Hannibal 3.05: “Contorno” Means Accompaniment

She never expected to travel in the belly of the beast. / Photo: Sophie Giraud for NBC
Casually, contorno is a “side dish,” but that phrase isn't reverent enough for Hannibal 3.05's ode to accompanying women.

I've pointed out other instances in which the women in this show just won't go along, and instead run on their own tracks. In this episode, we're reminded how each acts from her own motivational center, and how different those may be from the crossing swords (and ass-kicking) of Will, Jack, Hannibal, etc. If other episodes have been largely about the senses of sight or taste, and we won't be deprived in this one, this episode also adds interest in sound, voices, music, and things fostered in silence.

We begin with Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and Chiyoh (Tao Okamoto) on a rocking train, like the one carrying a wistful-looking Hannibal in the series premiere. They're discussing how Hannibal schooled her to sharpen her sense of smell (perhaps to explain her tracking him later). The cannibal was already orphaned by the time she met him, she says, at the time her family sent her into service with his aunt, Lady Murasaki.

An artist’s rendering of Lady Murasaki
In case you haven't read Hannibal Rising by Thomas Harris, where this family relationship is central, Hannibal's uncle Robert has taken the exquisitely refined, Japanese Lady Murasaki as his wife. She and Hannibal will travel across France after the Count's death and the legacy's impoverishment. (In real Japanese history, Lady Murasaki is the pen name of an unsually well-educated lady-in-waiting of the 11th century's Imperial Court, who began chronicling the fictional lives and loves of nobility as well as writing poetry. In her famous story, The Tale of Genji, the demoted son of an emperor falls deeply in love with his stepmother, among others. See where this is going?)

In Harris's novels, his Lady Murasaki educates a younger Hannibal in Japanese culture and honor, and yes, they develop a more romantic than filial relationship. Defending her from boorish criticism because of her obvious cultural misfit becomes a perfect excuse for Hannibal's escalating violence. It's his intractably twisted need for vengeance that drives her away from him, but besides his sister, she is his most authentic love. Back to the TV series, it looks like we'll see Chiyoh serving that emotional role, but instead of being older than Hannibal, this “attendant” to his aunt can, of course, be younger. However, Japanese culture's formative importance in Hannibal's life, her refinement and mystical-philosophical character, as well as their previous romantic liaison are all implied here as carryover.

From their meeting in
Birds eat thousands of snails, we're told, and some will survive digestion to emerge whole, far from where they were gobbled up. We enjoy Dr. Hannibal Lecter's (Mads Mikkelsen) topless tippling with Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson) in coordinated satins—what's the over-under on His & Hers robes?—as they dicuss how cochlear gardens of snails will feed fireflies. Yes, yes, it's fuel for their glowing heinies and, by association, for Will's transformation. We're visually reminded of the bizarre art project Will left at the family estate. Was it playing empathetic What Would Hannibal Do? or will it yet be a lure?

I don't know, but this bantering profundity on the topic of whether sheep-herding dogs can be trusted not to savage the flock, Empathy vs. Reciprocity (remember Betrayal vs. Forgiveness?), and the “dumbfounded” Will wasn't my favorite bit. I'm supposed to wonder, truly, whether Will is becoming Hannibal, and I guess I don't. Not just because we know how this hunt ends, but because, as Chiyoh points out, Will is “malleable.” The core of him isn't Hannibal, but he shifts like a chameleon's skin, adapting to the dominant environment without necessarily conscious intention, though there's a trail of evolving visions through his subconscious that he should use as version control. Anyway, the best thing for him, I think, will be time away from monsters, say, eight years.

Arrivederci, Bella. / Photo: Brooke Palmer for NBC
Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) walks across Florence's Arno River, where he scatters Bella's ashes into the drink and follows with his wedding ring, a symbolic end of his service to her and of his time as Death's man-in-waiting. We learn that he and his wife met in Italy when Jack dines with the commendatore, that's Chief Inspector Rinaldo Pazzi (Fortunato Cerlino) of the Questura, who's enjoying his own vita nuova, or new life, with his young wife (Maria Maestro). They enjoy a traditionally Tuscan meal of pappardelle alla lepre, pasta in sauce of rabbit, and we hear more about Pazzi's desire to delight her and to emerge from disgrace by catching Il Mostro.

