“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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I’m so sorry Jack: “Relevés” HANNIBAL Season 1 episode 12 (Fuller, 2013)

This episode is called “Relevés”, an obscure term in the French menu – it comes sort of after the main course, but is not the Rôti (roasts) of episode 11; this one is joints – big butcher joints, served with heavy accompaniments and garnish. Appropriate for a meaty episode, in which Hannibal takes steps not just to cover his own tracks, but to lay a path of suspicion to Will, who has been behaving very strangely lately, thanks to his encephalitis (which Hannibal has also covered up). The real meat of this episode, though, is its treatment of mental illness – where it starts (physical and/or psychological) and how it develops, and the paucity and inadequacy of treatments.

At the start of the episode, everyone is starting to recover. Georgia Madchen, who killed her friend and witnessed Hannibal killing the doctor who knew about Will’s condition, is in an oxygen tank, awaiting shock treatment which may restore her memory.

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But she doesn’t want to remember.

Hannibal has brought Will one of his gourmet concoctions: “Silkie chicken in a broth: a black boned bird prized in China for its medicinal value since the seventh century. Wolfberries, ginseng, ginger, red dates and star anise. Will’s bemused response, as though Hannibal was his Jewish mother, making chicken soup to treat a psychic crisis that just seems to get worse:

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Hannibal also does not want Georgia to recover her memory, because he is vulnerable, even if she was unable to see his face. She wakes up in her oxygen tent and finds a plastic comb, naturally, she starts to comb her hair, and naturally the static creates a spark that ignites the oxygen.

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So that leaves Abigail as apparently the only one who could spill the fava beans on Hannibal. She is busy writing her book with Freddie Lounds, who tells her she knows what killers look like

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She looks for a specific brand of hostility. She sees it in Will Graham, every time she looks at him. Very convenient for Hannibal. But Will has released himself from hospital, and is starting to realise that the spate of copycat deaths are all the same, but slightly different, to the murders they copied – the copycat killed all of them, including Georgia, who saw his face. Will is furious that Georgia was misdiagnosed and misunderstood her whole life, and doesn’t want the same thing to happen with her death, which Jack is treating as suicide.

Will’s vehement reaction worries Jack, who consults Hannibal, allowing Hannibal to plant the seed of suspicion: does Will suffer from a mental illness that would allow him to do things he doesn’t normally do?

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That’s true for Will, but even more true for Hannibal, who sees himself as a species apart from the common herd, an Übermensch, who has cast off normative humanism for his own ends, which we are yet to understand.

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Will is visiting Abigail in hospital. They discuss the nature of killing. Will admits killing her dad was terrifying, but then made him feel powerful. She replies that

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She wanted to escape, but Will is doubtful

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Her dad is still out there, in the form of the copycat. Will thinks he can catch him,

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Jack has been visiting Bedelia, who has covered for Hannibal (as any professional psychiatrist would) and has been asking about a case in which a patient, referred to her by Hannibal, tried to kill her, but luckily died by swallowing his own tongue ( a reference to Multiple Miggs in Silence of the Lambs). Hannibal, Jack points out,

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Hannibal asks what she told Jack?

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She doesn’t know quite what Hannibal is trying to do with Will (it seems to us, the omniscient spectators, that he wants to turn Will into a clone of his own powerful self)

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Will is thinking clearly again, he tells Hannibal, and starting to understand the copycat killer that so baffles the FBI. Georgia was killed for seeing the killer, who ended up framing her for it, but

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Now it’s personal. Will realises it could be someone at the FBI or the police. He doesn’t, however, realise what we realise, that he is in the same room with the killer. Like a pantomime, we feel like shouting at the screen: look behind you! But we don’t, because we don’t have interactive TVs (yet), and also because we like Hannibal, and don’t really want to see him unmasked (yet). But Will’s clarity, and Abigail’s book, are both threats to Hannibal. And he has only one episode of Season 1 to neutralise them.

Fortunately for Hannibal, everyone is on the wrong scent. Jack is still convinced Abigail is the killer, while Freddie is still convinced it is Will, and tells Jack so.

Will takes Abigail out of the hospital, back to the crime scene – her home in Minnesota. Jack is furious and goes to see Hannibal, who admits to Will’s confused mental states, where he loses time and doesn’t know what he has done. He plays Jack a selected section of the recording of his discussion with Will about the murder of Melissa Schurr.

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Together with Hannibal’s revelations about Will’s mental state, Jack is starting to suspect Will.

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Will had told Hannibal, who hadn’t told Jack, that he was getting so close to Hobbs that

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Now he has Hobb’s daughter, who Hobbs intended to kill. Jack fears the worst. As for Hannibal:

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Hannibal is sorry, but not, as Jack thinks, for hiding the “truth” about Will’s mental state. He is truly sad and sorry, for losing his friend, his only friend, feeding him into the jaws of the justice system.

