Sunday, June 28, 2015

HANNIBAL Ep. 30: "Apertivo"



In which the dead…the dead at least have the luxury of being done with what they lost.

“Not all our choices are consciously calculated.” (Will)

Four episodes into Hannibal’s third season, it’s become readily obvious that there’s no escaping the events of Season 2’s final salvo, “Mizumono”, no healing from the Lecter House Massacre aside from the various layers of psychological scar tissue that each victim has formed (the physical manifestation of which Cordell so delights in describing to Mason.)  In total, those first two seasons formed a closed circle of trauma and violence, the apocalypse at Garret Jacob Hobbs’s residence looping back on itself in the final confrontation between Will and Hannibal.  And with that circle closed, its main actor abandoned the hermetically sealed murderworld that he created, leaving his victims trapped within, gazing out toward him while choking on the fetid air on which they were left to subsist.

Or maybe that closed circle actually formed around the glass ceiling of sanity under which Will, Jack, Alana, etc. precipitously hovered, its pressure finally shattering that barrier into a million pieces and sending the players crashing back down to the bottom.  Shattered glass, shatterings of all sorts are a prominent motif in “Mizumono”, and they’ve continued to recur in Season 3, especially in “Apertivo”, which beckons the plot back in time to fill in the blanks between the events of last season and Will’s search for Hannibal in Italy.  The opening flashback to Frederick Chilton’s near assassination by Miriam Lass features not only the shattering of the interrogation room window by her bullet, but the grotesque rupturing of the back of his head, the blood spatter from which drenches the screen before subsiding to reveal the reconstructed, yet still fundamentally broken, Chilton of today.  The flashback to Hannibal’s gutting of Will (which is becoming the central and defining trauma of his life, replacing that of his murder of Garret Hobbs) includes an interior close up(!) of the rupturing of his stomach.  Of course, Alana’s iconic plunge in “Mizumono”, seen here again, sent her crashing through the second story window of Casa de Lecter, her prone and broken body left to absorb a cascade of glass and rain.  Jack’s flirtation with death comes courtesy of a shard of glass embedded in his neck and Mason Verger’s fate is sealed by his drug-induced rupturing of his face and Hannibal’s shattering of his spine.

It’s a great indicator of the chaotic, deformed world of this season that the returning Chilton serves as the guide who attempts to bring these characters back from their state of spiritual disembodiment.  But, well….Humpty Dumpty and all.  There’s no real returning to the land of the living for these members of the walking dead.  As Chilton tells Will “The optimist believes we live in the best of all possible worlds; the pessimist fears this is true.  This is your best possible world, Will.  Not getting a better one.”  Like Hannibal’s other victims, his motivations are driven by revenge most personal, an inversion of Lecter’s methodology of elevating his victims into transcendence via his murder tableaus.  Chilton’s desire is to drag Hannibal back down into his torture dungeon, to exert command over him once and for all.  Alana, with bone marrow in her blood, transforms herself from the show’s beacon on optimistic goodness into a femme fatale, her dark sexuality seemingly a weapon at the service of punishing Hannibal for his sexual manipulation of her, a means, as she notes to Mason, to “get him to the stage” of the Verger-designed theatre of his death.  Jack’s drive to abandon the pain of his FBI life following Bella’s death is derailed by Hannibal’s conciliatory note, which draws him to once again serve as protector to Will, to see their original mission completed this time.

“Oh wrangling schools, that search what fire
Shall burn this world, had none the wit
Unto this knowledge to aspire,
That this her fever might be it ?”
(“A Fever”/John Donne)

This excerpt from Donne’s poem about a long lost love serves as Hannibal’s elegy to Bella in his card.  It also encapsulates so much of the tone of this season, as characters are driven by a fever of madness and despair for the death of their former lives.  Nowhere is this stronger than in Will’s vision quest toward…what?  As he notes in the quotation that opens this essay, logic and reason went out the window a long time ago.  In a week in which Hannibal was felled by the low ratings-driven axe wielded by NBC (alternate destinations for a prospective Season 4 remain), this quote also encapsulates so much of what is inscrutably sticky and phenomenal about this show.  Its distortion of temporal solidity and its willingness to wade into moral and ethical ambiguity (especially in relation to its ostensible protagonist) take it to places that most televisual works dare not tread.  And its desire to trace the outer limits of free associative psychology, both in its characters and its formal style, presents often daunting challenge to the viewer.  A network horror drama gains much of its allure from the hero’s search for order amidst the chaos; when that hero slowly begins to embrace the chaos, to enter a dark romance with it, where does that leave the viewer?  Bryan Fuller would likely argue that this is the whole point, that falling into the chaos can be a liberating experience for the audience.  But the discomfort that results from a viewership weaned on plot-driven narratives probably prevents much of that from happening on a mass scale.

