In Naka-Choko (an acidic soup served as a palette cleanser during a Japanese meal) the title is appropriate for this episode, as things begin to reach a high point in Will’s “game of wills” with Hannibal. Will he be able to hold onto his civilized self or will he succumb to Hannibal’s blandishments to give in to the beast within? There has been, after all, a lot of blandishment, in the past couple of episodes, culminating in the death of Randall Tier, by Will’s hands.
Hannibal continues in his quest to get will to release the beast within himself, and this appears to be succeeding as Will, in a flashback, imagines he is actually choking Hannibal Lecter. Like Jesse Cooper, from Preacher, Will Graham has a deep well of violence inside him, that he likes. But unlike Jesse, he’s deeply ashamed of it. He is loathe to acknowledge its existence, except to Hannibal. When he’s acknowledged it in the past, he tried to use it for good. Like a Dexter, he used his love of violence to kill other killers. It’s part of the reason he’s so dead set on killing Hannibal. Maybe he feels if he kills Hannibal he can destroy that shameful part of himself. It’s the reason we keep seeing the conflation between the Wendigo and the RavenStag. Both creatures are two sides of the same coin. One benign and the other malevolent.
It’s interesting. He has a deep need to experience violence. To kill. So he goes into a profession that requires that he commit acts of violence. (Will was a cop before becoming a profiler.) In an effort to control it or tame it he goes into a job that gives it power, and then he meets Hannibal, who, recognizing a wolf in sheep’s clothing, manages in just one episode, to completely undo any progress Will might have made towards that goal. Hannibal continues , throughout the following 25 episodes, to keep putting Will in situations that require him to express that violent need. He believes he’s seen Will’s true face. Hannibal already thinks of Will as an intellectual equal, now if he can share murder with him, Will would be the perfect companion.
After Will kills Randall, he takes the body to Hannibal, who is once again impressed by Will’s talent for survival. He’s like a proud father whose happy his kid beat up a bully on the playground. He lovingly washes the blood from Will’s hands, while speaking to him in encouraging tones, to help Will remain in the moment. He knows Will wants to withdraw into himself and tells him not to. Fuller stages this as a love scene, but there are also mytho-religious implications, as Hannibal washing off the blood, and carefully wrapping the wounds, looks like Christ washing the feet of his Apostles.
(My mind also wants to interpret these scenes as a big brother, little brother dynamic, but Fuller has specifically stated that this is a love story and I accept that assertion, while also thinking I’m not wrong either.)
Will confesses that he imagined killing Hannibal instead of Randall. Hannibal asks Will how he’ll repay Randall for the gift of his death. Hannibal believes the artistic display of the victim’s body after death is a compliment to the victim. He thinks artistic displays of the body elevates them to more than the status of just being meat. Will and Hannibal fuse Randall with the body of the beast he believed himself to be, thereby reaching what Hannibal would think is his ultimate potential. After which we watch a grand display of acting as Will and Hannibal act out their roles as profilers. Its hilarious, as they both go on and on, pretentiously nattering about the killer’s motives, while Jack gives both of them the side eye. He knows not only that Will killed Randall, but that both of them mutilated the body. Later, though, he does take Will to task for this. He’s in this to get Hannibal but he is beginning to doubt Will’s motivations.
Everyone is questioning Will in this episode. He’s questioning himself as he imagines Randall Tier chastising him for killing him, saying that killing him was Will’s “becoming”. So Will certainly feels he’s that much closer to being what Hannibal wants him to be, even if he did kill Tier in self-defense.
Freddie, Alana, and Jack are all questioning Will’s validity. In the case of Alana and Freddie, Will is outright lying, but these women are not stupid. Freddie knows he’s not telling her anything useful, when he goes to her to finish his series of interviews that he promised her, insisting that Chilton was, in fact, the Chesapeake Ripper. Freddie wonders why he’s back in therapy with the man he accused of being the Ripper, and goes to Alana with this same question, which awakens Alana’s fears that something strange is going on between Will and Hannibal.
