The season three premiere of “Hannibal“, titled “Antipasto” is exactly what you’d expect based on that title, an appetizer (albeit an explosive one), teasing you for the main meal of what is the venture into all new territory for the dark and murderous series.
When we last left the story, Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen) walked out his front door on a dark and rainy night, the victor (depending on how you look at it) in a bloody battle. Jack (Lawrence Fishburne) was left bleeding out in the pantry, Alana (Caroline Dhavernas) seemingly paralyzed after being pushed from Hannibal’s upstairs window and a severely injured Will (Hugh Dancy) was gasping for breath, staring at the corpse of Abigail Hobbs (Kacey Rohl). And just before the season two finale came to an end we see Hannibal and Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson) aboard a plane flying to Europe.
This third season picks up one year after those events, in an episode that focuses exclusively on Hannibal and Bedelia abroad, first finding Hannibal, clad in black leather, roaming the streets of Paris, France on his motorcycle his lust for murder and his palate for human flesh remain. His will, however, to not only survive, but to continue to thrive as he’s become accustomed are foremost in his mind. That said, if you can kill two birds with one stone… why not?
Director Vincenzo Natali (Splice) helms this premiere episode and reminds us all why we love “Hannibal” in the first place. It’s unconventional style of storytelling is unlike anything on network television, and perhaps all of television for that matter, as it plays so heavily with visuals and audible cues. The pop of a champagne cork rings out, freed by swipe of a sharp blade as Hannibal scouts the crowd at an upscale Paris party, posing as a man named Boris and extending a hand to Anthony Dimmond (Tom Wisdom) as he aggressively introduces himself.
Both begin chatting about Dr. Roman Fell (Jeremy Crutchley). Dimmond was Fell’s assistant at Cambridge and will soon meet Hannibal again, though not as a man named Boris and not as Hannibal, but as one Dr. Fell as the good doctor serves as Hannibal’s first victim of season three to the tune of “Don Pasquale: Sogno Soave E Casto”, tying into a plot line from Thomas Harris‘ novels. Bonsoir!
We then transition into one of the episode’s several flashbacks, presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The first features Eddie Izzard back again as Dr. Abel Gideon, being forced to eat himself, creating a theme throughout the episode, challenging the idea of relationships seen in the show. Can another be paired with Hannibal as his equal or are they merely being groomed to be consumed?
The action moves to Florence, Italy where we finally see Bedelia for the first time. Hannibal has now assumed the role of Dr. Fell, using Fell’s qualifications to secure a job as the curator at the Palazzo Capponi museum, though it’s not a position he received without push back. One might want to warn the good professor Sogliato (Rinaldo Rocco) that Dr. Fell isn’t a man to be tested, not on the works of Dante (his line of questioning is ripped straight from the book) or otherwise.
“I’ve killed hardly anybody during our residence.” ~ Hannibal
Next we get our first look at the behind-closed-doors relationship between Hannibal and Bedelia. Hannibal notes, “I’ve killed hardly anybody during our residence,” to which Bedelia reminds him how he secured his position at the museum in the first place, which, unless I’m mistaken, is the first time we see her explicitly acknowledge she’s aware of what a true monster Hannibal is and Anderson delivers the line in such a matter of fact way you’d think she’s entirely at peace with her new surroundings. She even asks shortly thereafter if he’s considered eating professor Sogliato as she draws herself a bath, a bath that serves as an obvious metaphor. Bedelia is drowning in the presence of Hannibal, unable to tell whether it is she or Hannibal in control of her actions.
But just who is Bedelia and what has she done?
We next see a flashback set shortly after the season two finale. Hannibal washing the blood of his victims off his body only to step out of the shower and see Bedelia aiming a gun at him. “What have you done Hannibal?” “I’ve taken off my person suit.” “You let them see you.” “I let them see enough.” And then she asks, “How does it feel, being seen?” It’s this question that’s most intriguing to me. Why is she asking? She admits she’s not up to the task of being Hannibal’s psychiatrist so is she asking out of her own curiosity? Out of her own person want to be “seen”?
