Pigs and people. Are they identically different, like Hannibal and Will?
Why do we consider pigs uncontroversially edible, and yet are so shocked at Hannibal or Mason eating human? [If you have the answer to that, please let me know – I’m up to 65,000 words and still haven’t come to a conclusion]. We use them in gruesome experiments because they are like us, but then justify it by saying they are not really like us at all. This episode is all about pigs and people interchangeably being used, abused, and prepared for dinner.
Pigs of course are remarkably similar to humans – have you ever seen a butcher carrying a pink corpse into the shop and wondered for a moment who he has killed? Geneticists have proved the similarity:
“We took the human genome, cut it into 173 puzzle pieces and rearranged it to make a pig. Everything matches up perfectly. The pig is genetically very close to humans.”
The episode is called Digestivo, which in Italian is an after-dinner drink, usually a liqueur or bitter, which is meant to settle the stomach. We have, in this episode, finished consuming the plot of the book and movie Hannibal, which follows Mason’s quest for revenge. Next episode, we go to the central plot of Red Dragon, which of course pre-dated the other books but, by the brilliance of Bryan Fuller, is readily reimagined as a later time in this new universe.
Mason always carries a little knife that belonged to his father. Perhaps it’s the same one that he used to slice off his face. His father would test the depth of fat on a pig’s back by poking him or her with this knife, something neither the pig nor farmer found terribly acceptable. Now he is doing it to Hannibal. It’s clear that he is planning to turn Hannibal into a pig before he eats him.
Of course, there’s many a slip, as they say, or as Nick Cave says:
“If you’re gonna dine with the cannibals, sooner or later baby you’re gonna get eaten”.
Or as Alana warns:
To the sublime tones of the Mozart Piano Concerto 21, Hannibal and Will are dressed and brought to Mason’s table. In the opulent dining room of Muskrat Farm, Mason tells Hannibal that “I snatched Will Graham right out of your mouth.” He is referring to Hannibal’s plan to eat Will’s brain, foiled by the arrival of the Italian police, who were in Mason’s pay.
Hannibal and Mason compare their depth of reading, as Hannibal reminds Mason of the biblical story of Jezebel, who was, like Mason’s face, eaten by dogs. Mason in return spouts a news story he read about “that German cannibal” (he can’t remember the name of Armin Meiwes?) who advertised on the Internet for someone who wanted to be eaten.
The cannibal and the intended meal ate the man’s penis together before the latter died and was packaged up in the freezer. Mason’s assistant, Cordell, arrives hilariously at that moment with some pork sausages, thus emphasising the human/pig parallels.
“Go to all that trouble to eat a friend and you overcook his penis. They ate it anyway, they had to, they committed. But they didn’t enjoy it.”
Mason reveals part of his plan – he likes Will’s face, and intends to graft it onto Hannibal before he eats him. The rationale is that Will and Hannibal were both there watching as the dogs ate Mason’s face. They banter pleasantly (Hannibal shows no fear) about the order in which Mason will eat the various parts of Hannibal’s body. Everyone loves to chat about cannibalism! Will’s banter is a little less polite, as he takes a healthy bite of Cordell’s cheek, much to Hannibal`s amusement, and is left with a bloody chin, reminiscent of Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs. Will has become at least a functional cannibal.
Cordell sews up his own face, then advances on Hannibal with the Verger branding iron. He brands Hannibal with the Verger emblem.
Hannibal is being turned into an edible pig, because as Mason admitted, he did not really fancy eating human flesh. Much easier to eat the animal that daddy made his fortune exploiting, than to eat the man who consistently outsmarted him.
“Mason would have preferred to brand your face. He fought bravely, and with his own funds, against the humane slaughter act, and managed to keep face-branding legal.”
Part of what supposedly makes us superior to other animals is the power of speech. Pigs can grunt and scream eloquently, but they can’t form their words into either maxims or complaints. The tongue is crucial, and Cordell tells Hannibal he intends to
“…boil it, slice it very thin, marinate it in olive oil, garlic, parsley and vinegar.”
Cordell describes the rest of his plans, in something almost out of a cooking show. But looking down appreciatively, he adds
“Every day I’ll feed Mason some new part of you. And don’t you worry Dr Lecter, you will always be cooked to perfection.”
Anyway, we know that nothing like that is going to happen, because we still have six episodes to go. AND SEASON 4 [please?] The rescue involves Alana and Margo, who find that Mason kept Margo’s eggs and that there is a surrogate having her baby.
A pig, of course. Not too successfully; the baby is dead, which makes her fighting mad. They head off to kill Mason. First, they release Hannibal, because he has to save Will (about to have his face cut off without anaesthetic). Alana knows that Hannibal promised to kill her at the end of Season 1. But she has no other choice if Will is to survive.
“You’re the only one who can save Will. Promise me you’ll save him?”
The “abyss” that Heidegger described between human and animal is further breached as Mason is eaten by his pet eel. Or chokes as he eats the eel. All lines are crossed.
Having saved Will, Hannibal finally meets up with Chiyoh. She is willing to watch over him, but not in a cage: “Some beasts shouldn’t be caged.” Her obsessive hunt, she tells him, was motivated not by his plight or hers, but Mischa’s.
“Yes,” says Hannibal, “but I did not kill her”.
We see the broken teacup that has bothered Hannibal throughout the books, movies and this TV series. Can time reverse? Can we undo what has been done?
As he waits for Will to recover and awake, Hannibal is working on some higher level calculus, presumably still trying to work the maths on how to reverse time.
But Will is having none of it.
“I miss my dogs. I’m not going to miss you. I’m not going to find you. I’m not going to look for you. I don’t want to know where you are or what you do.”
“You delight. I tolerate. I don’t have your appetite.
The digestivo here is a bitter drink – look at Hannibal’s face. Takes a hell of an actor to portray strong emotion so simply. Will has divorced Hannibal. But Hannibal is not giving up – he never does. He escapes before the FBI arrive, but then returns and surrenders.
Next episode, Will takes on the Red Dragon, but – can he do it without Hannibal? Silly question really, don’t know why I bothered asking it.