tv review – NBC’s Hannibal, episode 2.10

Everyone is playing everyone, it seems. ‘Nako-Choko’, named after another Japanese palette-cleanser, reveled in the deceptive nature of all of its characters, which made it an outstanding and gut-wrenching episode. Last week I discussed the effect Hannibal and Will’s game will have on Will’s soul, and it seems that, to deceive the devil you know, you have to become very much like him. This week’s episode saw Will create a tableau of his own, saw him willingly bring and eat human flesh, all very Lecteresque. It’s a tricky proposition, to lure and land someone like Hannibal, because this man sees through falsehood and manipulation with ease, since he’s a master trickster himself. The question remains: can Will stay in control long enough? Can he use his darkness without losing himself to it? Given the established history of the character, the expected answer is yes, but then again this Will is much darker than he’s ever been in the novels or films, and the show’s creators have established multiple times that they are more than willing to forgo canon in favor of their own vision. And it has proven to be effective: there is so much tension built into these episodes because anything’s possible, that watching Hannibal is like riding a roller coaster. Through a haunted house. A Faustian one. To get back on point: I suspect Will is still in control at the moment and he will definitely come out on top. He will have the scars to show for it, though.

While Hannibal, despite its grotesque tableaux,isn’t really viewed as a horror series because nowadays that term is synonymous with the more supernatural end of the spectrum, or the slasher or torture porn genres, this show really excels at psychological horror. Essentially Hannibal is a morality play about the perversion of a troubled but essentially good and selfless hero. It’s thrilling to see just how far the creators are willing to take Will, because this does not only mean that Will himself changes, but that the relationship of the audience with the show’s main character changes as well. The writers should really be commended for the great lengths they go to with the show and its characters because, strictly speaking, there really aren’t that many sympathetic characters left on the show. Which is exactly why Hannibal works: we’re rooting for Will to fight his way back to his moral center and to simultaneously make sure Lecter gets his comeuppance. Will Graham’s struggle with his darkness and the power it lends him, with the inherent corruption and selfishness, is at the core of the show and has always been there. This is a show about a man being seduced by the devil, a man who’ll have to overcome a lot of obstacles before he can come out alive and victorious, but a man who can never claim again that he’s inherently good and just. There’s a bit of Hannibal Lecter in everyone, and ‘Nako-Choko’ established that Will is becoming Hannibal to get close enough to catch him, especially in the last shot where Will and Hannibal blurred together into a single being. These two men live with each other, take over each other’s traits and appetites, something that was effectively established by Hannibal‘s take on a sex scene in which both men were in bed with Alana, a beautifully shot scene that contained a perverted and harmful trinity, a beautifully constructed and at the same time nightmarish construction.

Will is manipulating everyone now, as is Hannibal, as is Margot, as is the deranged Mason Verger, played with creepy groove by the wonderful Michael Pitt, who adds another interesting flavor to the course Hannibal serves up each week. There’s an interesting parallel there with Hannibal: Mason’s family has a livestock empire and is, he himself particularly, obsessed with breeding, which means he manipulates and coerces to create a certain outcome. It’s this transformation theme that binds Mason and Lecter (and most characters on the show), but where Hannibal presents people with options to see what they’ll do, Mason is focused on a specific outcome and uses brute force to get there. Hannibal is a scalpel, Verger a much more blunt and unsophisticated instrument that would like you to think it’s a scalpel. Pitt’s smarmy Verger will undoubtedly get under Lecter’s a skin, with spectacular results. Meanwhile his sister tried to secure the family fortune by getting Will to impregnate her, a move that probably won’t sit right with some viewers given the fact Margot’s a lesbian. I found no fault with the show going there though: it served a purpose and it’s actually a necessary step for Margot to get what she wants. Will and Margot used each other in that moment for their own ends, and while there’s a fondness and strange camaraderie there, it was set up like a transaction. Love had nothing to do with it. The only true love I’ve seen this week was Freddie’s affection for Abigail and her determination to get to the bottom of who’s responsible for her murder, which unfortunately put her on a collision course with Will who’s going about achieving that same end in an entirely different way. While she’s missing now and Will’s responsible for it, he is probably keeping her somewhere until he’s done with his design and the meat he brought to Lecter’s was probably “just” Randall’s.

‘Nako-Choko’ was a terrific episode that uses the ingredients provided by ‘Shiizakana’ to create a wonderfully twisted outing that, once again, felt like a fresh take on everything we’ve known the show to be so far. 9/10

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