For a while now we have been teased and tormented about Hannibal’s past; conversations with Will about Mischa were the building blocks for the journey into his younger self, and it seems only right that we begin to delve into this past as the doctor grows closer to being caught. Fans of Thomas Harris and the subsequent films will have their own knowledge of what turned Hannibal into the calculating criminal we see before us. Whilst remaining somewhat faithful to the canon, Fuller and co. give a new spin on his traumatic loss by using it to further our understanding of the relationships at play. Where others have used Mischa’s death to shine a light on the cannibal’s more human side, this rendering does quite the opposite.
In a search to find what lies beneath the person suit, Will finds himself jumping fences in Hannibal’s homeland, Lithuania. Echoing the gothic chic of Dracula’s Transylvania, the Lecter mansion is swathed in fog and clearly haunted by horrors of the past and present. In an intimate scene between Hannibal and Will that takes place in the confines of their psyches, the former confides in the latter and proclaims that some places hold memories too painful to revisit. Like the obedient pups he has back in Baltimore, (where’s Winston at?) Will heeds the hints and takes matters into his own hands.
Tao Okamoto steals the show with her portrayal of Chiyo, a Lady Murasaki-esque figure that knows all too well just how hard it can be to live a life in the confines of Hannibal Lecter’s shadow. Our first shots of Chiyo immediately present her as a force to be reckoned with; hunting game with sharp precision and making feather-plucking look like an art, her stealth is not all too different from the cannibal himself. Mysterious and captivating, we are encouraged to question where her loyalty lies, and more importantly her role in Hannibal’s past.
“I’ve never known myself as well as I know myself when I’m with him.”
After threatening to hunt Will down like the game that invades the property, a brief bonding session over scars old and new, physical and metaphorical (“he left me with a smile”) leads them to come to the realisation that they have more in common than they first thought. Imprisoned in the deep dark dungeons of the deep dark mansion is a feral man desperate for human interaction. Chiyo explains that this beast of a man was left in her care by Hannibal -not the sort of parting gift anyone would hope for- after he savagely killed Mischa and left Hannibal broken. But like all the best origins, there’s more to this story than meets the eye. It seems Hannibal’s choice to imprison the supposed perpetrator of Mischa’s death was less a form of revenge and more a means of breeding murder. He wanted to test Chiyo, to push her to the limits of her own morality. The only way to gain back her own life is to take away someone else’s.
“People come here to be closer to their god. Isn’t that what Will Graham is doing?”
There are obvious parallels between Hannibal and Will at this point in the narrative. They each know the desired outcome of their actions, and they each have accomplices that may either help or hinder their end goal. In a shockingly humorous act of impulsive violence that leaves one of the doctor’s rivals with a rather saw head, Bedelia is forced to become a participant. Simultaneously to this, back in Lithuania Chiyo is forced to commit a similar act through self-defense. Hannibal’s control may have been loosened, but is she now simply a pawn in Will Graham’s twisted love game?
Sidenote: this episode may have the most sinister closing line, delivered in the most nonchalant way possible, in the history of television. Ever.
By Sophie Mace.