“I wanted to surprise you” HANNIBAL Season 2 Finale, “MIZUMONO” (Fuller, 2014)

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Mizumono is usually translated from Japanese as a “matter of chance”, which is already surprising for a narrative where we have constantly been told that Hannibal, the cannibalistic mastermind, is completely in control and manipulating the other characters, including the entire FBI. But it is so, as we shall see. Even Hannibal is surprised, and not in a good way.

The episode begins with Hannibal’s handwritten note, an artwork in itself, a calligraphic masterpiece (what – Hannibal’s going to write like a spider crawling out of an inkwell, like me?) He is inviting Jack to dinner.

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We all know it’s going to be a showdown, orchestrated by Will, who has told Jack they are trapping Hannibal, and has told Hannibal they are killing Jack, preparatory to escaping together. Whose side are you on, Will?

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Hannibal sums up the carnage to come, with a line used against him in the book Hannibal

When a fox hears a rabbit scream, he comes running. But not to help.
When you hear Jack scream, why will you come running?

In a lovely piece of screen juxtapositioning, both ask Will “When the moment comes…”

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But what exactly needs to be done? Will sees the spectre of Garret Jacob Hobbs, the first serial killer he blew away, back in Season 1, sitting on his front deck, disturbing his dogs. Will picks up a hunting rifle and prepares to kill a stag. Hobbs says the same word he said to Will as he died, a triumphant question confirming the male need for carnivorous sacrifice in order to reinforce identity.

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You might remember that in Episode 4 of this season, Hannibal thwarted the attempted suicide of Jack’s wife, Bella  – he revived her (after first tossing a coin).

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He saved her for Jack. Now as the cancer takes her, she asks

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Well, that’s awkward. Will wants him to kill Jack, now Bella wants him to save Jack. Sometimes the hinges of human sympathies get a bit squeaky.

But he’s leaving town anyway, leaving the FBI and his patients behind, taking Will, for whom he has prepared a nice surprise, involving time reversals (remember the broken cup?)

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They’re burning all Hannibal’s patient records, including the one that shows the demented clock Will drew when he was suffering from encephalitis. But even over the smoke of his flaming life, Hannibal retains that keen sense of smell

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Yes, he smells on Will the scent of Freddie Lounds, whom Will had claimed was the main course of their recent dinner. Hannibal is surprised! Shocked. Disappointed. Angry. Sad. And you have to give it to Mads Mikkelsen, it takes a hell of an actor to express all that without a word of dialogue.

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Of course, the Jack/Will plot is falling apart, since they are not the hunters/fishers/conspirators that they think they are. Jack’s boss puts him on “forced compassionate leave” and he hands in his gun and badge.

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If they are going to take Hannibal down, it will be without the authority or firepower of the FBI. It’s just revulsion and animosity now. And Will never seems completely sure whose side he is on. But he has been goaded – by Hannibal who framed him, by Jack who is driven by humiliation at being constantly deceived, and probably fed a fair amount of human flesh by Hannibal, and Will is intent on seeing where this goes, which is a very Hannibal approach.

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Hannibal has outdone even himself with his presentation of the Last Supper (of this life) for himself and Will. He asks Will if he understands the concept of the IMAGO.

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It is the last stage of metamorphosis in insects, and also in humans turning into Übermenschen, I guess. But in what Hannibal calls “the dead religion of psychoanalysis” (a phrase he first used in Silence of the Lambs) it also means an ideal

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It’s the concept of an ideal person, often one (Clarice’s Dad for example) that we hold on to all our lives and try to live up to. Hannibal and Will have concepts of each other, but they are “too curious about too many things for any ideals”.

NOW IT’S TIME FOR OUR SURPRISE

Hannibal asks Will:

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Hannibal is asking Will for permission to show MERCY! Do you remember what he said last episode? “Pity has no place at the table”

Yet now he puts to Will a new plan.

We could disappear now. Tonight. Feed your dogs. Leave a note for Alana and never see her or Jack again.

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Hannibal points out that he served lamb, an animal that is so quintessentially gentle and harmless that it is repeatedly used in the most brutal religious ceremonies. Will sees the significance – lamb is sacrificial. Hannibal has sacrificed a lamb to appease the wrath of the new Übermensch, Will Graham. Is it enough?

