‘Digestivo’, named after a drink that concludes a meal and is meant to ease to digestion of the previous courses, did just that: it wrapped up the current story arc in a fitting and satisfying manner. Satisfying here means absolutely twisted and insane, but what did you expect from a show with exquisite murder tableaux and the lovechild of a human heart and a ravenstag from ‘Primavera’. Maybe the episode’s greatest accomplishment, again, is that it stayed absolutely faithful to the source material but not slavishly so; the writers have once again taken from the books what worked, added their own ideas to it and changed what needed to change because of the continuity and dynamics of the show. Because of it Hannibal remains an absolutely inspired adaptation with a tone and sensibility of its own, and one that can surprise and shock any viewer.
This episode’s focus was on the Verger’s house of horrors, a mansion that seemed the manifestation of Mason’s crazed mind, vile tastes and cruel desires. The first thing Mason did when Hannibal and Will were delivered to Muskrat Farm was stick his knife in Lecter’s back to check the depth of the fat, before he dressed the two men up and told them about his plan: to eat Hannibal with Will’s face. Let me reemphasize that: Verger wants to take Will’s face off, make it his own and then eat Hannibal, a notion that’s likely as poetic to him as it is insane to anyone else. It made for interesting and horrifying dinner conversation, but the scene wasn’t without laughs. From Cordell introducing himself, to Mason talking about the Rotenburg Cannibal, to Hannibal’s visible amusement, there were lots of laughs to be had. As many horror aficionados know the genre is elevated by the right timing and emotional balance: you need the calm, funny or even romantic moments, in order for the scares to be effective and the audience to stay responsive. Hannibal‘s writers understand that all too well, and that spills out on screen: have Cordell explain to Hannibal how he’s going to prepare him, then have Lecter be charming, Mason be rude, and consequently have Will sink his teeth into Cordell’s cheek, spit out the man’s skin… and have Mason blink surprised and deliver a killer line. That’s comedy… and that’s horror.
Mason’s plan didn’t quite work out, of course: when he told his sister that he had already found a surrogate for the Verger baby, and that he had saved Margot’s eggs after having removed her uterus to have a “real” Verger baby, she went to see Hannibal, who advised her to kill him and told her he would take the blame. Margot and Alana, who casually shot a guard, then freed Lecter and had him save Will. Meanwhile they went looking for the surrogate… which turned out to be a very large pig carrying a dead baby. It was a gutwrenching moment, a sickening display of Mason’s sadism and madness, and Katharine Isabelle’s acting in this moment was fantastic: disgust, shock, grief and rage all washed over Margot in equal measure, and it was heartbreaking to see. Which made the confrontation between Mason and these two women very satisfying: Mason woke up with Cordell’s cut-off face on his own, before Alana and Margot confronted the panicked magnate. When Margot told him she had found his surrogate, the terrific Joe Anderson’s Mason let out a bloodcurdling laugh, not realizing yet how the tables had turned. When he found out Margot and Alana had acquired his semen with the help of Hannibal, he did however, but too late: before he could fire his gun Margot pushed him into the floor basin, held him down with Alana, drowning him before Mason’s pet eel fought its way into Mason Verger’s mouth and body. It was a gruesome display, a moment fans of the books had been waiting for for a long time; the moment everything Mason had created came back to bite him.
After having brought Will to safety, Hannibal then finally had a conversation with Chiyoh, who helped Lecter get away alive after having rescued Crawford back in Florence. She had now changed her mind, telling Lecter that some beasts shouldn’t be caged and that, not able to go home, she would watch over him. “Your obsessive and successful hunt, whose plight was it driven by?” Lecter then asked her. “Mine… or yours?” “Mischa’s,” Chiyoh replied, showing Hannibal that she was nothing like him or Will: here was a woman driven by compassion, not by a taste for cruelty and death. In response he called her stable, through a line used in a conversation with Clarice in the Thomas Harris novel Hannibal. Lecter also revealed that he ate Mischa, but that he didn’t kill her, which still leaves a lot of his past in the dark, but makes him a more human monster than how Will presented him to Chiyoh back in ‘Secondo’.
Talking about Will: the teacup has finally shattered for good, and Will was adamant about not seeing Hannibal again. “I miss my dogs, I’m not gonna miss you,” Will told Lecter. “I’m not gonna find you, I’m not going to look for you, I don’t wanna know where you are or what you do… I don’t want to think about you anymore. […] I don’t have your appetite. Goodbye, Hannibal.” It was a wonderful moment: Will had finally fought his way back to himself and understood once again how poisonous Lecter was, and how Hannibal had twisted him into something unlike himself. Brian Reitzell’s ‘Bloodfest’ once again underscored this moment and coupled with Dancy’s and Mikkelsen’s fantastic acting, it made for another wonderfully emotional moment. Lecter didn’t speak, but Mikkelsen’s facial expressions and eyes told you everything you needed to know, before he walked out the door and… later turned himself in when Jack arrived. “I want you to know exactly where I am… and where you can always find me,” Hannibal said looking at Will, who finally turned away and entered his home, before Jack smiled, knowing he had his man back.
‘Digestivo’ was a roller coaster ride of an episode that both concluded the “Hannibal on the run” arc and prepared us for what’s next: ‘The Great Red Dragon’. 9/10