not in our stars, but in ourselves
The third episode of Hannibal‘s third season begins with a conversation between Drs. Lecter and DuMaurier:
Bedelia: How was seeing Will?
Hannibal: It was nice…among other things. He knew where to find me. He said he forgives me.
Bedelia: Forgiveness is too great, and difficult, for one person. It takes two: the betrayer and the betrayed. Are you the betrayer, or the betrayed?
Hannibal: I’m vague on those details.
Bedelia: Betrayal and forgiveness are best seen as something akin to falling in love.
Hannibal: You can’t control with respect to whom you fall in love.
The central theme of season three continues, unabated: breaking up is hard to do. Hannibal’s eyes seem to be shining with tears, as he works hard to control his voice. I mean, this is some Humbert/Lolita-level obsession and emotion. Imagine Hannibal in Humbert’s place as the narrator here, and imagine him talking about Will Graham instead of poor Dolly Haze:
Somewhere beyond Bill’s shack an afterwork radio had begun singing of folly and fate, and there she was with her ruined looks and her adult, rope-veined narrow hands and her gooseflesh white arms, and her shallow ears, and her unkempt armpits, there she was (my Lolita!), hopelessly worn at seventeen, with that baby, dreaming already in her of becoming a big shot and retiring around 2020 A.D. – and I looked at her and looked at her, and knew as clearly as I know I am to die, that I loved her more than anything I had ever seen or imagined on earth, or hoped for anywhere else. She was only the faint violet whiff and dead leaf echo of the nymphet I had rolled myself upon with such cries in the past; an echo on the brink of a russet ravine, with a far wood under a white sky, and brown leaves choking the brook, and one last cricket in the crisp weeds…but thank God it was not that echo alone that I worshiped. What I used to pamper among the tangled vines of my heart, mon grand péché radieux, had dwindled to its essence: sterile and selfish vice, all that I canceled and cursed. You may jeer at me, and threaten to clear the court, but until I am gagged and half-throttled, I will shout my poor truth. I insist the world know how much I loved my Lolita, this Lolita, pale and polluted, and big with another’s child, but still gray-eyed, still sooty-lashed, still auburn and almond, still Carmencita, still mine; Changerons de vie, ma Carmen, allons vivre quelquepart où nous ne serons jamais séparés; Ohio? The wilds of Massachusetts? No matter, even if those eyes of hers would fade to myopic fish, and her nipples swell and crack, and her lovely young velvety delicate delta be tainted and torn – even then I would go mad with tenderness at the mere sight of your dear wan face, at the mere sound of your raucous young voice, my Lolita.
Hannibal has never shied away from the more romantic aspects of Will and Hannibal’s relationship, but they’ve upped the ante considerably this season. All the heartache, all the yearning, all the resentment – it’s just about the most excruciating downfall of a TV relationship of any I’ve ever seen. The separation is starting to wear on Hannibal, and he’s acting out: Bedelia surmises that he’s intentionally trying to bring “all of them” – Will, Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne), Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas) – back to him.
He’s doing this in true Hannibal style, of course: inviting people he despises to eat his most recent victim. At one such dinner party, he chips away at an ice block with an ice pick, so he can make some punch romaine for Bedelia and his guest, Sogliato (Ricardo Rocco). Sogliato had doubted Hannibal’s scholarship previously; Hannibal teases him for a while, then shoves the ice pick into his right temple. It is, without a doubt, one of the most disturbing murders I’ve ever seen. You see, Sogliato doesn’t die: his brain short-circuits. He quivers, he jabbers, he manages to articulate that he can’t see, his face twitches horribly – and finally, Bedelia pulls the ice pick out of his head. He collapses face first into his plate of olives, blood pooling out. Hannibal admits that he may have been “impulsive” to stab his guest, but reminds Bedelia that technically, she was the one who killed him. What a rat fink. The point (ha!) is that Hannibal is bored and depressed. He’s a dog chewing on the furniture while his owner is away. He misses Will, and he’ll do what he thinks he has to do to bring him back. Of course, Hannibal is faltering – so his sense of what’s going to work, his sense of control, may not be as acute as it used to be.