An ocean away from such collegiality, Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas) suffers impassively through the crude intimations of Mason Verger (Joe Anderson). While he's amusing himself with such gems as “Spitters are quitters,” she's persisting until the creep realizes how Hannibal's specific aesthetics, like his love for Christofle and Tiffany dinner service, can weave a damask noose. Despite point-of-sale data being notoriously hard to get, and her not being with law enforcement anymore, somehow, Alana's found the trail of weekly purchases of white truffles and Montrachet we've seen Bedelia fetching. Oh, why question Fate when she's this effective?

To the sounds of silence! In the train's double berth, Will above and Chiyoh below, she doesn't want to talk. Will is tormented by his own imagining, by transformation, by movement, and so, he disses her life's “gnawing” sameness. But she's about dark, unsaid things and stillness. If he can only conceive of violent action anymore, she can understand persuasion. Here, they personify Yang above and Yin below, but don't seem to blend harmoniously.

Did that bust’s arms break off, or were they nibbled? / Photo: Brooke Palmer for NBC

For some reason, the medieval lecturer Hannibal is now workshopping in the middle of the torture exhibit on what look like classical marble sculptures. Sure, there are scattered limbs and torsos, but is he an art restorer, too? Pazzi will interview challenge him about the increasing number of dead academics, who did or did not accept invitations to dinner. We learn that Pazzi is from a once-noble family with infamous forbears: Andrea, who was beheaded like John the Baptist, and an attempted assassin, Francesco, rented by the Vatican, who failed, then was hung and disemboweled in 1478. In the novels, it's made clear what long memories  and what time to concoct insults provincial Florentines have, so the inspector walks heavily under the weight of widely-known and inherited shame as well as his own.

Pazzi sees Mason's rich reward for information and calls the hotline to ask discreetly if it also means bounty. In the novels, Pazzi's family's connotation with Judas is strongly made, so we'll also have a long look and listen as that silver coin clanks down the payphone slot. The replies spoken are No, Of Course Not, So Very Illegal. Really, Mason's too interested in killing Hannibal himself to let someone else have the fun, and Pazzi understands there are millions at stake. Even catching Il Mostro can never redeem the shame of old Andrea and Francesco. Better not to tip his fellow police in Baltimore, instead sell Hannibal out to Mason, retire rich and happy with a beautiful young wife. Ah, but this lowly selling-out is precisely what Hannibal expects of Pazzi, he tells Bedelia, after mentioning how he dislikes the memorial sound of piano versus the liveliness of a harpsichord. Thus motivated, Pazzi will later pack up an irresistible artifact to collect Hannibal's fingerprint as proof for payment. It is the scold's bridle, an iron helmet he says was worn by Francesco Pazzi as he met his doom.

A branked new England woman from an 1885 lithograph.
(In use, the scold's bridle appears to be more of a 16th century development of England, Wales, and Scotland, spreading to Germany and the New World. Apparently, this torture instrument, also called a brank's bridle or branks, was most used on the fairer sex. “To curb women's tongues that talk too idle.” A metal piece, often barbed or spiked, holds the tongue painfully in place to make speaking impossible. If we can trust the interweebs for research, it was used on witches, shrews, gossips, female Quakers who preached, you get the idea. From references to perhaps the world's first female novelist to a centuries-later torture for merely talking, this episode travels an axis.)

Back in Yin-Yangville, Chiyoh likes the dreamy night. Well, she would, wouldn't she? We've seen Hannibal use persuasion to make willing accomplices, and Chiyoh makes it clear this kind of deep, quiet influence, not violence, is at work with her. That's before she kisses Will and pushes him off the caboose! Yay, fun! We know Will's not dead, because that black stag of his soul nuzzles him back to his feet, but it seems like Chiyoh is either on Hannibal's team—I'm not so sure—or she, too, thinks that Will is best apart from the object of his obsession.

