Review: ‘Hannibal’ – ‘Digestivo’: Pig pen

A review of tonight's “Hannibal” coming up just as soon as I erect some foster homes and torment some children…

“I don't want to think about you anymore.” -Will

It's a shame NBC couldn't wait one more week before dumping “Hannibal” and “Aquarius” on Saturday nights, because “Digestivo” offers such a clean break between season 3's first half and whatever's coming in its second.

In tying up Hannibal's fugitive adventures and killing off Mason and Cordell, “Digestivo” was also easily the most coherent episode of the season so far. That's not to say that it wasn't without its baroque touches, particularly in Mason's porcine choice of a surrogate to carry the fetus created from his sperm and Margot's egg. But as the conclusion to this stretch of the story – really, to the first two and a half seasons of “Hannibal” – there was a certain level of actual plot logic, rather than the dream kind, that “Digestivo” demanded, and that Bryan Fuller and Steve Lightfoot's script delivered on. Though many strange things occurred on and around Muskrat Farm, we saw them all as they actually happened, with an injured Will's view of Hannibal as the Stag Man in the opening moments our only real shift in perspective from reality.

And that's probably as it should have been, both as an end to this part of the story and as a way to present all the sick damn imagery at the farm. All those moments – Hannibal getting branded, a human fetus being cut out of a pig, Cordell's face slipping off of Mason's and, especially, Mason's eel giving him a very phallic death – were so unsettling, and so graphic, that they needed no surreal enhancement for once.

Yet as much as I cringed at all of the above, the most powerful moments of “Digestivo” had little to do with gore and everything to do with character, whether it was Alana choosing to set Hannibal free to rescue Will – briefly turning Dr. Lecter into the hero of the piece, with a (naked) hero shot to match after he rose from being bound in the pig pen – or Hannibal and Will's conversation in Will's house. Fuller has framed this season as the aftermath of a spectacularly violent break-up, and Hannibal's decision to surrender to Jack – solely so that his beloved Will would know where to find him if he ever changed his mind about wanting to see him – was perhaps the most human moment he's had so far. (That he began the episode cutting into Will's skull in order to consume his brain complicates things, of course, but circumstances tend to change rapidly and sharply between the two of them.)

When Alana is cutting Hannibal free, she admits to her limitations as a psychiatrist, asking him if she could have ever understood him. He tells her no, simply but not cruelly, and there's no easy way for any of us to understand what Hannibal does, even with our omniscient view of him from the books, movies, and now this TV show. But occasionally, Hannibal does something for a reason that's easy even for us laymen to grasp. As a result, his surrender felt far more interesting than if Jack or Will had somehow gotten the better of him physically one more time.

There were definitely some stylistic and narrative bumps during our European getaway, but I look forward to seeing how the show looks and feels once we move on to the next phase of the story next week.

Some other thoughts:

* For a woman who put her entire life on hold because she refused to kill, or even allow the death of, a man she believed to be a monster, Chiyoh sure took to killing easily once she got started. Again, she was more plot device than character.

* Fuller has talked about his desire to avoid the women in jeopardy cliches of the serial killer genre whenever possible, and it was interesting that the three people in position to save Will and Hannibal were all women.

* Even as a regular deli-goer, I've never acquired a taste for tongue. That said, Cordell's description for how he was going to prepare Hannibal's sounded quite delicious. 

* Obviously, the story had need of a physically whole and capable Dr. Lecter for the conclusion, and perhaps for future stories, but the idea of watching Hannibal subject to the same treatment he gave Abel Gideon was intriguing.

What did everybody else think?

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at