Will’s long-standing fear of plunging into these liminal depths was what drove him to near-madness in the first two seasons.  But his passage through Hannibal’s underworld, and his passionate embrace of death, has left him without the restrictions of that thought process.  He appears to be psychologically freestyling through his days, moving inextricably towards a return cycle in Hannibal’s orbit (as Chilton so succinctly puts it).  And it’s this sense of freedom, this exploration of the Freudian death wish, that makes him just as much of an unwitting pawn as he was at his Encephalitis-plagued nadir.  The revenge-driven quartet of Chilton, Alana, Mason, and Jack all seem to be pushing Will back out into the stream of life, bait once again for the big catch that is Hannibal Lecter.  What they might not fully realize is the extent to which they might follow him out into that stream, and maybe how far they’ve already drifted away from the shore of reality and sanity.  After all, Hannibal was the one who left Will just whole enough to live another day….

Leftovers aplenty this week:

*Will’s fantasy vision of he and Hannibal garroting Jack at the dinner table is scored to Edward Grieg’s The Death of Ase, from his suite to Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt.  It’s stirring material, but there’s also a bit of Peer Gynt’s vagabond ways about both Hannibal and Will.  Act One of the play sets up Peer’s story, and much like Hannibal’s second season, Act Two features the main character descending into a fantasy world, before becoming an outcast/outlaw in Act Three.

*Joe Anderson takes over for Michael Pitt as Mason Verger…which is probably the best timed actor transition in recent history, the latex skin-grafted face he now wears erasing most obvious demarcations of such a change.  Mason’s quasi-religious conversion is fascinating stuff.  His view of himself as being in league with Christ, especially in the context of Hannibal as fallen angel (which Bryan Fuller has remarked upon in the past), forms a world in which the Verger estate becomes the Heaven to which this seraphim must be drawn back into.  Talk about every cop is a criminal, and all the sinners saints…

*Glenn Fleshler debuts here as Cordell.  In an amusing twist, he also played George Remus across several seasons of Boardwalk Empire, including a stint in Season 2 in which he did business with Jimmy Darmody…who was played by former Mason Michael Pitt.

*It’s great to see Raul Esparza back as Chilton, his perpetual smarminess tamed here by an obsession with payback for the deformation of his body and soul.  The moment of unmasking that he and Mason share (“You show me yours, I’ll show you mine”) is, in keeping with the show’s twisted tone, both grotesque and mildly kinky.

*Once again, DP James Hawkinson creates a stunning visual landscape for this episode.  He continues to use rack focus to separate characters in the frame’s field of depth, but here he also utilizes several crossfades between the profiles of several actors.  The effect is once again to simultaneously unite these visages in the frame, while showing how truly, figuratively distant they are from each other.

*“The riot of lilacs in the wind smells nothing at all like the stockyards and slaughterhouses one usually associates with the Verger name.” (Margot, to Alana)

*”You see, I’m free Dr. Bloom.  I’m right with the Risen Jesus, and it’s all okay now.  And nobody beats the Riz.  He will rise me up and smite mine enemies and I shall hear the lamentations of their women.” (Mason, paraphrasing his lines to Clarice Starling from Thomas Harris’s Hannibal)

Friday, June 19, 2015

HANNIBAL Ep. 29: "Secondo"



In which we have been each other’s prisoner for a very long time.

