19th Jul2015

‘Hannibal 3×07: Digestivo’ Review

by Gretchen Felker-Martin

“I don’t want to think about you anymore.”

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Watching ‘Digestivo’ is like driving past a fatal car wreck where orchids are blooming from the mouths of the victims and a panel of comedians are cracking filthy jokes at the people who slow down to gape. For sure it’s got the show’s signature blend of psycho-sexual mind games, bloody catharsis, and twisted relationships, but it’a also a sickly hilarious hour of television that pushes the show’s envelope on gore and horror. That the tender(if emotionally deformed) climax of the episode still feels appropriate at the end of an episode in which Hannibal rams a cattle prod up Mason Verger’s ass in order to harvest his sperm is a staggering achievement.

Season 3 of Hannibal has been ambitious in its handling of timelines. Backtracking to show Jack’s escape from the apartment in Florence lets the episode wind up slowly before charging into its skin-crawling second and third acts. It was also the first scene where Chiyoh really landed for me as a character, her awkward focus on finding Hannibal contrasting well with Jack’s wry request that she remove the needle jammed into his neck. The jump to the Verger estate brings us fully, claustrophobically into that gloomy pile of stone. The atmosphere begins to build until the idea of checking in on someone else or cutting away from the mounting sense of dread becomes unthinkable.  As tense as things get, though, and as often as I found myself physically nauseated by what I was seeing, I couldn’t stop laughing.

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Hannibal smiling with bemusement as his prison/Segway is wheeled to the dinner table and Cordell’s mild, “Hello,” after Mason introduces him as the man who’s going to cook Hannibal wouldn’t be out of place on Arrested Development. Will biting a chunk out of Cordell’s cheek is decidedly the show’s own brand of humor, as are Mason’s raft of icky lines like, “I’m sure you’ve had a chance to look under the hood” in reference to Margot’s opinion of Alana’s fertility. The contrast is great. Mason is grandstanding, trying to make his guests sweat, while Hannibal is just genuinely enjoying himself. “He’s always playing,” Alana warns Mason, and she’s right.

It’s tough to think of a more disgusting episode of Hannibal than ‘Digestivo.’ Cordell’s face getting sliced off, Mason’s revolting prank involving a sedated pig and a stillborn baby set up in a hellish parody of a nursery, that unfortunate moment with the eel… It’s hard to watch, but it’s also a reminder that the show is keenly aware that without Hannibal’s eloquence and flair for the philosophical and artistic, this is how we’d see his crimes. He’s an exceptional man, gifted and magnetic, but at the end of the day his actions are no different from the grotesque and cackling Mason’s. And speaking of Mason, Joe Anderson’s exit tonight was a beautiful bow on his scenery-chewing rampage through season 3. Mason waking up from anesthesia to what he thinks is his moment of triumph only to find his surgeon’s face draped over his own brings out a squalling, panicky flurry of activity ending with Mason getting dumped into his own eel tank after learning that Margot, thanks to Hannibal and a certain aforementioned cattle prod, will get everything he worked so hard to keep from her.

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After Hannibal’s inevitable escape from Verger’s clutches and the bloodbath that follows, elegantly condensed to a single shot of Hannibal holding a bloody hammer, things quiet down without losing a step. Hannibal escapes with Will, Chiyoh blasting Verger’s henchman off his trail, and spirits the wounded man back to his empty home. Will’s waking up in the cold light of morning to see Hannibal sitting thoughtfully at his side, journal in hand, is an image of almost painful domestic bliss, a glimpse from a picture book life that he knows can never exist. He tells Hannibal as much. “I miss my dogs,” he says. “I’m not going to miss you. I’m not going to find you. I’m not going to look for you. I don’t want to think about you anymore. I don’t want to know where you are or what you do.”

We’ve seen before that Hannibal’s affection for Will, bizarre and bloody as it is, is very real. This rejection, though, this refutation of their circle of forgiveness and betrayal, breaks Hannibal’s heart with audible suddenness.  “Not even in your mind?” he asks, half-begging. He tells Will that their memory palaces have begun to overlap, that he has seen Will triumphant in the halls of his own imagination, but Will only says that they can never triumph over one another. Hannibal, having just discovered that he wants not to consume Will but to live a life defined by him, must accept that the object of his desire has chosen to break away.

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Or at least that’s what someone who wasn’t a genius cannibalistic polymath might do. Hannibal contrives to have himself arrested, knowing that if Will knows his location his gravity will become inescapable. Will knows it, too. His hollow expression as Jack and his agents take Hannibal into custody is the look of a man who used every ounce of himself to make a stand only to have his enemy slip past him in the dark. He had the strength to let Hannibal go, but he doesn’t have the strength to hold him prisoner.

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