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Well yes, Will does, he sees it as the triumph of the Will. He needs to see one of his mentors defeated, another victorious. He needs to see and even taste the sacrifice.

Jacques Derrida in an interview entitled ‘Eating Well,’or the Calculation of the Subject states:

The virile strength of the adult male… belongs to the schema that dominates the concept of subject. The subject does not want just to master and possess nature actively. In our cultures, he accepts sacrifice and eats flesh.

They have eaten the flesh of the gentle lamb. Now they need to sacrifice a warrior. They discuss forgiveness. Hannibal offers to forgive Will – would Jack do the same? Will replies

Jack isn’t offering forgiveness. He wants – justice. He wants to see you. See who you are.

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Will’s imago will be born in blood.

The FBI put out a warrant for Will (on somewhat shaky legal grounds according to some Internet commentators) and Alana phones to warn him. He then calls Hannibal, and uses the same words Hannibal used in the very first episode when he warned Hobbs:

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Hannibal is carving meat for their not-going-to-happen dinner when Jack appears, beautifully framed in the carver.

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This is ceremonial warfare like jousting or bushido or martial arts: it starts with courtesy and appreciation of the enemy.

Jack: I want to thank you for your friendship, Hannibal.

Hannibal: The most beautiful quality of a true friendship is to understand and be understood with absolute clarity.

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Jack reaches for his gun, Hannibal tosses a carving knife, and it’s on. Alana arrives with her little gun, and Hannibal offers to let her leave alive

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Pretty much what he said to Clarice at the end of Silence of the Lambs. She decides to shoot, of course; Hannibal has taken her bullets, of course. Then comes the shocking climax, where we find that Hannibal has actually reversed time, made the cup gather itself up again.

Have you seen this episode? If not, do so now. In case you haven’t, no more spoilers. It’s sensational.

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You did.

“It was… intimate” HANNIBAL Season 2 Episode 10 “Naka-Choko” (Fuller, 2014)

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Intimate is the word for this episode. And hey, this is a cannibal blog, so all the sex going on might seem a bit out of scope, but stick with me, it makes sense. It’s all sex and death today. Sigmund Freud would have loved this episode.

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Everything Hannibal does has a purpose – a plan or, as Will would say, a “design”. He is always a dozen steps ahead of the chess game he is playing with Jack Crawford, which explains the huge punch-up that’s going to happen (we saw some of it at the start of episode 1 of this season).

What motivates Hannibal is what motivates us all. When we pad out to the fridge in the middle of the night, or he abducts a rude person on a dark road, we are concerned with two things: appetite and power. We are hungry, and we have the power to open a packet of instant noodles. Hannibal is hungry, and has the power to kill and cook people. Just a matter of opportunity, and belief. This hunger and lust for power is motivated, Hannibal believes (and I’m not going to argue with him, because that would be rude), by death.

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According to anthropologist Ernest Becker, most of us are motivated by a fear of death, and fill our time with convoluted ways to distract us from thinking about it.

Hannibal, and increasingly Will, are fascinated by it. Hannibal is a psychiatrist, so he is very familiar with Freud’s “death drive”. Freud had always assumed that humans are driven by the “pleasure principle” – we like things that make us feel good. Sure, but later, in “Beyond the Pleasure Principle”, he suggested another drive which, he felt, explained why we revisit unpleasant and traumatic memories, both in dreams and often in our compulsive behaviours. This is the death drive, which is in a way more primal, since life itself comes from the inanimate, and must perforce return there. While the sex-drive pressures us toward extending or prolonging life, the ego-drive pressures us toward death. Death, then, becomes a driving force in our unconscious.

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Will has seen this death drive from the start of the story, was repelled by it, then started to recognise it as personified in Hannibal. Will pictures death as the stag-man, or as @BryanFuller calls him, the Wendigo. The Wendigo is a figure from North American Algonquin folklore. He is a giant cannibal figure, who gathers strength from feeding on human flesh, but the flesh makes him grow larger, and so his appetite can never be satisfied.

The Wendigo bite will infect the victim and turn him into a Wendigo too. Just what Hannibal is hoping to do to Will.

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For much of this season, and at the start of this episode when Will kills the cave-bear dude, he has fantasised the Wendigo – when he pummels the guy, he visualises beating Hannibal.

