written by Steve Lightfoot (story by Steve Lightfoot & Kai Yu Wu) | directed by Vincenzo Natali
There's only fours episode left, so we're in the homestretch for Hannibal's second season, and things are getting complicated. I'm in two minds about exactly what's happening with Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), who appears to have been genuinely transformed into a monster by Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) at this point: bringing him Randall Flag and, assumedly, helping Lecter display his limbs on an animal skeleton; then later, apparently, killing reporter Freddie Lounds (Lara Jean Chorostecki) and eating her at one of Lecter's infamous dinners. There's a lot of assumedly and apparently's in that sentence, because there's room for manoeuvre. Deep down, I don't think anyone believes Will has been brainwashed enough to become Lecter's accomplice, although the sequence where he attacked Freddie and dragged her out of her car was for whose benefit exactly, if it was all an act?
I'm confident that Will is playing a very dangerous game in his pursuit of Lecter, by making him believe he's gone over to the dark side. Lecter finally has the friend he's always wanted; someone he can be honest with in private and, as paralleled in the Margot Verger (Katharine Isabelle) sub-plot, perhaps leave behind as a legacy when he inevitably passes on.
The big introduction of this episode was Mason Verger (Michael Pitt), the sadistic twin brother of Margot and heir to a meat-packing dynasty she's excluded from inheriting because she's a woman. The Verger's seem to have very old-fashioned views on women, as Mason mentions his father practically equals everything down to pigs and their ability to breed. Margot's a dead-end for the family as far as the Verger men are concerned.
Readers of Thomas Harris' books will know that Mason's a significant character in Hannibal; a child-killer who drinks his victim's tears, who self-mutilated his face when his therapist Dr Lecter told him to do so. "Nako-Choko" is obviously taking place years before all that, so it has some leeway when it comes to laying down the Verger back-story. Pitt's take on the character reminded me of a young Tim Robbins doing an impression of Heath Ledger's Joker, and Mason already appears fairly cartoon-y. I was slightly disappointed by that, because I expected something edgier, but it's early days and we'll perhaps see more colours to Pitt's take in the weeks to come. Interesting how they replicated a sequence from the Hannibal novel here, with Mason training hogs to eat people—using a mannequin stuffed with meat, a metal maze to drive the pigs crazy, and recorded audio of screaming. In the book this was preparation for his plan to avenge his disfigurement by having Lecter eaten alive, in stages, but now appears to be something he's cooked up for someone else...?
I also liked the scene where Will slept with Margot, as they've developed a rapport because of their shared experiences being manipulated and hurt by people they should trust completely. Margot has bodily scars caused by her twisted brother, while Will informs her his gunshot wound was caused by a friend. They're both damaged, attractive people with Dr Lecter in common, so this development made a lot of sense to me. I also liked the way the episode, directed by Vincenzo Natali, created a fan-pleasing threesome in the way it inter-cut Will and Margot's sex scene with that of Lecter and Dr Bloom's (Caroline Dhavernas). Tumblr GIF-makers will have a field day with one particular bedroom shot.
Overall, there was much to enjoy about "Nako-Choko", but I mostly came away with opposing thoughts about Will Graham. If he's simply acting a role and essentially going "undercover" to earn Lecter's trust before reeling him in like a fish (as he's alluded to doing in the past), then he's doing a magnificent job, but there was much about the scene where he attacked Freddie that didn't feel justified to me. That was the behaviour of a man who has genuinely gone insane, not someone pretending for the greater good.