According to the laws of biology, predators only retain about 10 percent of their prey’s energy in their flesh. The rest is lost, never fully consumed or turned into waste. A skilled predator—someone like Hannibal, maybe—might optimize this equation, plot the hunt carefully and account for all the eventualities. Lesser hunters aren’t as elegant. They might get their 10 percent eventually, but they tend to waste their own energy along the way.
“Cortono” is the first episode of Hannibal where Hannibal seems trapped. He barely escapes being beaten to death by Jack Crawford, and we know that other enemies are moving toward him in Florence. Mason Verger and Alana Bloom track his truffle purchases and put a bounty on his head. Will Graham and Chiyoh take the train south from Lithuania. The drama comes not from Hannibal’s eventual capture, which seems almost inevitable, but from the way his enemies seem so clumsy.
Here, there are shades of seasons 1 and 2, when Will tried to distinguish Hannibal’s work from other less inventive killers. Now, Will and the rest seem like the cast of imitators, as they all try to ape the master’s technique and, inevitably, come up short.
Hannibal’s various enemies hunt in pairs. Our first is Will and Chiyoh, both of whom are starting to show serious shades of Hannibal’s sensibilities. Will knows that Hannibal must be in Florence, because of Bottecelli’s “Primavera,” which is housed in the Uffizi gallery. Looking a lot like Agatha Christie characters in their shared train compartment, the two discuss the way snails are carried across the world by the birds that eat them. We learn that Chiyoh was originally Hannibal’s aunt Lady Murasaki’s attendant. She feigns ignorance of Hannibal’s plan, before revealing that she also knows his whereabouts.
At night, Chiyoh leaves the compartment to look out at the moon. Will comes out to comfort her. He’s having Abigail Hobbs-like visions of her impaled by antlers, and Will loves to act on his savior complex. They kiss, and then Chiyoh throws Will off the back of the train. Hannibal tempts us with what seem to be parallel relationships—Will in control of Chiyoh, Hannibal in control of Bedelia—and then breaks the symmetry. Chiyoh has plans of her own.
Back in Florence, Jack says ciao to Bella by pouring her ashes into the Arno—a brilliant shot from director Guillermo Arno, who conjures a variation on Hannibal’s recurring motif of falling water with a yellow cascade of dust. Jack then meets up with detective Pazzi for dinner with his wife. Pazzi remembers Hannibal from his younger days and has decided to hunt down the killer on his own time, without the knowledge of his department.
Pazzi follows the—let’s be honest, pretty obvious—trail of dead Florentine professors to Hannibal and confronts him about their disappearance. Then, instead of alerting the cops, Pazzi decides to see if anyone has posted a bounty on Hannibal that he can pick up and thus make a little money. He tracks down Mason Verger’s number.
Mason and Alana put out that bounty after doing a little Hannibal cosplay, as Alana attempted to imitate the doctor’s taste in order to track him down. She locates Bedelia’s purchases of truffles and fine wine at shop in Florence. Over a video chat session with Pazzi, Mason promises a hefty reward for tracking down Hannibal alive, as he has plans for him back in the US. He also promises an advance if Pazzi can get the killer’s fingerprints.
NEXT: Pazzi makes a move, and so does Hannibal.
While everyone else schemes, Hannibal and Bedelia relax in their luxurious apartment, playing the harpsichord and eating some snails in an echo of Will and Chiyoh’s plotline. Bedelia seems surer of herself than she was earlier in the season, enough to make you wonder if she made sure there was a clear paper trail from fine food shop to Mason Verger. She jokes with Hannibal that Will is “en route to kill you, while you lie in wait to kill him. Now that’s reciprocity.”
Hannibal is as unruffled as ever about the rising threat level around him. He knows his enemies are prone to error. Pazzi won’t alert the police. He’ll try to get a bounty, and go after Hannibal himself. When Pazzi does just that, Hannibal is ready. He’s even prepared a gift: A woodcut of Francesco Pazzi, one of the detective’s ancestors, who led a failed revolt against Lorenzo de’ Medici. In the woodcut, Francesco hangs on a noose and his bowels spill from his body. Hannibal ties Rinaldo Pazzi to a chair and confirms that he’s working for Mason. Then, ever the fan of Renaissance history, Hannibal recreates the image on the woodcut, cutting open Rinaldo’s stomach and stringing him up with an electrical cord from the side of apartment.
It just so happens that Jack walks past right as Pazzi falls from the balcony. Jack goes after Hannibal and the two face off in an exhibition room full of torture devices. To give himself a little cover, Jack turns on a turntable, which plays Rossini’s “The Thieving Magpie.” Then he jumps Hannibal and the action begins.
The resulting fight is to Hannibal and Jack’s face off in “Mizumono” as a bar fight is to fencing. Jack throws Hannibal through glass, sticks his arm in a breaking wheel, and pummels him with about as many punches as he can throw. The soundtrack trades the restrained elegance of Bach for frenetic comic opera. The result is jarring, almost too on the nose, which seems like the point. Jack isn’t Hannibal. He doesn’t have his style. Hannibal asks how Jack killed Bella. He asks how Jack will feel when he kills him. “Alive,” Jack says.
Of course, Jack’s not Hannibal. He doesn’t know how he will feel after killing Hannibal, and he doesn’t get the chance to. After being thrust out the window, Hannibal grabs onto Pazzi’s dangling body, falls to the ground, and then picks himself up again. His enemies might have learned some of his skills, but Hannibal’s the master, for now.
Notes, quotes, and observations
- Hannibal taunts Pazzi for his ancestor’s crime, claiming that Franceso turned on the Medici for “30 pieces of silver,” the price it took for Judas to betray Christ. Hannibal’s wit is pretty sharp here, given that Francesco was actually working on behalf of the Pope.
- Look closely and you can see a Medici coat of arms carved onto the wall below Hannibal’s balcony behind Pazzi’s dead body. Good research, Hannibal production team.
- I can’t resist pointing out that, between “Contorno” and Rihanna’s latest music video, it’s been a pretty good day for watching Mads Mikkelsen get beaten to a bloody pulp.
- In a line that somehow made its way onto network television, Mason tells Alana, “I’m sure you got a taste of [Hannibal], too. Spitters are quitters, and you don’t strike me as a quitter, Dr. Bloom.”