Writing about Hannibal for the past few months, first in my marathon sprint through the first two seasons and now on a weekly basis as the new chapters of this story unfold, has been a fascinating experience.  Much as I explored my own memory palace in writing about the first season of Mad Men and my teaching experience with it, so too did re-examining Hannibal’s maiden run allow for a relaxed sense of analysis and evaluation, expansive in its depth and breadth, aided and abetted by the dramatic irony inherent in a second viewing.  But also much as my continuation of those Mad Men essays with the final seven episodes, exploring the new season of Hannibal has been challenging and enriching on a completely different level.  Knowing that an endgame of some sort was imminent fostered a sense of overt prognostication in picking apart the final hours of Don Draper’s tale.  Conversely, while there are passages of Hannibal so densely packed with artistic allusions and philosophical musings that they easily blossom forth in grand flourishes on the page, there are also episodes that are so purely and aesthetically experiential that they defy attempts to overly analyze, instead inviting the viewer to become enveloped in their mad beauty, much as so many characters have envisioned drowning in the inky recesses of bathtubs, dark water, blood, and the like.

Such is the case with “Secondo”, which must be one of my favorite episodes of the series and a microcosm of why I love this show so much.  It’s a stunning achievement in cinematic narrative, in which Bryan Fuller and company employ a languid sense of atmosphere and lush visual scheme to hypnotic effect, even as pure plotting is relegated to the sidelines.  I’ve lauded the show’s more avant-garde approach over the past few weeks, but this episode pushes the boundaries of the form to even greater power.  And it does so by repurposing one of the more unheralded aspects of the Lecterverse mythos.

Hannibal Rising is an odd bird of a film, and an ever more perplexing addition to the Lecterverse.  Inspired by Thomas Harris’s prequel of a book, it presents so many pieces of a would-be compelling puzzle, yet fails to offer a unifying thread for connection all of them.  The rich cinematography and production design are alluring, and the rarified European atmosphere promises a deep and rewarding dive into Hannibal’s past.  The end result, though, is sometimes awkward and stilted.  A preamble to establish the wartime atmosphere that destroyed Mischa Lecter is necessary, but spending almost the entirety of the first reel engaged in such matters plays as overkill for a cannibal’s origin story.  Gaspard Ulliel bears the angular physiology and icy calculation of a young Lecter, but his switch to cannibal mode is completely jarring.  And there’s just a real lack of suspense or momentum in the material.  It’s beautiful, but inert.

“Secondo” is Hannibal’s most blatant attempt yet to appropriate Hannibal Rising’s contributions to the Lecterverse, and it’s a testament to the show’s greatness that it employs much of the same methodology of that film, but to so much greater effect.  Granted, following Silence of the Lambs and Ridley Scott’s Hannibal with a prequel film was always bound to be a challenging task, so deeply ingrained had that interpretation of the story become in the culture.  Bryan Fuller has had the luxury of building a parallel universe in long form for two seasons before diving into the deeper recesses of Hannibal’s origin.  The results are striking, as Will revisits the Lecter estate in Lithuania, a fog-enshrouded fortress straight out of the gothic horror tradition, Fuller channeling the spirit of Dark Shadows.

And that’s really so much of the episode: a total immersion in atmosphere.  There are long stretches of Will’s journey that are left dialogue-free, a daring gambit in a show that has pushed that gambit quite far in the past.  Fuller’s operatic bent for this season is in full effect here, but there’s also a creeping sense of the uncanny that pervades the action.  The returning Jack Crawford puts it best when he notes to Rinaldo Pazzi that both he and Will died at the hands of Hannibal.  Indeed, so much of this season so far has felt like a dreamlike depiction of…well, maybe not the afterlife, but at least an afterlife.  It lends credence to the mythological underworld motif that Fuller developed in Season 2, fashioning a netherworld in which all of these characters wander, disconnected from time and space (it’s still unclear what tangible connection Will and Jack have to their old FBI positions, let alone any official authority.)  When Bedelia notes to Hannibal that he’s drawing everyone back to him, it further cements the impression that the King of the Underworld has retreated to his domain in order to engage his former friends/betrayers on his own terms. 

This total immersion makes for enthralling viewing, even as it leaves me with much less to say than I normally do.  But that’s not the worst thing in the world, now is it?  And I get the feeling that when eventually viewed in the context of this season’s other episodes, “Secondo” will serve as a memorable movement in a 13 part masterpiece of a gothic horror aria.

To the leftovers we go:

*James Hawkinson employs rack focus to great effect here, setting Hannibal and Bedelia (and Will and Chiyo) as close in the frame, yet deeply separated by the shifting difference in their visual clarity.

