Tweetable Takeaway: This week, Hannibal introduces more bits from the novels with plenty of twists on the material. Tweet
Airtime: Thursday at 10ET on NBC
By: Dana Leigh Brand, Contributor
This week, HANNIBAL introduces more bits from the novels with plenty of twists. “Secondo” is less trippy than usual but has plenty of soul(?)-searching, exploring both the nature of stories and Hannibal’s own past traumas.
So Hannibal Rising was truly awful but I think Hannibal is poaching the bits that it wants and ignoring the rest. Which is the only appropriate response to that novel, honestly. In “Secondo” we meet Chiyo, who I didn’t remember at all having only bothered to read Hannibal Rising once. Chiyo in the novels was the attendant of Hannibal’s aunt, Lady Murasaki. Picking a character one-removed but equally ensnared by Hannibal’s machinations is a good choice, I think. It makes her affection for him just as cultivated and complex as Will’s. We’ll see what they do with her. As it stands, Will shifted her allegiance using Hannibal’s methods and gained himself another companion. Will’s slippery morality is way easier to digest this season compared to last.
In addition to introducing the Hannibal version of Lady Murasaki, Will runs around in Hannibal’s childhood estate collecting context. Is it just that all ancient European mansions look like Castle Dracula in the fog or did they do that one on purpose? Setting this season in Europe in general lends it a sinister air that a bunch of brutal murders in America couldn’t quite capture. I like it because it’s introspective on Hannibal rather than Will and the additional layers of darkness are appropriate.
I’m a bit shocked at the implication that Hannibal himself killed and ate his sister. Rather than taking the trite origin trauma of Hannibal Rising which saw Mischa eaten by soldiers during and/or after World War II (I can’t actually remember), making Hannibal’s “trauma” be the love and loss of control that his sister made him feel is delicious. Taking that love and actually munching on it, incorporating the loved one into one’s own body is the same sort of reverence that Abigail and Garret Jacob Hobbs were into. It’s the direct opposite of what Hannibal does now, slaughtering the rude as if they were pigs. I’m not sure if Bedelia just talked Hannibal into killing Will or if she just made him admit he wanted to. Another cool thing (and probably the only trippy bit in this episode) was Hannibal and Will essentially talking to each other within their minds a la their old discussions. They don’t even have to be in the same country anymore to wordlessly communicate. That’s both the most compelling part of the series and the most terrifying.
Other things: Jack is back! Hurray! I’m not sure if he’s here to rein Will in or to capture him like a mad dog that slipped its leash. That leaves only Alana unaccounted for. I loved the dual thread about stories and imagination that ran through this episode. Jack discussing imagination as faith and breaking Will’s imagination played perfectly into Chiyo and Will discussing the fictions that Hannibal makes up to trap his living victims. The show is no longer being coy at all about Hannibal’s murders or his eating habits. It used to save Hannibal’s violence for climactic moments, as if suddenly peeling back the mask. Now it’s just like “ho-hum; carvin’ up this arm.” The complete abandonment of narrative pretense means all of his meals and murders now tickle me instead of eliciting horror. The in-your-face psychological discussions are completely acceptable when they’re between a whole bunch of messed up psychologists, but they’re also what manage to make this show bizarrely literary. Rather than just explaining at the audience, they explore the characters. It’s fun.
“Secondo” was a bit more straight-forward about its storytelling than the previous two episodes, but that’s good. Otherwise the season would endlessly spin its wheels in mental breaks and psychedelic imagery. Will is hunting Hannibal, Jack is tracking down Will, and Hannibal is enjoying killing people and screwing with Bedelia. The wheels of the plot are just starting to roll, but Hannibal is such a character piece that taking the time to explore everyone’s mental state before inertia kicks in is what keeps it good. Cat and mouse will begin in earnest soon.
Dana Leigh Brand is a digitization archivist by day and a masked pop culture avenger by night. She spreads the gospel of science fiction and fantasy wherever she goes.