Vincenzo Natali’s residency as a Hannibal director draws to a close with his third straight episode, “Secondo” and it’s a more fragmented, stylized entry than even the first two episodes of the season. While some viewers and critics have had enough with the “pretentious art film” approach, I disagree. Each segment follows its own stylistic arc and carries an individual flair. As the storylines intersect with shocking shifts in tone, each transition is actually the smoothest visual moves so far this season, with shapes and images carrying over from one cut to the next (at one point, Hannibal’s face appears to be ringed in a halo similar to that fresco of Saint Ambrose last episode, before merging smoothly into another face reflected in a tea cup). Natali has a firm grasp on the visuals here and nothing is out of place. It’s occasionally discordant, but that’s intentional. Form follows function. Even Will’s declaration of forgiveness as the previous episode closed carries over into the introduction of this week’s “Secondo” as we open with Bedelia pouring wine and Hannibal brooding by the fire. Will actually seems to have affected Hannibal and he seems to be having trouble processing his words. In doing so, one of the subtextual elements of the show begins to break the surface, as he ponders aloud that Will “knew where to look for [him]” and that “it was nice… among other things” to see him there at the chapel. When he tells Bedelia that Will has forgiven him, she sees this as an opportunity to begin playing therapist again, and to maybe manipulate herself some wiggle room. She points out that “Forgiveness is too great and difficult for one person. It requires two. A betrayer and the betrayed.” When she asks him which he is, for a moment, he doesn’t really seem to know anymore. And then she says the words that Fannibals have been wanting to hear since Season One. “Betrayal and forgiveness are best seen as something akin to falling in love.” To which Hannibal replies, “You cannot control with respect to whom you fall in love.” And most of the show’s subtext goes out the window. Going back to those Platonic ideals that we mentioned last time, this isn’t a physical or carnal love. This is a meeting of minds, and as Jack (Yes, Jack returns this episode, but more on that below) puts it later, “Will Graham understands Hannibal. He accepts him. Who among us doesn’t want understanding and acceptance?” From the very first season, we’ve seen how alone Hannibal (and by extension, all of the serial killers featured through the first two seasons) feels; however, he’s remarkably strict about who he lets see him. None of the other killers have been worthy, but Will is something different. When Will took a shot at killing Hannibal in Season Two, a line was crossed that allowed Hannibal to see Will as a true companion, able to do things that break moral boundaries for the sake of emotional satisfaction. Thus, when Hannibal murdered Abigail in front of Will, it was essentially an ultimatum: Could Will accept and forgive him for what one would think was an inexcusable act? Will’s forgiveness puts Hannibal in an awkward place, where he has to confront what has been growing all along; a love for the only person able to climb his walls, see him at his worst, and still accept and forgive him. When Bedelia states as fact that Hannibal is “going to be caught. It has already been set in motion,” followed later by her observation that he is “drawing them to him… All of them,” it becomes more and more clear that Hannibal’s reaction to Will’s forgiveness is to hurry up the events and to bring them face to face, reunited. Which means becoming more reckless, more impulsive. His plunging of an ice pick into the head of Professor Sogliato even produces a quip, and then when Bedelia removes the weapon (as poor Sogliato sits whimpering, laughing, and muttering about going blind), he playfully notes that “Technically, you killed him,” which not only serves as a humorous punchline, but also pulls Bedelia deeper into his web – a direct response to her earlier claim to have a plan to extricate herself from whatever she’s gotten herself into. These scenes of Hannibal and Bedelia living and entertaining in Florence are typical of the style of the series, emphasizing Hannibal’s charisma (and wardrobe), allowing him the opportunity to feed people human flesh and relish their enjoyment. Visually these scenes are light and airy, with the only real darkness coming as, once alone, Bedelia begins to test Hannibal’s boundaries by asking him about his childhood while placing herself entirely at his mercy, allowing him to gently wash her hair while she sits in the bath. She knows that she’s treading on dangerous ground when she asks about the first time he prepared “Spring