It’s good to have Vincenzo Natali back in the director’s chair because it means another visually audacious episode.
Let’s bitch it out…
Love or hate the plot of this third season (which continues to advance in starts and stops), the visuals of the Florence-set episodes have been nothing less than stunning. ‘Dolce’ marks the end of Vincenzo Natali’s four episode directing duties for S3. Each have been absolutely stunning and memorable, but ‘Dolce’ may just be the perfect marriage of material and direction. David Slade may have set the look for the series back in the pilot, but Vincenzo Natali has set the gold standard in how to execute it.
So much of this episode is about doubling and drugging. At various points Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen) stumbles home in a fugue state, Bedelia (Gillian Anderson) doses herself with a hallucinogen, and Will (Hugh Dancy) and Jack (Laurence Fishburne) are both knocked unconscious and drugged. Natali responds with an episode that at times literally blurs and dissolves into itself, particularly in two separate instances:
- Will and Hannibal’s “ink blot” dinner: After Will is shot by Chiyo (Tao Okamoto), Hannibal cares for him…at least to the extent that the killer cannibal can. Season three has revolved around this pair’s inseparability, so it makes sense that when they come together for an extended period the pair meld and merge together in Will’s consciousness as Hannibal prepares his revenge meal.
- Alana (Caroline Dhavernas) and Margot’s (Katharine Isabelle) sexual liaison: Can a surreal kaleidoscope sex scene be considered the most graphic depiction of lesbian sex on network TV? Kudos to the team for sneaking in some incredibly literal vagina-imagery into this scene. Regardless of whether the women’s connection appeared to come out of nowhere, this is the scene of the episode for me because it is endlessly fascinating, creative and sexy.
Whether or not the plot of the episode works as successfully as the imagery is another question. I’ve been hot and cold on the narrative over the last three or four episodes and while ‘Dolce’ promises a certain amount of plot momentum, there are still some big problems with it.
First and foremost, Chiyo is a completely failure of a character. I don’t understand her motivations and she has no shading; at this point she exists to prolong Hannibal’s capture. I appreciate (via Bedelia’s conversation with her) that Chiyo is essentially Will 1.0: Hannibal has also controlled and manipulated her, but this isn’t playing out on screen. We understand Will because we saw Hannibal get under his skin for two consecutive seasons. With Chiyo, all we have is dialogue and none of the investment. As a result she’s less of a character than a plot device, forever pushing people off trains and shooting them with high-powered rifles.
Thankfully the end of the episode suggests that her role may be coming to an end shortly. Despite Hannibal’s grand plans, his attempt to kill and eat a sedated Will is abruptly cancelled when Mason Verger’s (Joe Anderson) latest bribe pays off. Much like Alana and Margot’s hook-up, the sudden transition from Hannibal brutally sawing into Will’s head in slow motion to a rotating shot of the pair hanging in the pig freezer comes out of the blue and awkwardly inserted, but at least we’re back on American soil. It’s time to deal with all of these threats head-on.
- Further proof that Mason is a poor man’s Hannibal: despite Cordell’s (Glenn Fleshler) culinary recipes, Mason can’t stomach the recipes they’ll use to consume the cannibal. I’ll admit that part of my dislike of Mason stems from the fact that he’s been made more of a jokster this season courtesy of Anderson’s acting decisions. Pitt somehow made the character more dangerous. This new Mason is more akin to a villain from Schumacher’s Batman films.
- Anyone else get a mildly homoerotic vibe from Mason’s fantasy, in which he can walk and Hannibal has been peking duck’d?
- Bedelia’s alibi that she has been brainwashed into the belief that she is Mrs. Fell doesn’t fool anyone: not Jack and Will, not the local authorities. Good thing the detective (Giorgio Lupano) questioning her is on Mason’s payroll. Whether or not Bedelia manages to talk / mumble her way out of jail time isn’t clarified, but Anderson’s comedic timing in this episode is spot-on.
- I just want to end on that kaleidoscope sex scene. It is up there with the unfurling stag from episode two in terms of crazy, beautiful imagery. It’s a definite what the hell am I watching / how they hell am I watching this? moment.
- Bedelia: “You may make a meal of me, Hannibal <kiss> But not today.”
- Bedelia (to Jack and Will, commenting on the number of people hunting Hannibal): “Your interest in my husband is certainly getting competitive”
- Margot (to Mason): “In my defense, the last time you said you wanted to have a baby, you removed my uterus.”
- Will: “What’s for dinner?” Hannibal: “Never ask. It spoils the surprise”
Your turn: what did you think of Natali’s final directing job for the series? Was the sex scene the most memorable scene? Do you think Bedelia will escape punishment? Were you shocked at how close Will can to being dinner? Is Mason a sub-par villain? Sound off below.
Hannibal airs Thursdays at 10pm EST on NBC. Next week: we’re at Muskrat Farm where Mason will try and exact revenge with Cordell’s help. Here’s your preview of ‘Digestivo’