You don’t have to go home, Will, but you can’t stay here. / Photo: Sophie Giraud for NBC

So let's talk frankly about the “side dishes,” if we may. Bedelia, Mrs. Fell, is completely up front about having her own escape strategy, enjoying sex and luxury even as she advises and “observes.“ Hannibal's previous go-with, Alana, notably betrayed her professional ethics and associates last season, and she will do it again to Mason, both assisting and undermining him before the episode's over. Chiyoh isn't following Will because she's lost. Quiet isn't the same as uncertain. She seems concerned for the profilers's comparatively weaker character, because he can't tell who he is, but she knows Hannibal's location and her own agenda. These female team members or accompanying characters don't have strictly-defined, directional goals like Jack's Save Will Project or even Hunt. Kill. Eat. Sometimes these women are protective, sometimes self-protective, sometimes duplicitous and secretive, cruel or nuturing. Their actions provide a parallel, subtextual plotline. For their support to last, they have to buy into the processes being used as much as the result. For more purely results-driven characters, this may make them undependable allies, but I'm finding them increasingly interesting players in their own rights. 

As we begin the action-packed conclusion to this week's episode, Hannibal's evening work area is now spread with a lavish collation of cheese, fruit, wine, and a record player. He puts on an album of Rossini's La Gazza Ladra, or The Thieving Magpie, a melodramma or opera semiseria in two acts. This, as we get ever closer to the end of this season's first act. Here comes Pazzi, with that clanking wooden box and the scold. He needs a fresh fingerprint to get the money, and Hannibal's not helping. The allowable margin for error around Dr. Lecter is microscopically small. Maybe Pazzi can grab that folding apple knife… just one more second… oops. There is a small, futile interrogation. We know from the lecture how Hannibal feels about betrayers.

Mistakes around Hannibal mean drugging, binding, gagging, and hanging over the ledge until the bowels flop onto the paving with a splat. / Photo: Sophie Giraud for NBC

Jack's been alerted by Mrs. Pazzi, but arrives too late for anything but the floor show, literally. He races upstairs. Hannibal calls out to him. Jack lets his fists answer. Thus begins a serious smack-down. As a famously recognizable Rossini theme plays, the string section going like hopping parakeets, the recovered former FBI guy kicks and throws Hannibal through glass display cases, punches him in the face, even puts Hannibal's arm through the spokes of a standing Catherine Wheel—thematically, you knew it had to happen! Hannibal's yammering. Did Jack get his sympathy note? Did Jack overdose Bella at the end? Wasn't Hannibal her savior? (Oh, we remember better.)

This week, the most powerful positions were wordless. Many of the words spoken were pretense, justification, bargaining, or desperation. Take Will and Chiyoh's discussion about her hardly ever talking versus the voices in his head. Who came out on top after that? That black stag has never explained a thing, by the way, nor has there been any discussion about what the Caged Man has become. This week, there were strange pay phone calls spoken as camoflage, verbal assurances given and still mistrusted. There was a reminder of how nice Hannibal finds Alana's voice and how little that helped her. Beyond these, contrast the fact that as Jack physically dominates and damages Hannibal, he doesn't speak, doesn't reply to any manipulative queries about the past or future. Just one word. Without Hannibal, he'll feel ”alive.”

After Jack pushes Hannibal out of the same window from which he hung the inspector, the nimble cannibal grasps and slides down Pazzi's body, using it to reduce his still painful-looking drop to the stones of the courtyard. Sounds matter, and as we see Hannibal shambling his blood-spattered self across the Arno, the sounds of Rossini's melodrama have been replaced by strains from Mozart's Requiem.

BONUS: I link to yet another juicy musical bonus featuring Mads Mikkelsen in the comments below.

Next week, we find out why Jack didn't finish the job.

Clare Toohey is a literary omnivore, admirer of homemade pasta and quiet time. 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. Clare 2e

    Bonus Musical Number: If you want to see panic, an expression Mads Mikkelsen’s face doesn’t get to use much on Hannibal, check him out as the titular character, a thieving accountant, in the brand-new [url=http://vevo.ly/2jouDf]Rihanna video “Bitch Better Have My Money”[/url] [explicit version]

    You see the song title, and I’m telling you there’s skin, blood, and bad behavior. If you dig that stuff, it’s almost as much fun as pushing Will Graham off a moving train!

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