“It’s not that kind of party.”
And so, NBC’s Hannibal greats us with confidence and style in a season opener that could not have pleased this avid fan more. The champagne is popped and chopped with celebratory violence and in violent celebration. Following the carnage that ended Season 2 and revealed to all who Hannibal really is beneath his “person suit” — and thereby sounding the death knell for the show’s serial-killer-of-the-week formula once and for all — Season 3 brings us what is essentially a brand new “pilot episode” to herald the series’ grand becoming.
From the very first image in which a key ignites the internal combustion engine of a motorcycle, propelling our main character forward down a dark road, Bryan Fuller and his creative team propel us into this next chapter.
Taking inspiration from the setup in the book, Hannibal, the story finds the good doctor in Europe (first in Paris, then Florence), where he’s created a vacancy (in other words, murdered someone) for a prestigious post he covets at the Palazzo Capponi in Florence. But it’s okay, he tells his fellow fugitive and former psychiatrist, Bedelia Du Maurier, because he won the museum curator position fairly, on his merits!
In parallel with the present storyline involving Hannibal and Bedelia’s European vacation, we get a series of flashbacks to Hannibal’s last encounters with Chesapeake Ripper wannabe Abel Gideon, whom Hannibal abducted, fed him his own legs, and finally murdered in “Futamono,” an episode from Season 2. These are new scenes that take place in between the scenes we saw last season. These scenes flesh out the theme of eating and being eaten — the predator-prey relationship that Hannibal has with all who cross his path — that’s a recurring theme throughout the series. But it’s milked here for all it has to offer as we watch Hannibal struggle with his newfound peace in Europe. As we watch him struggle to find someone or something as interesting as Will Graham.
For a moment, we think Hannibal may have found his Will Graham in the morally ambiguous Anthony Dimmond, a seemingly ready-made murder-buddy. Alas, Dimmond is dispatched relatively quickly, bludgeoned with a bust of Aristotle. Hannibal does it in part to make a point to Bedelia that she’s not an observer, but a participant in his exploits. But I think it’s also because the Dimmond “friendship” is too easy for Hannibal. Perhaps all along he’s wanted an adversary more than a friend.
Bedelia has moved to the foreground, showing a greater range of emotion in this one episode than she had in Seasons 1 and 2 combined. I’ll confess, in past episodes I found this character’s fragile stoicism, though interesting, rather one-dimensional. But Gillian Anderson and the writers have given her so much nuance here that I can’t wait to see where they take her now that she’s a series regular (until she’s murdered — like every other supporting character on the show; and then brought back to life — like every other supporting character on the show).
The question of why she joined Hannibal on the run is explored but not answered, at least to this viewer’s satisfaction. In flashback, we observe (and, through our own biases for our favorite cannibal, participate in) her decision to ally with Hannibal immediately after his massacre of Will and company. She finds him in her shower cleansing himself of their blood. While interesting, the scene raises more questions than anything else. What motivates her? Is it professional curiosity about Hannibal or personal curiosity about herself and what’s waking up within her? Given that she was granted immunity for her role in the death of her patient (which we also get to see in flashback), what compelled her to run? Curiosity, yes, but is there more? She seems simultaneously drawn to and afraid of the flame. Later, in Florence, she sits in front of a security camera at a train station, as if hoping someone who might recognize her were watching.
The episode ends with Hannibal creating his latest murder set-piece. It’s his love letter to Will Graham; it’s an invitation to a bloody dinner that will likely take even bigger bites out of the both of them. C’mon, be honest, when Hannibal told Bedelia days earlier, “I’ve found a peace here that I would preserve,” did any of us really believe him?
“Antipasto” has indeed whet our appetites. All of the creative players behind Hannibal are at the top of their games — scoring, photography, acting, editing, directing, and of course, the writing. And like Hannibal, their declaration is loud and clear: We’re still here and you ain’t seen nothing yet.
- How funny was that recap at the beginning of the episode? If it made a lick of sense to anyone who hadn’t already watched Season 2, I’ll donate my own tongue to Hannibal’s next dinner party.
- The hopeful look Hannibal gives Bedelia right before he responds, “It’s not that kind of dinner.”