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Watching Hannibal can be a complex, if wonderful, endeavor. Earlier this season, when Hannibal and Bedelia began their role play as Dr. and Mrs. Fell, I commented that such a deception (complete with a highly sought after academic posting on false credentials) would be all but impossible. All it would take was a little digging and a Google Image search to suss out the truth about the Fells. That no one even looked up Dr. Fell (and came across a picture of the real man) asked the audience to suspend their disbelief in a major way. But we were all willing to take that leap, because it was clear what was being asked of us and we’ve been here before. It’s part of the cost of buying into a show like Hannibal. But there is a line between suspending disbelief and asking the audience to just play dumb.
Now, in “Dolce,” we see that the police are capable of a little digging (unlike the academics of Florence, apparently) and found some lovely images of the Fells. I’m less inclined to grant suspension of disbelief to plot holes in one instance when they are filled in another. Pointing out there there were indeed images of the actual people out in the world cosses that line into the realm of playing dumb, and does a disservice to the show. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the only instance of strained plot within the episode. We were also expected to accept that Mason has managed to corrupt the entire Florence police force (knowing what we know about Italian corruption, I suppose it’s not too hard to accept that a number of the officer are willing to sell Hannibal to the highest bidder, but the entire force?). It’s a bit much, and took me out of my viewing space within the episode.
But plot holes and difficulty suspending disbelief are symptoms of a larger issue within these last few episode: meandering plot lines with no real bearing on the overall arc of the series. Take last week’s episode, “Contorno.” Absolutely nothing of consequence occurred within the episode. Sure, Jack got his chance to knock Hannibal around a bit, but Hannibal was still alive and free at the episode’s end (and Jack’s comment that he needs Will to be the one to capture Hannibal this week was a weak justification). Will was thrown off a train by Chiyoh (this season’s worst addition, by a mile), yet magically wanders into Florence this week with only a few bumps and bruises. If that entire episode had been removed from the season, it would not have affected anything in the long run.
“Dolce,” on the other hand, does offer us some important moments, but they are interspersed around those plot holes discussed above. The highly anticipated reunion of Hannibal and Will (and event that easily could have happened weeks earlier, had the show have chosen to streamline this first half of the season a bit more) was all we could have hoped for and more. The chemistry between Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen is exquisite. In addition, the episode allowed Gillian Anderson to really let go and have some brilliant fun as Bedelia worked on her failure of an alibi. As it appears Bedelia has indeed survived Hannibal (a miracle, to be sure), I would hope that we get to see her again should the show get the miracle it needs to return in the future.
As usual, there was some truly amazing imagery and a mystical dreamlike quality throughout most of the episode. The sex scene between Alana and Margot, in particular, was just stunning. But, the ultimate episode payoff- Will and Hannibal being captured and brought to Mason, was clunky at best. We know that both men need to survive this experience to make it to the second portion of the season (the Tooth Fairy/Red Dragon arc), so there isn’t much of a threat to their lives at this point. The only real item of suspense here is how and when Mason will get his just desserts (one imagines it will happen quite quickly, since there is no Clarice Starling to putter around for a while before saving Hannibal from Mason’s clutches).
Personally, I am fine with watching a gorgeously crafted episode of Hannibal, even if it is riddled with plotting issues, because it is one of television’s best shows. But I have come to expect more from the series, and as the credibility of characters’ actions are called into question, it hurts the series in a way that can lead to it becoming unwatchable. With a series like Hannibal, there is an implicit contract between its creators and audience: we are willing to excuse a certain level of believability for the overall story arcs to remain gauzy and dreamlike. But the series has begun to step across the line in the sand here, and that is troubling for the remainder of this arc and beyond.
— I wanted to touch a bit on the story arc itself, mostly for those familiar with the Thomas Harris novels and the films. Early on in this season, with the addition of Pazzi and the Italian setting, it was clear that the show was borrowing from the novel “Hannibal” (one of the two novels the series has the rights to- the other being “Red Dragon,” although they don’t have the rights to the character of Clarice Starling). After the last two episode, the series has gone full-on “Hannibal,” lifting the bulk of the novel’s plot completely. Considering it is unlikely the series will exist as a series next season (now that Netflix and Amazon have passed), I can’t fault the show for taking all they can from the Harris source material. But, it does muddle things a bit for those who have read the novels and seen the films. Personally, I find myself looking for Clarice to pop out of the woodwork and save the day, capturing Hannibal. Now that the actual story of Hannibal’s capture appears to be off the table, I’m interested to see how Bryan Fuller and company go about the end of this arc, since presumably the story cannot end as the novel “Hannibal” does.
— The Margot-Alana relationship is particularly interesting and a bit confusing. Through their interaction, it is apparent that both are united in a singular goal: stopping Mason. Alana is motivated by the dual possibility of capturing or killing Hannibal, of course, while Margot just wants to gain the ability to have a true heir (one of the more icky arcs, although lifted directly from the source material). I assume Alana will, in some way, act as the Clarice stand-in for the ultimate end of this arc, which would give her a lot more to do (as Caroline Dhavernas deserves the chance to really shine). All that being said, I’m still not entirely sure why the two of them are sleeping together (other than to remind us that Margot’s character is a lesbian, despite her dalliance with Will last season).
— Chiyoh really is the worst and doesn’t add all that much to the story. We really could have done without her in the story.
— “Dolce” is the sixth episode of the season. There will be thirteen. One hopes that this arc comes to a close next week so that enough time can be given to the set-up of the Tooth Fairy arc. As fun as Mason has been (and he’s much better this season than last, thanks to Joe Andersen taking over the role), he’s still a pretty cookie-cutter villain, and I’m tiring of hearing him offer the same refrain over and over without acting on it.