‘Hannibal’: An Act of Reciprocity

Published 12 months ago by

Mads Mikkelsen and Hugh Dancy in Hannibal Season 2 Episode 10 Hannibal: An Act of Reciprocity

[This is a review of Hannibal season 2, episode 10. There will be SPOILERS.]


With all its ghastly bloodletting, its dismemberment, and its Damien Hirst-ing of well-liked characters, Hannibal is already a pretty intimate show. The series makes a point of illustrating how frequently and easily the boundaries of personal space and psychic distance are closed, or simply done away with completely.

When he’s not engaging in deeply revealing one-on-one sessions with his patients or helping paint a psychological profile of some killer for the FBI, Hannibal is delicately working with what remains of those who occasionally cross his path. He’s not ravenously devouring their corpse; he’s transforming the vestiges of their being into something quite often beautiful and deserving of presentation. A commemoration, he might call it.

The tremendous presentation is due in part to the nature of television and its limited sensory output – if the audience could smell and taste what Hannibal was serving up, then they might feel quite differently – but the level of effort and skill that goes into the appearance of his cuisine is indicative of the character, and the series as a whole.

It is, by nature, about the intimate processes, and to its great credit, one that is interested in exploring the different levels of closeness and understanding within those procedures, even if it takes the story to uncomfortable, but inevitable places. Hannibal has demonstrated on many different levels that the process of truly knowing someone, connecting with them on a personal, intimate basis, takes time and patience. It is not the hurried, frenzied slaying of unfamiliar, nameless victims, as was depicted by Randall Tier in ‘Shiizakana’; it is more akin to Will’s fondness for fly fishing: deliberate, measured, and, most of all, (frighteningly) calm.

Then, as was seen in ‘Naka-Choko,’ the series manages to take that intimacy to a whole new level. The episode begins during the final moments of last week’s installment, which happened to be the final moments of Mr. Tier – though, in Will’s fantasy, Randall also vacillates between the Wendigo that haunts his mind, and the man who has been tinkering with it. The editing in the scene is notably hurried and frenzied, its quickness an indication of the violent act Will is committing. Slow the edits down a bit, and the effect is something altogether different, but equally personal and close; it begins to resemble the scenes between Hannibal and Alana, and Will and Margot Verger.

Similarly, when Will returns Tier’s body to Hannibal, they both recognize the reciprocal acts of trying to kill one another. Then things get increasingly intimate, as Hannibal cleans Will’s wounds and they discuss the finer points of Tier’s death and the way in which Will might choose to commemorate him. In the world of Hannibal, passions commingle in frightening, beautifully arranged ways.

Hugh Dancy in Hannibal Season 2 Episode 10 Hannibal: An Act of Reciprocity

A much stronger episode than last week’s entry, ‘Naka-Choko’ spends most of its time exploring the paradoxical relationship between Will and Hannibal, it also takes the time to look at characters who hold interesting places in the Dr. Lecter mythology. That means Michael Pitt’s first appearance as Mason Verger, which includes Hannibal extending him the offer of becoming his therapist, and the questionable fate of the audacious Freddie Lounds.

Despite this exploration of relationships, there is still progression of the narrative. Tier’s death is justifiable homicide; he was a stone cold killer who had Will in his sights. He’s also part of the game Will’s playing to lure Hannibal onto his and Jack’s line.

But playing that game means Will must let the monster inside him out. This asks the question: How far is he willing to go in order to make sure his prey will take the bait and, more importantly, how much of Will Graham will be left when and if the plan comes to fruition?

The episode ends much as it began, with Will and Hannibal communing over a piece of meat procured by the more nascent killer between them. Only this time, the flesh isn’t rendered into a disturbing tableau in a museum; it’s handled with care and given over to Hannibal’s design. The implication of whom they are consuming is certainly pointed, but unconfirmed.

Hannibal has already toyed around with elements of the series’ larger mythology, though; and if you combine that with how willing the series was to plumb the disturbingly intimate places it did here, the only thing that’s certain is that anything’s possible.


Hannibal continues next Friday with the David Slade-directed ‘Ko No Mono’ @10pm on NBC. Check out a preview below:

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  1. This was a great episode. I was worried that they were going to go back to killer-of the-week format, but I like that they aren’t and are keeping it focused on the established main characters and their conflicts. I believe everything that’s happening – or seeming to happen – with Will is just part of his meticulous plan to bring Hannibal down.

  2. Michael Pitt was phenomenal. I was actually kind of reminded of Oldman’s performance watching him… not a bag thing, while still having a different stamp on Verger.