*There’s also further emphasis on Bedelia’s part of the hazy line Hannibal toes between being her lover and her patient.  Her admonishment that she can find her way out of this situation no matter what might be a stark warning…or an amazing act of denial.

*For the second time in the series, we see Will create a death tableau to rival that of Hannibal’s work.  But this time, it’s with the man who murdered his sister.  And it takes the form of the Death’s Head Moth, the iconic symbol of Silence of the Lambs.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

ON HIGH IN BLUE TOMORROWS: The Big, Earnest Heart of TOMORROWLAND



                                               (Tomorrowland  SPOILERS ahead)

By this point of the Great Summer Film Extravaganza and Flying Hype Machine Show, you’ve likely heard the general consensus that has formed around Tomorrowland, Disney’s latest stab at spinning a lower-profile preconceived property into box office gold.  You’ve probably read the wildly mixed reviews, and the critical opprobrium consisting of words like “sermonizing”, and “underwhelming”, and “unbearably preachy.”  You’ve witnessed its branding as one of the company’s biggest financial flops of all time.  And you’ve possibly lumped it in with the dynamic duo of recent Disney live action flops, John Carter and The Lone Ranger, yet another misguided venture outside of the safety of their animation wheelhouse…although those two films were intriguing cinematic works in their own right.

And if this ends up being the lasting take on Tomorrowland….well, that’s a shame.  Because what Brad Bird and his creative team have crafted is a film very much of and for our time, an unabashed paean to imagination and optimism, and in some ways a self-reflexive critique of the modern corporate Disney machine.  It’s a cinematic dreamscape that profoundly embraces nostalgia for a bygone sense of adventure and hope, while also rejecting notions of becoming trapped in the prison that said nostalgia can so easily construct.

It should come as no surprise to anyone who’s followed Bird’s career that Tomorrowland is a rousing rejection of cynicism, and a nakedly earnest appeal for the wholesale embrace of idealistic passion.  Aside from the pre-Elizabethtown Cameron Crowe, Bird might be one of the few modern Hollywood directors to so ably balance such an approach while also delivering compelling drama (and in his case, widescreen thrills.)  With The Incredibles, he reshaped the contemporary superhero film as a Watchmen-inspired tale of familial dysfunction and the idolatry of heroism, all the while the centrality of such heroism in the cultural zeitgeist.  With Mission: Impossible-Ghost Protocol, he trumped standard expectations by delivering a fourth entry in an action franchise that played up the larger than life aspects of the series and the living cartoon hero aspirations of Tom Cruise.  The Iron Giant is still one of the ballsiest animated films of our era, a touching anti-gun, anti-violence manifesto in which we are the enemy and the classic giant robot antagonist is the ultimate defender of humanity (the climactic “Superman” scene still gets most people I know altogether misty.)  And there’s Ratatouille, a film about a cooking rat!

But even beyond his previous directorial efforts, Tomorrowland traffics in the intensity and necessity of rejecting cynicism.  And it does so in what seems to be some of the most obvious ways possible.  Following an apparent fourth-wall shattering address to the camera by Frank Walker (George Clooney), the action flashes back to young Frank’s trip to the 1964 World’s Fair in New York.  There’s a distinct possibility that some of the film’s financial struggles are the direct result of what this scene hearkens back to, and the cultural gap that such a hearkening invokes.  For so much of what is lost in the intervening years between that World’s Fair and the film’s present revolves around the wonder of the Space Age, the glorious Science Fiction aspirations of the ‘50s and ‘60s, when the dream of reaching the Moon and beyond was ingrained in the cultural DNA.  When young people imagined a near future of interstellar luxury and mind-bending explorational possibilities.  It’s no mistake that young Frank’s homemade invention is a jet pack; several generations of children grew up with such a concept as the fantasy toy du jour.

What the modern era of technology has given us has been both surpassed some of those expectations and wildly disappointed them.  The power and breadth of globally interconnected communications continues to progress at an astonishing rate, and nanotechnology promises to upend so many of our long-standing notions of health and longevity.  But the dreams of yore are too often left subservient to the wow factor of today.  There’s such easy mass access to most consumer technology, but the emphasis of so much of it is on the cycle of planned obsolescence, science fiction dreams reduced to superficial fashion chasing. 

