“How did your sister taste?” HANNIBAL Season 3 Episode 3, “Secondo”

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Season 3, and particularly this episode, is presented as Gothic horror. There are dark churches, gloomy castles, even Hannibal’s shadowy kitchen, where he is removing a hand from the Sunday roast.

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This episode is all about identity. All our protagonists (if still alive) have gone through trauma, Will and Jack were clinically dead for a while, and such trauma usually leads to questioning – who am I, what am I doing, and what is this on my plate?

It’s the third episode of the final season (looking forward to being proved wrong here), and we still don’t know what happened to many of the victims of the last series. Hannibal of course is doing nicely in Florence under the name of Dr Fell, Curator at the Palazzo Capponi. Bedelia is living with him, a somewhat nervous room-mate, pretending to be Mrs Fell, but there is no sign of intimacy, and some definite portents of doom. Last episode, she witnessed the murder of Anthony Dimmond. Dimmond knew Hannibal was not Fell, and was duly killed with a bust of Aristotle (was it really Aristotle?) Hannibal, who believes Bedelia betrayed him, explained to her that she was not just observing the murder, she was participating. She knows, Dimmond knew, we know, that she is slated to be one of his next courses.

They speak, somewhat obsessively, about betrayal (not just Bedelia’s, but Will’s) and forgiveness. Hannibal forgave Will last season. Will forgave Hannibal last episode. Bedelia points out that betrayal and forgiveness are

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Hannibal is looking wistful. It is possible that he has not experienced love before, or at least not since the happy time before he ate his sister, Mischa. This is his search for identity – Hannibal as lover.

Will has two searches. He is of course searching for Hannibal, for love of for revenge is not clear to us, or to him. He is also searching for his own identity – is he a lawman or an acolyte of Hannibal? Where will he look?

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Will is in Aukštaitija, Lithuania. It’s the Lecter castle, which we last saw in the movie Hannibal Rising. Bryan Fuller, in his incomparable way, has brought to life a character who had a minor role in the book and no part in the movie – Hannibal’s aunt’s protégé, Chiyoh.

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Will walks past the grave of Mischa. He treads Hannibal’s sacred ground.

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He imagines a conversation with Hannibal, who tells him

“It’s not healing to see your childhood home – but it helps you measure whether you are broken, how and why, assuming you want to know…  It’s door is at the centre of my mind, and here you are feeling for the latch.”

Hannibal’s identity is all tied up with the tiny girl who someone killed, and Hannibal ate.

We see Chiyoh shoot a bird and cut off the bird’s feet. The scene switches to Hannibal cutting off a human hand, presumably Dimmond’s. Then he is making cocktails for Professor Sogliato, the epitome of rudeness and intellectual pretension. The cocktail is Punch Romaine, a drink, he tells Sogliato, served to first class guests on the Titanic during their last dinner. Not a good omen. Sogliato has bad timing, and makes his one snide comment too many just as Hannibal is wielding the cocktail ice-pick.

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Sogliato, his frontal lobe partly destroyed, can only stutter and giggle. Bedelia, even though she is a trained doctor, pulls the ice pick out, and Sogliato immediately collapses on the table.

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Witty as ever. Bedelia asks if Hannibal is longer interested in “preserving the peace you found here?” Hannibal understands physics as well as medicine.

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Hannibal grows through conflict and engagement; it’s all a giant game of life and death to the evolving Übermensch. But it was far from impulsive. Bedelia sees what he is doing: the Titanic cocktail was a giveaway.

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He is drawing Will, who is of course in Lithuania, when Jack arrives in Italy. Jack is seeking not Hannibal, but Will. He has broken Will, perhaps turned him into Hannibal’s disciple, and while he would like the Italian police to find Hannibal, his main concern is Will.

Chiyoh is guarding a man, a wild, Robinson Crusoe type figure who, she says, is the one who ate Mischa. Fed her to Hannibal we suppose (that’s how it went in the movie). Hannibal is serving dinner to another couple from the Studiolo, who are lamenting the absence of Sogliato (who is probably at, or on, the table, unbeknownst to them).

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Hannibal wanted to kill the dude in the cage, but Chiyoh wouldn’t let him, so he left her to guard the man, for years and years. Will sets the man free, but he returns to his cage and tries to kill Chiyoh, and she then kills him. She accuses Will of doing it for the same reasons as Hannibal would – to see if she would kill. But he says he just wanted to set her free.

But here’s the thing. Our motivations for our actions come from our stories. As Will says:

“We construct fairy tales and we accept them. Our minds concoct all sorts of fantasies when we don’t want to believe something.”

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Chiyoh believes Hannibal’s story about the man in the cage. She believes that his cannibalism is simply a re-enactment of what he saw happen to his sister. Will has doubts.

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What makes Dr Lecter into “Hannibal the Cannibal”? Was it watching his sister slaughtered and eaten? Will argues this does not “quantify” him. Remember an earlier Hannibal who objected to being “quantified” by a census-taker? Remember also that thousands of people have watched appalling brutality being visited on their families and not reacted as Hannibal does.

We have not finished considering that question. Hannibal is washing Bedelia’s hair as she luxuriates in the free-standing bath tub. She asks him “What were you like as a young man?” His answer reminds us that Mads is playing the role as a demonic force.

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So, Bedelia asks the same question that Will and Chiyoh are covering. “Why can’t you go home, Hannibal? What happened to you there?”

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In Silence of the Lambs, this was followed up with

“You can’t reduce me to a set of influences. You’ve given up good and evil for behaviourism… Look at me, Officer Starling. Can you stand to say I’m evil?”

Will took on that speech, back in Season 2, during their cannibal feast. But here, Bedelia is winning the debate. She has already told him that she knows he is drawing Will and Jack to him with his murders, and warned him that he will get caught. Diving under the water, she cheekily asks

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Bedelia is once again Hannibal`s therapist; her fee is staying alive. She tells him that

“What your sister made you feel was beyond your conscious ability to control or predict. I would suggest what Will Graham makes you feel is not dissimilar. A force of mind and circumstance.”

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“Same with forgiveness. And I would argue, the same with betrayal” comments Bedelia.

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Bedelia plays her trump card.

“If past behaviour is an indicator of future behaviour, there is only one way you will forgive Will Graham.”

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