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When Will cracks the guy’s neck, we see him twisting the Wendigo’s antlers. He is trying, symbolically, to kill both the Wendigo that is Hannibal, and the Wendigo growing inside him.

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Violence brings intimacy for Hannibal and Will. Will points out that they are now even – both have sent someone to try to kill the other. Hannibal tenderly bandages Will’s torn knuckles, raw from the beating he gave – whoever he thinks he was beating. Hannibal mutters:

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Will replies:

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They are not just even now, they are almost equal. Will has tasted blood, he seems to be becoming what Hannibal wants him to become. His vision at the crime scene is not his usual recreation of the crime (since he did it) but, instead, the dead guy telling him: “this is my becoming”

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Will replies:

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There seems to be, finally, a genuine love developing between Hannibal and Will – a Nietzschean love. Nietzsche wrote in Thus Spake Zarathustra:

“In your friend, you should possess your best enemy. Your heart should feel closest to him when you oppose him.”

They have been enemies. Now they are ready to be friends, to feel love.

But Bryan Fuller doesn’t let us off that easy. Nothing is ever that straight forward in Hannibal. We suddenly get lots of sex, but it’s not our Übermensch lovers – it’s decidedly heterosexual, and Will and Hannibal are each shown in bed with, respectively, Margot and Alana, who will end up in a lesbian relationship with each other (sorry if that was a spoiler). There’s even an ironic view of Hannibal and Alana doing the pottery scene from Ghost, but with a theremin instead of a wheel.

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The sex is long and graphic, there is lots of groaning and sweating and some ecstatic expressions, but it is all exploitation.

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Hannibal is using Alana as his alibi for his nightly outings, as we will see. Margot Verger wants a male heir so she can kill her brother and still get her inheritance (an idea nurtured by her psychiatrist – one Doctor Lecter).

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Hannibal and Will morph in and out of each other, and at one stage both are in bed with Alana. And, never far away, is the wendigo.

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And we finally get to know Margot’s brother, Mason Verger, who, unlike the 1999 book and 2001 movie of Hannibal, has a face (at the moment). Mason is heir to a hog empire, and is busy breeding a pig that is willing to eat living humans.

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He intimidates Margot with these pigs (not hard as he has had her clothes filled with meat to tempt the porkers). He invites Hannibal, who is not easily intimidated, and knows as much about pigs as Mason:

“A resourceful feeder and an opportunistic omnivore”

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We find out something else too, something which becomes central to the attempts in the later books and movies to find a causality to Hannibal. They discuss Margot, and Mason asks if Hannibal has a sister.

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Mason is impressed with the visit, and Hannibal goes home with a new client and a suckling pig, which he serves to Alana and Will.

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He got the pig, he tells them, from a friend. “A friend of yours. Not a friend of the pig’s” Will comments snarkily. Hannibal’s reply is a veiled threat:

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A fascinating discussion of Will and Hannibal’s relationship follows, complicated by the fact that Alana and Hannibal are both psychiatrists and can’t leave their work at the office. Alana points out that “it’s hard to know where you are with each other.” Will replies that “We know where we are with each other. Shouldn’t that be enough?” Hannibal summarises this triangle as he gazes into his wine glass:

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We’re back to interpreting Hannibal as Satanic. Not my preferred reading, but Fuller hands out no obvious explanations in a plot that is up there with Greek Tragedy.

Anyway. Enough of the sex and exploitation and dead baby pigs. It’s time for the blood bond of the Übermenschen. Hannibal has heard about the Will Graham interviews, and waits, wearing his killing suit, for Freddie Lounds to come home to a nice surprise.

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But Will already has Freddie in his remote shed, where she has found bits of the cave-bear dude. Now it’s time for dinner. We finally get some cannibal talk! Will is apprentice cannibal, Hannibal the master chef. Will says

“I provide the ingredients. You tell me what we should do with them.”

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Now Hannibal gets the rules of the game. “Veal? Pork perhaps?”

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Hannibal offers to make a Peruvian dish called lomo saltado, and hands Will a sharp knife to cut up his meat, a definite gesture of trust, or maybe a tease. Now they are playing with the thin red line between pleasure and pain, eros and death drive.  As they eat, Hannibal analyses the meat: it has notes of citrus. It tastes “frightened”. Will asks “what does frightened taste like?”

