Hannibal 3.03: “Secondo” Means Choosing

Dr. Lecter explains to his guests the importance of immediate, careful butchering. / Photo: Brooke Palmer for NBC

In “Secondo,” Hannibal and Bedelia lounge in matching rompwear, while Jack mourns Will, who torments the tormented in the Lecter family vineyards.

In the novels as here, the well-heeled Hannibal lives at Florence's beautiful Palazzo Capponi. At home in their gorgeous apartments, Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) is glum in a black satin something, and Dr. Bedelia du Maurier's (Gillian Anderson) matching him in the blackness of her garments and mood. The question of Will comes up, as it must, since Hannibal seems almost wistfully proud Will found him, and Bedelia thinks he may be stacking the deck for his favorite protegee. She tells Hannibal forgiveness takes two. It's an odd sentiment for a therapist and disastrous for the category of self-help books, entire shelves of which are dedicated to Letting Go. But at any rate, this will set up the first see-saw of the night, the axis between Betrayal and Forgiveness, the trembling, uncertain anticipation of which is compared in this conversation to falling in love. (And to think, I was concerned Willibal shippers might not get their share of joy.)

Bedelia seems remarkably sure, for the first time this season, that she'll be able to “navigate” a way out of her troubles. However, she puts the screws to Hannibal as to how and whether he will. She's prodding him with his recent self-destructiveness and the inevitability of his capture. Hannibal is almost supine as he tells her that Will is headed to a place he cannot go: home.

Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) has arrived at the crested gates of the vine-covered Lecter Dvaras, that's Lecter Manor in Lithuanian. Flanking the central device of the coiled snake, there are what looked to me at first like horses, but I now think might be foxes rampant. Horse-foxes? Anyway, delightfully creepy, as are the moldering towers and rambling buildings of the estate.

We get a look at the overgrown family plot, full of monuments, including a gravestone for Mischa Lecter, the sister to which Hannibal was like a father. It's decorated with fresh birds of paradise. Someone with an artistic temperament and a taste for the exotic has been tending it. Will camps in the surrounding woods with binoculars to see a lovely woman, who's also a dab hand with a shotgun. Chiyoh (Tao Okamoto) appreciates the game's beautiful feathers, right before she plucks them and gets to chopping. Her gentle smile contrasts with Bedelia's recent horror at the dripping hare at the market. We'll also be powerfully reminded of Hannibal's preference for fine Asian cutlery.

She’s the Wicked Witch in stories pheasant mommies tell their broods. /Photo: Brooke Palmer for NBC

Will seems at ease in the woods, the black stag looming comfortingly behind him, and his mind ranges into conversations with the Lecter in his head, the man he hopes to find by going backward, inward actually, rather than chasing forward. Lecter tells him more about his memory palace, about great snakes wrestling in the dark (the crest, we got it) and static rooms with painted shards of glass (this will come back, too). This episode, there is a lot of this kind of connective tissue between Hannibal's backstory and what we've learned about his likes and behaviors in Seasons 1 and 2. I'm not sure I need all the lines to have clear starts and terminations.

How did you feel about your sister? / Photo: Brooke Palmer for NBC

Back in Florence, Hannibal is throwing another dinner party, with thin-sliced meat arranged in slices that look like feathers or scales. He's invited Professor Sogliato (Rinaldo Rocco), the man who challeged him to the live interview in front of the faculty. He uses an ice pick to shave ice for Punch Romaine, a beverage served to the first-class passengers of the Titanic. Not all is collegial, so, well, Hannibal does what he does. He speaks as if he were taken aback by his own murderous swiftness. If so, he's the only one, except maybe the blinded and giggling, brain-stabbed Italian. Neither we nor Bedelia are.

When she puts the man out of his misery, this seems to give Hannibal a satisfaction the attack didn't: “Technically, you killed him.” Is this to knot their fates together, now that he knows Bedelia has her own escape plan, or just a bit of fun? She sees he's magnetizing the whole Scooby-Doo mystery-solving gang. Hannibal says “entropy descends into disorder,” a bit of nonsensical portentiousness which did not stand alone this episode. For some reason, these complex people kept making gross This Or That simplifications that seemed to telegraph cutesy reprises later. Unusual for a show which usually shows such restraint in re-stating.

They both believe in something, but it’s a dark truth. / Photo: Ben Mark Holzberg for NBC

A graying Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) meets up with Inspector Pazzi (Fortunato Cerlini) at the Norman Chapel. Once again, Pazzi's trying to gain an ally among people who understand Il Mostro, who's struck again (to his knowledge) for the first time in twenty years. “Not my house. Not my fire,” Jack says. He put Will's imaginative empathy to work on the Chesapeake Ripper, leading to he and Will being clinically dead for some period after the Worst Dinner Party Ever®, and Jack feels responsible that Will has been broken.

