In “Apertivo,” a cadre of fractious, murderous conspirators maneuvers to converge upon Caesar (okay, Hannibal). In Republican Rome, a lamb was sacrificed to Jupiter on the ides of each month, and it was by this date in March in 44 B.C.E. that a seer is reported to have told a scoffing Julius Caesar that harm would befall him. One historian reports that diviner was an Etruscan haruspex, or one who reads entrails and the livers of sacrificed animals. Hepatomancy. Hannibal would approve.
By leaving a handful of clever and resourceful victims alive—it's roster time!—Dr. Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) foresaw himself becoming the center of their attentions. But he's not only on their minds, because he's the gravitational point that everyone's preferred triggerman Will Graham is actually compelled to orbit, as Chilton points out to Alana Bloom, who has become much more interesting since her defenestration. Forget the Concerned Friend. Bring on the Crusading Fate!
Dr. Frederick Chilton (Raul Esparza) has always had a high opinion of himself. Since Season 1, he's been disemboweled, as has Will, with whom he thereby claims empathy. But Chilton's kidney was removed by Dr. Abel Gideon, a copycat killer trying to impress the real Chesapeake Ripper. So it's a wannabe that gutted this wannabe, and he'll visit Will in the hospital after the Worst Dinner Party EverTM to position himself as a player. Even in his weakened state, and wishing Chilton were a bloodied ghost instead, Will won't give the smarmy headshrinker the satisfaction of parity. So, Chilton hies off with the same bouquet of flowers to see if there are any of Alana Bloom's new wounds that need salting.
Somehow, Chilton's been made aware that Mason Verger (Joe Anderson, who replaces Michael Pitt) may need therapy for his emotions as well as his ravaged features—you'll recall the sadistic scion of a meat fortune had to eat his own face late last season. When Baltimore's Dr. Phil shows up to Mason's house, he's asked to reveal the extent of his own grudge against Hannibal. In a stunning transformation, he shows his ruined eye, cratered cheek, and missing upper jaw to Mason's satisfaction. Even so exposed, he seems less interested in Verger's psychology than in making sure that the tycoon's expensive bounty will guarantee Hannibal's killed. In presenting himself, Chilton was standing at the foot of Mason's kingly bed, atop an inset, glassed eel tank, whose sleek modernity clashed a bit with the oriental rugs and Venetian glass sconces, I thought. Then again, Mason's segmented ceramic-looking mask made him look like a friendly Japanese household robot, so maybe such trauma changes one's taste.
Mason was targeted by an evil genuis, and it may have taken one to rebuild him. We get to see the awful reconstruction that turned gaping cavities into moguls of smoother, still painful-looking flesh. His savior is Dr. Cordell (the wonderfully-named Glenn Fleshler) and I'm already enjoying the chemistry between these two, the extremely disturbed rich guy and wickedly skilled servitor who's placidly willing to help with Hannibal's being eaten alive.“Oh, Cordell. If I had lips, I would smile.”
Speaking of catharsis, Dr. Alana Bloom's (Caroline Dhavernas) broken pelvis and spine are surrounded with spokes that screw into place and immobilize her. Similar to Will's case, she's being kept in a large, sparse room, and more than half naked. (The patients have amazing recoveries, so these unconventional conditions must work.) She's been given a lot of bone marrow, she says, and has been warned that her thoughts may therefore change. Deep memory can be stored in blood and bone themselves, which Hannibal would understand, though it's an uncomfortably metaphysical concept to explain to transplant recipients. As Chilton tries to nettle her, Alana's suited up like a bandaged sex angel with the halo (or the torturing Catherine Wheel, depending) corresponding to her point of vulnerability. But what's coming back from her isn't brokenness, but the calm acceptance of primordial darkness. Will is alive, because this is Hannibal's design. Jack is alive by his own volition, because he didn't pull the glass shard from his neck to bleed out. But Alana, pushed from the window by a panicking Abigail, owes her life to no single person we can see. She was spared by mysterious Fate and will become its handmaiden.
Like Chilton, she was pretty sure of her judgement, too—it takes a very intelligent person to be dumb enough to believe she can't be fooled. She seems certain now, too, but it's not seeming to come from a localized intellect, whatever gloss she maintains. To me, she's become more like a channeled force of nature, and it's very exciting. Best of all, it's unpredictable! In older times, winged harpies snatched up people for death, and valkyries swooped by air or steed to judge and collect the slain. These female figures were dreaded for their cozy association with violent demise. And where there's no pathology—can a sinkhole or a plague be reasoned with or hypnotized?—the erudite lose their competitive advantage.
