Season 3, Episode 5: “Contorno”
Directed by Guillermo Navarro
Written by Tom de Ville, Bryan Fuller, & Steve Lightfoot
*For a review of the next episode, “Dolce” – click here
* For a review of the previous episode, “Aperitivo” – click hereOften, the contrast between where an episode begins and where it ends is so great for an hour of Hannibal, it sometimes feels like an entire full-length film. Such is the fifth episode of Hannibal Season Three, titled “Contorno”: the Italian definition for the word is a ‘side dish’ and it is commonly served alongside the secondo. This works so well because of how the previous episode, “Aperitivo,” came as an interlude – during which we took a step back from current events to see what was happening in the 8 months between when Will woke up to when he arrived in Italy. Therefore, even the episode titles – most of which come from the names for dishes in the formal Italian dinner – point to how the plot’s timeline works. Clever little bit.
What I enjoy so much about Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen) in this episode is that he and Bedelia (Gillian Anderson), as you can see above, start the episode in a position of relative ease. They’ve clearly either made love recently, or will soon, because they’re having drinks, eating some sensual appetizers. Not to mention Bedelia is in some nightwear, Hannibal appropriately shirtless. Aside from giving all the Fannibals something to gawk at and rave over online, this scene is great because it shows Hannibal in this relaxed, romantic (though Bedelia is far from his willing and loving partner) atmosphere where it seems he is absolutely bathing in the lap of luxury, hiding in Italy.
However, Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) has arrived.
Unbeknownst to Hannibal, there is a storm brewing right on his new doorstep. For while Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) might have forgiven Hannibal, in some sense of their twisted comprehension of forgiveness, Jack can’t so easily let go. Not only are there personal things at stake for him, as for Will, but the fact Hannibal made such a fool out of Jack is what drives the man. He didn’t simply let Hannibal into his personal life, into his heart and arms as a friend, Jack staked his reputation as a leader in the FBI on trusting Lecter as both confidante and colleague. So, for Hannibal, while he gets to lounge with his beautiful wife/captive, eating the Italian delicacies (from the upper class citizens to the sweet white truffle), Jack is on his way.
When he does find Hannibal, at the end of the episode, Jack makes sure the naughty doctor ends up far from where he started at the top of the hour.What I love about Hannibal overall, among other things, is how there are plenty of different directors – though some return far more than others – yet the overall vision and the consistent imagery continues from episode to episode. There’s not only continuity of plot, there continues all that visual magic, regardless of who is at the helm.
My favourite decision of Navarro’s for this episode is to keep stretching out those snails. Some brilliant critics (cough cough) have tried to eloquently use the snail metaphor to describe how slow they believe the episodes and story of Season 3 are unfolding so far. To those people I say, that’s fine if you don’t like slow storytelling. However, I really find that’s one of the strengths in Fuller and Co.’s writing over the course of the series. They don’t need to lay it out on the table all at once. Sometimes we do get a good bit of exposition, other times there’s a labyrinthine structure to an episode’s dialogue that either confuses people or has others saying “This is incredible!” I’m in the former camp – I think Fuller, and all the other contributing writers, have adapted Thomas Harris so well. Sometimes it’s not perfect, but on the whole it is so well-written. I think most people don’t like the slow build at the beginning of this season, which is fine. Some of us just enjoy not having to be fed everything at once, we don’t all like to be outright explained things. There is mystery and thrill in Hannibal.
As for the snails, I’ve said previously that I love the imagery. It represents, to me, that inevitability. In the last episode, Jack tells Will that he knows how everything is going to end, and says: “You’re gonna have to die on me, too.” Now that’s not just Jack lamenting his wife Bella’s (Gina Torres) death and worrying that he’ll simply have to sit around and watch everyone he cares for die – that’s Jack acknowledging the inevitability. He can see the endgame. There is nothing except death for so many involved in the world of Hannibal Lecter – even the doctor himself is not truly safe, in the end. So the snails, aside from helping to prepare a tasty new victim’s flesh, come to represent that inevitable conclusion creeping, crawling towards Will, Jack, Alana, Hannibal, Mason – everyone.Though I love Sir Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter, I really have a hard time choosing who I like better: him or Mads Mikkelsen. They both bring different energies. One of the things I like about Anthony was that you can see so much joy in him while he hurts/kills – chilling and very effective. You can see that same pleasure in Hannibal, mostly while he is cooking and preparing his meals – in opposition to Hopkins, the way Mikkelsen shows Hannibal killing makes it look beyond cold, calculated, as if it’s not fun but merely a second nature.
By the same token, one of the similarities between the two that really rings clear is their pleasure in toying with victims. Hopkins and Mikkelsen each show the delight Hannibal takes in playing with his prey, like a cat with a mouse in its claws. The picture above shows a great scene exemplifying that in Mikkelsen’s Lecter.