    • Yeah, going into it I was expecting the usual Pitt performance (this is not a knock) as the low key but really creepy type but what we got was so different yet just as amazing.
      Not only did you see threads of Gary Oldman’s version of Verger but I also got a Joker vibe from him in line with Heath Ledger from The Dark Knight (apparently so did a lot of others so I’m not as smart as I thought). :)

      • Funny you mention, Bryan Fuller describe Mason Verger a bit like The Joker

        • It’s subtle but there are similarities. His speech pattern and mannerisms really do remind me of The Joker.

          If you read the same interview I did (AV Club) he did mention it and I was oh so proud of myself. :)
          I’ll apologize ahead of time to Screen Rant for recommending another site but if you’re as die hard a fan of the show as I am the interviews Fuller does every week for them is a must read.

  3. Until we see a body I refuse to believe that Freddie is dead.
    The preview for next week doesn’t help my theory (wheelchair on fire) but the character is such a big part of the Red Dragon story that I’d hate to see her not there.

    I’m also thrilled to see David Slade will be directing the next episode. I don’t recall him directing anything this season so welcome back.
    I’d also love it if somehow they can get Jonathan Demme to direct an episode.
    He’s worked in TV as recently as last year when he directed an episode of The Killing (the best episode of the series IMO) and it would be great to see him back in this universe.

    • I don’t think she’s dead. Will just wants it to seem that way so he can convince Hannibal. I don’t think Will will ever go to a place of killing someone like that and lose himself in the process of trying to bring down Hannibal.

  4. Just an aside: I am very unfamiliar with the Hannibal mythology.

    That being said, the implication that Freddie was killed by Will is troubling to me. The murder of the beast-guy was justified, but killing Freddie, to save his own ass might take him too far over the edge for me. I like being able to root for Will.

    As for Michael Pitt’s introduction, I don’t know the character, but Pitt was certainly good, as he always is.

    Also, met the guy one time at a bar after his band played. Certainly doesn’t give off the vibe that he’s this selfish, mean guy who is hard to work with, which are the tabloid rumors. That said, only met him for like 30 minutes and this was like 7 years ago.

    • I don’t think he killed her. I think he probably let her in on his plan because they had a bounding moment over both wanting to catch Abby’s killer – not to mention that she also saw some seemingly f***ed up things in his cooler – and she’s deciding to hide out and pretend to be dead until he catches Hannibal.

      • Belief on that theory is troublesome because it begs the question of why a writer would display a false narrative strictly for the benefit of the audience. Generally, going by perspective, if another character isn’t being intentionally mislead as a witness to events, the events portrayed between two persons is an actual event. Misdirection of another character usually requires that some other character serves as witness to the false chain of events.

        In this case, there are only two people present: Will and Freddie.

        To say that they engineered and then acted out what we saw with no one else to bear witness is problematic because it would have been completely unnecessary for Will to attack her in the manner he did if no one else was going to see it. To meet up, reveal that Freddie was last traced to being near Will’s residence, then give the implications of where the meat came from in the scene between Hannibal and Will is one thing but showing the events with no other present perspective means only interpreting those events in one way.

        • There was nothing manufactured in Will and Freddie’s exchange. She made a genuine discovery, was genuinely terrified and Will had to genuinely subdue her. I don’t believe she’s dead, I believe Will had to go to extremes to overpower her fear. And if she escaped, she would destroy Will’s plan. Smashing the driver side window is a standard police procedure to confuse and subdue. She’s alive, we’ll see the outcome of that conversation before the end of the season.

          • Yes, exactly. I wasn’t saying that they acted out the whole thing. I think Freddy made a discovery that genuinely surprised her and that she was really terrified of Will and trying to get away. But my suspicion is that once he subdued her he told her what he was really doing to catch Hannibal (or some other similar variation). Thanks for writing and explaining that (couldn’t have done it better). That’s what I was trying to convey and what I believe happened.

            • This makes more sense, but most people that are “subdued” probably aren’t to keen to take the one that subdued them at their word and likely would feel that person would say anything to get out of whatever was seen.

              It’s an convoluted twist that would be extremely hard to get around as a writer, especially since Freddie isn’t the type to take getting attacked by someone as a misunderstanding and then let it go.

              Let us keep in mind that Freddie has been gunning for Will from the word go. I doubt any explanation would quell her desire to use any of this against him.

