After the visceral violence of ‘Dolce’ last week, everyone’s fate was in the air. Will and Hannibal had been delivered like pigs fed for the slaughter to the doorstep of the twisted Mason Verger, where all the various plotlines of the season were to finally churn together. This third season of Hannibal has been slow at times, and more than a little self-indulgent with its artistic flair but ‘Digestivo’ has cut all that fat; all that remains is the lean, gruesome meat. The episode opens with Will and Hannibal tossed into the crucible to stew as Mason milks the occasion for all its worth. The depths of Mason’s depravity have been explored before but his plans for Will and Hannibal drops those depths to new lows. Meanwhile, Alana and Margot begin to realize that this whole plan is more than slightly insane and the humanity that separates the Alana Blooms and Will Grahams of the world from the Mason Vergers and Hannibal Lecters begins to surface once again. In terms of quality, ‘Digestivo’ doesn’t quite eclipse ‘Mizumono’ in terms of sheer shock value and gut-wrenching impact, but it does provide a deeply satisfying end to a plot line that began all the way back in the very first episode. If Hannibal ended with ‘Digestivo’, the episode would be hailed as the perfect send-off for the show.
The most vital aspect of the episode, one that puts it among the top three episodes of Hannibal ever, is the way it portrays the menace of Hannibal Lecter. Throughout the show’s run, Mikkelsen’s Hannibal has always had an ominous, sinister aura around him but somehow this episode highlighted just how utterly inhuman he is. Mind over matter is fine as a fitness mantra but there reaches a point were response to pain is a biological response that cannot be supressed. Hannibal’s total lack of any sort of reaction to the casual cruelty inflicted on him by Cordell and Mason showcased just how far out of their league the latter pair are. There was rush to escape, no fear, no anger – Hannibal was somehow in control throughout the entirety of his forced stay at Muskrat Farm and that too despite Mason’s very best attempts at creating some kind of fear in the man. This mismatch between what Hannibal is feeling and what his captors want him to feel is perhaps best captured by Hannibal’s imprisonment in the pig pen. Naked and forced into an extremely uncomfortable position, Hannibal not only somehow manages to retain his dignity but also gives the impression of a dangerous beast being barely restrained. When he was freed, it was immediately clear that the Verger plan had gone horribly wrong. Beyond that though, his general amusement at the creativity and attention to detail that Cordell paid to his food preparation gave us a rare, light-hearted glimpse at just how cold Lecter can be. Cordell was always a poor man’s Hannibal and it must have tickled the kidnapped psychopath to see that Mason missed him enough to hire a less refined version of himself. Of course, all of Cordell’s careful creativity wasn’t really enough to save him and he was slaughtered off-screen, deemed unworthy of any more of our attention.
This episode also marks the effective end of yet another chapter in the long, complicated relationship between Will and Hannibal. There was a certain pride in Hannibal’s eye when Will tore a chunk of Cordell’s cheek out of his face but it seems that Will has had enough. It’s hard to blame him – in the course of this season alone he’s endured more physical agony than several of Hannibal’s victims. Their parting scene is interesting; Will is entirely at Hannibal’s mercy, alone, injured and defenceless but he still chooses that exact moment to tell Hannibal that they are done. As far as breakups go, it’s amicable enough; Will promises not to pursue Hannibal any further and while he doesn’t put any conditions on Hannibal, he makes it clear that their brief, fiery ‘friendship’ is at an end. Hannibal will no longer haunt the halls of Will’s memory palace, despite Hannibal’s suggestion that he (Hannibal) will always have a place there. It’s an interesting reversal from Hannibal’s parting with Bedelia Du Maurier, in which it was Bedelia who held the power in their parting, catching Hannibal off guard. Will parts ways with Hannibal when he (Will) is at his most vulnerable while Bedelia does so when Hannibal is at his weakest. Perhaps that a good summary of the dynamics each character shared with Hannibal – Bedelia was somehow able to always keep a step ahead of Hannibal while Will was always a step behind. Hannibal, for better or worse, isn’t the kind of man to take a break up well and so, he does something we would never expect – he turns himself in. Yet, no one, least of all Jack Crawford, who has wanted the pelt of the Chesapeake Ripper for years now, is mistaking his surrender as a sign of defeat. Jack didn’t catch Hannibal and he knows it; Hannibal surrendered, perhaps realising that life without Will isn’t quite as interesting as he would think. In custody, he knows that Will will always know exactly where he is and he can continue tormenting Will with impunity. If nothing else, the question of whether or not to meet Hannibal for a quick chat will always be in Will’s mind.
In other news, Mason Verger has left the building, even his actual death was somewhat underwhelming. Mason has consistently been one of the most repulsive characters in a series that frequently features the most violent, deranged members of society but Joe Anderson deserves a huge round of applause for how seamlessly he transitioned into the role; from Michael Pitt’s interesting gestures and mannerisms to the character’s unique drawl, Anderson was an excellent Verger. Mason’s death at the hands of Alana and Margot is fitting – after all that Margot has had to endure at Mason’s hands, it is satisfying to see her get her cathartic revenge. However, it leaves Alana’s characterization as a little spotty – her willingness to torture Hannibal slowly is somewhat understandable but it feels strange that she is willing to go so very far when she has suffered the least at Hannibal’s hands. Of course, that is not to say that defenestration is a pleasant experience by any means, but compared to the kind of sickening agony that Mason, Will and Jack have had to go through, it does feel a little like Alana is overreacting. Her question to Hannibal, asking whether she could ever have understood him, was a little touching because it indicated that she was painfully aware of just how badly mistaken she was in the past but the question also deserved nothing more than Hannibal’s blunt, almost disdainful denial; Will was and will remain the only one who understood Hannibal Lecter. The women’s betrayal might have been better depicted if it came after the pig surrogate – it’s unclear whether Mason somehow grew a human foetus in a pig or if he implanted a dead foetus in a living pig. It’s also unclear which is worse but that entire scene seemed surreal, even for a show like Hannibal.
With the great Will-Hannibal relationship finally over and done with, it seems like a Red Dragon might be running amok in the next episode. Francis Dolarhyde is easily one of Tom Harris’ most terrifying characters – surpassing Harris’ version of Hannibal Lecter in some ways – and it will be interesting to see how he squares against Fuller’s version of Hannibal. It is also going to be interesting to see how the series treats Hannibal’s imprisonment – clearly, they will be consulting him in much the same way that they consulted Will in the previous season but they might not realise Hannibal’s connection with the killer until it’s too late. With so many changes to the original cannon, it is difficult to make any predictions but the series’ finale should be spectacular, if it’s halfway mark is any indication.