When Inspector Rinaldo Pazzi (Fortunato Cerlino) goes to see the supposed Dr. Fell, there is a small tinge of worry in Lecter but mostly he seems content to toy with the man. He questions Pazzi, asking if he is a Pazzi of the Pazzis, to which the Inspector replies that he is, and they talk briefly. You can tell Pazzi is afraid of Lecter. As an apex predator, Hannibal knows this, and that’s why as the conversation goes on you can see him getting more confident, toying more. The smug look on his face as he talks is just creepy. I loved it.
The duality continues between Will and Chiyo (Tao Okamoto), as they take a train and head away from Lithuania and the old Lecter family estate. Their chats about the influence of Hannibal really show us how easy it is for him to exert it over others. At times, people wonder how Will hadn’t seen that Hannibal was who he was, long before their real sick bond began. I used to think, during Season One, that Hannibal was in Will’s blind spot, that it was simply a friendship which formed and shield Graham from the truth. Now, after Season Two and especially with the introduction of Chiyo’s story, I see it as the testament to how well Hannibal puts on his person suit and plays the part of human being. There’s something about seeing two clearly strong people, Chiyo and Will, totally manipulated and controlled by Lecter, even as they are in the process of hunting him down, even if there is a part of them that hates Hannibal. It turns him into that super villain he truly is in the Harris universe. There’s an ultimate power about Hannibal already, but it strengthens when we learn bits and pieces about Chiyo, how she comes to play a part in his sickly universe.
BIG SPOILERS: BEYOND HERE YOU WILL GET YOURSELF SPOILED!
Then Chiyo flips the script. Completely. Or should I say, she flips Will Graham off a moving train. I did not expect it.
It’s at this moment we realise Chiyo holds more loyalty than Hannibal than she holds to any ill will. But there’s still more to her yet, as we’ll see in the coming episodes.
More importantly, as Will gets up shakily on the train tracks, beaten, bloodied, he watches as the old nightmarish stag (the representation of his connection to/with Hannibal), which previously bled out next to him in his flashbacks to the events of Season Two’s finale, trots up and into the woods, as the train tracks disappear in the night. It appears because the connection is strong and draws Will onward. It also appears because Chiyo is another part of that connection, as well as that she is connected to Hannibal just as much, most likely more than Will even.
I love the image of the stag. Always have. It’s foreboding, creepy, I think it’s one of the best images throughout the series. Certainly one of the most, if not the most, consistent images that the Hannibal team has used.
A big part of this series is, in general, about the connections and relationships between people. Not only relegated to the storyline that builds continually between Hannibal and Will. Mason Verger (Joe Anderson) and Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas) become closer with every episode. Their mutual agreement on the ideas of medieval torture has bonded them together a little. Bloom clearly wants revenge, but not as bad as Mason. Margot Verger (Katharine Isabelle) keeps tabs on the situation in Italy. In fact, Inspector Pazzi ends up in contact with Mason and Alana. Mason advises Pazzi of the circumstances, that he will need a verifiable fingerprint on an object to make sure that Pazzi is on the up-and-up concerning Hannibal Lecter.
This sets the stage for the events contained in Thomas Harris’ novel Hannibal.
Pazzi is on the hunt for Lecter, but unfortunately for the Inspector he is the prey. When he goes to confront Hannibal, the doctor gets a jump on him as they have a long, lofty chat. Cue the gruesomeness of the episode, which comes in spades!
What follows is incredible. Jack shows up just as Hannibal stands at the window, admiring his handiwork below.
Then, Jack uses the same trick Hannibal used years ago on Miriam Lass (Anna Chlumsky) – the ole no shoes, just socks gag. They have one of the best fights on television EVER! It’s even better than the one they’d had at the end of Season Two, the fight which left Jack bleeding profusely in Hannibal’s house.
I like that Jack puts the hurt on him, and it’s only by luck really that Hannibal makes off into the night. The cannibal lives to see another day. Either way, he gets his ass kicked, and it’s almost cathartic to see Jack get a bit of payback. Yet all the while Hannibal seems to take it with near a smile.We’re left with everyone headed to Italy, as Hannibal will no doubt be preparing to leave. After such a wild confrontation with Jack, there’s only thing for Hannibal to do, which is head back for Bedelia and then move on – find another place to hide and terrorise. Only who knows what Bedelia will do. She’s got more up her sleeve than anyone can count on, even the viewer. Will, battered as he is, still keeps going, onward to Hannibal, as does Chiyo who still rides along comfortably on the train having dumped Graham overboard. Jack is hot on Hannibal’s tail, obviously, so it’ll be great to see everyone in the same place, everyone honing in on Hannibal. Meanwhile, back in the U.S.A, Alana Bloom and the Vergers are plotting. We’ll see how everything intersects.
“Dolce” is next.