              • I think Freddie would probably understand why Will had to attack her under the circumstances – though she still might be pissed about it and reluctant. Yes, Freddie has been gunning for Will for a long time, but I think the fact that they both want justice for Abby could go a long way in causing her to seriously think about working with him for the greater good. The only other real alternatives is that Will he subdued her and locked away until Hannibal is brought to justice – which is possible, but Will would have to face some serious criminal charges afterwards – or that he killed and ate her. Do you really think that happened? I’m really curious to hear that hypothesis.

  5. Freddie is confirmed dead. Chilton, however, is not. That’s what I’m waiting for, any type of confirmation by Fuller or in a future episode.

    • Who confirmed her dead and were is the link?

    • Yeah, I’ve been looking all over and haven’t seen anything that confirms Freddie is dead.

      • Remain a skeptic, my friend. It ain’t true. (Now watch her be the burning corpse in the wheelchair next week, ha, ha.)

  6. Week in and week out I look forward to my Friday night viewing of one of the best TV dramas ever created. However, that is quickly followed by a sense of withdrawal and anxiety, waiting for the next 7 days until my next “fix” (it’s only an analogy my fellow “Hanni” fans Lol.) The second thing I look forward to is reading the reviews and posted comments, which I rarely ever do with other TV shows. My favorite reviews are always here, by Kevin, but today I must admit a slight disappointment that the only mention of Michael Pitt’s intro as Mason Verger was just that, stated as a matter of fact his intro into the show. I realize overall he probably had five minutes but I relished every second of it and cannot wait to see how his character fiendishly develops in the coming episodes, especially given how we know his original fate turned out; Messrs. Fuller/Pitt, blows us away with your interpretation of Mr. Verger. For all of you who enjoy/love this show, I hope that you are recommending it to your friends and telling them to pass the word, we need more viewers! To the sales people at NBC, this show scores a 10 in every creative area, if you would only know how to truly sell or promote it to the public and take it out of its Friday night death slot, you would have done your jobs, listen to your Creative Dept. And Kevin, I look forward to your future critique of Pitt/Verger :)

  7. Fan reaction to this episode has been vocal and terse. Many are beside themselves with anger toward the Creator. I, for one, have complete faith in Bryan’s storytelling. He created the Will Graham we have come to love and I don’t believe he will destroy him. Explore him, yes; destroy him, no. I think Chilton is alive and I believe our favorite Pulitzer wannabe is as well. I like to laughingly say she’s at a day spa trying to straighten her hair! Will consents to do anything to snag Hannibal in order to properly avenge Abigail…a.n.y.t.h.i.n.g. He’s in cahoots with Jack: “You hook him, I’ll land him.” and while specifics may not have been agreed to, the game’s afoot. Remember, Jack is a big one for not wanting to necessarily know the details. Did you SEE the looks Crawford gave Will during his description of the killer in the museum? Will KNOWS he cannot slip up in ANY way (We miss you Beverly) and he’s playing for keeps, edging closer to canon’s knife in the gut when the full betrayal is realized OR some other surprise Bryan has in store. Our hero is going into the abyss as only those with incredible courage and self-awareness can. There remains a very good chance the third character that will die is still Alana, not Freddie. Remember the season previews?

    No wonder Hannibal will end up hating Will Graham beyond all others.

    • “Will consents to do anything to snag Hannibal in order to properly avenge Abigail”

      And for who’s benefit would have been acting out a physical altercation if no one else was witnessing it? Are we to believe that they did it to convince themselves? “Hey, we really have to act the part or else no one is going to believe it, even if there’s no one around.”

      So in an attempt to mislead Hannibal, Freddie acts out going to Wills residence, poking around, enacts a lock-picking break in and snoops around in privacy to make it look good. Will then comes in with a physical assault and gets maced for good measure before chasing her down and assaulting her some more, all so any number of people who aren’t there to see anything are fooled by something they never observed.

      It doesn’t take much to see where the problem in believing that is. if you have a third perspective to be fooled by events it would work. Unfortunately we only have two perspectives and they happen to be the two that were directly involved.

      • @ Chance

        I get what you’re saying and would agree but the way I read the scene and what I believe the others are saying is that something between Will and Freddie happened after the scene in the barn.
        I believe everything we saw was real and believe that if Freddie got away she would turn Will in but the last we saw was him smashing her car window so I think 2 things may have happened. Either Will was somehow able to convince Freddie of his theory and has gotten her to go along with his plan or is holding her captive until he can prove Hannibal’s guilt.

        • Exactly.