That stark dichotomy is what might shape reactions to the film amongst viewers under, say, 30 and anyone older.  I grew up in the ‘80s, and yet I still felt a strong sense of that old Space Age wonder in the cultural influences that shaped me.  Bird establishes Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) as a young woman clearly shaped by the remnants of that philosophy, and yearning for a return to it.  Facing the end of her NASA engineer father’s livelihood and the shuttering of the space program in general, she continually returns to sabotaging the planned dismantling of the Cape Canaveral launching pad, a Sisyphean task that still brings richness to her life (even as dad tries to disabuse her of her idealistic notions.)  Casey checks off many of the boxes of a modern YA heroine: smart, beautiful, sassy, a bit of a tomboy and a bit of a prom queen.  It’s her total commitment to her idealism that really sets her apart.  She’s never chasing the unreachable boy, or cheating cancer, or railing against social injustice.  No, her aim is the resurrection of hope, the Proustian regaining of a lost time that she was never old enough to experience firsthand. 

The manner in which the film deals with this desire is fascinating.  It’s clearly advocating for the goodness, the rightness of the pre-Watergate, pre-reduced expectations era that it so lovingly evokes.  Yet it also proffers barbed criticisms of the exploitation of that nostalgia.  The entrance to Casey’s journey is her stop at the Houston sci-fi nostalgia store Blast From the Past.  But its run by a pair of androids masquerading as quirky eccentrics (a wonderful cameo by Keegan-Michael Key and Kathryn Hahn), and the scene ends with the complete obliteration of this temple of easy remembrance.  Walt surrogate David Nix continues to run the empty theme park that is Tomorrowland as his own personal refutation of the outside world’s progress.  He uses his greatest innovation (the tachyon harnessing monitor that the younger Frank invents…another nod to Watchmen?) to ultimately exploit the worst tendencies of humanity, abandoning the possibility of change when the intermittent broadcasting of the Earth’s potential fate yields only a further embrace of apocalypse culture.  This plot point, in particular, deftly walks the tricky line between hope and despair; it’s made quite clear that too much of the human race doesn’t want to strive for a future that makes today uncomfortable, and yet the possibility that those who haven’t given up this hope could sway the majority is the mission on which the film’s end rests.

At the heart of this mission is Clooney, slyly subverting his confidence merchant screen presence as a broken-hearted boy trapped in an aging man’s body.  His pseudo-Nabokovian sadness over the loss of eternally youthful android crush Athena forms the most obvious emotional thread of his psyche, although his greater existential despair is over that magical Space Age world of his childhood.  The country house in which he lives his hermetic existence bears all the trappings of a youthful imagination, even though it’s gone to seed and sealed itself in a milieu that merely observes collapse instead of striving to change those conditions.  Clooney is so good in this role because above most modern screen icons, he’s maintained a youthful playfulness in the shaping of his suave, modern-day Cary Grant persona.  And he’s always shown a willingness to display his classically, philosophically romantic side, especially in service of characters whose sense of that feeling has been terminally bruised or damaged.  His real-life political and social activism can’t be entirely escaped when watching his performances, so seeing a man who is the ideal on so many levels for so many people portraying such a disillusioned dreamer is moving on a dramatic and meta-level.

It’s the potentially larger meta-commentary on display in the film that also makes it compelling beyond just the optimism and awe.  For as earnest as Uncle Walt’s proselytizing for the Space Age might have been, it was also (to paraphrase Frank’s initial admonishment to Casey) a commercial for the Disney empire.  Tomorrowland itself serves as not only an extended commercial for the Magic Kingdom’s sub-section, but for the newly acquired Star Wars properties (prominently featured in the toy store scene.)  But this is quite the subversive bit of self-advertisement, as this Tomorrowland is a faded paradise that has been too often neglected or exploited for the few.  It’s shades of the old Eisner-Katzenberg Disney kingdom, which rejuvenated the company before descending into a steady stream of projects aimed more at shareholder profits than artistic greatness.  Even in the post-Pixar, post-Lasseter era, Disney is still one of the largest corporations in the world, as much profiteer as cultural inspiration.  But if the Pixar era has done anything, it’s proven that corporate cash cows can still double as transcendent works of art.  And it’s brought a renewed sense of the old Imagineering ideal that the Walt-driven studio pioneered, even as accusations of wage-fixing have dogged the company in the interim.

