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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Hannibal: “Naka-Choko”

Illustration for article titled Hannibal: “Naka-Choko”
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After weeks of teasing, we finally get to see Mason Verger, the sadistic brother of Margot and the object of her murderous affection. Played by Michael Pitt, Mason sounds like a huckster who has nothing to sell, instead transferring that gleeful exuberance into his own brutal machinations. He’s a man who, since birth, has been given everything he wants, including control of his sister’s life. Yet, Mason cannot exert the control her has over Hannibal. He has met his match, even though he doesn’t know it yet. The last couple of episodes have felt transitionary for Hannibal, drawing out the Will-Hannibal relationship through cases-of-the-week, leading to the eventual showdown between Hannibal and Jack we saw in the pilot, and, presumably, another between Will and Hannibal later. In the kaiseki meal that the second season follows, naka-choko is a palette cleanser. Like many episodes before, it’s an apt title, clearing the way for Mason’s plotline and the eventual duel we saw at the beginning. But by accomplishing its goal, “Naka-Choko” was a loose episode, torn between the ongoing plot and the setting up of another.

Take that sex scene, which I’m sure will be much discussed in the comments section. The sexual energy of Hannibal continues to be off-putting for me. It feels so out of place, which is probably half the point in a show so all-consumed by death that the act of creating life (even is that’s not really the end game) takes new meaning. It demonstrated the intense intimacy between Will and Hannibal via their mutual affection for Alana Bloom. They are a threesome, if not in the literal sense, each sharing a bond that the other is not privy to, each negotiating boundaries that are constantly being pushed and crossed. Yet, once again, Alana becomes nothing more than a sex object. While Margot has taken over the lead female role since her introduction, that still does not solve the problem that Alana has been scant little do other than appear in Hannibal’s shirt, sit on his lap, and play the theremin.

I enjoyed the first half of “Naka-Choko” more than the second, in part because of the way it looked at the powerful versus the powerless dynamic, juxtaposing Will and Margot as the powerless to Hannibal and Mason who hold all of the cards. While Mason takes his opportunity to torture his sister, Hannibal shows his fucked-up sense of humanity by using his power to coerce Will on to the path he has chosen for his legacy. It was quite paternal in a way, as Hannibal cleans Will’s wounds and tells him it’s all going to be okay.

I loved the scene where Will explains the pathology of Randall Tier’s killer. Will stands in the middle of Jack and Hannibal—good and evil—explaining his own design, rather than someone else’s. Will speaks with utter confidence, while Hannibal subtly looks on, the proud papa. That subtlety extended as Will went into his mind palace, forcing the audience to question our hero: Has Will gone too far? Will can tell Jack he’s on the side of good, just as easily as he can tell Hannibal that he never felt more alive than when he was killing. That doesn’t make either true. But he can’t lie to himself. Randall Tier says that Will’s monument commemorates Will, not himself, and he’s right. While Will could conceivably lie to Hannibal or Jack, he can’t lie withing his own self conscious. “This is my becoming. And yours,” Randall tells Will.

But that subtlety dissipated as the episode went on. We as Hannibal viewers are not omniscient, usually when it comes to Hannibal’s comings and goings. But in “Naka-Choko,” it’s becoming clearer that the audience is not aware of all of Will’s practices either. Jack and the rest of the team have become non-entities in the last couple of episodes as the focus has returned to Will and Hannibal’s relationship. The first season had a similar structure, especially after Jack got his big episode with Bella, and Will descended into madness even further.

So the question for me now is how much is Jack aware of what is going on with Will. Jack and Will have already established that Will will lure Hannibal, but how much of a get out of jail free car does he have? By giving Will free reign, Jack may be compensating for locking Will up, but it’s hard to believe that Jack has given Will carte blanche to do a bunch of murdering for the cause. Was Freddie made into a meal, or is she just chilling in witness protection somewhere waiting for Hannibal to get his due so she can return to raking muck by any means necessary? As Dr. Chilton’s end made very clear, no character is safe in the realm of Hannibal, even for those who make it to later plotlines (save, perhaps Will and Hannibal). But that doesn’t mean Will is allowed to kill whoever he wants. Randall Tier could be justified as self defense to a certain extent, but the desecration of his body cannot. It’s difficult to fathom that Jack is completely in the dark here, even this this fictional world where sometimes acceptance of plot holes is necessary to fully enjoy the show, no matter how psychotic Randall is, or how annoying Freddie is, that doesn’t allow Will to kill them without very real consequences. So the question that will hang over the rest of the episodes for me is how much does Jack know and how much is Will keeping to himself. I wouldn’t be so convinced of Jack and Will’s secret plotting if Margot had not asked Will who shot him. “A friend,” he replies.


Stray observations:

  • Recipe of the week: Whole roast pig
  • Spoiler alert for those who haven’t read/seen the original Hannibal: Mason will not be so proud of those pigs eventually.