WARNING: This review contains spoilers

Dolce is a bittersweet episode which propels us ever closer to the season’s midpoint and the shift in focus from the apprehension of Il Monstro to the apprehension of the Tooth Fairy. The episode begins a short time after the climactic events at the end of Contorno; a bloodied and beaten Hannibal makes his way through the Florentine landscape and back to Bedelia, who tends to his wounds. Meanwhile, Jack observes the police and emergency services dealing with the Pazzi crime scene. Will finally joins Jack in Florence. Their initial discussion in the setting of the Jack’s cataclysmic conflict with Hannibal provides some opportunity for clarity; there is recognition from both of their actions in relation to the law and Jack confesses that he did not kill Hannibal because he wants Will to do it. Crucially, though, Will admits to Jack the duality he feels in relation to his old friend and, more than that, he feels it will always be this way. Whilst this internal conflict is nothing new for Will, it is the clearest admission he has given to Jack – the character who represents rational, righteous response. The effect of such a confession sustains the enigma of how the events in this episode will play out, especially in regards to the actions that Jack will take in reaction to Will’s.

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Dolce then shifts to the other key pairing so far this season; Hannibal and Bedelia. She finds him on their balcony sketching the features of its iconic architecture in an effort to commit it to memory. During their conversation, he reflects on the significance of the city to his development; “I see my end and my beginning”. They are seemingly planning to depart imminently. However, Bedelia reveals that she doesn’t plan to accompany Hannibal any further. The following conversation, now relocated to the darker setting of their salon, is a quietly and perversely tender one, featuring as it does a confirmation that Hannibal had intended to eat her, but Bedelia gently insists to him that she has not “marinated long enough for your tastes”. He agrees to help her aid her in future to escape punishment for her role as accomplice on their European escapades and in doing so seems reconciled to the idea of his apprehension. Finally the viewer is given some concrete proof of the nature of their relationship as they kiss gently.

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Following Hannibal’s departure, Chiyo interrupts Bedelia’s initially confusing attempts to inject some sort of liquid narcotic. Armed with a rifle and apparently looking for Hannibal, the two share an understated standoff as each try to gauge the other’s role in Hannibal’s life. Bedelia likens them both to birds in a cage, but Chiyo insists that her aim is to cage him, which explains the rifle and helps add a little more pressure to the cooking pot of this episode.

Chiyo is not Bedelia’s only interruption. She is followed by Will and Jack, who confront and interrogate Bedelia after the effects of her undisclosed narcotic have started to work in her system. She is sedated and nonplussed at their questions; the drugs are part of her attempts to provide herself with a credible account of her actions which might lead to more lenient treatment.  During the interrogation, Will vanishes, much to Jack’s confusion.

The next time we see Will he joins Hannibal on a bench in front of Botticelli’s Primavera in the Uffizi Gallery; this moment represents the first time they have conversed in the dominant timeline this season. Will acknowledges as much – everything we’ve seen so far involving the two has been echoes of the past. Given the setting and the framing of some of the shots, it’s difficult not to see this scene as somewhat a knowing reference to Skyfall, which features Bond and Q in a similar setting conflicting over their different types of masculinity. Here, the focus isn’t conflict or competitions but acceptance and an admission of union. Will declares to his old friend: “You and I have begun to blur”. Will’s journey this season has been one which has led him to understand Hannibal more deeply. Interestingly, though both parties appear to be genuinely glad to be reunited, the viewer has been forewarned of Hannibal’s intentions towards Will, creating some dramatic irony. The suspense is created around how this will manifest and is added to by the enigma of what actions Will might take.

On this second count, we didn’t need to wait long; the subsequent scene with the pair shows them walking along side each other through the plaza. We get a view of Hannibal through a gun sight; even before the reverse shot to reveal the identity of the shooter, we know this to be Chiyo. Hannibal appears to be the clear target until she/we sees Will produce a knife. She takes aim and fires.

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On the other side of the Atlantic other cogs are turning too. Cordell is in charge of creating ways of preparing Hannibal for Mason’s consumption; amusingly we are introduced to this idea through a predictably appetising cooking montage, but unusually for this show, it is being made clear to the audience that the meat is pork. This creates an irony in Verger’s plans for Hannibal; as a pig breeder, he and Cordell will treat Hannibal as if he was pork, which ties back to how Fuller initially wanted the viewer to understand Hannibal’s view of his rude victims.

