An episode of a TV show is like a three course meal, which means we need to devour as much as we can. As such, this will be a SPOILER FILLED review of tonight’s Hannibal. Please eat healthy.
It’s now been over a year since the shocking finale of the second season of NBC’s Hannibal, and the third installment of the series didn’t do a whole lot to gingerly guide us back into the bloody deliciousness. Episode One, “Antipasto,” not only dove right into the action, it traversed multiple timelines and locations without telling us where or when anything was outright. We just had to pay attention. But if this episode did nothing else, it illustrated just how terrifying Hannibal Lecter actually is (as if we needed to be reminded) by showing us people who know the kind of man he is. Will Graham has spent a couple of seasons pretty sure about Hannibal’s character but Dr. Belinda Du Maurier knew — and now lives in a kind of sublime fear with him. She certainly wasn’t as devilishly calm about traveling abroad with Dr. Lecter as we saw in the final moments of last year.
If you’ll recall, the cliffhanger ended with Jack Crawford wounded and locked in a pantry, Alana Bloom pushed out a second story window and badly wounded, Will Graham stabbed in the gut with a linoleum knife, and Abigail Hobbs alive long enough to push Alana out the window and then get her throat cut (yet again) by Lecter. But who needs to know what happened to any of those people? They’re just three out of the four main characters of the show. Psh, forget ’em. This episode is all about Hannibal and Bedelia. And, guys, it is NOT as happy a union as you might think.
We began in Paris with Hannibal stalking a Dr. Fell, though we don’t know why immediately. (Do we need a reason beyond “to kill and eat him?” Probably not.) While he stared at his new victim from across a crowded party, Hannibal was spotted by a man named Anthony Dimmond (Tom Wisdom) who also hates the famous poet and professor. As Fell left the party, Hannibal, on his motorcycle wished him “bon soir,” but it was far from a good night for the professor. When Fell returned to his house, Hannibal was there, ripe and ready for his midnight snack. It’s a good night for someone, clearly, but that person wasn’t Dr. Fell. Nor was it a particularly bon soir for Fell’s wife, who came home as Hannibal feasted on his liver — nothing fancy, just pan-seared with some green onions and wine. Oh, Dr. Lecter, how we’ve missed you.
A good portion of this episode played out in flashbacks to Hannibal’s torture of Eddie Izzard’s Dr. Abel Gideon (presented in black and white). If you remember from Season Two, Gideon was a patient of Dr. Chilton’s who was made to believe (by Chilton) that he must be the Chesapeake Ripper. A fact the real Ripper (Hannibal) considered pretty rude. About halfway through last season, Gideon woke up in Hannibal’s home in a wheelchair with an IV drip, and quickly discovered his missing leg prepared for a dinner the faux-Ripper could not refuse. Gulp.
But as we found out in the premiere, Hannibal kept Gideon alive far past his last appearance in episode six of last season. Now missing his other leg, we learned that Hannibal smoked and glazed Gideon’s second leg, serving it to his unwitting guest, cubed on skewers. They engaged in a really fascinating and typically twisted discussion about cannibalism, since Hannibal doesn’t really see what he does as cannibalism (he’s above us lowly human sheep, you understand), and then Gideon pondered aloud why he no longer has the will to flee. He surmised it has something to do with him being already dead, to which Hannibal replied taht he’s not dead yet, and still has to eat. But does he? Gideon’s already a dead man, so not eating himself wouldn’t change that at all. But he doesn’t want to spoil the fairy tale. Guuuuuuuhhhh…
Later in the episode, we saw Hannibal remove Gideon’s left arm, hanging it up in his cellar for snails to feast upon. He told Gideon it makes the snails taste better — a method used for many years, though probably not with human arms. But who can say? Ancient peoples did some weird stuff. When Gideon wasn’t eating himself, he mused about how Hannibal was feeding him oysters, acorns, and sweet wines to make him tastier. This quip, we found out later, played a big part in the mindgames we saw in the present with Bedelia.
Let’s talk about Bedelia. We know from last season that she was attacked by a patient and that Hannibal helped her, and we presumed that resulted in that patient getting dead. We also learned last season that she was/is afraid of Hannibal and can no longer continue being his psychiatrist. But she’s also preternaturally drawn to him in some way, and when the two of them were on an airplane bound for Europe, it looked as though she was going to enjoy herself. However, we quickly saw the veil of her own sanity/sureness of her new situation was paper-thin at best. She’s terrified, both of the man she’s chosen to live with (in what seems like a sexless faux-marriage, despite the tension) and of her own complicity in what Hannibal does.
Her knowing what Hannibal is and what he does fascinates her just as much as it terrifies. Having assumed the identities of the Fells in Florence so that he could work as a lecturer at a prestigious university, Bedelia posited that he was being a little too showy for his own good, more interested in making appearances than keeping them. (He responded with a “barely killed anyone” since they came to Europe line of defense.) Hannibal always has a clever way of turning things around — like when she said he has no morality and he said “only morale” — and when she asked how his morale is, he asked about hers. She responded, intriguingly, that she felt in control of her choices which, given his track record, makes for a good day.
But as we learned, she’s not in control at all. How could she be? Not with Manipulator von Cannibal so close. All of which was made clear after Hannibal invited Anthony Dimmond to dinner, and he remarked on Bedelia’s diet of acorns, oysters, and masala wine — something the Romans used to feed animals to make them taste better and, if you’ll remember, exactly what Gideon was fed. Clearly, none of this bodes well for Bedelia.
We then got to see a flashback to Bedelia’s patient attack. Waking up bloodied, having just stuck her arm down the throat of her patient (now dead), we saw Hannibal enter and tell her it looked like there was no attack and that she did it of her own volition. But, of course, he’d help her if she asked. Cruel, effed-up stuff that proves he clearly started messing with the patient (who used to be his) to mess with Bedelia, putting her firmly in his pocket — hence her moral daze when it comes to Hannibal. And now he’s feeding her foods used for sweetening meats because, as Gideon pointed out, Hannibal doesn’t like eating alone, even when he’s eating the person with whom he’s dining.
Ultimately, Dimmond seemed to have figured out that Hannibal killed Dr. Fell, sort of threatening to tell someone if the Faux Fell doesn’t do something. What a fool; he has no idea with whom he’s messed. Hannibal, back at home, smacked Dimmond upside the head with a bust of some great thinker and, as the bloodied man tried to crawl away, asked Bedelia if she’s observing or participating. Though she said just observing, he tells her she knew what would happen and let it happen anyway, in order to see what would happen, what Dimmond would do, and what Hannibal would do. They both behaved exactly as she expected: hence, participation. The scene ended with Hannibal snapping Dimmond’s neck just as he got to the doorknob and near-freedom.
We ended with Hannibal on a train, making an origami heart (like with valves and stuff) out of Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man before a limbless, headless, skinned body appeared on a tripod in a church somewhere, most likely Dimmond. This will no doubt lead to a new investigation into murders, but in Italy instead of the U.S.
That was a LOT of information, and we didn’t even have our three other leads on-screen. If the series simply became the Hannibal torturing Bedelia show, it’d still be insanely watchable. Both Mads Mikkelsen and Gillian Anderson turned in amazing performances, and Anderson has cemented herself already as one of the best characters on the show. We can’t wait to see where their storyline goes, even as we know the Red Dragon case will be the primary Will Graham focus this year.
Next week brings our second course, “Primavera.” Let me know your thoughts on the episode in the comments below!