Margot, in therapy with Hannibal, is once again being encouraged to kill her brother. Hannibal believes her sentimental feelings are getting in the way of fratricide. He plants the idea in Margot’s mind that she should have a baby to get around the restrictions their father placed on the family estate. In the event that he or Mason died without a male heir, the entire fortune would go to the Southern Baptist Church, and not Margot. Yeah, their father was as much of a piece of shit as Mason. When Mason indirectly threatens to kill her by feeding her to his prize pigs, she makes up her mind to go to see Will Graham. This show reaches high camp when Mason shows her a dummy made of meat, and dressed in her clothes, being lowered into a pigpen.
Hannibal and Alana are shown practicing the theremin, an instrument that is played by stroking the air next to it. (This is the instrument that makes that haunting wooo-wooo noise from the original Star Trek Theme song.) Naturally, Hannibal would choose the theremin, as, just like the harpsichord, its just twee enough to catch his fancy. Hannibal would never be so gauche as to strum a guitar, or play the piano.
Afterwards, we get the fivesome. Margot has decided she wants Will to be the father of her Verger baby, and Alana and Hannibal decide this is the evening they want to snork like rabbits. The implication is that these are simultaneous but separate events. Unbeknownst to all of the players they have been joined by Hannibal’s alter ego, the ManStag, which makes things kinda kinky. I think this is Will just hallucinating again but this also means I have to ask myself why he’s envisioning Hannibal with Alana.
Actually, the Manstag is there as in indication to us that Hannibal is the orchestrator of these events. He’s the one who planted the idea in Margot’s head that a pregnancy would solve her problems with Mason. The ManStag is with Alana and Hannibal to indicate to us also that he is manipulating both Alana and Will. He’s not with her because he loves her, or even likes her, but because he doesn’t want Will to have her, because now that there’s no longer the specter of mental instability hanging over Will, their relationship becomes an actual possibility, and Hannibal can’t have Will distracted by attachments to other people.
The next day, Freddie encounters Alana and presses her to question why Will is back in therapy with Hannibal. I think her conversation with Freddie frightens her, becausegalvanizes Alana to start asking herself some tough questions. Freddie mentions the deaths of Hannibal’s former patients and that she believes Will and Hannibal are killing people together.
Mason invites Hannibal out to Muskrat Farm to view his pigs. He wants to talk about Margot, but Hannibal convinces Mason that he should come to therapy instead. Mason gifts Hannibal with one of his prize pigs. On the surface Mason and Hannibal appear to be similar sociopaths, but Mason is far out of his league when it comes to manipulating events. Hannibal is always several steps ahead of Mason, although Mason does step up his game in season three, after his mutilation.
Hannibal, Will and Alana have dinner together and Alana can see their behavior up close. You can see she finds their behavior disquieting, but still confronts them about Freddie’s accusations. Hannibal called her brave in Mizunomo. Yes she is. Its an awkward conversation. She can tell they are keeping some kind of secret from her.
Freddie tries to confirm her theories about Will by visiting his home where she finds parts of Randall Tier’s body in Will’s workshed. Will encounters her and chases her down. This is the closest the show has gotten to your typical serial killer chase scene and it looks frightening, but is mostly staged by Will.Unknown to Will, this is a re-enactment of the same scene, between Hannibal and Beverly, earlier in the season and I’m pretty sure its what Fuller meant to do. In the first season, Fuller made a point of not showing female victims in terror, as he said it was cliche, but he does make some exceptions in season two, with Beverly, Alana ,and Freddie.
During her attack, Freddie tries to send a call to Jack, but all it does is record her screams. Jack and Will put on a dog and pony show for Hannibal, leading him to believe that Will killed Freddie. Later, Will shows up for dinner with Hannibal and brings some “long pig”, which is a euphemism for human flesh. He claims its Freddie without actually saying so, and Hannibal invites Will to prepare the meal with him. (They are actually eating parts of Randall, that Will had set aside.) Hannibal is proud of him but chastises him because the victim “tastes” frightened. He says Freddie’s murder was an act of God. Its not that Hannibal doesn’t believe in God, but that he considers himself God’s equal.This scene is also shot as a love scene, as Will and Hannibal discuss religious philosophy, while dining on Will’s victim.
Murder husbands indeed!