Judging by Mason’s reactions after sampling Cordell’s efforts, Cordell is not as skilled a chef as Hannibal, although he does seem to have some plans for Hannibal which mirror Abel Gideon’s fate. Regardless, two ever-crucial concepts are employed in this scene; firstly the idea of natural predation, as Cordell plays to Mason’s ego by suggesting that his consumption of Lecter will make him an “apex predator”. Latterly, Mason evokes the idea of transubstantiation; a Christian idea about the Eucharist ritual which transforms wine and bread into the blood and body of Christ. Here though, it reminds the audience of the theme of metamorphosis; an idea which has been a touchstone in this show throughout, but especially in season 2 with characters like Matthew Brown and Randall Tier exemplifying the potency of consumption and transformation.

Dolce also allows us to touch base with the Margot/Mason relationship. Initially this appears to be much changed and more positive than their season 2 dynamic, with Mason apparently contrite about his intervention into Margot’s fertility. He wants to have a family with her; for them to be a family together. This would appear more shocking as a declaration if we didn’t live in a Game of Thrones world. Nevertheless, Mason suggests that Margot should find a uterus which could incubate a Verger child. Since a relationship between Margot and Alana has been hinted at in some promos, it follows that a viewer aware of this might become suspicious of the genuineness of this relationship on Margot’s part.

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A kaleidoscopic love scene with a psychedelic score and hallucinogenic, oneiric imagery feels a bit like Nick Roeg’s Performance (1970) and functions to confirm the nature of the relationship between the two. This sequence (as Roeg’s film does) builds on the notion of identities and bodies blurring into union. In the more sober, realist post-coital sequence, Margot reveals that she has plans for Mason’s future which involve incarceration and sperm-harvesting.

Meanwhile, Hannibal tends to Will’s gunshot wound to the shoulder. This is an uneasy dynamic as Will is considerably more vulnerable in this situation and a brief moment of physical connection between them calls back to the violent embrace at the end of season 2 as if to further emphasise Will’s helplessness in this situation, and in juxtaposition Hannibal’s dominance.

Hannibal drugs Will, and he wakes up at the dinner table in a white dress shirt whilst Hannibal applies a restraint. Hannibal feeds him an infusion which he reveals is “more for my benefit than yours”. This creates dread, especially for those of us who have seen the more recent AXN promo. Speculation at the time was that this was possibly a dream or fantasy sequence. The reality this sequence is more unpalatable.  After similarly incapacitating and then restraining Jack, who appears looking for Will and/or Hannibal, the three are positioned at the table with Hannibal stood to reinforce his position. This is a dinner they acknowledge has been much delayed. Hannibal produces a mini circular saw, and implies that they will all consume Will’s brain. Again, to those familiar, such an event is not unexpected. Just as Pazzi’s death is a direct reference to the Harris canon, Hannibal’s apparent treatment of Will here mirrors Hannibal’s murder of Paul Krendler in the Hannibal novel. An awareness of this creates more dread, whilst the slow build up to the cutting into Will’s skull is horrendously, tortuously drawn out. When it does happen, the action is played out with predictable aesthetic delicacy, as if we are meant to savour the moment, like Hannibal does.

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Despite the horror of the moment, the fate of all three of our lead characters was hardly in doubt. What is more notable is the shocking and initially incomprehensible ellipsis which places us, Hannibal and Will spatially and temporally at some point later and somewhere else. Both men are hung by their feet, like pigs, with pigs in the back of a cold storage truck. Mason greets them as the doors of the van open. How did they get here exactly? That has to wait until next week.

Of course, this isn’t the only enigma which Dolce leaves us with. What about Jack? Chiyo? Bedelia? How will Margot’s plan for Mason affect Mason’s plan for Hannibal? We can be sure that it will. Will we ever see Zachary Quinto again? The smart money is on most of these questions being resolved in Digestivo, as it clears the way for the jump forward in time for the Red Dragon arc to start in episode 8, The Great Red Dragon.

Check back with us next week for a review of episode seven– Digestivo– Thursday 16th July, NBC, 10/9c in the US or Wednesday 22nd July, Sky Living at 10pm in the UK.

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