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Hannibal - 2.10 - "Naka-Choko" and its problems - Review

Welcome back from my Hannibal hiatus. I'm actually happy I had one, because the way this show is going right now leaves me dissatisfied for the most part. And I don't really know what went wrong with it after a grandiose first season and great beginning of the second one. Maybe it's the social media commentary from Bryan Fuller that's affecting my enjoyment. But after watching "Naka-Choko" I can see that there are tons of problems that need to be addressed.

My opinions and commentary on social issues will be my own. So you're free to throw eggs at me.

The Plot
Randall's death as a result of self-defense after Hannibal set him up is supposedly kickstarting Will's cruelty. Will, of course fantasizes about killing Hannibal with his own hands. The scene when Hannibal takes Will's injured hand reminded me of the scene when Will had a seizure right in front of him. In a way we are supposed to feel that Hannibal still has power over him by taking care of Will.

Power plays a very important role in Will's coming of age murder spree, because that feeling is not something you can escape from. And the episode implies that Will owes Randall for making him feel that way. It would imply that Hannibal also gains power simply by helping Will to feel powerful. We as audience are led to believe that Will is that far gone. And I'm not buying it and we shouldn't. Because the intention is to make it seem real without it being so.

Randall didn't force Will to enjoy that kill, as he was pointing out correctly. But the enjoyment that Will gets from these acts should be coupled with a feeling of revulsion, subtle as it is to fool Hannibal. In order to help the audience root for him, Will's overall moral code should and needs to stay intact. The challenge between Hannibal and Will is not one of complete similarities between them. It's the conflict that drives this power play. The choices they make in similar situations. And the episode completely missed out on that.

Obviously we have many theories that point towards Will setting Hannibal up, making him believe that he killed Freddie etc. Unfortunately, the subtlety of Will's supposed manipulation was missing and it felt more like watching a father guide his son towards murder. At least we still have Will voicing his problems with lines such as "nightmares following him out of his dreams". Will would really need to be a master manipulator if he were that casual and obvious in front of Jack, saying that coming into his own was much easier for the victim. From the source material we also know that Freddy's death at the hands of Dolorhyde was a direct consequence of Will's opportunistic actions, so there's definitely more to it (see 2.11 promo for that). And to add more to the complex interactions between Will and Freddie, we need to remind ourselves that she's not the only one wanting to continue this story. Will's diversion tactics are a direct contradiction to what he said before. Unfortunately, her story was cut short.

The Vergers
I was waiting for Mason with bated breath and Michael Pitt didn't disappoint, but didn't wow me either.

Mason represented the complete opposite of Hannibal. He was "loud", he flaunted his cruelty in front of others, but he wasn't menacing or chilling in the way that Hannibal is. I don't know whether this is supposed to be emulating the Joker, but so far the danger is missing. And that's funny considering he fed his sister's suit to the pigs and is even more disgusting than Dr. Lecter in the original novel. Right now I just want to know the brand of that coat.

Margot Verger and others
Margot (Katharine Isabelle) is a stunning personality and her character is adding much needed female gravitas after the slaughter party that was Beverly, Abigail and a missing Bedelia. I don't know why this show continues to praise itself for its feminist direction when Freddie is now gone, too. And while there are many male characters that also fall prey to Hannibal and others, I find it disturbing how they get more on-screen presence and importance in the story than the female ones. I almost sighed in relief after watching Freddie and Alana talking to each other even if it was about Will and Hannibal. Which brings me to Alana's treatment. And it can only be summed up as nothing more than sex object. She's barely in scenes about investigations and she's barely voicing her fear, doubts or beliefs. The narrative is not giving her the chance. Not even to voice her misguided support in different scenes. Instead I'm watching awkward sex scenes with predictable music in the background. And that sex scene was problematic for various reasons.

It was pointed out twice and for those that didn't catch it or don't know the source material or her character. Margot is lesbian and does have "the wrong provlivity for parts". That line is awful by the way.

Contrary to Fuller's beliefs, you can respect her sexuality and still do it the way the book went about it, which was much more subversive in terms of trying to overpower her brother. It added more layers to her character and the symbolic nature of women struggling with male patriarchy and subsequently overthrowing them was reinforced. Not a sex scene with Will to get his sperm and ignoring her "proclivity".
If her lover Judy won't appear at any point in the story, it's gonna turn really ugly. That kind of ugly that contributes to queer erasure and plays right into the trope "not too gay". Margot needs a male heir and doing it the easiest way via Will just for some on-screen sex is also the most disrespectful one. And since when did sex become such an important part of the show?

And then we also have this gem here.

Just no. I'm absolutely 100% tired of seeing canonically queer characters, especially lesbians on TV put into heterosexual contexts, even if they have an ulterior motive for doing it. It's almost as bad as using lesbian characters to titillate the male audience. That's the last thing TV shows need. And by the way, making a butch canon lesbian character more feminine is disturbing as well, because it denies someone's personhood and mode of representing yourself in the way you feel most comfortable about. Lesbian characters should be shown in every ways, not just one. That counts for either being butch or feminine. Those things have nothing to do with whom a person wants to sleep with. And I will repeat it again.
The way you look has nothing to do with the people you want to sleep with. End of story. Making Margot turn out to be more "conventionally pretty" in ways that are accepted by society and then having her sleep with Will has done nothing but let the story and its social context go 100 steps back.

The actual sex scenes
Media has promoted this scene repeatedly and Fuller et al. also felt it necessary to point out the homoerotic context between Will and Hannibal, although the showrunner has reaffirmed Will's heterosexuality. The Fandom loves "Hannigram" and is excited whenever Will and Hannibal share moments of intimacy that go beyond the dreaded bromance that other shows like to fall into. That ship teasing however needs to stop!
I'm the type of fan who would love seeing Hannibal turning his obsession for Will into more physical ways that go beyond comfort. And not because m/m or f/m or any kind of sexual situation does it for me. I'm seeing narrative value with Hannibal's manipulations, no matter how they turn out to be. Seeing Will counteracting that kind of power and intimacy would be very interesting for the plot. At the same time I don't want to see the awful character of Dr. Lecter be hailed as queer representation, because Will's and Hannibal's relationship is problematic on all accounts. To see the producers and showrunner praising the sexual energy between them, going on and on about how Hannibal is beyond labels of sexuality and would do anything to possess Will...and then having a sex scene where Hannibal and Will aren't even touching (if you don't count the stag) and making much effort to use the female characters as barrier, Alana of all people (who has no agency of her own in that context)...
I have nothing more to say. Either go all out and have Hannibal approach him in a sexual way for plot reasons or just stop talking about Hannigram and their epic seduction. I've had enough disappointments with other shows that like to pretend they are super inclusive and accepting of m/m or f/f narratives. (Jeff Davis, the Supernatural Writers, Sherlock, Once upon a Time, everyone). This 'yes but not really' is just awful even for a show with awful characters like Hannibal.

The episode concludes with the morphing of Will and Hannibal's faces, showing a murderous unity between them. Will better have an ace up his sleeve, preferably with Jack's full knowledge. Otherwise the entire conflict between Will and Hannibal and the struggle between morality and God-like powers will simply fall flat.

I apologize for my long rant and my obvious disappointment. Special shout out goes to Freddie who (in my mind) is judging the hell out of this episode.

What did you think of "Naka-Choko"?

About the Author - Veronika K.
Graduate from the University of Zurich, writer, TV addict. Favorite shows include Hannibal, Game of Thrones, TVD, Sleepy Hollow, Orange Is The New Black, Spartacus and Supernatural. Very opinionated and concerned with social issues in media. Professional procrastinator.