Lamb” (a dish he says he first prepared in honor of his sister, Mischa, when he was very young). He deflects her question, but opens up slightly when she asks what happened to him. His response says volumes: “Nothing happened to me. I happened.” In what is maybe the most dangerous thing she’s said to him yet, Bedelia asks, “How did your sister taste?” He almost flinches, and she slides away from him, submerging her head in the water, rinsing the shampoo away. Viewers familiar with Thomas Harris’s novel Hannibal Rising (or the film of the same name) should be aware that in Harris’s original version, Nazis murdered Hannibal’s little sister, Mischa, and ate her, feeding her to him without his knowledge. This act becomes the trigger event that turns young Hannibal into a monster. And it has been rightly criticized as being kind of stupid. Bryan Fuller is on record stating that he’s not a fan of the novel and the way Mischa’s story played out, and he utilizes Will Graham’s journey this episode to explore an alternative narrative. If Hannibal’s story here is all light and wine and fancy cannibal dining (seriously, that Spring Lamb looks AMAZING), Will takes a swift and dangerous trip over into the world of Hammer Horror (particularly the stylings of classic Hammer director Terence Fisher) and Mario Bava. Will’s journey takes him to Aukštaitija, Lithuania and creepy, seemingly abandoned Castle Lecter. In what seems like a scene straight from Dracula (1958), Will scales the fence and approaches the castle through a misty forest, only to find the doors locked. As he explores the grounds he discovers the family graveyard, where we focus on the tombstone for young Mischa, which, rather than featuring her birth and death dates, simply says “MYLIMA” — Lithuanian for “loved.” In case you needed the subtext made any plainer than it already was. While observing the castle from afar through field glasses, Will finds himself engaged with his own internal Hannibal in a discussion about his Mind Palace. Revelations here are to be taken with a grain of salt as this is Will’s imaginary Hannibal talking to him, and given Will’s newly rebuilt imagination, is most likely an aspect of himself moreso than a projection (given what we learned with Abigail last episode). Through this interrogation/interview/therapy session, Will intuits that the oldest, darkest rooms are the ones Hannibal himself refuses to return to, although he notes that screams fill some of the rooms, but do not echo through the corridors. He hears music instead. This is a revealing bit of information, especially given the way music plays a part in the soundscape of the series. It’s a part of the storytelling that I’ve neglected, if only because I am not a classical music aficionado and any symbolic resonance is lost on me. But given that the only time we’ve really seen Hannibal express real emotion was during the opera performance in Season One’s “Sorbet” it makes sense that the screams of his earliest formative moments might affect him the way beautiful music might. However, in the real world, Will’s imaginative discussion is interrupted by a screeching soundscape and images of shattering glass that translate into gunshots somewhere in the woods nearby. As Will watches from behind a tree, we are introduced to Chiyoh (Tao Okamoto) as she kills a pheasant and then teasingly points the rifle Will’s way. Whether or not she knows he’s there is irrelevant, as she takes her game and stalks away. How could Will not follow? Chiyoh is a character from Hannibal Rising, but in Fuller’s interpretation is assuming a narrative role more closely aligned with Lady Murasaki, Hannibal’s aunt. In Hannibal Rising, he and Murasaki had a relationship that was awkward and forced to say the least. Lady Murasaki was the widow of Hannibal’s uncle, Count Robert Lecter, and when Hannibal resurfaced she took him in and trained him in the ways of the samurai. Yes. You read that correctly. Hannibal Rising is not very good. More importantly, though, to our purposes here, she represented someone in his life who tried to steer him away from vengeance (for Mischa) before finally realizing that there was nothing human left in him. She killed herself, and Hannibal headed to Europe or America or someplace. It’s all very poorly put together, but Chiyoh (Lady Mursaki’s attendant in the book) here seems to be taking on that role as she attempted to keep Hannibal from murdering the man he claimed killed and ate Mischa. Unfortunately, in order to keep him from killing the man, Chiyoh was required to keep him alive, in a dungeon, in the wine cellar (a wine cellar that looks like it came straight from Mario Bava’s Black Sunday). Now, twenty or so years later, she continues to look after him rather than take his life. And while