Recap: “Naka-Choko,” Hannibal, Season 2, Episode 10

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I’ve remarked before that there’s not a lot of sexuality in Hannibal. The series is sensually rich, but those sensations are often not pleasurable. This episode is a marked detour from that pattern, rich as it is with sexuality. Even this opening scene, of Hannibal washing and bandaging Will’s bloodied knuckles (damaged when he killed Randall Tier offscreen last episode), is surprisingly tender and loving.


The deadness in Will’s eyes after admitting that he had never felt better than when killing Tier. Nietzsche’s famous quote about gazing into the abyss applies here: Will has spent too much time letting killers, especially Lecter, into his head, and now he’s changed. What seemed, when he returned to therapy with Lecter, to be a feint towards capturing Hannibal now appears to be an authentic corruption, Will becoming a monster himself.


Lecter isn’t the only one who stages the bodies of his victims in theatrically nightmarish ways. This is how Will honors Tier. This sequence is progressively more nightmarish, beginning with this shot and increasing in its ability to disturb as each frame pulls back to reveal the greater design of the horror.

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Jack Crawford, face to face with horror. He can tell that something about this, about its author, is different than he’s seen before.


“This is my becoming. And, it’s yours,” the version of Randall Tier that lives in Will’s mind tells him. This idea, of becoming something else, of transcending the boundaries of humanity, is crucial to this episode and, perhaps, to the next arc of the story.


The last image, and this one, are classic horror movie composition. Fittingly, this episode was directed by Vincenzo Natali, of Cube fame.


The last episode, for perhaps the first time in the series, introduced fairy tale imagery with Will (the huntsman) heading into the woods where a monster (Tier) awaited him. This time, Margot Verger (the princess) approaches a castle.


Not quite a fairy tale, but this is drawn from myth. Mason, Margot’s brother (played with a smartly repulsive, appealing quirk by Michael Pitt), has built a maze on their property, evoking the Minotaur.


The center of that labyrinth doesn’t contain a monster. Rather, it contains death in the form of a dummy made of meat, designed to get a herd of pigs used to eating people (perhaps, especially, Margot).


For the first time, Hannibal is a really sexy show in a pair of sex scenes (Alana/Hannibal and Will/Margot) intercut with each other. Will experiences that intercutting, too, when he begins to see Alana in Margot’s place. Which leads to:

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This, of course, isn’t truly happening, but the threesome is certainly erotic in Will’s mind. I’d imagine, too, that any slash devotees of this show got pretty excited here that the series was moving into this territory.


In Will’s mind’s eye, this is what Alana and Hannibal having sex looks like. How long before the dark beast no longer represents Lecter and begins to be Will’s image of himself?


“Freddie’s not the only one without boundaries,” Alana says to the men as they eat suckling pig. With the sex scenes fresh in our minds, she seems to be suggesting a threesome in real life. Will certainly seems to think so. But perhaps we read her words that way simply because Will is our point-of-view character and it’s what he wants.


Freddie Lowndes makes her last gruesome discovery, in Will’s barn. If there was any question about whether Will is playing Hannibal, trying to gain his trust to get close to him and then pounce—which, honestly, I’d been assuming for the last few episodes—it’s dispelled here. So many people thought Will was a killer last season; now he is.


Not quite a passing of a torch, but Will is symbolically taking the tools and power of a killer from Hannibal. They are now joined by their shared totems and experiences.


Another crucial shared experience, as the pair eats human flesh together (this time not only with Will’s knowledge, but his enthusiasm; he supplied the meat). With the lingering shots of the pair, the lush strings swelling beneath the scene, the discussion of sensual pleasures, this reads like a date. It’s intimate, no question, but not (sorry slash fans!) sexual.


Instead, as this final shot reveals, it’s about the psychological, metaphorical merging of Will and Lecter, about Will becoming the monster that Hannibal has always been. There’s an air of sexuality about it, but it’s more than that. It’s sexual only that it’s intimate, but intimacy by itself isn’t sexual. Rather, it’s about, as Randall Tier said, becoming.

Naka-Choko is “a small acidic soup used to clear the palate.” While this episode isn’t really a palate cleanser, we do learn that meat, if frightened as it is being killed, becomes acidic. A lesson for Will in how to slaughter.

(As in previous posts, I’ve slightly lightened these screenshots to make the detail easier to make out.)

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