Written by Matthew Taylor
Every week, I’m reminded that it’s sort of a miracle that Hannibal is even on TV. Its ratings aren’t the best, and it’s been (unjustly) snubbed by the Emmys, yet NBC still keeps it around. But this week’s episode, “Secondo,” really hammered the point home. Between its trippy, dreamlike imagery and long stretches of wordless action, the crime procedural format seems to have been permanently abandoned. I don’t know how Bryan Fuller got so much creative control, but I’m happy he did.
For the third week in a row, Hannibal was more focused on setting up its pieces for what will undoubtedly be a bloody climax. While a few revelations were made about all the titular character, the plot wasn’t furthered all that much. Yet the hour was anything but dull. Thanks to some truly impeccable work from veteran Hannibal director Vincenzo Natali, we were treated to some very suspenseful scenes like nothing else currently on television.
This week, Will explored Hannibal’s childhood home, discovering some disturbing details about his past along the way. While we only get vague hints as to what may have caused Lecter’s cannibalistic tendencies, these tidbits are clearly serving as appetizers, and I can’t wait to be given all the disturbing details. But, despite all these plot developments, Will’s scenes were largely devoid of dialogue. Instead, long stretches of time were devoted to Will silently exploring what used to be the Lecter home. In lesser hands, this could have been a creative disaster, boring the audience to tears. But in Natali’s, these sequences are incredibly suspenseful and compelling. Thanks in part to a beautiful score, as well as story details that reward our patience, all the creative risks pay off.
Will’s storyline also introduced us to an interesting new character named Chiyo, played by relative newcomer Tao Okamoto. The supporting characters in Hannibal have always been the highlight for me, and the latest addition to the ensemble didn’t disappoint. While we don’t have too many details on her backstory, Chiyo is a figure from Hannibal’s past who offers some insight into why Hannibal is, well, a psychopath. Despite little dialogue, Okamoto has an arresting screen presence and does a nice job of hinting at her character’s dark side. By the end of the episode, viewers will have an idea as to how Chiyo will fit into the Hannibal universe, and it’s an exciting prospect.
Hannibal’s subplot, however, was more in line with what we’ve come to expect from the series. We were, once again, treated to some wonderfully twisted dinner parties, where Dr. Lecter seems to be both feeding his bloodlust and taunting Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier. The relationship between the two has become even more complex than it was two weeks ago, with Lecter testing Bedelia’s limits when it comes to acts of violence. But, to her credit, she’s not afraid to fight back, and, at times, seems to understand the monster in Hannibal better than he does himself. Whether he’s feeding dinner guests human flesh or murdering them with a wine cork, Bedelia seems perfectly fine with sitting at Lecter’s side, confidently stating that he will, eventually, meet his end. Watching the two psychoanalyze each other is quickly becoming one of the series weekly highlights.
Last night’s episode also re-introduced another character whose fate was left up in the air last year. Despite a particularly brutal assault in the Season Two finale, Jack Crawford finally returned. Almost all of his scenes were considerably brief and did little to further the story, even by Hannibal’s standards. If anything, these sequences were the weakest of the night and felt out of place, especially since most of it was spent lamenting on how much of Will’s humanity has been lost since his relationship with Hannibal began. Will’s descent into madness and obsession should not be a surprise to the viewers and, if it is, his actions at the end of tonight’s episode will remind viewers just how dark he’s become. Also, while Fishburne is a terrific actor, I can’t help but feel like his presence is not needed anymore, especially since I find it difficult to believe he survived his last encounter with Hannibal. Personally, I’m hoping Jack will be revealed to be a figment of Will’s imagination, suffering the same fate as Abigal last week.
I don’t want to nitpick too much, however, especially since Hannibal is one of the more unique and compelling series on television. I’m so happy that the “case of the week” format used so heavily in seasons one and two has been abandoned, in favor of an artsy, dreamlike show that moves at its own pace and doesn’t follow the typical conventions of a crime thriller, or even somewhat resemble the cinematic interpretation of the character. Between its deeply disturbing imagery (one dead body in tonight’s episode is the stuff of nightmares), as well as its demented sense of humor, Hannibal is truly one of a kind.
‘Secondo’ RATING: 8 out of 10