While Vincenzo Natali’s work on Hannibal has always been impressive (especially his efforts this season), ‘Dolce’ really is his standout episode: aided by a script that flows beautifully, Natali has used his signature directorial style to craft an episode that’s both a marvel to behold and clips along at a brisk pace, while also using gorgeous surreal imagery to provide an experience like no other. ‘Dolce’, named after the Italian word for ‘dessert’, was a treat; a rich episode filled with a lot of eventful moments. Unlike last week’s installment though, the episode was elevated via its direction, resulting in tension and bewilderment. When watching ‘Contorno’ and ‘Dolce’ back to back, it quickly becomes apparent the former entry lacked a pzazz and sense of wonder, a layer of artistry that fits a show like Hannibal like a glove, and something its episodes are undeniably complemented by. But Natali’s craftsmanship isn’t solely apparent in his visual flair; he also keenly understands how to strike the delicate balance between the horrific and the comedic, and between the realistic and the fantastic. Because of it ‘Dolce’ easily takes its place as one of the upper echelon episodes of Hannibal, featuring the reunion we’ve been waiting for ever since ‘Mizumono’.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves and discuss one of the episode’s best elements: Gillian Anderson’s Bedelia Du Maurier, who has undoubtedly become one of the show’s best characters. While she’s an original NBC’s Hannibal creation, Du Maurier has always managed to hold her own against an icon like Lecter, often even enriched his character, and has always intrigued viewers with her style and mysterious nature. There has always been an otherworldly vibe to Anderson’s portrayal of the cipher-like psychiatrist and during ‘Dolce’ the actress made her character even more appealing by showing off her comedy chops. When Will and Jack found her instead of Hannibal, a Bedelia who now went by the name Lydia Fell, this outing’s best scene unfolded: the moment Jack and Will questioned her, while she kept insisting she was Mrs. Fell. There was such a glee to the scene, a maniacal quality, that had you watch the back and forth with a smile running from ear to ear. Half-hallucinating after having shot herself up with the “Miriam Lass mix of medicine” to create a charade and deniability, Bedelia kept toying with Will and Jack. During these moments the show came the closest it ever has to being laugh-out-loud funny. A later scene involving corrupt policemen looking for Lecter was just as entertaining to watch.
The Will and Hannibal reunion on the other hand was downright moving… at first. They met each other before Sandro Botticelli’s Primavera, while Brian Reitzell’s ‘Bloodfest’ played, the same composition and slowed down version of Bach’s Goldberg Variations’ Aria used in last season’s ‘Mizumono’. It enhanced the touching meeting of these old friends, these two people with a tangible history and fondness for each other, but there was never any doubt that something had changed and was broken, that these two men weren’t on the same page any longer. Both understood the need for separation, but both also wondered what impact would come with such a step. “Now is the hardest test; not letting rage and frustration, nor forgiveness, keep you from thinking,” Hannibal said, planning to eat Will and likely knowing Will had plans in place for him too. When the two exited the museum, both limping physically and symbolically, Will tried to make his move: he took out a knife, aiming to attack Hannibal. But little did he know that Chiyoh lurked from the rooftops above, with a single goal in mind: making sure Hannibal would wind up in a cage. It’s no surprise then that she didn’t hesitate for a second and shot Will, who later woke up at Professor Sogliato’s, only to be drugged by Hannibal again and be fed a parsley and thyme infusion that would make him taste better. With what was in store for Will, it was a relief when Jack finally showed up, but that relief didn’t last long: “He’s under the table,” Will whispered before Lecter sliced Jack’s ankle, tied him up and made Jack watch how he took a circular saw and started carving into Will’s temple. It was twisted, terrifying and yet another inspired moment of Fuller and his writing team; the eating of Paul Krendler’s brain is one of the most iconic scenes from the Hannibal book and movie, and it was adapted wonderfully and re-purposed here to great effect.
Before we got to the actual eating a flash-forward followed though, of Will and Hannibal waking up, hanging upside down in one of Mason’s slaughterhouse trucks. “Gentlemen… welcome to Muskrat Farm,” Verger said, just before the credits rolled. And with it a stellar episode ended, involving all the above, gorgeous hallucination visuals, a trippy kaleidoscopic sex scene between Alana and Margot Verger, a tense elevator moment with Chiyoh and Jack, and, overall, just a lot to really sink your teeth into. Next up is ‘Digestivo’, with which the current arc will be brought to its conclusion before introducing us to an entirely fresh story, featuring the infamous and beloved Red Dragon character Francis Dolarhyde, portrayed by Richard Armitage. Once can only wonder what Fuller’s take on the source material will be…
‘Dolce’ fired on all cylinders and is one of the show’s best episodes. It certainly is Season 3’s best one yet. 10/10