[Review] - Hannibal, Season 3 Episode 5, "Contorno"

And now, in what appears to be a black smear across the proud forehead of this wonderful show, this review begins with a sad update concerning it's future. Between last week and this, the contracts of the principal cast members of the show - Mads and Hugh chiefly - expired. While not impossible, this would have made any new network interested in the buying the show more hesitant as a contract negotiation would almost certainly result in a higher cost, even with a cast that is so devoted and willing to participate in the series. To that end, Bryan Fuller has announced that both Amazon and Netflix have passed.

He had previously stated that Netflix was a long shot anyway, with Amazon being the natural choice as they already held the digital broadcast rights for the first three seasons. that both of the most logical alternatives have passed is not a great sign that salvation will come, though Fuller holds out hope and continues to shop the series to other venues, whilst also stressing that American Gods is his number one priority at the moment. Which leads me to wonder if Starz might not be something of a natural home for this cinematic smorgasbord. Hannibal has the critical reception that Starz has been desperately seeking in it's programming, a unique and original style, and it has clearly already made an impression on them, considering that they have agreed to work with fuller on Gods. And that wouldn't have happened if they weren't impressed with his previous output.

But these are dark thoughts for later. We're still not even half way through what is proving to be a fantastic season of treachery and defeat, and proof that even a show as artistic and stylized as Hannibal can go consecutive years without lapsing into self parody, loosing it's edge or failing to meet it's own high expectations. If only other shows had this much pride in themselves.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that have eaten thousands of snails.

I don't think that, in the two and a chunk seasons of Hannibal, that they've produced an episode that was such a direct adaptation of the novel material. True, until now, the show has existed in the pre-novel timeline. And the show has not been afraid to garnish itself with what I'm going to call micro-adaptations. Lines pulled form the text sprinkled here and there; events and confrontations reworked to fit a new continuum; the influence of the films merged into the situations of the novels and put on display in the environment of the series. But there is no hesitation or denial that they are fully into adapting the novel Hannibal at this point. And this episode was ripped from the pages as straight and without inhibition as they could.

Perhaps this was their dry run, knowing that the back half of this season will see them having to contend with doing a direct adaptation of the first novel. And confronted with the reasonable knowledge that they 1) would likely never get the rights to Silence of the Lambs and b) not last the seven seasons Fuller imagined to tell the full Lecter story, opted instead to fold time back in on itself and display yet again why I champion this show as being the best example of how to adapt a literary work. Allow the source material to work for you, instead of being constrained by the source. These events are separated from their literary timeline by nearly twenty years, and yet Hannibal's life in Italy seems just as natural (if not more so) in the immediate aftermath of his Dinner Party then far in the future. This might be my personal bias having undue affect, but I prefer short form story telling. And this show has proven that three compacted and highly attuned years of storytelling can be far superior to a seven or eight year slog rife with arrested character development and status quo worship.

So, let us for a moment, examine how Fuller and his writers have been able in three short seasons to adapt pretty much the entirety of three novels (one of which they do not have the rights to), plus an inferred backstory, plus incorporate elements from a largely derided origin story. This season will see the use of the Red Dragon plot, but the broader themes and smaller character moments of the book have already been put to use. Crawford's relationship with his wife, Freddie's involvement and hampering of Federal investigations, the complex friendship/hatred that exists between Hannibal and Will Graham. All forming the foundation on which the show was founded. Through largely original characters like Miriam Lass, Abigial Hobbs, Bedelia Du Maurier and Able Gideon, the show has managed to cover the major emotional arcs of the Hannibal/Clarice relationship, and all without violating copyright. And they have managed to fold the most sinister and most appealing aspects of the final novel into last year and this, providing necessary illuminations into the effect that Hannibal has on the world around him. Instead of operating into a vacuum of the series, Fuller has mined the novels so that everything matters in relation to Hannibal. Fuller had previously stated that his goal was to tell the most complete version of Hannibal's story, and I think he's already managed to do so. In all of this, the only major storyline that the show has failed to adapt is that of Buffalo Bill, which has the least to do with Hannibal and therefore has the least logical place as an element in a show that bares his name.

As strange as it may seem to say, Will moving into a secondary character's position this season has had a benefit, if only because his emotional journey has already been completed. His job this season was coming to terms with what Hannibal did to him, and he already did that. The net result will be a confrontation between them, but Will is in no position to instigate that confrontation on his own. He's already assumed the subservient position. Basically, until Will is presented with a new paradigm that could change his perspective, he's locked in stasis. His journey out of Italy, to the Lecter homeland, and back, is really just an excuse to get him away from the action so that we don't spend the first half of this season asking ourselves why Will doesn't just hug him or arrest him. Which works on this show because it gives him more time to contemplate, and hopefully come to grander realizations rather than live off the emotional decisions he's already made.

For me, the real question is: what is up with Chiyoh? I'm not convinced I know where this plot is going, and it seems like bringing in another surrogate character is just padding already explored territory. After this episode though, I'm starting to think that she might not be real. That she might be another symptom of Will's mind. Which he has an established history of doing, especially with the surrogate characters. And it would help to explain the irregularities of her age and backstory and that he just happened to find her when he most needed someone willing to feel anger towards Hannibal when he could not. If she is merely the repressed aggression that Will feels himself, then she can be seen as his mind's discussion between the increasingly distant and Hannibal-like side, the calculator, and his fiery passionate, emotional side. the side that kills needlessly and that side that grieves endlessly. And that his actions, like throwing himself off a train, are more emblematic of a deranged mind at war with itself then a random Asian girl getting pushy.

Because Will is currently incapable of confronting Hannibal with the sort of domination the confrontation would need, the role has been shifted to Jack, and this episode allowed that confrontation to happen. jack hasn't backed down like Will has. Jack stands tall and proud and hurt and is both willing and able to meet Hannibal head on. It wasn't as amazing and horrifying and beautiful as last year's fight, but the smack down Jack provided Hannibal (and it was entirely a one sided fight this time) was wonderfully cathartic. The last time, Jack was on the side of right, but he was emotionally compromised. He was a suicide bomber. This time, he has shed everything that gave his life meaning, leaving only a seething need for closure. And Hannibal was too buoyed by his abilities (and the adrenaline of a fresh kill) that he, for the first time, underestimated his opponent. It is telling that this was the first time we've seen Hannibal not be the best person in the room. He wasn't prepared, he wasn't in-tune, and he failed. For the first time, we can believe that Hannibal can be caught or killed, because he has shown that he isn't omnipotent. And it is in such a blind spot that he too can be claimed, from in front by Will or Alana, or from behind, by Jack or Bedelia.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


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