The bromance between Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter has been a fascinatingly hazy one to say the least. They don’t generally act like warm and caring friends, and yet they understand each other to such a calculatingly obsessive degree that it can be tough to feel exactly where they stand with each other in the layman’s eyes. Hannibal has taken the old “we’re not so different after all” trope and busted it wide open, to the point where the semiotic hero and villain dynamic feels like a truly deep-seated connection that is defiantly unbreakable. The third episode of season three, “Secondo,” brings another layer to Will and Hannibal’s relationship by comparing it to a love affair and using language about relationships that would usually be found in romantic dramas.
The cross dissolve between both leads’ faces provides the requisite visual link to this analogy between these two twisted souls and a couple in a relationship. Bedelia’s conversation with Hannibal early on elaborates on this when she says, “Forgiveness requires two…[there is] betrayer and betrayed. Which are you?” Hannibal undoubtedly sees himself as the latter, given that Will worked with Jack (who makes his belated return. Still no Alana) on the failed plan to take down Hannibal last season, even after the doctor and profiler had begun working together again. Hannibal likely doesn’t see himself in the wrong, even though he did the same to Will in season one by framing him for murder and getting him thrown in jail.
Through the lens of their elusive relationship, they stand on equal ground, even though of course the straightforward scale of morality shows Lecter as an uncontrollable sociopath and murderer while Graham is just someone who has danced closer to the devil than he should have. Bedelia will have to tread carefully and hold a firm grasp on her viewpoint as she spends more time with Lecter, who works through his manipulation playbook big time on her after impulsively stabbing their dinner guest and letting her make the final kill move when she tries sparing the man’s cackling vegetable state. Hannibal’s precise stabbing to keep the man alive is his whole MO made literal: stick the knife in to establish total control, while leaving the subject with just enough life to keep going. It’s how Hannibal has sought to grab a hold of Will’s psyche since first meeting him in the FBI offices.
Will’s side of the story in “Secondo” is more exposition-laced, as he discovers more about Lecter’s back story once he finds the doctor’s decrepit family mansion in Lithuania. Whereas last week’s “Primavera” remixed events from the later-in-the-timeline Hannibal novel into its revamped storyline (inspector Pazzi and the Italy asides), “Secondo” takes a page or two from the generally ridiculed Hannibal Rising, where original Lecter author Thomas Harris traces Lecter’s life from disturbed child to murderous young adult. It provides trite explanations for a character best written when he’s draped in mystery, and yet series showrunner Bryan Fuller has managed to incorporate many of these details without sacrificing the integrity of this Lecter incarnation.
When Will learns of the death of Lecter’s sister, Mischa, at the hands of the man locked in the mansion dungeon from caretaker Chiyo (who, if her last name is Murasaki, is a character that’s been remolded from Harris’ version in Rising), he definitively states, “Mischa doesn’t explain Hannibal.” The show openly refutes this tortured past as an easy answer for the dark depths that Lecter travails, and the situation between Chiyo and this imprisoned man opens up room for more parallels and metaphors to shed slivers of light on the connection between Will and Hannibal (“We have been each other’s prisoners”). Lecter has not forgiven this man and likely never will as long as he’s alive, and when Bedelia presents the statement about the possibility of him forgiving Will, Lecter gives the one response he can say in total confidence: “I have to eat him.” Have fun with that one, Tumblr.
EPISODE RATING: 8/10