After ‘Aperitivo’, an episode that focused on the direct aftermath of the Season 2 finale, ‘Contorno’ picked things up again in the present, where a lot of things came to a head. For an outing named after a vegetable side dish, a lot of major things happened: Will and Chiyoh traveled to Florence, Pazzi and Jack went after Lecter, and Hannibal did what Hannibal does: preparing gorgeous meals, putting the final touches on a torture gear exhibition and playing the piano. The focus on character’s actions and eventful moments made Hannibal‘s latest episode significantly more straightforward than the previous Season 3 entries, its focus clearly on moving the plot forward.
‘Contorno’ consisted of two main threats: Will and Chiyoh’s train ride to Italy and the goings-on of Pazzi, Crawford, Lecter and Bedelia in Florence, in which Mason and Alana played a key role. The second storyline took up the bulk of the episode, and crossed off a lot of moments readers would remember from the Hannibal novel. But let’s get to the two travel companions first: the episode started off with an anecdote Chiyoh told Will, about how Hannibal and she used to play a game. Lecter would burn all kinds of bark and incense and Chiyoh then had to identify the scents. It was a nice touch, a story that elegantly told you for how long Lecter has been infatuated with smell and taste, and subtly explained Hannibal’s extraordinary pallet too. Chiyoh’s next quote then emphasized Lecter’s predatory nature: “He was charming the way a cub is charming, a small cub that grows up to be one of the big cats.” It was a wonderful conversation that shed light on Chiyoh’s past, Hannibal’s origins and the tension between Will and her. While later conversations between the two effectively illustrated how Will projected his own struggles and character traits onto Chiyoh, and a dream sequence showed us Will’s guilt over corrupting her, a lot of their talks didn’t amount to much. It didn’t give us any new information and seemed atypically rambly and dragged out. Until Chiyoh threw Will off the train that is: this action immediately expanded her character and capitalized on her wildcard narrative function. It left Will to stumble to Florence on foot, driven only by his desire to find Hannibal, symbolized by the familiar ravenstag.
On to the meat of ‘Contorno’. After scattering his wife’s ashes, Jack met with Pazzi to discuss Lecter. While Jack warned Pazzi about going after Hannibal alone, Pazzi did so anyway, seduced by the large sum of money Mason Verger offered anyone who would bring in Lecter alive. Unsurprisingly Pazzi’s decision didn’t pay off well for him: Hannibal threw a noose around his neck, gutted him and hung him from the window of the palazzo, with Pazzi’s guts spilling out onto the cobble stones beneath. Anyone who has read the Harris novel or has seen the Ridley Scott film saw this moment coming, but the execution (pun intended) was captivating nonetheless. It may have been the best rendition yet: Mikkelsen’s sinister yet darkly comic turn is unmatched and his one-sided conversation with a gagged Pazzi was both unsettling and very amusing. “I called the number on [Mason Verger’s] Wanted site once, far from here, just for fun,” Lecter boasted with a glint in his eye, before casually sticking a knife in his captive and dumping him from the palazzo floor. Black comedy gold.
When Crawford showed up right after the killing, hubris proved to be Hannibal’s undoing. While Lecter taunted him, Jack snuck up on the good doctor (in a manner similar to how Hannibal snuck up on Miriam Lass in Season 1) and delivered quite the beating. It wasn’t the rematch one would have expected: while the two were equally matched in Season 2, here it was a sequence of one-sided punishment before Crawford finally knocked Hannibal from the window where Pazzi was hanging, which led to Lecter’s escape. While it was certainly a satisfying and cathartic moment for Jack and the whole element of surprise certainly made sense, the whole sequence felt anti-climactic: when you’re looking forward to a rematch you don’t just want one person to win, you want another go that’s just as good as the prior one, maybe even better. In that way Jack and Lecter’s new confrontation disappointed, really through no fault of its own; when you’ve treated your audience to a fantastic fight scene last season, it’s hard to not set the bar very high for yourself.
‘Contorno’ moved a lot of things forward, but wasn’t entirely satisfying: not everything out of left field had the desired effect. 7/10