Will follows fireflies (?!) to a vine-bound fountain with a black stone angel that could've come from Pan's Labyrinth. Snails cover it—another direct then-vs-now link to Hannibal's epicurean passions. There's a curious child-sized red handprint on it, but soon enough, sneaky Will finds his way to the estate cellars, complete with more snails crunching underfoot, small bones, winevats, and one scrawny Caged Man (Julian Richings), guarded by Chiyoh at shotgunpoint. From the stranger, she wants a story, and asks for it a stilted, if poetic, way. The explanation of his being nakama to Hannibal, a close friend who left Will with a smile felt forced, too. When he actually raised his shirt to show the scar, as if we might not get the joke, I experienced a pang of concern. Don't go network on me!

He may be a disgusting alleged child-eater, but he’s crafty! / Photo: Brooke Palmer for NBC

The Caged Man is the one who supposedly ate Mischa, setting Hannibal on his wicked ways. But for some reason, Chiyoh wouldn't let the man be killed, so she's been stuck here, too, honor-bound to keep him alive, if barely. What evidence of the man's crime was there besides Hannibal's word, Will wonders. (How old could Chiyoh have been when this happened, I wonder.) Will says he's never known himself as well as he does when with Hannibal, so Jack's fears for his permanent derangement seem well-founded. “I would have cooked you, ate you….” he tells Chiyoh. Sentiment, aside, what happened to “eaten?” Will's damage includes verb tenses. Anyway, deep doubts about Hannibal's solely-attested account are uncovered.

Spring Lamb Liver and Lungs done to whistling! Favorites of Hannibal’s youth. /Photo: Brooke Palmer for NBC

More Florentines must be entertained to eat the evidence of another butchered Florentine (see Hannibal's pre-party prep at the top). His love for organ meat goes way back. The quinto quarto (5th quarter) refers to the way the Romans gave a carcass's innards to the poor after the best exterior quarters went in order to the nobility, clergy, army, and bourgeosie, Hannibal says, using an odd anachronism. Just like in the case of fishermen's lobster and BBQ ribs, the leave-behinds for the humble attained grace in their preparation, rising to become prized themselves.

Bedelia is sticking to oysters. No special ingredients. She seems to be so over Hannibal's hubris and colleauges for dinner, but every couple faces tough times. There's no discussion of how her false husband might feel about her, only his obsession with Will Graham, similar to the not-right kind of uncontrollable and dangerous fascination he felt for his sister. As Bedelia reclines later in the bath, Hannibal washes her hair, his hand with its false wedding ring sluicing through the lather. She asks him how his sister tasted and bobs away. Like the remora on the shark.

Will decides to make a choice on Chiyoh's behalf. He lets the Caged Man free and sets him loose in the woods with a blanket. Adaptation to freedom isn't always easy, and when unsuspecting Chiyoh takes down his next meal, the man's back in the cage…and prepared to attack her. She's forced to take his life, stabbing him in the jugular to save herself, and accuses Will of engineering it. It is a very Hannibal-like move, which he says was only to liberate her.

But then, he does another very Hannibaleque thing and poses the body, using materials from the cellar (remember the glass?) to make an arrangement the envy of any ghoulish M.F.A. More or less, it's the insectoid shape we learned from the memorable movie poster in the nineties. Did Will conceive it from his dream-Hannibal, or will he inspire him with it, so, in turn, Hannibal can give it to another killer? Hey, how about related weird and torturous facts about Silence of the Lambs from Les Hill of Butterfly Conservation:

The species featured on the film’s famous poster appears on first glance to be a Death’s Head Hawk-moth Acherontia atropos – the main identification clue being the white discal spot.

In [Thomas] Harris’ novel, a moth pupa left by the killer Buffalo Bill as a grisly calling card at a murder scene is identified as a Black Witch Erebus odora. But in the film, the pupa is instead identified as A. styx. The pupae used in the film are of the species Manduca sexta (Tobacco Horn Worm) although the very first 'pupal case' is actually made from a combination of Tootsie Rolls and Gummy Bear sweets, so it would be edible if swallowed….

The Death's-head Hawk-moths first brought in for filming proved to be Hollywood divas – they became too cold and couldn’t be used. Lookalike adult moths (M. sexta) were obtained and put in costume made of painted fake nails cut into shapes and glued on.

Oh, there's more at the link, amateur entomologists—read on! But next week, the many scarred, surviving members of the Justice League, Baltimore chapter, look like they're converging on Italy. And if Bedelia's annoyance is anything to go by, it's about damned time.

Clare Toohey is a literary omnivore, admirer of moldy stucco and wrought iron. Aside from editing The M.O. and site wrangling here, she freelances as an editor, writes short, surreal crime fiction, blogs at Women of Mystery, and tweets @clare2e.

See all posts by Clare Toohey at Criminal Element.


  1. Jt

    I love your summaries!

  2. Stacy

    Me, too! Excellent recaps!

  3. Melissa Keith

    SILENCE OF THE LAMBS is one of my favorite movies. Love the facts about the moths!
    Wonder why they’re canceling HANNIBAL after the third season?

  4. Clare 2e

    Hannibal wasn’t a big ratings grabber for NBC, but credit to them for letting it have at least 3 seasons to find its feet, a rarity, especially one that’s as different-looking and as differently written as this one.

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