Hannibal: 106 “Entrée” Review
Reviewed by Gabriel Bergmoser.
This is the episode fans of the original Hannibal Lecter books and films have been waiting for. Not because of plot or character development but because this is the first episode that has clearly been made as an homage to the originals. It is packed to the brim with references and is one of the most enjoyable episodes of Hannibal so far.
The plot this week centres on the identity of the Chesapeake Ripper, a serial killer mentioned in the last few episodes. Anybody even passingly familiar with the older films will know that this killer is none other than the good Doctor Lecter himself, but what is interesting is how the television series has been quite ambiguous about it; this is the first episode that really makes Hannibal’s identity as a murderer obvious, and links him directly to the series of deaths that Will can’t seem to get his head around.
All of this is set in motion with the introduction of Eddie Izzard as Doctor Abel Gideon, a man incarcerated for murder in the same mental hospital where Hannibal will one day spar with Will and Clarice Starling. In the cold open we see Gideon passed out on the floor of his cell. He is rushed to care by orderlies, but escapes and butchers the nurse looking after him in the same style as the ripper. This is a very clear nod to The Silence of The Lambs and Hannibal’s similar ruse that led to him ripping out a nurse’s tongue.
In fact, the whole character of Abel Gideon seems to bear a lot of similarities to Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of Hannibal Lecter. Where Mads Mikkelson plays Lecter as calm, collected and coldly charismatic, Hopkins and Izzard are both flamboyant and hammy, taunting their interrogators from behind bars. Was this a deliberate wink to how different Mikkelson’s Lecter is to the more famous incarnation? Perhaps, but it also works as a loving pastiche of The Silence of the Lambs.
In much the same vein is the backstory about Jack Crawford and Miriam Lass, the bright young FBI trainee who Crawford uses to help find the ripper. Their first meeting is almost a shot for shot recreation of Crawford and Starling’s talk in the opening scene of The Silence of the Lambs, and Lass’ untimely demise at the hands of Hannibal bears more than a little similarity to the way in which Clarice eventually finds Buffalo Bill.
Then of course there is the introduction of the slimy Doctor Chilton, memorably played by Anthony Heald in the original films, now portrayed by Raoul Esparza. Chilton is just as awful and clumsy in his manipulations as his earlier incarnation, although his smarminess is slightly less obvious. While Heald was just uncomfortably sleazy, Esparza plays Chilton as highly arrogant and incompetent, which is going to become very interesting once Lecter is in his hospital. The hatred between these two was always a great part of the originals, and I can’t wait to see how it is portrayed in this interpretation.
But the references don’t stop there. The use of Freddie Lounds to lure the Chesapeake Ripper out of hiding is almost identical to what happened in Red Dragon, only this time it did not end with the reporter strapped to a burning wheelchair. Something for a later season, apparently.
As much as I enjoy the references, I can’t help but wonder if they’ll make the series feel repetitive when Hannibal reaches the narratives of The Silence of the Lambs and Red Dragon, or if the reinterpretation of so many moments here means that the events of those two books will be depicted differently. Still, the referencing so far has not been problematic for the series, and for now I have faith in what the writers and producers can do. Unlike the recent Psycho prequel series Bates Motel, Hannibal does not rely on nods to the originals to make it work. It’s a strong enough show to stand on its own two feet, but that does not mean that it’s not nice when the history of the franchise is acknowledged. For a long time fan like me, it’s a great little gift.
This was an episode that came so close to perfection; if it wasn’t for the opening murder. I just cannot bring myself to believe that the guards at the hospital would so readily leave Doctor Gideon alone with the nurse, or that he would have the time after getting free to perform such an elaborate evisceration on her. Like all the deaths in this show, the murder of the nurse was highly stylised and just far-fetched enough to damage the credibility of an otherwise fantastic episode.
But honestly? That feels like nitpicking. Entrée was a brilliant, tense and well written hour of television that honoured the past while continuing to forge its own identity, and from a show like this, you can’t ask for much more.