Hannibal, Season 3, Episode 7, “Digestivo”
Written by Steve Lightfoot and Bryan Fuller
Directed by Adam Kane
Airs Saturdays at 10pm (ET) on NBC
From its very first episode, Hannibal has had to contend with a certain element of dramatic irony. One needn’t be a cinephile or fan of Thomas Harris’ novels to know of Hannibal Lecter, Hannibal the Cannibal, and for the name to immediately conjure the image of Anthony Hopkins locked in a cell, or wearing a straightjacket and strapped to a gurney. It feels safe to say that everyone watching the series Hannibal knows that at some point, barring a complete break from the source material, Hannibal Lecter will end up in police custody. With “Digestivo”, Bryan Fuller and company finally bring this moment to pass, catching up to the lesser informed segment of the audience—those only peripherally familiar with Red Dragon or Silence of the Lambs—and doing so in style.
Benefitting from the close lens and long-form approach of television, Mads Mikkelsen’s Hannibal has grown in stature and scope to become a near mythic figure, a master of manipulation, combat, and stealth. After the way he’s been built up over the past three seasons, the notion of him slipping up enough to be caught is unfathomable and writers Fuller and Steve Lightfoot recognize this. Instead they have Hannibal be captured by the FBI because he chooses to be, a much more elegant solution and one in keeping with the characters’ journeys this season. While superficially the thrust of the series, particularly the second season, has been Will and later Jack’s quest to take down Hannibal, the true central thread has been Will and Hannibal’s relationship. Their reunion powered “Dolce” and Will’s goodbye here is just as affecting. In comparison, Hannibal’s arrest is an afterthought, a two minute epilogue. It’s a monumental shift for the plot, but for the characters, it’s a mere restatement of Hannibal’s sentiments from a scene earlier. The audience already knows Hannibal will eventually be arrested, and the character himself has spent the season acknowledging and preparing for this. Treating this moment as one of resignation rather than revelation, as a twisted expression of love rather than defiance and defeat, gives it weight and poignancy.
Before Hannibal can turn himself in, however, he needs to escape Mason’s farm. In keeping with what Mason has been from his first appearance on the series, his plan for Hannibal is brutal, sadistic, and immature. He’s still as much a child as ever: he wants Hannibal, but once he has him, he’s not quite sure what to do, hence his dithering over menus and desire to dine with his captives. He wants to terrorize Hannibal and Will but they’ve seen and perpetrated horrors Mason can’t even imagine—and after the events of season two, he can imagine a lot. Instead while he tries to gloat, Will lashes out defiantly and Hannibal appears to be actively enjoying himself. It’s utterly unsatisfying for Mason, which makes it delightful for the audience. It is this dinner that finally shows the true contrast between Hannibal and Will—Will is disgusted while Hannibal can’t wait to see what will happen next. If Will had any uncertainty after “Dolce”, this scene removes it; this is the scene that makes him long for his dogs and the person he was without Hannibal.
Hannibal maintains his composure through his branding, but when Margot comes to visit, we finally see cracks in the façade. This is Hannibal desperate, something we’ve never seen before. Will, on the other hand, doesn’t try to make deals or wheedle with Alana. He simply tells her what she must do, the very thing that pushed him away from her in the first place: murder, or murder by proxy. Alana and Margot are fantastic in this episode, far more in keeping with who they’ve always been than the previous season three episodes have shown. But of course, whenever we’ve seen them previously this season (aside from their sex and post-coital scenes in “Dolce”), Mason has shared the scene or been in close proximity. Apparently they have been playing to their audience and while that is interesting to discover, it makes their marginalization this season all the more frustrating—we still don’t have a true sense of how Alana has been affected by the events of season two. There was an intriguing episode to be told sitting with Alana and Margot, either individually or as a pair, as Alana processed her trauma and the triumph of Margot’s victory over Mason slipped away. Given the rest of the season’s focus on adapting Red Dragon, it’s unlikely that story will be told, and once again Alana will be by far the season’s least developed character, with Margot a close second.
Katharine Isabelle makes up for lost time, however, giving a memorable performance and bringing the audience right back to Margot’s plight as the long-suffering sister of a sadist. Mason’s latest torture, incubating her fetus in a pig, knowing that this couldn’t possibly be survivable, is grotesque and unimaginably cruel. It absolves Alana and Margot of their actions in regards to Mason and while Alana will be a changed person from here on out, her choice to participate rather than observe, is one she will likely be able to live with. It took two and a half seasons, but each of the main characters is now officially a murderer. The sow surrogate is disturbing, but it is nothing compared to the footage with which it is cross-cut, that of first Cordell cutting into Will and then, seamlessly replaced, Hannibal returning the favor and finishing the job. Director Adam Kane pulls no punches, showing the removal of Cordell’s face in gory detail. Remember when the Broken Hart was as disturbing as the series had ever been? Childsplay compared to this. Fuller and the rest of the creative team seem to enjoy finding new levels of nightmare fuel to subject their viewers to. While Mason’s death by eel was even a bit much for this fan, the horrifying fake-out with Will feels appropriate. When Alana releases Hannibal, she understands that she is unleashing the devil, and Hannibal acts accordingly.
The final piece of the puzzle, Chiyoh, fits in nicely, stalking her prey and ultimately confronting him. She may have decided he didn’t need a cage, but she’s not particularly upset with his choice to enter one willingly. The dialogue between Chiyoh and Hannibal is a bit on the nose, but Mikkelsen and Tao Okamodo have good chemistry and play the scene well; Hannibal’s assessment that Chiyoh combines the strength of iron with the elegance of silver feels appropriate and while we may never get a clear sense of the character, this is a fine note on which to leave her. The first half of season three has been beautiful, engaging, and frequently disturbing, indulging in the artistic tendencies of the series and further distinguishing it from the rest of television. Unfortunately, the care with which certain characters have been handled makes the less than skillful writing for others stand out. Hopefully the second half of the season, with its distinct arc, will give the series a fresh start and enough distance from Will and Hannibal’s relationship that the supporting characters can get the development they deserve.
—I haven’t mentioned him much, but Glenn Fleshler is fantastic as Cordell, creating a believable monster in only a handful of scenes per episode.
—“Missed him by this much”: Looks like someone’s a Get Smart fan
—Margot’s outfit in this episode is absolutely gorgeous, as is her styling.
—Alana seeing Hannibal’s face in the tree is appropriately creepy and does a good job showing how the specter of Hannibal still looms over her.
—At the end, Will has his glasses back on. It’s (comparatively) Hannibal-influence-free Will! Yay!
Kate’s Classical Corner: Click on for my thoughts on the score and soundtrack for “Digestivo”, including Mason’s fantastic taste in classical music, the return of Brian Reitzell’s “Bloodfest”, and Reitzell’s evocative use of percussion, electric guitar, and strings in the score.
For more Hannibal talk, check out the podcast I cohost with Sean Colletti, This Is Our Design!