Why does Hannibal do these things? Abigail asks him, and he tells her the truth, at last. He called the house to warn Hobbs they were on their way. Why? she demands. And this is crucial to an understanding of Hannibal:

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He killed Marissa, hoping that Abigail would kill the victim’s brother. Abigail is another of his projects

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Hannibal believes, as Dolarhyde says in Manhunter, that the people who are killed in these becomings are not real: “You alone know the people I use to help me in these things are only elements undergoing change to fuel the radiance of what I am Becoming. Just as the source of light is burning.” Abigail’s Becoming is far more important than Nick Boyle. But Abigail is scared of Hannibal now: he tells her that he has killed far more people than her father.

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Will he or won’t he?

Next episode – the season finale.

 

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“Madness can be a medicine”: HANNIBAL Season 1 Episode 11 (Fuller, 2013)

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We’re finally at the main course of this extended French banquet that makes up the episodes of Season 1. This episode is called Rôti, which means roast. The dead animals are coming out of hot, dark ovens, cooked, carved, and being eaten. And the accompanying sauce is a healthy dose of Existentialism, Hannibal Lecter style.

This episode is all about identity, and identity is all about existence: what is real, what exists and how can we be sure? Here is Sartre’s view of existence from the novel Nausea: the character who sees himself usually as a man named Roquentin, sitting under what seems to be a chestnut tree:

…the diversity of things, their individuality, were only an appearance, a veneer. This veneer had melted, leaving soft, monstrous lumps, in disorder — naked, with a frightful and obscene nakedness.

Roquentin concludes “My existence was beginning to cause me some concern. Was I a mere figment of the imagination?”

Most of the characters are losing their footing in this episode, and some are losing all touch with reality.

Abel Gideon has lost touch with his identity. Thanks to Dr Chilton’s “psychic driving”, Gideon came to believe he was the Chesapeake Ripper. Of course he isn’t – that’s Hannibal, and Hannibal is none too pleased to have someone else take credit for his ‘work’. Hannibal discusses the situation with Chilton over dinner: Kudal, a sheep gut curry. Lots of useful metaphors in this dish – guts because we are getting inside all the characters at last, and sheep? Well, sheep are used (rather unfairly IMHO) as allegories of blind obedience – going where the leader goes, following without question. Chilton thinks psychic driving is something of this sort – lead the patient to the conclusion you have already drawn.

Hannibal points out that Gideon was an ideal patient to be manipulated:

Chilton suggests Gideon is a psychopath, but Hannibal squashes this idea:

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So, if Gideon is not really a psychopath, he is just a common killer, a domestic violence offender who went over the edge into serial killer. Chilton told him he was the Ripper. Alana then told him he was not in a state of mind to know who he was.

Chilton feels like his is going to be blamed (especially since Gideon is planning to sue him). Gideon escapes, as he is hoping to attract the real Ripper, who, he hopes, will tell him who he really is, but Will understands that the Ripper will kill Gideon, for taking credit for his ‘work’.

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Realising Gideon is not the Ripper, Chilton just wishes he had been more curious about how common minds work. Hannibal replies:

Thus, the sheep’s gut curry.

The psychic driving didn’t work as hoped, Hannibal tells Chilton, because, once a patient is exposed to the methods of manipulation, he will push back.

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Will Graham is not aware of Hannibal’s manipulation, or of his now chronic encephalitis. He is having nightmares about water: tsunamis of water at crime scenes, melting clocks à la Dali, hallucinations of water pouring down the walls in the BAU. He imagines Jack is accusing him, Will, of being the killer they seek.

Will is lost. He feels crazy. Is that your worst fear, asks Hannibal?

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Gideon’s battle with identity is brought into focus when he kidnaps Freddie Lounds, so that she can document his vengeance on Chilton, and draw the Ripper, who he knows is an “avid fan” of Freddie’s journalism (the term “avid fan” is from the book and movies of Red Dragon).

Gideon describes his existential crisis to Freddie.

He then proceeds to open up Chilton and remove an amazing number of his organs, without actually killing him:

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When the FBI bursts in, Freddie is keeping Chilton alive, and Gideon has gone. Will is waiting in Gideon’s car, and takes him, not to the FBI, but to Hannibal’s home. Why? He is convinced that this is not Gideon he has captured, but his dead nemesis, Garret Jacob Hobbs. Hannibal helpfully tells him that there is no one there at all, which tips Will right over the deep end of his identity/existential crisis:

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Will has what Hannibal describes as a “mild seizure” and questions Gideon about whether he is the man who claimed to be the Ripper. Why “claimed”?

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He sends Gideon off to hunt Alana. He then tricks Will into going after Gideon. They meet up, two lost souls seeking identity.

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At the end, we have the fascinating session of Hannibal with his psychiatrist, Bedelia. He tells her that Will is troubled, that Hannibal sees his madness and wants to contain it, like an oil spill. Oil, she tells him, is valuable, what is the value to Hannibal of Will’s madness?

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And finally we come to the crux of Hannibal’s own identity crisis. He is not the loner that he likes to affect.

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Bedelia asks “Do you see yourself in his madness?”

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They discuss side-effects, that they can be temporary, or can be beneficial:

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Will does not present Hannibal with problems from normal life. What does he present?

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Now we’re talking abandoned identities!

 

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