But on a meta-level, that’s sort of the point that Tomorrowland drives home.  The world is deeply flawed, but to believe in the potential for change is what gives humanity its soul.  It’s only by cynically exploiting or abandoning idealism that things become worse.  Such a sentiment might seem treacly and preachy to some, but in an era in which so many possibilities exist, it would be sad to only focus on dreams that end in Big Data results or data-mined profits.  It would be sad to give up on dreams, even ones that spring from childhood, and the infinite paths down which those dreams could take us.     

Saturday, June 13, 2015

HANNIBAL Ep. 28: "Primavera"



In which you are already dead, aren’t you?

The seismic impact of the events of “Mizumono” (Hannibal’s Season 2 finale) has cleaved the already fragile psychological landscape of the show, a shattering that through two episodes of this third season has produced a surreal new state of being for the main players.  “Antipasto” saw Hannibal Lecter firmly ensconced in a fairy tale existence of his own creation in Florence, Italy, the tonal nature of the episode assuming his decadent mindset.  So it only makes sense that “Primavera” would offer a mirror image depiction of Will Graham’s post-“Mizumono” existence, a nightmarescape to reflect Hannibal’s dream life.

The opening itself is as much an indicator of this as anything, and serves as a bold stylistic gamble for Bryan Fuller.  For here is almost the entirety of Will’s time in the Lecter House Massacre replayed, with only a few minor omissions (Hannibal’s entreaty, “Come to me Abigail”, curiously among them.)  Viewers of last season’s cliffhanger might wonder why they’d need to see this scene in such detail.  In some ways, it can be seen as a gambit to refresh new viewers (although there are easier ways to do so.)  But upon some reflection, this wholesale repetition makes more sense than I thought.  Hannibal has always traded in a profound sense of cyclical torpor, of the guilt that so many of these characters feel for the violence that they failed to prevent, and that threatens to re-emerge at any time.  And the end of Season 2 brought with it the ultimate example of this cycle, as Will was forced to witness Abigail’s murder immediately after realizing not only her surprising survival, but also her fealty to Hannibal.  Replaying these events in full places the viewer, once again, in Will’s mindset, forcing them to experience once again the trauma that haunts him.  To have their own Graham-esque empathic vision.

The difference, in this case, is that we get to see the full force of Will’s trauma.  Season 2 concluded with his POV of the nightmare stag lying across from him in its death throes.  In this version of events, it gushes forth a river of blood that envelops Will and Abigail, sending him slowly descending into its depths.  Once again, Fuller uses the liquid motif (as he notably did with Alana and Bedelia) to symbolize Hannibal’s overwhelming and amorphous power, although those previous instances utilized an inky black substance.  And in this seeming greatest hits of Hannibal imagery, Will’s descent cuts to Lecter’s teacup crashing to the ground once again.  But this time, the cup takes the form of Will’s face, and then reassembles itself as he emerges from unconsciousness in the hospital.  Only to be visited by Abigail Hobbs.

As I mentioned in last week’s essay, Fuller has been explicit about abandoning the procedural trappings that served as the backbone for the show’s first two seasons in favor of a more surreal, operatic approach.  Thus, this episode’s beats and pacing give the proceedings the feel of an extended aria of pain, the plot mechanics of the hunt for Hannibal only popping up as mild flourishes.  Until the climax, it’s never quite clear what is real and what is a representation of Will’s shattered psyche, especially in terms of Abigail’s presence.  As always, Will’s greatest fear is the intrusion of the ghosts of his nightmare visions into the real world, and it’s here that Abigail finally springs forth from the safety of his fly fishing dream into the role of inquisitor and constant reminder of his failures.  Her final acts of life were to affirm her loyalty to Hannibal and to follow his orders into death; the version of her that haunts Will continues to believe in Hannibal’s promise of “a place for us”, an escape for the twisted family that they’ve formed.  It’s only when Will tells her that “A place was made for you, Abigail, in this world.  It was the only place I could make for you” that her neck wound reopens and she disappears.  But as we see in the subsequent montage of his post-massacre examination and her embalming, which culminates in an overhead shot of her corpse overlaid with his present day figure reclining on the church altar stairs, Will seems destined to forever be haunted by her, the one that got away (to use his own fishing terminology.) 

