“If I saw you every day, forever, I’d remember this time.” That could be a line from, say, The Notebook, but it’s actually delivered by Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) during his overdue reunion with Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) in this week’s episode, “Dolce”. In an excellent hour full of gory bits and major plot developments, one of its best scenes was also one of its quietest. Sitting on a bench at the Uffizi Gallery opposite Botticelli’s Primavera (of course), both sporting fresh (and complimentary) wounds on their faces, Will and Hannibal have a long-overdue heart-to-heart. When Hannibal asks Will how he distinguishes between the past and the future, Will responds, “Before you and after you.” It’s a scene, like many on Hannibal, that could have provoked bad laughs but is instead unexpectedly moving. The last thing a show about a cannibalistic serial killer should make me feel is wistful, and yet, as Brian Reitzell quoted his own haunting, ethereal score for “Mizumono,” that’s exactly how I felt.
I’ve written before about season 3 as a post-breakup story, but Hannibal and Will’s reunion made it clear that theirs is a very particular kind of breakup story. It’s a scene that should be familiar to anyone who’s ever sat across from an ex, and seen clearly how bad they were for you, and yet you can’t quite shake the feeling that they understand you better than you understand yourself. It’s a beautifully crafted, emotionally complex scene, and a reminder of how strong an actor Hugh Dancy is. Much of the season so far has required Dancy to be in stoic, brooding mode, but he’s remarkably vulnerable here; Mads Mikkelsen naturally gets more attention for playing an iconic villain, and he’s fantastic, but Will’s journey (and Dancy’s performance) is the true heart of the show.
Of course, the danger of meeting up with an ex to rehash the past is you may fall into old habits, which is exactly what happens here. After being prevented from killing Hannibal by a bullet in the shoulder from Chiyo (Tao Okamoto), Will finds himself at the dinner with Hannibal and Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishbone) that the three never got to last season. When I saw that Hannibal was feeding Will broth, I realized this would be Fuller’s version of the grisly dinner party at the end of Harris’ book (for those who’ve seen the movie, this is the scene where Ray Liotta dines on his own brain). However, I didn’t expect it to go as far as it did, and as Hannibal’s bone saw cut into Will’s forehead, spraying blood everywhere (seriously, has NBC’s Standards & Practices department just given up?), the show briefly had me worried that was about to kill off its protagonist.
Will was spared, for now, though waking to find himself held prisoner by Mason Verger (Joe Anderson) is pretty much the definition of “out of the frying pan, into the fire.” The episode skipped over the details of how Will and Hannibal got there, but I suspect we’ll find out soon. Episode writers Bryan Fuller, Steve Lightfoot and Don Mancini (the writer of the Child’s Play series and director of the last two films) did an excellent job setting the next episode’s mid-season climax into motion; delivering a feast of great scenes and moments in the process. There was Mason’s fantasy of dining on Hannibal’s roasted corpse, the show finally paying homage to one of its spiritual predecessors, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (if you’re a Hannibal fan who hasn’t seen Peter Greenaway’s 1989 film, do yourself a favor). The show’s writers clearly enjoy coming up with ways to make Mason more and more disgusting, with actor Joe Anderson rising to the occasion, and they topped themselves with the image of Mason gagging on his meal of pig tails and marrow this week. And how creepy is it that, in Mason’s fantasies, he can walk but keeps his disfigured face? Even if this is because Anderson took over for Michael Pitt, it’s a telling detail that Hannibal‘s most grotesque monster has embraced his new look.
There were the scenes that allowed Gillian Anderson to play multiple levels, as Bedelia, as Jack put it, freebased her alibi. This was a great episode for Anderson, and I particularly loved Bedelia matter-of-factly telling Hannibal that “I knew you intended to eat me, and I knew that you had no intention of eating me hastily.” I also enjoyed the scene where Jack and Will interrogate Bedelia, which allowed Will, quite amusingly, to play the role of one ex throwing shade at another. The scene was echoed in the one between Bedelia and Chiyo, where the two were visibly sizing each other up; Hannibal Lecter has broken a lot of hearts.
One ex of the doctor’s who has quite decisively moved on is Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas), who, we learn, is planning on turning Mason over to the FBI once he’s captured Hannibal, as she reveals to her co-conspirator and lover, Margot Verger (Katharine Isabelle). Their trippy, kaleidoscopic sex scene, with its bluntly vaginal imagery, was a masterpiece of getting deeply kinky within the boundaries of a network that isn’t as lenient about sex as it is about violence. And really, I can’t understand why Hannibal is struggling in the ratings—isn’t bluntly vaginal imagery exactly what the masses want? In any case, with the show heavily hinting at some of the more grotesque aspects of the climax of Harris’ book (Chekhov’s eel?), next week should be a hell of a ride.