“Secondo” is an episode marked by disorientation and deception. It begins in the teaser, where the extreme close-up of the wine obscures who’s pouring it, or where. Even after we see Hannibal’s profile gorgeously framing the screen, it’s unclear until the next shot that he’s accompanied by Bedilia. When he tells her in the end of the scene that he’s going “home” (as a close-up of his face fills the screen), it’s unclear where exactly he’s referring to.
A dissolve to Will’s face reveals a possible location: Hannibal’s childhood home in Lithuania. The disorientation continues there, as we have to wait a bit before the title tells us where we are. Even then, it’s not until the name of “Mischa Lecter” on the tombstone that we realize we’re in Lecter family territory.
It’s there that “Secondo” provides its biggest deception: Hannibal’s origin story. Chiyo (Tao Okamoto) tells Will that Mischa was the original inspiration for Hannibal’s violence, since the prisoner she guards had eaten his sister, thereby explaining the source of his brutality. At first, this backstory seems like a vestige passed down from a lesser serial killer show of yore: it feels too simple for a series with the psychological depth of Hannibal. Given the magnitude of Dr. Lecter’s crimes, as well as the violence of the world he terrorizes (keep in mind that the first season showcased different gruesome killers nearly every week), the idea that he acts merely out of vengeance doesn’t feel satisfying.
Luckily, Bedilia is there to restore our faith in the lack of explanation for Hannibal’s violence. Prior to descending into a bath for the second time this season, she reveals that it was him who ate his sister, rather than the prisoner who he convinced Chiyo of being responsible for the killing. Thus, Hannibal’s origins become comparable to the Joker in The Dark Knight: there are possible explanations for why he is the way he is, but none of them seem to be wholly accurate, particularly when pertaining to someone as purely evil as Hannibal.
He’s so evil that he corrupts those around him to become like him, as he’s not directly to blame for either of the episode’s murders. After Professor’s Sogliato’s snide attempts at dismissing Hannibal in “Antipasto,” it was easy to imagine that he didn’t have too much time, but it’s Bedilia who delivers the fatal ice-pick into the side of his head. Likewise, Hannibal has convinced Chiyo to do his bidding, but it’s hard not to see his influence on Will as well when the two lift the prisoner’s body in the shape of a moth (or a crucifix).
They, like us while watching “Secondo,” have become disoriented to the point where they’ve become disciples of Hannibal. Despite this, he’s not ready to let Will go free, as the episode concludes with Hannibal announcing his murderous plans. In an hour filled with ambiguities, it’s a powerful moment of clarity, as the determined look in Hannibal’s eyes (echoing the close-up which concludes the teaser’s opening scene) tells us that he has every intention of making good on his promise.
Max Bledstein (@mbled210) is a Montreal-based writer, musician and world-renowned curmudgeon. He writes on all things culture for a variety of fine North American publications. His highly anticipated debut novel will write itself one of these days, he assumes.