What a great episode of television.

I’ve enjoyed the third season of Hannibal, don’t get me wrong, but it had started to languish in its own propensity for artiness. It wasn’t something that had greatly bothered me until the giant jolt that was the balletic fight scene at the end of “Contorno.” That’s when it really hit: Those first four episodes were largely place-setting (this fact wasn’t hidden, it was just veiled in pretty imagery and mysterious dialogue) and the Hannibal-Jack fight was a necessary mechanism that kick-started the real action set-pieces of the season. Things are happening, movement is being made. Now we’re getting somewhere. Bedelia had warned that threats to Hannibal’s freedom were converging, and this episode certainly made good on that promise.

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But now that Bedelia has been brought up, we need to talk about Bedelia, because what a performance on the part of Gillian Anderson. I literally wrote, “Holy cow” in my notes. So much happened in this episode and, yet, it was still Anderson’s hour. She was sultry and sharp, funny and powerful. Bedelia has had quite the evolutionary arc since her first appearance in “Sorbet.” She’s mostly been this terrified figure, trembling in Hannibal’s shadow or acting upon his manipulative impulses. But ever since “Secondo,” she has begun to change, perhaps into her former self, perhaps into something new entirely. It’s important to note that “Secondo” is also the episode where she asks Hannibal if he is drawing his enemies toward him. When Chiyo and Bedelia meet for the first time, Chiyo says, “You must be his bird. I’m his bird too. He puts us in cages to see what we’ll do.” “Secondo” is the beginning of Bedelia’s transformation as if Hannibal has left open the door of the cage just a smidge. She saw her way out and bided her time. What would she do when locked in her cage? She would be resourceful and manipulative until she is let out. Or until she can let herself out by feigning ignorance of everything that has happened to her since she got on that plane and became Lydia Fell.

The point is that Bedelia is very much in control of what is happening to her even if other episodes have made her out to be the prisoner Chiyo says she is. Earlier in the season, Bedelia remarked that she was simply observing. Now, she is a participant. When Hannibal lies wounded in the bath, she had an opportunity to kill him, to end it all. She saw Hannibal when he was not conscious, perhaps the most vulnerable he will ever be. But she did not opt to end everyone else’s pain and suffering. Instead, she decided to wait on the sidelines to see who gets to him first. “You’ve been freebasing your alibi,” Jack tells her. “And to tell you the truth, I’m fairly impressed.”

Me too, Jack. Me too.

But it was not just Bedelia who had a great episode: The other two women in the cast also had commanding, if small roles. Literal sex in Hannibal has never worked as well as sexual tension has (remember the cringe-worthy imaginary threesome from last season?), and I was not happy to see Margot Verger and Alana together, if only because the thought that Margot would commandeer Alana’s womb was simply too creepy. But Margot is not just with Alana for her baby-making abilities. Their romantic relationship unlocks a huge portion of this season, namely why Margot is still hanging out with her her frankly evil brother in the first place, let alone helping him bribe the entirety of the Italian police force. But she’s not on his side at all. Alana, at least, plans on turning him over to the FBI. Female characters have consistently been the weakest part of Hannibal’s first two seasons. I’ve written before that while this is usually something that bothers me greatly, the thrust of the show are these two men and by default everyone else is a sideline player. But the third season has sought to correct that, especially with Alana and Bedelia, with Margot and Chiyo certainly playing their parts as well.

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When Margot and Alana’s master plan is revealed, or at least discussed, their kaleidoscopic sex scene retroactively became less of an irksome occurrence. In case there was any doubt that Alana and Margot have an intimate relationship, there was vaginal imagery all over that visual metaphor. The scene—director Vincenzo Natali has been a great addition to the directorial roster—showed how the two are so on the same side now, they are one. Hannibal and Will are given their own visualization of their bond, but what truly brought them together was the cuts on their faces. The wounds were on the same side of only half of their faces. “You and I have begun to blur… every crime of yours feels like one I’m guilty of,” Will says. Just as Will is about to extricate himself from this blurred identity, Chiyo stops him. She wants Hannibal in cage, not dead—that’s too easy.

That ending is almost too much for me to get into: the slashed achilles, the scalping (the scalping! I had to pause during this part and take a break), and Mason’s last minute entrance in the end. Mason’s appearance at the end, as well as Hannibal and Will’s fate, was one of the show’s more truly shocking moments. And if that’s how “Dolce” ended, what the hell is coming up next?

Stray observations:

  • Recipe of the week: How to blow up a Peking duck.
  • The costumes for the women in this episode were particularly lovely, especially Alana’s plunging neckline.
  • Fun fact: Don Mancini co-wrote this episode with Bryan Fuller and Steve Lightfoot. Mancini’s big creation? Chucky from Child’s Play.
  • “Why didn’t you kill him?” “Maybe I need you to.”
  • “I thought Will Graham was Hannibal’s biggest mistake. Now I wonder if it was you.”

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