The fine Florentine grocer Vera Dal 1926 makes an appearance more than once, serving as another connection to Harris’ novel, a line from which reads, “Florentines say Vera dal 1926, with its wealth of cheeses and truffles, smells like the feet of God.” And I guess it’s a good thing she made the trip, quality ingredients would be necessary as Hannibal and Bedelia would have an unexpected dinner guest as Dimmond shows up out of the blue looking for Dr. Fell and Hannibal invites him to dinner with him and his “wife”.
It’s at dinner, as Anthony notices Bedelia isn’t eating any meat — “I’m trying not to eat anything with a central nervous system” — that she gets the absolute best line of the episode in response to Anthony saying, “Oysters, acorns and masala. That’s what ancient Romans would feed their animals to improve their flavor.” Bedelia cuts the silence with:
My husband has a very sophisticated palate,
He’s very particular about how I taste
The question I have is to ask who is coming up with the shopping list to determine just how exactly Bedelia… tastes? Hannibal is doing the cooking, her curiosity is certainly aroused, but there’s also a level of awareness at play. She’s smart enough to know Hannibal is playing games and yet seems to be playing tug of war with her own personal demons, unsure of whether to let them loose or keep them at bay.
A flashback then bears witness to Bedelia’s history. Zachary Quinto makes his guest appearance, dead on the floor as we see Bedelia pull her arm out of his mouth after being elbow deep in his esophagus. Hannibal walks in on the scene and she soon asks for his help. The biggest question I have about this scene is to wonder when exactly it took place? Also, was this her first and only kill? What happened with the body?
Natali artfully expands the aspect ratio from the 2.35:1 used for the flashbacks to the widescreen, 1.78:1, ratio as we focus on Bedelia listening in on Hannibal’s speech on Dante. Could the use of the expanding aspect ratio suggest this was a more recent event or was it merely an artful way of suggesting we are moving from the nostalgic mind of Bedelia in the past and into the present?
Bedelia is consistently fighting her inner demons and it becomes apparent it won’t be until she succumbs to them that she’ll find any form of peace, something she’s been struggling with since the very beginning of the episode when she told Hannibal, “Your peace is without morality.” To this Hannibal says, “Morality doesn’t exist, only morale,” a word whose very definition — the confidence, enthusiasm and discipline of a person or group at a particular time — speaks to Hannibal’s nature and his ability to be ever so convincing. But will he convince Bedelia she is in any way like him? Will he see her as an equal? Is his comment in the flashback to Abel — “it’s only cannibalism if we’re equals” — a sign of what’s to come?
Even Dimmond speaks of morality in his discussion with Hannibal following his speech, seemingly attempting to play a game of power, not realizing he’s already lost and only there because Hannibal allowed him to be there. You can’t ask a man about what fate befell the man whose place he’s taken and not begin to wonder what will come of you… unless you’re a fool. Well…
As Dimmond eventually lay bleeding on the floor, Hannibal confronts Bedelia over her intentions. Is she observing or participating? She admits to her curiosity, both in what Hannibal would do and what Dimmond would do.
Finally, we get one last flashback of Hannibal and Abel and their discussion over escargot and the matter of grooming the snails for consumption without their knowledge. Is that what Hannibal is doing to Bedelia? Slowly fattening her up for a feast?
The final scene finds Hannibal on a train, folding an image of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man into the shape of a human heart while simultaneously showing the skinned torso of what we can only assume to be Anthony Dimmond on display at the Norman Chapel in Palermo, Italy. I’ve been wracking my brain to come up with an intelligent interpretation of this scene. Hannibal clearly considers himself an artist of sorts, but is there some tie to the Vitruvian Man in the way he’s displayed Dimmond’s mutilated body? Perhaps you can come up with something in the comments below. Enlighten me…
Head to the next page for plot details and pictures from next week’s episode, “Primavera”.