Even in that moment of apparent finality, there’s still an ocean of ambiguity enveloping the action.  Will seems to be describing the place he made for Abigail in his visions and dreams, although there’s the possibility that he’s describing the safety that he thought he was providing her in the aftermath of her father’s death.  And the tone of their conversation is still that of the lost lovers of a great Casanova figure, which might disappoint viewers expecting Will to clearly turn on Hannibal once and for all.  I’ve praised the show before for embracing this ambiguity, but it bears repeating that fully committing to such a complex dynamic between protagonist and antagonist is such an audacious move in the modern network environment…or the modern media environment.

The prime setting for this episode (and for a good chunk of “Antipasto”) is the legendary Cappella Palatina in Palermo.  In my essay for “Mizumono”, I argued that Lecter’s house ended up assuming the psychogeographic dimensions of Will and Hannibal’s shared mental landscape, and thus trapping anyone who entered in a whirlpool of death.  The Palatine Chapel takes on these same dimensions for Season 3, serving as a sort of psychological nexus point for not only the characters, but the show itself.  The famed mosaics, a combination of high elegance and more base aspirations, reflect the show’s deft mixture of a refined aesthetic with grittier and gorier matters.  Indeed, the combination of such varied architectural styles and designs in its structure further cement the very sui generis nature of Hannibal. 

And beneath the artistic glory of the chapel lies the old chapel upon which its built, which also doubles as a crypt, a further nod to the darkness lurking underneath the glossy surface of both Hannibal and Hannibal.  It’s put to great use in this episode, as Will deduces that Hannibal is still at the scene of his grisly “valentine written on a broken man” tableau, and descends into the crypt to find him.  This climactic scene toys with our perceptions once again, turning the crypt into a fugue zone in which temporal boundaries are stretched to their limits.  It also recalls the many permutations of the labyrinth, with Hannibal possibly serving as the minotaur at its center.  It seems somewhat strange that he would still be right there, and it’s never 100% clear if the Hannibal we see is meant to be his corporeal figure of a manifestation of Will’s desire.  But in keeping with the Chapel’s symbolic status, Hannibal hiding in plain sight would be appropriate, while also emphasizing his status as King of the Underworld (befitting the fallen angel status that Fuller has bestowed upon him in several interviews.)

Will’s final words to Hannibal are “I forgive you”, the answer to his request from eight months hence.  What this means, and whether it even matters now, is unclear.  But the final image, of Will fading into the darkness, speaks volumes about his current state.  As Rindaldo Pazzi notes in the quote which opens this essay, he’s for all intents and purposes a ghost haunting this world.  Whether his hunt for his nemesis/friend/partner in existential romance can restore his humanity once again remains to be seen.  But for now, Will Graham remains a man lost between two worlds.
To the leftovers we go:

*The introduction of Rinaldo Pazzi (Fortuanto Cerlino) is, of course, a nod to that character’s role in Thomas Harris’s Hannibal.  As in that version, his hunt for Hannibal as Il Mostro, the Monster of Florence (his own one that got away) is his main motivation.  But in introducing Will and Rinaldo to each other, Bryan Fuller gives his FBI profiler another twin figure to complement his more cannibalistic one, a man haunted by crimes left not properly punished.

*“Hannibal doesn’t pray.  But he believes in God.  Intimately.”  (Will)

*This episode contains some of the show’s most surreal imagery, but Will’s vision of Dimmond’s decapitated corpse sprouting stag horns and feet surely ranks as one of the most strange and disturbing in the series’ run.  Here again, we see a most ecstatic combination of the sacred and the profane, the desecration of death cohabiting with the religious beauty of the Chapel.

*It’s notable too that aside from the opening flashback, Hannibal has no lines in his brief cameos.  Whether this means that he’s merely a part of Will’s vision or not is delightfully unclear.

* “We didn’t have an ending.  He didn’t give us one yet…..If everything that can happen, happens, then you can never really do the wrong thing.  You’re just doing what you’re supposed to.” (Abigail, to Will)