        • I concur

        • I guess I just don’t see Freddie as the type to just let something like this go. I certainly agree that not seeing anything after the window leaves a lot open, but I also know that we’ve seen Freddie and how she reacts and meddles from the beginning and I wouldn’t see it mattering to her what explanation she was given. I see her simply going balls to the wall, spewing her theories on her little site, and running her mouth while being all self-righteous about it, not laying low and being part of anyone’s plan- much less Will’s.

          • I’m commenting as someone who is catching up online (we’re just getting episode 5 on Tuesday night but I decided to watch the whole season in a week) and doesn’t yet know the outcome of the season or any episode past this one.

            I believe the scenes in question which you’re all arguing over could’ve been staged beforehand and enacted in a way to leave evidence of a genuine struggle, even if both parties consented to what happened in the scene, all for the purpose of tricking Hannibal into thinking Will had killed Freddie. That way, Will has become like Hannibal and given him a kindred spirit to confide in and, ultimately, be caught by when he finally lets his guard down.

            • I can see where you are coming from, but it would not explain Freddie’s blatant visceral reaction to what was “found” in the barn and I would find it hard to believe that falsifying such a reaction was necessary for leaving evidence.

              What it comes down to, which was my point, is that the scene was tailored in a way to lie to the audience as opposed to any particular character that may have been observing (of which there were none) or would be looking for evidence of struggle, which is entirely possible.

              No, everything that happened within that barn was purely to mislead the audience and a poor use of narrative structure since it did not, and could not have, impacted anyone within the narrative itself other than Will and Freddie.

              This is all the more obvious in the penultimate episode of the season when Jack and Alana have their conversation and this is the particular issue I take with how it was constructed (again, for the audience).

  8. I am not completely familiar with the mythology but when I started watching the show I did some research to have some background information. Will is supposed to be a good character, but now that he is free he has become disgusting. His few murders seem way worse than anything Hannibal has done because we expect it from Hannibal, not innocent Will. I think this is part of the plan though. We are meant to believe Will has gone bad until the very end when we discover Freddie is not dead, Jack new about the plan, and Hannibal is exposed. Will has to be completely innocent otherwise murdering Freddie in order to just bring down Hannibal would still land him in serious trouble. Right now we are seeing Will’s bait, and soon Jack will swoop in with the catch.

  9. As an Avid Fan ;) of the Thomas Harris novel, I’ve been impressed by the series overall. If I were to have one complaint, however, it would be that the storytellers seem more intent on outdoing the grotesqueness of the previous episode, as though it were a writer’s room mind game on par with the wit-matching between Will and Hannibal. If they’d dial that back a notch and focus more on a clearer theme, this would be a stellar second season effort. There’ve been a tremendous amount of loose thread, with the producer himself stating the entire season ends “up in the air.”

    I’m not especially concerned with the direction Will’s been traveling, as the entire season hinges on two scenes for me: first, the kitchen fight between Hannibal and Jack (two weeks after the season gets underway?) and, second, the ice fishing scene between Will and Jack. The display at the museum was merely shock effect, to lull Hannibal’s confidence. Similarly, I think Freddie’s very much alive. Will just happened to let loose on her, given the storm she’s caused in his life.

    Michael Pitt annoyed me, which was necessary to dislike the monster, and I cannot deny the superb casting choices this series has employed. Bryan Fuller reveres this as a prestige piece for the network ,and the talent proves that. Katharine Isabelle has never been more watchable, and I find myself rooting for her a bit more than this season’s version of Dr. Bloom.

    The “someone’s eating for two” tagline in next week’s promo was beyond hammy, though…

  10. Not entirely sure that as a Brit I have the same concept of self defence that I have seen expressed fairly often online by, I assume, American viewers.

    The minute Will threw away the gun and beat the guy to death it stopped being self defence.

    Shooting a violent intruder because you are in fear of your life is understandable, beating that same intruder into a coma and then breaking his neck is not.

    No not even if he has hurt your dog.

    If Will killed Freddie, which I don’t believe for a second, then people are right to say he crossed the line but I feel that line crossing came earlier when he beat that man to death.

    Unless he is lying about that too and the wolf man died jumping through the window or something.

    God I love this show.

    • ‘Merica. That’s how we roll.

    • That’s why you should never mess with someone’s dog.

  11. Um…Freddie need to be alive so that the Red Dragon can roast her.

  12. Just to let people know, as I’ve been reading responses to my earlier post, I’m just going by the implication and preview for the next episode that Lounds is dead (although I now regret that assumption; could very well be a ruse to lure Hannibal out, as Crawford said to Will, “You hook him, I’ll land him”.

  13. wasn’t Freddie killed by the tooth fairy in the movie, but its now shows will killed her ?? inquiring minds