Mania Grade: B
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- Episode: Naka-Choko (Season 2, Episode 10)
- Starring: Hugh Dancy, Mads Mikkelsen, Caroline Dhavernas
- Written By: Steve Lightfoot
- Directed By: Vincenzo Natali
- Studio: Dino De Laurentiis Company, Living Dead Guy Productions, AXN: Original X Production
- Network: NBC
Hannibal: Naka-Choko Review
Greatness… and some rough edges
By Curtis G. Schmitt
May 05, 2014
I did not like “Naka-Choko” on first viewing. It felt like a jumble of really tasty ingredients that didn’t know what it wanted to be. After viewing it a second time, I like it a lot more, but still have some gripes.
Right off the bat, I felt the opening scene of Will’s confrontation with Tier/Hannibal/Ravenstag was unnecessary. HANNIBAL has always been a show where things happen off-screen. This is often done to enhance the dramatic tension and mystery -- as seen at the end of the previous episode. Not showing us the fight between Randall Tier and Will made that final reveal in Hannibal’s dining room all the more powerful. So why revisit it now? All of the information we get from that fight scene (Will fantasizing that he’s beating Hannibal to death) is covered in dialogue in the very next scene. Aesthetically, something felt off to me as well. For example, the percussive score unintentionally (I hope) recalls Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” and jarred me right out of the episode every time I heard it.
My biggest criticism, however, did NOT survive my second viewing. In serialized storytelling, you want a good mix of paying off previously posed questions and setting up new mysteries and ambiguities. “Naka-Choko” felt skewed too far to the asking side. Is Jack Crawford in on Will’s game or completely in the dark? Why is Mason Verger breeding killer pigs? Why did Margot seduce Will? What happened to Freddie Lounds? And most importantly, is Will really becoming a serial killer or faking it to catch Hannibal? But to my surprise, many of these questions are in fact answered -- if we look closely. And those that aren’t, are teased in dramatically satisfying ways.
Much of the mystery in HANNIBAL (and in life) lies between the lines of what a person’s true intentions are and what they present their intentions to be. As viewers we’re always looking for solid ground to stand on -- what can we trust as true? I suggest that we can trust most of what we see in Will’s dreams and visions. For example, when Will does his empathy thing (on himself) at the Tier crime scene, we witness his vision of himself conversing with his victim. Tier says, “This is my becoming. And yours.” Will shakes his head and corrects him, “This is my DESIGN.” I think it’s safe to conclude that a part of Will (as represented by Tier) acknowledges the joy he’s taking in the violence, and as a result, the risk of him becoming the very thing he’s chasing (Hannibal). But there’s another part of him that’s in control (for the moment, that is) -- the fisherman -- that has designed a person suit for himself to carefully lure Hannibal onto his hook.
Contrast this to Will’s words when he comes out of his vision and back into the room with Jack and Hannibal; his words are no longer truth but bait. He tells Jack and Hannibal that Tier’s killer ENVIED him. “Randall Tier came into his own much easier than whoever killed him.” This is Will’s way of baiting Hannibal, essentially saying to him “It may be hard for me to admit, but you and I are the same.” No they aren’t. Not yet anyway.
So… Is Will really becoming a serial killer? I would say at this point it’s like asking whether Schödinger’s cat is alive or dead. There’s potential for either answer to be true, and we will not know until we open the box. Will has formed an alliance with Hannibal that is both alive and dead, both true and not true. It’s a dangerous game for him to play -- as dangerous as its ever been, a tightrope walk without a net.
What happened to Freddie Lounds? My guess is that Will and Freddie have found common ground over their inability to help and save Abigail Hobbs. The confrontation between them at Will’s house was clearly real, but I’m pretty sure Freddie is alive and either willingly helping Will deceive Hannibal, or tied up somewhere. Or possibly in FBI custody -- which leads us to…
Is Jack in on it with Will or is he clueless? Jack’s question to Will at the crime scene, “His killer EMPATHIZED with him?” is very interesting. If Jack is not in on it, this is a sign he might be getting suspicious of Will again. If he is in on it, it was a clever way to throw Hannibal off the scent. Makes me wonder if he in fact responded to Freddie’s call and took her (willingly or otherwise) into custody to prevent her from posting those incriminating photos online.
Why did Margot seduce Will? Quite simply, to leave a legacy, as Hannibal suggested in her therapy session. Of course, she needed someone with the “right parts” to help her with that. Enter Will Graham (pun intended). How ironic then are her words when she shows up at his door with a bottle of whiskey and says, “I’ve come to replenish your stores.”
And finally… Why is Mason breeding killer pigs? This question will likely not be answered too soon. Is it to torment his sister and/or keep her in line? Seems pretty elaborate for just that. Or is Mason a burgeoning serial killer too? If that’s the case, I expect we’ll get a lot more of him in Season 3.
Despite its flaws, I expect “Naka-Choko” will rise in my estimation within the larger context of this season as a whole. I think when storytelling dares to reach for greatness, it’s bound to have some rough edges from time to time.