Hannibal, Season 3, Episode 3, “Secondo”
Written by Angelina Burnett and Bryan Fuller & Steve Lightfoot
Directed by Vincenzo Natali
Airs Thursdays at 10pm (ET) on NBC
“Primavera” ended with a stunning surprise, Will standing in the catacombs under the Norman Chapel and, upon sensing Hannibal’s presence, offering his forgiveness to Il Mostro. As shocking as this may have been for the audience, it’s far more keenly felt by Hannibal and the entirety of “Secondo” is spent exploring how this proclamation has affected both men. There is power in storytelling, the episode argues, in crafting a narrative for oneself to make even the most horrific experience bearable. But while the fairy tales we tell ourselves may be beautiful, they are also isolating, fragile things easily shattered by other players in the drama. We must choose between maintaining the fantasy or returning to society, where words as simple as, “I forgive you” can bring our carefully constructed walls tumbling down.
Hannibal spends the first episode of the season delighting in his power and freedom. He’s left Will and the rest of his life in Baltimore behind him, starting over as Dr. Fell and embracing his new history. In “Mizumono”, Hannibal claims he has forgiven Will, and though his actions instantly belie this—he forgives Will with one breath and with the next, summons Abigail to her death—Hannibal is able to maintain this fiction until presented with Will’s heartfelt closure. Whereas he has been the picture of confidence, or perhaps overconfidence, throughout “Antipasto” and “Primavera”, in “Secondo” he is sent spinning, acting out and making rash decisions. Unlike his calculated murder of the Fells or murder of necessity of Anthony, here Hannibal impatiently stabs Prof. Sogliato at the dinner table, petulantly invoking his previous comments on participation versus observation when Bedelia balks at his unwillingness to put Sogliato out of his misery. As if this weren’t enough of a risk, Hannibal then highlights Sogliato’s absence to his colleagues, abandoning prudence in favor of a quick hit of the power and dominance he feels when feeding Sogliato to his ravenous, and unwitting, peers.
“Antipasto” and “Primavera” showed a powerful, in control Hannibal subsuming the will of Bedelia and Will with his own, beautifully visualized as Bedelia and Will sinking into the inky blackness, or bloody waters, of Hannibal’s influence. Here that is reversed: by forgiving Hannibal, and doing so sincerely, Will exerts his independence from Hannibal, regaining his power and throwing Hannibal for a loop. Rather than being trapped in his memories of the Red Dinner, mired in the blood-soaked depths of his trauma, letting go of his anger towards Hannibal frees Will and lets him rise to the surface, shown here when Will walks over red-tinged liquid, his footfalls dissipating first the color and eventually, as he moves confidently forward, the water entirely. He may have emerged changed, but Will is once again on dry land.
Bedelia is not so fortunate, though she also makes strides this week. With Hannibal distracted, she is emboldened, asking after Mischa and gaining new insight into his background. In one of the episode’s most direct and telling parallels to “Antipasto”, Bedelia once again takes a bath, but this time Hannibal washes her hair, a disturbing touch of domesticity that allows Bedelia, after one more stinging reference to Mischa, to slip through Hannibal’s fingers, keeping her eyes firmly upon him as she moves out of his reach below the white, soapy water. Bedelia may not be on equal footing with Hannibal, but she cements his connection to her further and uses this closeness to manipulate Hannibal towards the revelation that ends the episode. By reaching out to Will, Hannibal is inviting chaos and destruction, and that is dangerous for her; Will makes Hannibal unpredictable. Presenting Will’s death as Hannibal’s only possibility for closure continues to distract Hannibal while giving him purpose, allowing him to return to his usual self. It’s a masterstroke from Bedelia, a much smarter move than her ploy with Anthony, and one that may buy her the time she needs to attract the attention of Jack and the FBI, who are both closer and further away than she knows.
Jack returns this week, given a hero’s entrance and still as striking a physical presence as ever. He’s a changed man, however, unwilling to be drawn into Pazzi’s quest for validation. The Jack who arrives in Palermo is no longer motivated by righteousness, but friendship; he has quieted the part of himself that was unable to walk away and that bodes well for his future, if perhaps not Bedelia’s. Jack had a very different relationship to the Red Dinner than the other participants—he went in knowing he could likely die, kissing Bella goodbye before he left. Hannibal’s attack of him was not a surprise, nor was any element of his brutality; Jack had almost half a season to process the layers of artifice and genuine emotion in his relationship with Hannibal. He was not betrayed, and so it follows that his road back is less tangled.
