Hannibal: 3.03 Secondo
I go into this week's Hannibal review with mixed feelings. Arguably the first two seasons were some of the greatest television in recent history. NBC's decision to cancel the show this week is both unsurprising - given the poor ratings in the US - and a travesty. There is nothing quite as bold as Hannibal in our TV screens. And yet for the third week in a row I wasn't utterly mesmerized. For the first time I had to ask; has the show taken a step too far?
I'm not talking about the still phenomenal characterization or the visceral horror - nothing has yet topped the totem pole from season one or the shocking brutality of the season two finale; where Hannibal has gone over the top is the metaphorical 'art house' imagery that has started to take over the plot.
In the first two seasons Hannibal was one of those rare shows where not a single moment was wasted. This week I actually remarked 'not those bloody snails again!' In one sense I applaud the show's decision to try something different, but the impact of Will Graham's journey to Hannibal Lecter's childhood home got lost in the mix. I am really hoping this direction towards 'art house television' is a momentary change; the show always found the mix before and three episodes in, I wonder how much story we have really had. Hopefully we Jack Crawford alive and hunting down Will who in turn is hunting down Hannibal, the direction will pick up. And after all, we have Red Dragon on its way.
To play devil's advocate, the increased symbolic imagery is a perfect representation of Will's mind. He may have survived the physical attack but I wonder just how well he would adapt to normal society if he succeeds in his mission of capturing Hannibal - should he not fall off the deep end entirely of course. Jack Crawford is just as damaged but has come out of the bloodbath with a clear focus; not to capture Hannibal as Insp. Rinaldo Pazzi aims to do, but to bring Will back from the brink of darkness. He tried to capture the monster and failed. All he can do now is save Will Graham.
Interestingly the slow tease of that bloody aftermath means we still have no idea if Alana Bloom survived, even if Caroline Dhavernas has appeared in the titles and promo pictures for the third season.
Going back to Will for a moment, the journey into Hannibal's suitably gothic castle that was his home should have been amazing - drawing from the much maligned prequel novel Hannibal Rising, the fate of Hannibal's sister was revealed as was the man who 'ate her'. We were also introduced to Chiyo, a woman doomed to spend her life in Hannibal's home serving him by keeping the cannibal that started it all prisoner. We didn't learn much as to why she so willingly helped Hannibal, though in agreeing to help Will find his prey those answers are sure to come; whether these two tortured souls can break free of Hannibal or be pulled utterly into the darkness of his world remains to be seen.
The most fascinating element of this trip to Lithuania was Will's actions at the end, acting in a manner befitting Hannibal Lecter himself. There has always been an element of Will 'becoming the killer' to understand the design of their actions, but here he acted with purpose, doing the very thing Hannibal tried to make him by turning Chiyo into a killer. Even darker was the manner in which he strung up the caged cannibal like a moth; an image very evocative of the Silence Of The Lambs indeed. All fascinating aspects of his journey, if only all the imagery hadn't drowned some of it out.
Arguably the most fun aspect of the episode were those scenes between Hannibal and Bedelia. Mads Mikkelsen and Gillian Anderson are amazing on screen together and Bedelia's attempts to control her situation only floundered as the episode progressed. From the fascinating discussion over the similarities between love and betrayal to wonderful scene where Hannibal 'impulsively stabbed their dinner guest Sogliato in the temple with an ice pick. Better still was Bedelia's controlled but utterly fruitless attempt pull the ice pick out, to which Hannibal remarked that she killed him with that action. Any attempt by Bedelia to observe the killer in her midst was easily undone and her assertions that she would find a way out when Hannibal was eventually caught were far from convincing.
Also, the manner in which Hannibal prepared Sogliato's arm, turning it into what resembled a fanfare of parma ham for their next dinner guests was amazing. Again I have to wonder what it makes me when I know the ingredients and still want to eat it!
Overall, Secondo was a somewhat frustrating affair. I wanted to love every minute, appreciating the majesty of this program before it leaves us forever. And yet I found myself frustrated by elements that I had adored in seasons one and two. There was still a lot to enjoy this week but three episodes in I have to ask; has Hannibal taken things a little too far?