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Look up “long pig” – it is widely used as a term for human meat, supposedly coined in the cannibal Pacific islands, and probably a mistranslation. Good enough for Hannibal, though, to know what Will is claiming. They are eating Freddie. Will is claiming he has swapped sides and is the cannibal’s apprentice. He reverses a speech Hannibal makes in Silence of the Lambs, where he chides Clarice for her insistence on trying to find what happened to make him the way he is.

“Nothing happened to me, Officer Starling. I happened. You can’t reduce me to a set of influences. You’ve given up good and evil for behaviourism…. You’ve got everyone in moral dignity pants – nothing is ever anybody’s fault. Look at me, Officer Starling. Can you stand to say I’m evil?”

Will turns it around: he says “I’m not the product of anything”.

 

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Will has, he is claiming, given up good and evil, gone where the universe has taken him. And that is to Hannibal’s dinner table. They discuss the nature of evil – Will says it’s destructive. In that case Hannibal argues (again from the Silence of the Lambs) storms must be evil. And fire, and hail. Or what underwriters call “acts of God”.

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Not gods. Übermenschen.

 

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Hiding the bodies – HANNIBAL Season 1 Episode 3 “Potage” (Fuller, 2013)

As you probably know by now, the episodes in the series Hannibal are named after courses in fine dining. Episodes one and two were the pilots, the ones that established the characters, let us in on secrets they didn’t know, and gave us a taste of what was to come. No on-going story arc you could really get your teeth into though.

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Episode 3 is called “potage” which is a thick vegetable soup. Can’t really get our teeth into soup, but it is very nourishing and warming. It looked in the earlier episodes as if this was going to be an episodic show: the secret cannibal would lead the hyper-empathetic FBI Special Agent to capture some single-episode outsider – a serial killer whose whole purpose was to be caught by this team while we giggle and point like kids at a pantomime: look Mum, they still haven’t seen the real bad guy! But there is no new serial killer introduced here. This episode is all about Abigail Hobbs, the orphaned daughter of the serial killer shot dead by Will Graham in the first episode. Her father cut her throat before Will filled him full of lead. The mushroom man from episode 2 tried to kidnap her to feed his mycelium. Now she has woken up, to a lot more than the FBI has managed to figure out.

You may remember from episode 2 Hannibal saying:

“I feel a staggering amount of obligation. I feel responsibility. I’ve fantasised about scenarios where my actions may have led to a different fate for Abigail Hobbs.”

Now he gets his chance. Abigail is becoming a surrogate sister to Hannibal who later will admit to eating his real sister Mischa (not to killing her though). He accuses Will of making her a surrogate daughter, which Will does not deny.

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Abigail is smart and sassy and a step ahead of everyone at the FBI, even though she is still deeply traumatised by the death of her parents. In a flashback, she is seen hunting with her father, shooting a deer. She asks him the questions that perhaps we have all asked our parents at some time: was it OK to kill? Wasn’t that deer smart? Don’t they care for each other and their environment? All the reasons we give to valorise human life, applied to those who are like us.

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Her father loved her dearly and hated that she was growing up and would leave him. His response is to kill young girls who look just like Abigail, because he can’t bring himself to kill her.  He answers her question, in a way, saying that he is “honouring” the deer by using ever part of her. This is the carnivore cop-out: as long as the kill is clean and the corpse not wasted, then it’s OK to kill. Her father feels the same way about eating young women; Hannibal feels the same about eating rude people. When Abigail expresses doubts about eating the doe, her father grabs her arm: eating her is honouring her, otherwise it’s just murder. The logic of the serial killer. And factory farm corporation.

 

Will, Hannibal and Alana take Abigail back to her home where her mother and father died and she almost died; someone has scrawled graffiti all over the doors: the word “cannibals”.

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And there is another complication – the brother of the girl killed by the copycat (really Hannibal of course) has come to accuse Abigail of murder, since most people (including Jack Crawford) consider her an accomplice to her father. Then there’s her best friend from school who tells her that everyone (else) thinks she’s guilty. The extras all end up dead (Abigail, like her surrogate brother Hannibal, wields a mean knife) Hannibal arranges everything so that the distressed brother appears to be the killer, and then they hide the body.

