How powerful are Hannibal’s manipulations? “Secondo,” the third episode of Hannibal’s third season answers that question in terms of both time and distance. For Chiyo, the handmaiden of Lady Murasaki (Hannibal’s aunt, at least in the novels), Hannibal’s spell spans years. Will meets Chiyo in Hannibal’s childhood home — a dark, creepy Lithuanian castle whose only other “resident” is the man Hannibal has convinced Chiyo is solely responsible for killing and eating Mischa Lecter, Hannibal’s sister. Chiyo has the man locked inside of a cage where she feeds him scraps, and starves him of attention. This is how Will finds them, like an epilogue straight out of a Grimm’s fairy tale.
For Will, the context of Hannibal’s spell is harder to define, though its existence is still easily spotted by Chiyo, who understands it in a way that only a kindred spirit can. In freeing the caged man, Will is playing the same game Hannibal once played with him. He is curious what the caged man will do. He is curious what Chiyo will do.
The answer is the caged man will seek vengeance, and Chiyo will murder him in self-defense. In this way, Will has freed Chiyo from her own form of prison, but he has also played puppeteer in the way that Hannibal has taught him. He makes art of the caged man’s corpse, fashioning him a shining abdomen out of broken wine bottles and stringing him up to gleam. Even countries apart, Will remains in Hannibal’s orbit.
Meanwhile in Italy, Hannibal continues to ensconce himself in the world of the Florentine academic elite. If it isn’t obvious from the lack of joy with which Hannibal conducts his infamous dinner parties that his heart isn’t really in it, then it is from the way he impulsively uses an ice pick to stab his dinner guest in the brain. As Hannibal half-heartedly points out, it is actually Bedelia who kills the local professor by removing the ice pick and letting him bleed out. As in the previous two episodes (and her arc in the entire show, really), Bedelia’s culpability in Hannibal’s game is hard to determine.
Did she volunteer to play his wife in Florence? Did he coerce her into coming? To her credit, Bedelia seems to realize she is a rebound, someone Hannibal uses to try to fill the void in his life left by Will’s betrayal and subsequent absence. Her value seems to lie at least partially in her understanding of the relationship between Will and Hannibal. She knows that, like Mischa, Will is someone Hannibal loves. That love, as much as anything else Will has done, is a betrayal. Hannibal decides that, in order to forgive Will this sin, he will eat him. Just like he did his sister.
We also catch up with Jack, notably for the first time since the bloody season two finale. In what is probably a surprise to no one, he survived. In Palermo, he meets up with Pazzi, who sees in Jack a kindred spirit of sorts: another hardened detective trying to capture “The Monster of Florence.” Jack quickly avows him of this notion. Here, Jack is the Will to Will’s Hannibal in that he is chasing his friend across continents.
Jack is not after Hannibal or, if he is, it is only a side effect of his true purpose: to bring Will home. In this episode, home is an unbearable absence for every character, an intangible vacuum these characters both yearn for and dread. “All sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story,” the episode repeats. For these characters, home is a sorrow they choose to narrate rather than return to. At least for now.
If this all sounds like a lot to shove into an episode that also includes an entire sequence of Will walking through a firefly-filled Lithuanian forest and multiple slow-motion close-up shots of snails, it was. Like Hannibal Lecter, “Secondo” entrances, but doesn’t create a cohesive or compelling narrative in the same way the season’s first two installments — which focused entirely on Hannibal and Will’s post-season two states-of-mind, respectively — did. Still, who can turn away from a show this gorgeously shot, acted, and written? Not me.