Transplanting Sympathies and Influence: Hannibal ‘Digestivo’ (Recap)

(Photo by: Brooke Palmer/NBC)

(Photo by: Brooke Palmer/NBC)

Although the third season of Hannibal is only just over halfway done, “Digestivo” feels like a finale due to its apparent conclusion to the Mason storyline (even if it seems foolish to rule anything out given the returns from imminent death in the second season finale), and its setting of the stage for the Tooth Fairy arc. Ultimately, Season 3 to date had primarily been concerned with the consequences from the events of Season 2, and the episode provides a catharsis for the characters’ most heated emotions.

And what a catharsis it was. “Digestivo” feels almost like a bottle episode due to its concentration on Mason’s Muskrat Farm, and the close quarters are the perfect setting for seeing the characters play off one another. All season, Bryan Fuller has been playing with the connections between characters and setting them up as foils for one another, as the direct physical contact highlights the associations.

Before the gruesome chamber play, though, we get the bloody cold open in Florence. Although the tag in last week’s “Dolce” revealed where Hannibal and Will would end up, seeing how they got there was more than intriguing enough to justify the flashback. To start, there’s the twisted funhouse image Will sees of Jack, which reveals the disintegration of Will’s brain function from Hannibal’s scalping. As with Vincenzo Natali’s depiction of Bedilia’s woozy perspective due to the influence of Hannibal’s drug cocktail (as Will and Jack approach her in “Dolce”), director Adam Kane’s creepy shot shows how a character feels in an altered state. Both scenes have a strong effect upon the viewer: we’re forced to identify with someone whom we might otherwise feel distant from.

As effective as this scene is, the transplanting of viewer identifications only gets more extreme as the episode progresses. Although I haven’t been crazy about the utterly despicable portrait we’ve gotten of Mason this season, it does serve the fascinating purpose of aligning the viewer with Hannibal. As Mason lectures Will and Hannibal on his nefarious plans for them, it’s hard not to root for the doctor, even with the knowledge of all he’s done. Like Will, not only are we fascinated by Hannibal, but we increasingly find ourselves aligning with him. It’s not just Will and Mason’s faces which are under the threat of being transplanted — our sympathies are as well.

Of course, we’re not the only ones who connect with the doctor. Hannibal’s murderous influence is an undeniable presence in Alana and Margo’s brutal revenge killing, the Italians’ willingness to go after Jack and Mason’s discussion of Will and Hannibal as pigs. In fact, Kane makes the connection explicit with the classical music that plays as the camera pans over Hannibal’s suit before he sits down to dinner: Mason hopes to “eat the rude,” just like his mentor. Mason’s been praying to the wrong god — Hannibal is the clear ruler of this universe.

Although that’s been the case for the show to date, one assumes Hannibal will take a backseat role as the focus shifts to the hunt for Francis Dolarhyde. Then again, Fuller has been content all along to treat his series like Thomas Harris fan fiction, not worrying about mixing and matching character and plot details to fit his design. Regardless of the role Dr. Lecter plays in the precious few episodes we have left of the show which bears his name, his influence will live on in the characters he’s impacted.

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.