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Ever since Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) was exonerated and released from the asylum, and Dr. Frederick Chilton was successfully implicated in the “Chesapeake Ripper” murders (and then shot), the following episodes have all begged the same question:

“Where are they going with this?”

Is Will truly going over to the “Dark Side” (pardon my phrasing)? If it IS all a trap for Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen), does he see it? And IF he sees it, why is he allowing it?

Director Vincenzo Natali‘s “Naka-Choko” brings us no closer to the answers to any of these questions, and as a follow-up to the events of Michael Rymer‘s far superior “Shiizakana”, it’s a bit weak. Fortunately, the return of the fabulous Freddie Lounds (Lara Jean Chorostecki) and the introduction of a Thomas Harris character we’ve been eagerly awaiting redeem the episode–somewhat, anyway.

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“Naka-Choko” begins with what we DIDN’T see at the end of “Shiizakana”: Will’s killing of serial murderer Randall Tier. Graham apparently beat the bestial killer to death with his own hands. However, I’ve reached the point where I take any scene that is shown from Will’s POV with a grain of salt. The scene we are shown seems to be how Will described killing Tier to Hannibal, so whether it really happened that way, or he was just telling Lecter what he wanted to hear (or rather what WILL wanted him to hear) is unclear (there are other ways Will could have injured his knuckles like that).

Hannibal, especially in Season Two, has taught me to take nothing at face value.

Tier’s body was later discovered by Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) and the FBI at the Natural History Museum, grafted to the skeleton of the cave bear he wished to emulate in life as a ghoulish sort of “tribute”.

The implication is that Will, possibly with Hannibal’s assistance, did this to Tier’s corpse–but again, we aren’t shown exactly what happened.

(By the by: This is pretty much the only scene of consequence that Crawford is in–we’ve been seeing less and less of him since Will resumed his therapy with Hannibal)

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And there he is, folks: Mason Verger, played by Michael Pitt of Seven Psychopaths.

In a fictional universe populated by psychotic murderers who eat people, attempt to change their sexes by skinning young women and wearing their flesh, or kill women and sexually violate their corpses while their murdered families “watch”, Mason Verger stands out as the “Monster”. He’s not insane like the serial killers Harris created–he does not live in a skewed reality–he was not made into a monster through years of abuse….

No, Mason knows EXACTLY who he is and what he is doing. He’s a truly evil individual who enjoys causing pain and suffering for it’s own sake–and is secure in the knowledge that he has the money and power to get away with literally anything his warped desires lead him to do.

Pitt is beyond perfect in this role: He’s eerie, disturbing, darkly hilarious, and he looks like Tim Robbins in Howard The Duck after raiding P. Diddy’s wardrobe.

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It’s easy to sympathize with his sister Margot’s (Katharine Isabel) desire to kill him. But apparently, that’s not her only desire in this episode: While Hannibal and Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas) enjoy yet another on-screen tryst, the ostensibly gay Margot seduces Will–leading to one of the most confusing half-fantasy sex scenes you’re likely to see on network television (which I’m pretty sure was primarily to satisfy the Will/Hannibal shippers who wanted to see the men together in bed).

Last week I mentioned how glad I was they were sticking to Harris Canon and keeping Margot a lesbian–I apparently spoke too soon, even if she IS only banging Will so she can have a baby that will inherit the Verger estate after she eventually kills Mason.

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Meanwhile, Freddy Lounds has doomed herself by becoming the latest character to realize that Hannibal Lecter is the Chesapeake Ripper. Everyone who has come to that realization has died: Chilton, Gideon, Beverly Katz–only Will Graham and Dr. DuMaurier have learned the doctor’s secret and lived: Graham lives because Hannibal isn’t done with him yet, DuMaurier because Hannibal honestly cares for her–plus she has no proof, and can’t bring her suspicions to the authorities without violating doctor/patient confidentiality.

We are lead to believe Will has already killed Freddie–but I don’t think anyone truly believes that, except maybe Hannibal.

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 STRONG POINTS

Watching Will and Hannibal play off each other never gets old, and whether Will is truly giving in to his darker impulses, or carefully manipulating the good doctor, it’s clear he’s in complete control–a stark contrast to the fear and confusion he experienced in Hannibal’s presence last season.

Freddie was magnificent, as always. I really hope she survives: Bryan Fuller has already violated canon by killing several characters that Harris let live, why can’t he keep a few of the author’s victims alive? I think Freddie deserves it.

As mentioned, Michael Pitt is a delight as the inconceivably despicable Mason Verger. With only 3 episodes remaining in the season, I wonder what’s to become of Mason: Will Margot finally kill him? Will he be mutilated and paralyzed by Lecter, as in the books? Either way, I hope he sticks around for a bit–perhaps even into (knock on wood) Season 3.

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WEAK POINTS

Ever since Dr. Bloom started doing the bad thing with Hannibal, her character–a strong, brilliant, independent, professional woman–has been essentially MIA from the series, save for when the writers wish to remind us that she and Lecter are still bumping uglies. It’s a sad waste of a good character and a fine actress. Before the perplexing bedroom sequence in this episode, Hannibal is shown teaching Bloom to play the theremin in a scene that will no doubt be re-edited and posted on YouTube with The Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody” playing in the background.

Cheesiness does not become a show like Hannibal, and this sequence reeked of it.

I’m a big enough fan to trust that this will all make sense by the end of the season, but they gotta give us SOMETHING. Sure, maybe by the finale I’ll look back and completely understand why the things I’m complaining about now had to be as they are–but that’s little comfort to viewers right NOW. Hopefully, Fuller and Co, will throw us Hannimaniacs a bone next Friday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Category: reviews, TV

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