Will, on the other hand, literally walks into a dark forest this week, his forgiveness of Hannibal only the first step in a larger journey. He is now the one entering a fairy tale, exploring a cottage shrouded in mist and enlisting the services of a shotgun-wielding huntress. It’s notable how disparate the fantasies Hannibal and Will pursue are: Hannibal’s, “Once upon a time-” takes him to an elegant gala, waltzing with the beautiful Bedelia and displaying his brilliance to an adoring crowd; Will finds a quiet garden with a lovely, cold fountain at its center and only lightning bugs for company. It’s nice to see a touch of the original solitary and reflective Will still very much intact within him, at least in this scene.
This doesn’t last long, however, and by the end of the episode, Will has found his own travelling companion, Chiyoh. Will has been changed by his experiences with Hannibal and is continuing to morph into something new, something viewers may not like. He is seeking out Hannibal for a reason he does not yet understand and as he does so, he is adopting more and more of Hannibal’s traits. In “Primavera”, Will’s thoughts on faith and religion are a direct response to Hannibal’s. Here he not only crafts his first genuine tableau, he subjects Chiyoh to the same experience we believe Hannibal arranged for Bedelia, putting her in a position to kill her charge, someone prepared and released into the world by Will (or in Bedelia’s case, Hannibal). This is an ominous move by showrunner Bryan Fuller, showing the empowered Will as increasingly similar to the devil on his shoulder, Hannibal, rather than Jack, the guardian angel who’s come to bring him home.
Reflections and distorted perceptions run throughout the episode, both visually and narratively, with Hannibal and Will’s therapy session an example of both. Will isn’t actually interacting with Hannibal, he’s speaking with his current perception of him, tucked away in Will’s mind palace. Everything Hannibal says has been filtered through the prism of Will’s awareness and eventually, that shatters, leaving Will alone on the Lecter estate. Just as Hannibal built a new story for himself after the Red Dinner, one of independence and detachment, upon meeting Chiyoh and her prisoner, Will begins to do the same.
After discovering that Chiyoh has killed her prisoner, Will claims he, “didn’t want this,” lying to himself as much as Hannibal did in “Mizumono”, if not more. He recognizes this, however, and rather than denying the impulse that pushed him to previously unthinkable behavior, Will indulges it, presenting Chiyoh’s prisoner with broken glass wings, a being transformed. Hannibal will never return home, he says, and Will knows this—the tableau is for Will and Will alone, a troubling thought. In season two, Will broke and twisted himself to try to catch Hannibal. In season three, the bones have set, but not correctly; he is as mangled as the heart stag. Will may no longer be Hannibal’s victim, but in forgiving Hannibal and recalibrating their power dynamic, Will has moved closer to being his peer. He is accepting the ways in which he is tied to Hannibal and only by doing so can he eventually dismantle them, should he choose to do so. Each step forward brings confidence and clarity and hopefully, if such a thing is possible, this path will lead Will to the fairy tale he needs to free himself entirely from Hannibal’s influence.
—It’s unclear to me whose arm Hannibal is breaking down to feed to Sogliato, as Anthony’s seemed present within the heart stag (though admittedly, that was a projection), but regardless, it was particularly upsetting to see such a straightforward depiction of Hannibal’s prep work.
—Speaking of, Chiyoh’s (played by Tao Okamoto, a fine addition to the cast) plucking of the pheasant is disturbingly reminiscent of Abigail’s caressing of the deer she and her father killed in “Potage”.
—There are several fun costuming notes in this episode, particularly Chiyoh’s fabulous coat and striking silhouette, but among the most entertaining aspects of the episode is the progression of Hannibal’s costumes. He starts the episode in all black, a button down shirt and his hair all but falling into his eyes. (It’s EmoHannibal!) Bedelia’s in a simple black outfit as well, complementing his mood. Later at dinner, Hannibal is acting out and so is his ridiculously loud brown striped suit. By the end of the episode, though, he’s back in one of his more standard outfits. My complements to costume designer Christopher Hargadon.
—This is the third episode in a row to feature a character starting out fuzzily out of focus only to move forward for a dramatic entrance or moment. In “Antipasto” it was Gideon (in his second scene), in “Primavera” it was Will (in the catacombs, before his last line), and here it’s Jack.
—The first three episodes of the season were directed by Vincenzo Natali, who also directed “Su-zakana” and “Naka-choko” in season two. He’s brought wonderful style and memorable visuals to all three episodes this season and hopefully he’ll be back at the helm soon.
Kate’s Classical Corner: Eventually, I won’t have enough scoring notes to warrant a separate post, but apparently this isn’t that week. Click on for my thoughts on the scoring in “Secondo”.
For even more Hannibal talk, check out the podcast I cohost with Sean Colletti, This Is Our Design, this week with special guest Vincenzo Natali!