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Abigail is further traumatised – even for a girl who shoots innocent deer, watching your father kill your mother and then cut your throat, finding your best friend’s body and then killing the boy whose sister was the previous victim: these are not soothing experiences. Her brain is working fine though: she realises that dear odd dad was feeding them girl meat; she finds the pillows at home are stuffed with girl hair.

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She escapes from hospital and finds herself on the top level of Hannibal’s library. He gallantly helps her off the ladder and offers to help – but only if she asks. Dracula had a similar line – he had to be invited in.

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Abigail tells Hannibal she knows: Hannibal is the one who called to warn her Dad. And he called as a serial killer.

 

He has promised to keep her secrets; now she promises to keep his. Just as his real sister Mischa might have done – if she hadn’t been eaten.

 

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Amusing the mouth – HANNIBAL Season 1 Episode 2 (Fuller, 2013)

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The episodes in the series Hannibal are named after courses in fine dining. The first season is based on French recipes – the first episode was the Apéritif – like any good pilot episode, it got us in the mood, intrigued us, gave us an appetite and got us just a bit drunk, so that we could enjoy the courses to come. Episode 2 is the amuse-bouche – literally “amusing the mouth”. It is a small hors d’œuvre which both prepares the guest for the meal and offers a pointer into what the chef has planned for the repast.

This episode is full of tasty teasers for the series to come. Unlike Will Graham and Jack Crawford, most of us viewers know that Hannibal is a cannibal – with a potential rhyme like that, how could he resist? To them, he is a distinguished and brilliant psychiatrist who, they hope, can keep Will sane enough to solve their murder mysteries, but Hannibal has his own plans for Will, and we even get just a small hint of Hannibal’s mysterious past, what drives him. We, the Hannibal aficionados from the books and/or films, are aware of the fate of his sister Mischa when they were both little – she was eaten by Nazi deserters. Hannibal may have unknowingly participated in some of the broth. But this is a later Hannibal, a Gen X Hannibal, who has not lived through a war, but has still lost and maybe eaten a sister, apparently. So, although he is not the kind of personality who lives in the past or wallows in regrets, he tells Will

“I feel a staggering amount of obligation. I feel responsibility. I’ve fantasised about scenarios where my actions may have led to a different fate for Abigail Hobbs.”

He’s referring to what happened to her in episode 1, but also to what he has planned for her later in the season. Hannibal, like a good chess player, works out his moves far in advance of the play.

We also get a lot of amusement, amuse-bouche, in that the jokes are about cannibalism. These early episodes are more episodic than later in the series – they are almost self-contained. There is a central crazy, and Hannibal and Will work together and apart to their own ends: Will to catch the perp, Hannibal to “blood” Will, give him a taste for killing. This particular perp is burying his victims as feed for his mushrooms – he loves the way mushrooms network and know who is coming. They seem in fact rather more aware of what’s going on than most of the characters, except Hannibal and perhaps Freddie Lounds.

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Freddie Lounds, tabloid journalist, is looking for a scoop and hopes to trick Hannibal, who is the ultimate trickster, and unlikely to fall for such shallow pranks. We fall for it, though, when Hannibal finds her recording device, tells her off, and speculates on her punishment.

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Next scene we see Hannibal entertaining Jack, serving loin with a cumberland sauce of red fruits. Jack asks about the cut of meat (and so do we). “Pork”, says Hannibal, offering us the double entendre (or amuse-bouche) of the night:

Is the pork long pig? Well, maybe, but it turns out it isn’t Freddie – she’ll be back.

Will is now more willingly accepting Hannibal’s psychological analyses. They discuss, doctor to patient, the key concepts of the series: killing, appetite, and power. Will admits to enjoying killing Garrett Jacob Hobbs (which happened in episode 1).

They have broken the taboo. Shooting bad guys is something we watch on TV from a very young age, act out on the playground, but no one is supposed to admit to enjoying it. Enjoying it is unmentionable, but Hannibal won’t leave it alone there. Why do we enjoy killing? And this is the crux of Hannibal’s philosophy and his power: God loves to kill, and we are made in his image. Maybe.

Hannibal may or may not believe in some sort of God – I tend to think he agrees with Nietzsche that God is dead – but he certainly believes in power. Power to satisfy his hunger, without bothering about conventional morality.

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That is the journey on which he will take Will for the next 37 episodes (and, dare we hope, Season 4 to come?)

 

NEXT WEEK: ELI ROTH’S GREEN INFERNO

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