Saturday, July 18, 2015

REVIEW: 'Hannibal' - Will and Hannibal Fight for Survival Against Mason, Then Will Delivers a Powerful Statement in 'Digestivo'

NBC's Hannibal - Episode 3.07 "Digestivo"

Captured in Italy, Will and Hannibal are delivered to Muskrat Farm to await Mason's revenge. Alana plots Will's rescue. Hannibal finds it irresistible to remind former patient Margot that Mason will never make good on his promises. Jack informs Chiyoh of Hannibal's location.

"Digestivo" officially brings an end to the arc of the first half of the season featuring Hannibal and Bedelia escaping to Italy and Will, Jack and Mason's pursuit after him. It was largely a compelling arc that managed to triumphantly maintain the same level of emotional resonance as the previous season but with more awareness amongst the show's characters. Everyone is aware that Hannibal is the killer they've been after all along. That realization had such a traumatic cost for Will, Jack and Alana in the second season finale. They were all left with scars from the devastation of that night. Scars that were wonderfully analyzed on a deep personal level from the season so far.

Everyone has a different motivation when it comes to finding Hannibal. Will is tracking him to obtain some kind of clarity over his own identity. Jack went to Italy to find Will but instead got the rush and excitement of running into Hannibal again. Mason and Alana have personal vendettas against Hannibal with differing ways of obtaining their retribution. The season did a great job of allowing the mindsets of each of its main characters to be so strongly on display. Sure, there were a few bumps along the way. As great as the rematch between Jack and Hannibal was, it still was a stalling technique to build up excitement before Will was able to reunite with Hannibal. Everything that was happening with Chiyoh didn't make a whole lot of sense. She was given some clarity in this final episode of the story. But it wasn't quite enough to make her all that interesting as a player still capable of making an impact on this story moving forward.

"Digestivo" works so well because all of the elements of the season so far converge together. Everyone's agendas change over the course of the hour. It's a simple reaction to the new information that comes in so quickly. Alana and Margot's relationship and Margot's desire to have a baby were sudden plot developments that emerged in last week's episode. Their plan to allow Mason some pleasure from torturing Hannibal before getting him arrested by the FBI never really came to fruition. Did Alana's plan hinge too much on Jack being her contact at the FBI to make such an arrest happen? Shouldn't she have known he too was abroad and may not be capable of producing such a moment for her?

And then, there's the additional complication of Will being captured alongside Hannibal. The audience is finally allowed to see how the two of them went from that traumatic dinner table with Hannibal cutting into Will's skull to being tied up and welcomed by Mason at Muskrat Farm. That was an odd stylistic decision at the end of the last episode. It was still a very effective moment. But it created a mystery that wasn't completely necessary. Perhaps it would have worked if Chiyoh's agenda was made more clear by the narrative. As it actually happened, it seemed pretty clear that Mason was able to continue to pay off the majority of the police and that the detective questioning Bedelia would be the one to find Hannibal and collect the prize. And that is exactly what happened too - with Chiyoh still being given a crucial moment in that sequence in rescuing Jack in order to find out where Hannibal was being taken to.

Things only continued to get more traumatic for Hannibal and Will as they realized what kind of a future Mason had planned for them. The thought of Mason cutting off Will's face as a replacement for his own in order to then consume Hannibal piece by piece is a truly horrifying idea. It's the exact motivation for what makes so much of the horror of this episode effective. The tension is undercut a little bit because of the knowledge that this won't be the end of the story for either Will or Hannibal. But that didn't mean big and traumatic things couldn't happen to them. They were herded around just like Mason's pigs. They were tied up, branded and forced to feel every agonizing thing being done to them.

But again, the true highlight of the show has always been Will and Hannibal interacting with one another. It was of very little surprise that Alana and Margot put aside their personal feelings towards Hannibal in order to both protect Will and kill Mason and his manipulative ways. They could never trust Hannibal. But they were aware that he do whatever it took in order to save Will. The whole purpose of this journey was so Hannibal could enjoy the feeling of killing and eating Will. He needed to save Will from this horrifying experience. It was great to see Alana and Margot get the last laugh over Mason - though shouldn't they be at least a little worried that his child could grow up to be just like him? But it was even better once Will and Hannibal escaped the farm and were able to retreat to Will's old house.

The conversation between Will and Hannibal in the immediate aftermath of the trauma at the farm is the moment that determines so much of the episode's final act as well as the future of the series and the characters. Throughout the season, Will has been unsure about how he would react to Hannibal once they finally reunited. He saw Hannibal as a portion of himself. The question of whether or not he should embrace that side was what was dominating his mind. Hannibal may respect and love Will. But his journey this season has always been building up to a moment of satisfaction in killing and eating Will. It's not something that he would enjoy. But it's something that he feels he needs to do. It's a reality that Hannibal created for all of these characters. He knows just how strong the bond is between himself and Will.

When Will decides to essentially "break up" with Hannibal, it's not a decision that leads to further slaughter. Will is in a weakened state. It would be so easy for Hannibal to kill him and then continue to live on the run avoiding capture. He has that possibility of escape. Will gives that to him. Will no longer wants to care about Hannibal. This one man has taken over so much of Will's life. More harm has come to Will because of Hannibal than anything else. The allure of that relationship was tantalizing for a long time. But it's still a dynamic fraught with tension that could never be something remotely healthy. Will needed to change who he was in order to continue to thrive with Hannibal. Even though Hannibal has consumed a part of his identity, Will is still his own man. And now, he has decided to sever all the ties between them. It's a moment filled with understanding on both sides. Hannibal is able to give Will a momentary sense of acceptance.

But that then comes with the arrival of Jack and the rest of the FBI and the realization that Hannibal never left the house. Hannibal turned himself in to Jack. That's the moment that so many of the characters have been dreaming of for three seasons now. They've desperately wanted to capture the Chesapeake Ripper. The killer has now been caught. That will be a huge victory for Jack professionally. But it's also another moment filled with emotional intricacies. Hannibal is deliberating turning himself over to the authorities. He didn't make a mistake that led to either Will or Jack getting the upper hand. Hannibal remained in control of the narrative until the very end. His action is once again asserting control over Will and Jack. No matter how desperately they want to catch him or completely forget about him, they simply can't. Hannibal is taking that away from them. They can all try to move past this harrowing experience. But they will still be plagued by the knowledge that Hannibal turned himself in and that he is now in jail. Even though they can move on with their lives, they will still be haunted - and that's effectively Hannibal proving his intelligence and dominance once more.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Digestivo" was written by Steve Lightfoot & Bryan Fuller and directed by Adam Kane.
  • It seems that Chiyoh did everything that she did in order to receive some clarity from Hannibal over what had happened to Mischa. And then, she still promised to always be watching over him and protecting him. She did nothing when Jack arrived because she knew that was what Hannibal wanted. But that doesn't leave a very interesting future for her. Nor does it create a reason for the audience to ever seeing her again.
  • Bedelia isn't seen at all in this episode. What will her life be after the events in Italy? She was able to perfectly create a story in order to achieve innocence in this whole mess. But what is her purpose moving forward? That's a question I very much want the answer to.
  • Joe Anderson was never as over-the-top as Michael Pitt was in the role of Mason Verger. It was less flashy. He was still terrifying and a force to be feared - especially in the final few episodes. But his death really was the only way the story could possibly have ended.
  • Will Alana and Margot continue to be a couple even after their shared hatred of both Mason and Hannibal is gone? Or will they suddenly be raising a child together hoping to avoid the horrors of the world?