To catch Hannibal you need to be several steps ahead of him, which is hard to do as he has been playing this game far longer and with more success than anyone else. Season 3 of Hannibal has turned away from the case of the week format where Hannibal played a role in helping catch killers while adding to the ever growing body count. The confrontation between all the participants in Hannibal’s world at the end of last year – friend, colleague, lover – revealed who Hannibal really is (some were more aware than others) and set in motion a whole chain of events which has led to this very different narrative setup.
The pacing has been a little meandering in places sharing in Hannibal’s indulgences while the survivors piece themselves back together and decide what to do next. There has been much talk and many shots of snails doing their thing whether they are being eaten or helping the transformation of another creature such as the firefly. Snails are hardy creatures when not being devoured by Hannibal and his dinner guests as they can survive being eaten by a bird and making it out of the “belly of the beast.” The firefly played a big part in the tableau Will created at Hannibal’s childhood home and signified a transformation with Will taking on the Hannibal role as he talks to Chiyo about the man he manipulated her into killing. Chiyo might have spent years practically alone ‘standing still’ but she can read Will’s intentions. Hannibal taught her well.
In a rather intimate scene shifting away from their usual bathtime philosophical discussion – do they ever take part in talk which is not layered with meaning? – and with Hannibal as the one wearing less clothes the conversation is dominated by doing things that are in our nature. Hannibal’s belief in not shocking news is that it is “Better to live true to yourself for an instant” Bedelia thinks that almost anything can be trained to resist its instincts including Will Graham, but as Hannibal points out that instinct is always there, regardless of the training. There is also the reciprocity of Will travelling to kill Hannibal while Hannibal waits to kill Will. Plus all those other interested parties waiting to upset the balance. While all of this is going on Hannibal caresses Bedelia’s neck which both reads as menacing and comforting. I’m still wondering if they have slept together and leaning at probably not despite the lack of clothes.
Snails and fireflies. Night and day. One comes after the other and this issue of duality is an underlying theme of Hannibal. The person we are versus the person we allow the world to see can vary and for the first two seasons as the audience we know exactly who Hannibal is and for the rest of the characters this has come to light at different points. Will is sympathetic towards Hannibal because he understands him and this bond is rare, but this is probably not a good enough reason for the crimes that have been committed and would not stand up in court as a reasonable defense.
The battle for Will Graham pits Jack against Hannibal even when Will is not present, plus it is an internal war he wages with himself as he fears he might become Hannibal if he doesn’t kill him. And really he has already done some pretty fucked up bad things as part of this long game.
Chiyo reasons there are other ways to influence outside of violence and she blindsides Will with a kiss before pushing him off the back of the train. Sex and money are two big ones with money playing a big part in the downfall of Pazzi. Pazzi is down on his luck and even though his home life is one full of light and happiness it is his forever quest to catch Hannibal that haunts him.
Pazzi’s folly is that he repeats the mistakes of Jack and Alana as he goes after Hannibal outside the bounds of the law he works in. For Pazzi this is motivated in part by Mason Verger’s reward along with the desire to catch his monster. Once again Hannibal is one step ahead and he even has an elaborate and public way to kill Pazzi echoing what happened to one of his ancestors who also fell foul to the promise of riches.
This is one dance with the beast that won’t result in surviving to tell the tale and Will warned Pazzi that Hannibal would kill him. Like Will, Alana knows Hannibal intimately and after they have spoken to Pazzi she tells Mason they are sending him to certain torture and death. Alana is different after the attack and this is evident as I mentioned last week by her shift in styling which has moved away from ultra-feminine silhouettes and prints to tailoring with a severe edge. Long gone are the wrap dresses and pencil skirts; enter pants, a whole lot of red and silver blazers with amazing lapels (this echoes the Margot Verger gold jacket which sadly never made it to screen).
The old Alana hasn’t been completely erased due to the extra marrow in her blood or the pain she is trying to mask with lipstick, a new wardrobe and a steely gaze; she’s still there below the surface and her instinct tells her to ring Pazzi to warn him of how dangerous his task is. But she is too late and instead she gets a rather chipper Hannibal who seems very pleased to hear her voice. Alas he has pressing issues (bowels in or out?) and can’t chat for long.
For Alana it looks like she has been punched in the gut and seen a ghost at the same time when she realizes who is on the other end and this temporarily cracks her cool give no shits demeanor. She might be able to handle Mason and all his crass talk about her relationship with Hannibal without even flinching, but Hannibal Lecter is a whole other story. This is the worst kind of running into your ex when you least expect it story, even when it is just his voice. Months of therapy down the drain after that interaction. I’ve been rewatching Wonderfalls and Caroline Dhavernas is the queen of the reaction shot and this is the case in this moment too as she gives a look of shock and a brief chin quiver before resetting to almost neutral.
The Will/Hannibal reunion is going to have to wait a little longer especially as Will has found himself alone (well apart from the stag) and on foot. That really was bold and cold move by Chiyo but I also have to applaud the way she dispatched him so easily. If only Will could jump onto his imaginary stag and ride it like a horse.Prior to this as they chatted on the back of the train the idea of night and day came up and how at night we are a little less seen. Once again the notion of who a person is versus how they appear is an important discussion point and Hannibal has been embracing who he is far more this year than previously.
For Will he is still caught between these factors and he mentions how he hears voices from everywhere. As he lies on his train bunk bed enveloped in darkness it gives off a coffin vibe. Water has played an important in showing which characters are drowning or sinking into this bleak world, here it is just darkness.
The dance up to this point has been slow with the narrative unfolding in a manner which has allowed Bryan Fuller to indulge in his love of art house cinema. This has mostly been brilliant and an interesting approach with incredible visual flourishes, but I did have to stifle an eye roll at the coins going into the payphone in slo-mo as that really did feel unnecessary. Tension was increased as confrontations took place first with Pazzi and Hannibal followed by one supremely kick ass fight sequence.
Repetition of shots is something Hannibal does so well and early in “Contorno” we see Jack look to the skies prior to scattering Bella’s ashes in the country they met. He also throws his wedding ring into the water in a move that is maybe a tad impulsive as this feels like something to keep hold of. Maybe he is really letting it all go and the ring is a necessary casualty. Later he has this super twisted Romeo and Juliet looking moment with Hannibal, but they are not star-crossed lovers and there is man missing his guts swinging between them. This episode includes many trips down memory lane and how past mistakes get repeated in the present. Hannibal plays the piano because it is the instrument which has the “quality of a memory” and he knows exactly who Pazzi is. Pazzi makes the mistake of his ancestor in valuing money above honor and pays the exact same price. Alana makes a phone call as a warning as she did in the season 2 finale which doesn’t have the outcome she wanted. Time is a flat circle, right?
Well one bit of history not repeating comes in the epic beat down Jack delivers on Hannibal and as with the kitchen fight he uses all the tools at his disposal including a rather unpleasant grappling device. It takes the tension from the Pazzi scene and explodes it over the screen as Jack does by throwing Hannibal through a glass case. Hannibal tries to bait him with sympathy and suggestions of how he eased Bella’s pain and when this doesn’t work he asks the simple question “How will you feel when I’m gone?” Jack answers with the equally simple “Alive” and is everyone going to feel trapped for as long as Hannibal is free?
Jack doesn’t kill Hannibal and instead Hannibal makes his escape bloody and broken down the dangling body of Pazzi looking very much like he probably did at the end of the new Rihanna video.
Can anyone ever truly get over having been in the belly of the beast?