she brings him what appears to be magnificently prepared pheasant every day, he is still kept in a cage in his own filth, never seeing the light of day. Will finds this out after a mysterious incident in the forest, where for a moment we almost see the return of the stag, but instead a cloud of fireflies appear around him, leading him through the brush to a secret garden. There we find an old, overgrown fountain, empty of water, but rich in what appear to be mushrooms and snails. As this scene played out during the airing, Bryan Fuller tweeted a firefly fact, noting that “Firefly larvae feed on snails to fuel their transformations.” This reference is true, and I think ties the fireflies to a more natural use as a symbol here than perhaps the more traditional symbolic uses (illumination, freedom, etc.), since not only do they feed on snails, they are also cannibalistic, as firefly.org notes, “Some species of fireflies feed on other fireflies—most notable is the genus photuris, which mimics female flashes of photinus, a closely related species, in order to attract and devour the males of that species.” One of the more interesting firefly facts ties directly to Will and his behavior as the episode goes on: “Sometimes male photuris imitate male photinus to attract females of their own species.” As we’ll see before too long, Will does a very good Hannibal impression. Especially in his attempt to get the girl. This scene could also be an oblique reference to the classic anime, Grave of the Fireflies, if only as a nod to the fact that in Hannibal Rising, Hannibal and Mischa struggle to survive after their family is killed in WWII, much like the characters Seita and Setsuko. Granted, that’s a stretch, but it’s an interesting parallel given the tragic outcome of the Japanese characters (and wouldn’t be an unheard of insertion of Japanese culture into the Hannibal mythos…). Before the scene ends, Will also discovers a red right handprint the size of a child’s on the edge of the fountain, which brings to mind the line from Milton’s Paradise Lost (Book II, 170-174): “What if the breath that kindled those grim fires, / Awaked, should blow them into sevenfold rage, / And plunge us in the flames; or from above / Should intermitted vengeance arm again / His red right hand to plague us?” Milton is referring to God’s vengeful hand, but this appears to be a very clear reference to Hannibal’s God Complex and his Hannibal Rising revenge quest. Not to mention the fact that it’s probably a reference to this, as well: When Will follows Chiyoh during her nightly feeding ritual and is discovered in the lion’s den, it only takes the dropping of Hannibal’s name and the baring of his scar to get Chiyoh to lower her rifle and propose a sharing of stories. After all, she knows what it means to be Hannibal’s nakama – his close friend. It’s this telling of tales that allows Fuller to undermine and enhance Harris’s original work in Hannibal Rising, providing Will with the opportunity to create doubt as to whether or not the man in the cage is responsible for Mischa’s death, and whether or not Hannibal was a monster before she was killed and eaten. His “we construct fairy tales and we accept them. Our minds concoct all sorts of fantasies when we don’t want to believe something” could play either way: dismissing Hannibal Rising as a poorly concocted fantasy, or saying this version of the tale is what we want to believe. Either way, Fuller lays the groundwork to create a Hannibal that is far more intriguing and dangerous than the action-hero-gone-wrong version that Hannibal Rising posits. We also learn here that the love that Hannibal is feeling isn’t a one-way street. Despite the damage that Hannibal has done to Will, he’s still searching for him because, “I’ve never known myself as well as I’ve known myself when I’m with him.” If that’s not some sort of Valentine’s Day card / wedding vow-type admission, then I don’t know what it is. This conversation also allows for the introduction of something a touch more sinister in our good Will. After confirming that he’s not like Hannibal (“If I were like Hannibal I would have killed you already, cooked you, ate you, and fed what was left of you to him”) he totally becomes like Hannibal when he hears that Chiyoh is essentially trapped here, watching over the man in the cage. “He was curious if you would kill. I imagine he still is.” And as we know, when Will imagines things, he really imagines them. This time, though, his imagination works itself out in the real world. Under cover of darkness he slips back into the cellar and frees the captive, releasing him in a scene that simmers with violence but never quite breaks free. But when Chiyoh serves up dinner this time, the filthy bugger is still in his cage, waiting to