For a show perpetually willing to spend its time ruminating intellectually on personal philosophies, psychology, and characters’ perspectives Hannibal is also never short on events. The show achieves this wonderful complimentary and contrasting balance between slow intricate scenes and massive quantities of stuff happening. Last episode saw one character murdered, a main character seriously beaten, and another main character getting thrown off a train. This episode picks up where that cavalcade of plot points ended, then just continues the pace with a few shocking altercations and an explosively sudden crescendo where even more surprising events come to pass. It’s a wonderful picture of the show in microcosm.
The episode starts with typically beautiful imagery depicting the bloody and beaten Hannibal walking through the cityscape of Florence. He seems to have survived and escaped his fight with Jack Crawford. Not only that but he’s made it back to Bedelia, who bathes him and patches his wounds. But the two have to part ways now, Hannibal is confident the police will be hot on his trail, and confident it will be a long time before he sees Italy again. Bedelia creeps intimately close to Hannibal and explains that she will stay behind. She goes on to say that she knew Hannibal was planning on eating her, but that she wasn’t ready and the moment wasn’t special enough. She leans in closer. “You might still eat me.” She kisses the psychopathic serial killer, then whispers, “But not today.” Cue opening credits. Hannibal knows how to do an opening.
Mason Verger starts sampling Cordell’s experimental recipes. The recipes are designed to eventually be used on Hannibal. He feeds Cordell pigs’ tails to simulate fingers, then marrow. Mason Verger hates them both. It’s a nice moment. Not everyone is as good as Hannibal at cooking longpig. Not everything is peachy at the Verger household this season however. Certainly there are fun times to be had planning how to cook Hannibal. (Cordell’s final suggestion is Peking duck. Which involves force-feeding. Then the ducks are slaughtered and hung. Then air is pumped under the skin to separate it from the fat. The ducks are then glazed as they’re hung, before bing cooked and consumed. The plan is to keep Hannibal alive through this process, which sounds like a bad way to go.) There’s an emergency meeting called to deal with the death of the Inspector in Florence. In order to keep the police from tracing the bounty back to Verger they decide to buy off the entirety of Florence’s police force. Must be nice to be a rich psychopath.
That’s only the surface of the intrigue introduced to the Verger household this episode though. Mason and his sister Margot discuss their relationship. It’s gross. They’re incestuous for one thing, and last season revealed that Mason removed his sister’s uterus without her permission. “You shouldn’t have been waving that thing around like a weapon.” Mason and Margot would still like a little Verger baby however. Mason is quick to point out that he still has sperm, so all they need is a womb. Mason thinks he could be a good father. “I’d take parenting classes,” he explains. Well that should do it. Up until he wants a garnish for his cocktail and the nearest source of salty tears is his own child. There’s a scene afterwards that feels like the expected next step in the baby Verger plan – Margot meets with Alana. Except then they have sex. Hannibal, not content with already having one of the creepiest television sex scenes ever in seasons past, goes for gold a second time here. It’s a bit like the way Kubrick makes Alex’s romp in Clockwork Orange unappealing and insectoid by speeding it up (also a reference to Funeral Parade of Roses); Hannibal makes sex look alien and gross by turning it into a fleshy and off-putting kaleidoscope. Then follows up this lengthy scene by revealing that Margot isn’t seducing Alana for her womb, or she is, but she plans to cut Mason out of their new family unit. “What do you know about harvesting sperm?”
Back in Florence the battered Will Graham walks into the scene of Inspector Rinaldo’s murder. There he meets Jack Crawford. The two set off to find Hannibal. When they arrive at the eponymous cannibal’s house they see Bedelia. However Chiyo sees Bedelia first. Chiyo calls Bedelia one of Hannibal’s birds and explains her plans to cage Hannibal. Bedelia wonders if it’s Chiyo, not Will Graham, that constitutes Hannibal’s biggest mistake. Chiyo leaves. Bedelia then, moments before Will and Jack barge in, sits herself down, ties herself off, unrolls a leather cloth with intricate glass vials, breaks one, and injects the contents of it into her arm. This is major new information about Bedelia’s mindset. Part way through her conversation with Jack and Will they recognize the contents of the bottle as Hannibal’s proprietary blend of mind altering chemicals, the same ones he used in seasons past to aid his manipulations of Will. It’s unclear how long Bedelia’s been willingly freebasing the stuff, but it’s certainly helping her muddy her mind in time for her interrogations. While Will and Jack question her she repeatedly claims to be someone else. Eventually Will sneaks out behind Jack’s back and goes to see Botticelli’s Primavera. Here he meets Hannibal.
Jack is kicked out of Bedelia’s house by members of the Italian police, members clearly acting at the behest of Mason Verger. These men will be really important off-screen.
Seeing Hannibal and Will meet again after so long is weirdly touching. They seem to find it touching too. Will talks about the way he’s felt their identities blurring, and how he’s been trying to understand Hannibal better.
“Well she threw me off of a train.”
The two men walk side by side into the street, and into the path of a hidden sniper. Chiyo is out of sight on a building, training her rifle on Will, who may or may not be planning on killing Hannibal after all. And as if answering this question Will smoothly unfolds his knife as he walks. Chico fires, her bullet striking Will in the shoulder and dropping him to the floor. Hannibal spins.
When we next see Will, he’s in Hannibal’s safe house being tied up. As Hannibal starts to sew up Will, they have a conversation so great I can only transcribe it:
“Chiyo has always been very protective of me. Did she kill her tenant, or did you?”
Hannibal continues to patch Will up before looking at the knife Will is still clutching and adding:
“You dropped your forgiveness Will. You forgive how God forgives. Would you have done it quickly, or would you have stopped to gloat?”
“Does God gloat?”
Then Hannibal injects Will with his mind-altering medication. This gives the show an excuse to create another jaw-dropping visual sequence, in this case vaguely reminiscent of the opening credits of True Detective. Images of Hannibal and Will talking about dinner parties and food are edited together and super-imposed over ink floating in water. It all culminates with Will and Hannibal’s floating heads perching on the antlers of the deer-man before spiralling together. When Will wakes up Hannibal is feeding him soup. Will complains about the taste and Hannibal says the soup is not really for Will’s sake. Hannibal has tied Will to a chair at a set table. There are more places set than seems necessary.
Jack appears to have been tracking Will and Hannibal to the safe house. He gets in the apartment building’s old-fashioned elevator and holds the door for Chiyo. The two stand in silence, furtively noting each other’s guns. When Jack gets off on the same floor as Chiyo Hannibal’s vengeful guardian blurts out that she got off on the wrong floor and heads down the stairs. Jack barges into Hannibal’s room. Hannibal is nowhere to be seen but Will is still restrained at the head of the table. Jack heads over and starts trying to free Will. The drugged Will murmurs something. “He’s under the table Jack.” Hannibal’s arm shoots out and severs Jack’s Achilles tendon.
Now both Jack and Will are tied at Hannibal’s macabre table. Hannibal starts talking before unveiling a tool. It’s a small circular saw. He explains that he’s spent so much time figuratively chewing over Will Graham’s brain that it’s now time to do it literally. If there’s anything I knew about Red Dragon going into this show it’s that Gary Oldman’s in it. Oh and the brain thing. So Hannibal starts the saw up as Jack screams. The image slows down as Hannibal’s saw begins to pierce Will Graham’s forehead. The camera pulls away. Personally I assumed the episode was about to end. Instead there’s a cut. A cut to Will (with a slightly bloody forehead), Jack, and Hannibal hanging upside down on meat hooks while Mason Verger looks on.
And then the episode ends.