We get to see Will’s side of this uneasy love affair as well. When Bedelia asks Hannibal where he thinks Will is going to look for him next, our depressed doctor replies that it will be the one place he can never go: home. Sure enough, Will scales the fence and makes his way through the grounds of the Lecter family estate in Lithuania. As “memory palaces” go, it’s quite impressively Gothic-looking; Will, however, never sets foot in the main part of the manor. (Indeed: he only ever sets foot inside a cellar, wherein lurks a “monster” of sorts. Whatever would Freud have to say about all this symbolism?) He walks through the cemetery, noticing Mischa Lecter’s grave: Mischa was Hannibal’s sister, and Hannibal was very attached to her. He hears gunshots, and sees a (terribly elegant) woman with a rifle: it’s Chiyo (Tao Okamoto), the groundskeeper. She, like Will, has been subject to Hannibal’s particular form of mind control; she doesn’t want to stay on that creepy estate all by herself, but she’s responsible for another person’s life: the wild-eyed old man who, Hannibal says, killed and ate Mischa. Will pulls a Hannibalesque stunt of his own – releasing the prisoner, knowing that he’d probably attack Chiyo, and then waiting to see if she killed him first – and arranges the body in a death tableau that would have made Hannibal (and Buffalo Bill) proud.
The Entertainment Weekly recap brings up an interesting thematic device, one that’s been present in each of the three episodes so far: snails. That’s right. Oozy little snails. It’s not just a gross-out tactic, though. (Nothing on this show ever is.) To wit:
The snails return this episode, just as Bryan Fuller promised. It seems lil’ Hannibal’s cochlea farm has succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. The little buggers drape their slime over every inch of the Lecter family wine cellar-cum-dungeon. Snails might not seem like a particularly romantic creature (unless served in butter at some mood-lit bistro in Paris), but in reality they’re nature’s Cupids. Certain snails reproduce using a “love dart,” a chitinous harpoon shot into the flesh of a potential mate as an act of courtship. [All together now: Awww!] Snail foreplay takes awhile, as you can imagine—up to six hours, according to the Wikipedia page for snail sex that I now have logged in my browser history—and Hannibal and Will too have been circling each other at a similar pace. Hannibal’s love dart took the form of a linoleum knife, but it marked Will as his just the same.
There’s no way Fuller’s browser history hasn’t logged the same page for snail sex. He knows what he’s doing. Is it weird? Yes. Is it effective? Yes. I imagine Will and Hannibal will continue circling each other for quite some time – potentially right up to the end.
Speaking of that end: one of the most amazing feats this season has accomplished, up to this point, has been humanizing Hannibal. In Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, and Red Dragon (novels and movies), he’s a dark and menacing presence, but not recognizably human. That can be effective for villains, as numerous Hannibal recaps have noted: if a villain is simply that, a menace, it’s easier to fear him. If a villain gets a backstory, it might neutralize his status as an antagonist. Look at how mainstream media instantly fill in the blanks where a white terrorist is concerned: he’s misunderstood, never fit in, a loner, shy, did well in science class, etc., etc. We see it all the time. Fuller et al., however, don’t fall into such traps. The more we learn about Hannibal this season, the less he seems to be a fallen angel, toying with humans for his own amusement. And yet, it never lessens the sense of danger – or interest – that we feel when he’s more of cipher. This is due as much to Fuller’s incisive writing as to Mikkelsen’s beautifully nuanced acting: it’s clear that Hannibal can’t help toying with all this “free-range rude” – and clear, too, that he aches to be understood and accepted. Crawford says it himself in this episode: “And who among us doesn’t want understanding? And acceptance?” All you need is love.