attack. The attack is swift and violent, but Chiyoh snatches up a pheasant bone from the filthy floor and stabs him in the neck (after a brief “I’m sorry”), his blood spraying through the hollow bone across the floor and her face. Try as he might, Will can’t distance himself from this. He claims that he wanted to set her free, but she knows – maybe better than he does himself – that he wanted to see if she would kill the man after all these years. He accomplished what Hannibal wasn’t able to. He made her a killer. He says he didn’t want it, but she knows: “You were doing what he does. He’d be proud of you. His nakama.” In a classic swerve, Will makes it clear that he doesn’t believe that the imprisoned man really killed and ate Mischa. He believes Hannibal did. “He created a story out of events that only he experienced. All sorrows can be borne if you put them in a story.” Chiyoh acknowledges that this is probably true, and will help Will find Hannibal. And with that, Will has his very own Bedelia. Then things get freaky. While Chiyoh waits outside, Will goes to work on the prisoner’s body, fashioning a set of insect wings from branches, pheasant bones, and shards of broken wine bottles. He binds the body and covers it with snails before hoisting it up to the rafter and allowing the wings to spread in a majestic nightmare Fuller dubbed the Firefly Man. With a proud look up at his creation, he strides out into the night, with Chiyoh tagging along, rifle in hand. Oh Will. What the hell? This image hearkens back to a comment Hannibal made in Season Two’s “Su-zakana” where he referred to Will as a chrysalis getting ready to hatch. “I can feed the caterpillar… I can whisper through the chrysalis, but what hatches follows its own nature and is beyond me.” With this act, Will is fully emerged as an alternative Hannibal. Perhaps the Firefly Man is an attempt to leave him as something better than he was in life. Countering his victimization by turning him into art. Rather than an act of contempt, Will’s transformation is one of compassion. A sick sort of compassion, but compassion nonetheless; much like the act of freeing him in the first place. And I think we can skip the arguments that this is a valentine for Hannibal, as Will knows Hannibal will never return to Castle Lecter, will never see this handiwork. This was personal, between Will and the prisoner; an act of imagination rebuilt, but not quite right. Jack’s arrival in Palermo earlier in the episode serves not only as a welcome return, but also establishes in more detail that Will is not here on official business. In effect, neither is Jack. He tells Pazzi that he’s “not here for the monster. Not my house. Not my fire. I’m here for Will Graham.” Jack is carrying guilt for helping to break Will. His casual belief that Will could always find his way back from the darkness (from Season One), has gone through the crucible, and he now admits that he broke Will’s imagination and doesn’t know how he was able to piece it back together again. Clearly it hasn’t been put back together exactly as it was before. The influences of both Jack and Hannibal have created a new Will that is following his own nature. He is beyond both of his creators at this point, but I don’t think he’s beyond either’s further influence. The question is going to become which star will he sail toward? Let’s hope it’s toward Jack, because as the episode ends, Hannibal and Bedelia tease out just what Will really means to the killer. Bedelia states as fact that what Mischa made Hannibal feel was beyond his “conscious ability to control or predict.” “Or negotiate,” he adds. She then suggests that “what Will Graham makes [him] feel is not dissimilar. A force of mind and circumstance.” And then Hannibal says it. He smiles and confirms it: “Love. It pays you a visit or it doesn’t.” Then, sensing an opening, Bedelia returns to her earlier preoccupation with betrayal and forgiveness. I can’t help but feel she’s pressing this point with Hannibal about Will, but she’s also laying groundwork for her own possible betrayal and forgiveness, when she asserts that anyone can betray; “Sometimes we have no other choice.” Hannibal then drops the bombshell: “Mischa didn’t betray me. She influenced me to betray myself, but I forgave her that influence.” And what will he have to do to forgive Will? “I have to eat him.” Drops the mic. Hannibal 3.03 "Secondo"Paul's Rating4.0Overall ScoreReader Rating: (0 Votes)Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related One Response Hannibal 3.05 "Contorno" - Psycho Drive-In July 8, 2015 […] his childhood snail garden, raised specifically in order to feed firefly larvae (as we discussed in “Secundo”). The snails are fuel for their […] Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.