She takes over stewardship of Mason's emotional wellbeing (ha!), but when she's bandying the finer points of religion and revenge with his nasty self, she doesn't give a damn if he chokes on his own spit. Despite Will's pushing her away, she's still dog-sitting for him to leave him free to avenge. This new, hobbled Alana seems unconstrained by rules and unruffled by cheap shots as she flits around in her black truck to facilitate and oversee the carnage to come.
Helpfully, Alana also tips Mason that the specificity of Hannibal's gourmet tastes will be his tell. Fans of the Thomas Harris novels will know how essential the Sauternes region's rare Chateau d'Yquem was to apprehending him. This season, we've seen Bedelia shopping at Florence's famous Vera dal 1926. (This is the place where the cheese and truffles are rumored to smell like the feet of God.) She's been buying a different vintage, Montrachet from the Burgundy region, but it's also a famous and very pricey white wine, so perhaps that will be the A-1, top-shelf hooch that snags Hannibal this time. And will Bedelia join the rest of the posse? We shall see.
Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) has retired from the FBI, he tells Chilton. Homeland Security has become the budgetary draw, not Behavioral Sciences. Right after the shrink pretends to ongoing trepidation over killers like Hannibal, he reminds Jack of the technical difference between copyrights and his trademarking of “Hannibal the Cannibal.” We're reminded again why he was always too petty to merit butchering by the genuine article. However, you have to enjoy his comments about disemboweling between Will and Hannibal being equivalent to flirtation. Lots of characters this episode took sly cuts at each other in conversation. A bloodless good time!
Of all the circling conspirators, Jack is the most forthrightly human. His own recovery from a grievous wound that actually killed him, at least for a little while, is sped past in favor of serving his wife, Bella (the luminous Gina Torres) as terminal cancer ends her days. He has become a conscientious caregiver to her. It is only after serving as witness and companion to her death—and there is Alana of the Endless Night again, helping to select the funerary garments—that Jack turns back to the question of Hannibal, and most of all, to the torment of Will Graham.
In flashback, we've seen clearly that Will held Jack down while Hannibal slashed him. Jack visits Will's snowy farm, where he finds him working on a boat engine. With this, and Chilton's remarks that Jack's simply letting Hannibal have Will “hook, line, and sinker,” we're reminded how Will repeatedly claimed to be a good, patient fisherman as he was setting last season's trap for Hannibal. But he admits to Jack now that he betrayed him, and phoned Hannibal because he hoped that his friend would run, even take him along. Because of Jack's persuasion, Will was brought into contact with Hannibal who co-opted and broke him. As we learned in Jack's more recent conversation with the Florentine inspector, that wrong is what he must remedy, cutting out what's killing him as Bella puts it.
At Bella's memorial service, Jack sees a lavish arrangement with a familiar, calligraphed script. It is from Hannibal, who expresses a sympathy that's so profound and sincere we might almost forget he manipulated Bella to suicide and then saved her, only to make her more wretched than before and effectively to distract Jack. The note includes lines from “A Fever,” a sonnet by John Donne for a love lost to illness. Here's a passage (full text with explanations at Poetry in Translation):
…O 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?
And yet she cannot waste by this,
Nor long bear this torturing wrong,
For much corruption needful is
To fuel such a fever long.
These burning fits but meteors be,
Whose matter in thee is soon spent.
Thy beauty, and all parts, which are thee,
Are unchangeable firmament….
When Jack shows up at the farmhouse again, Will's already left town, and Alana's acting as if Jack's role is simply Will's second in an inevitable duel. We close the episode with Will hurrying to raise his sail and get away. (No glasses in this scene, for those of you keeping score, though he wore them to the funeral.) Perhaps with all of his legal troubles, escaping over the Atlantic was the only way to get to Italy without risking a passport check. Next week, we'll return to Tuscany. The previews promise that Jack will dish out some payback for the misery Hannibal's caused. It can never possibly even out, but it should be fun anyway!
Clare Toohey is a literary omnivore, admirer of high-volume foodstuffs and death goddesses. 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.