Saturday, 18 July 2015

Hannibal - Dolce

With every week that passes I seem to become more angry at NBC for cancelling this show. Any programme that can put out an episode as good as Dolce deserves the ability to run for as long as the writers intend, which, in Hannibal's case, is seven seasons. We're going to be cut off at three and that thought gets more upsetting with each episode of this excellent third season. After the highs of last week's stellar Contorno, this show has somehow topped itself again with Dolce, an episode that fires twist after twist whilst also finally placing its female characters into the spotlight for the first time of its entire run. It is probably no secret that Hannibal's female characters have been consistently less developed than its male ones, but Dolce has corrected that entirely, offering Bedelia, Alana and Margo a series of wonderfully empowering sequences that come together to place Dolce as possibly the greatest hour of television this year. And, yes, that does include Game of Thrones' The Dance of Dragons.

This episode focused heavily on the idea of identity and duality, the idea that two people can be one or, conversely, that one person can be two. This theme was identified most clearly in Alana and Margo's kaleidoscopic sex sequence that opens the episode's second half. Hannibal has always been more focused on sexual tension rather than actual sex, but when it does go the full mile, it never faults. Season two's imaginary threesome between Hannibal, Will and Alana was a stunning sequence, and Alana and Margo's scene this time around was even more mesmerising. Using kaleidoscopic imagery both acts as a way of not resorting to gratuitous nudity but also conforming with the episode's theme of duality. Alana and Margo were repeatedly shown as one person throughout the scene as their arms, legs, faces and everything else swirled around the screen, also repeatedly offering vaginal visual metaphors to further emphasise this episode's focus on its women. It was a truly stunning sequence that shows that sex on TV can still be done artfully, tastefully, and beautifully.

Also examined heavily in this episode was Bedelia, a character who has been looked at considerably this season but always by Hannibal's side. In Dolce, Bedelia was away from Hannibal, and was therefore given her own time to shine. And Gillian Anderson stepped up to this sublimely, giving her best performance of the season to date. It has often been asked this season as to whether Bedelia was observing or participating in Hannibal's actions, so it was refreshing to see Hannibal taken away from her entirely. Shooting heroin in order to give the impression that Hannibal had been drugging her, Bedelia took entire control of her situation after it didn't go the way she imagined, using her female charm to aid the Italian Polizia investigation into Hannibal whilst also saving herself from any trouble. Her discussion with Chiyoh early in the episode powerfully demonstrated the effect that Hannibal has on the women in his life, but Bedelia seems to have pushed well and truly past the stage Chiyoh is at. "You may make a meal of me yet, Hannibal" she tells him in the episode's cold opening, "But not today".

But, of course, this episode couldn't dedicate its entire run time to its women characters, as this is after all a story of two men. Hannibal and Will finally came together again in tonight's episode, a scene ingeniously scored with similar music to their moments together in season two's finale in order to fully show the relationship these two have. The fact that they smile at each other after everything that has taken place between now and the events of Mizumono is a gut wrenching touch, but there isn't much time for niceties. Within fifteen minutes, Chiyoh has shot Will, and Hannibal has him strapped to a dinner table opposite Jack Crawford as he begins slicing Will's scalp open with a buzz saw. But then we cut to black, and the episode returns to Muskrat Farm, where Hannibal and Will are seen hanging upside down in the slaughterhouse as Mason Verger enters and welcomes them to his home. In a show so loaded with shocks, twists and turns, this could well rank as one of its very best.

How did they get there? How much time has taken place between now and next week's installment? What happened to Jack? There are countless questions hanging in the balance that will, hopefully, be answered next week before the show jumps three years into the future to begin its Red Dragon arc in its final stretch of episodes. But before it can do that, Hannibal had to allocate time to its female characters, and Dolce took on that responsibility excellently, offering both visually beautiful and thematically empowering moments for each of the show's main women. At the beginning of this season I was doubtful that the show could hit the heights of its second year. Hannibal's second season is, after all, my personal favourite television season of all time. But if season three can keep this standard up for it's mid season finale next week, and then retain it even longer for its highly anticipated Red Dragon arc to conclude the show, then I foresee a masterpiece two years in a row.

Notes - 

  • Again reforming to its theme of identity, this episode used eyes as fade-throughs quite a lot, namely after Bedelia took heroin and after Alana and Margo's sex sequence, perhaps linking these events to the mindsets of their respective characters. 
  • "You're like his bird, I'm his bird too. He puts us in cages to see what we'll do". "Fly away, or dash ourselves dead against the bars". 
  • I'm not entirely sure who I prefer as Mason Verger, last season's Michael Pitt or this year's Joe Anderson. They're very different characters, and very different acting styles, but I think both took on the role excellently. 
  • "This isn't meat. This is man." 
  • Next week is Hannibal's last episode before it jumps three years into the future, meaning it has to resolve almost every story arc taking place right now. If it pulls this off, then Digestivo could be the greatest episode the show ever puts out. God help us. 
Next - Digestivo

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