have recovered the receipts of the aforementioned purchases, made in cash, by Bedelia, in Florence.

Back in Italy, Pazzi pays Hannibal “I’m totally Dr. Fell” Lecter a visit at the museum, where they exchange nuanced banter whilst being completely on to one another. Pazzi finds Mason’s bounty website, complete with Hannibal’s relatively unflattering passport picture (which isn’t even *that* bad, but, then again, this is Mads Mikkelsen we’re talking about…), and proceeds to call the number, asking for the reward. The voice on the other line encourages him to call the police, but ultimately accepts his information.

Meanwhile, hurtling through Europe on a train, Will is awakened with some good old visions of Chiyoh impaled on some antlers, causing her blood to drip down onto his bare chest. He goes outside, where he finds Chiyoh waxing cryptically about the night. In a surprise, abrupt move, she reveals to Will that she knows exactly where Hannibal is, in Florence, kisses Will, tells him that violence is the only thing that he understands, and pushes him off the train. Whoa–NOT COOL, Chiyoh! Guess Will was a little too Hannibal-y for Chiyoh’s liking. Or perhaps Chiyoh is a bit more Hannibal-y than we initially thought…This unexpected maneuver provides an artsy falling scene and the reappearance of the nightmare stag, who guides Will down the tracks in the right direction.

When Pazzi communicates with Mason and Alana via Skype, he learns that he must provide Mason with Hannibal’s fingerprint to receive an advance on the bounty.  So, Pazzi has to confront Hannibal again; this is an encounter which, Alana postulates correctly, will lead to his demise.

Hannibal, of course, seems to be loving it. After showing Pazzi an artifact that depicts his ancestor Francesco’s grizzly demise, he proceeds to administer a rag soaked in something egregious to the detective’s face when his back is turned, rendering him unconscious. However, Jack & Pazzi’s wife were waiting for him, and when he does not return, they both suspect that something is amiss….and I have a feeling that Jack knows exactly what went down.

Pazzi awakens bound to a dolly, tape over his lips, forced to listen to Hannibal’s sermon about how he hasn’t had anything to eat all day and moon over the perfect state of his organs. For eating. Because Hannibal is a cannibal, in case you forgot. Hannibal finds out from Pazzi that no one else knows about him, and that Mason is the one to whom Pazzi sold him, before revealing that he knows about Mason’s wanted site. Alana calls Pazzi’s phone, presumably to warn him, and Hannibal answers, taunting her, before placing a noose around his neck and casually musing, “Bowels in or bowels out? Out, I think.” The rest is history: juicy, bloody, entrails-filled history.

But wait! Who’s that down there? Who has come to check up on Pazzi? None other than one badass, incensed Jack Crawford. “Contorno” wraps with the most action-packed scene of the season thus far: an epic fight sequence between Jack and Hannibal set to Rossini’s enchanting “The Thieving Magpie.” Jack turns the music on himself before pulling Hannibal’s own “sneaky socks” trick on the good doctor, taking his shoes off to silence his footsteps. Having gained the upper hand, Jack doles it out hard to Hannibal right there in the antiquated torture device exhibit. Hannibal’s time abroad has seemingly rendered him soft, as Jack is the clear winner: tossing our favorite cannibal fugitive into multiple glass cases, catching his arm on a breaking wheel (nice), and finally knocking him out of the window. The ingenious former psychiatrist catches himself on Pazzi’s dead body, breaking his own fall and sliding to the ground before bolting. Well….he hobbles. And Jack lets him get away.

Phew. OK. That was a lot of goings-on! While I thoroughly enjoy this season’s rich shots of scenery, recurring religious themes, verbose, poetically dense dialogue, and Hannibal’s backstory, I found the return of action and good ol’ cannibal murder gore refreshing in this episode.  The fight was absolutely fantastic, as was Will’s surprise, involuntary break from Chiyoh. I bid farewell to Pazzi sadly–I knew it was coming, but, alas…I liked him! Jack may have let Hannibal go (for now), but he knows where he is, as do Alana, Mason, and probably Chilton. Meanwhile, Will and Chiyoh are closing in as we speak…the Revenge Squad may be down one Pazzi, but it is in no way out. The end is nigh for our favorite serial killer, and the next episode promises to be a doozy, what with the highly anticipated Hannibal/Will reunion.