Hannibal: 301 “Antipasto” Review
Reviewed by Lewis Hurst.
It’s hard to believe it’s been over a year since Hannibal Lecter brutally attacked Will Graham, Abigail Hobbs, Alana Bloom and Jack Crawford, leaving their fates unknown before jetting off to Italy with his former psychiatrist Bedelia. And now we’re back to finally get some answers. Who survived that fateful night? Who lived? Who died? Well apparently we won’t find out just yet.
Yes, the season premiere of Hannibal this year took an entirely different approach. Instead of answering our burning questions, it decided to focus on exploring the strange, yet oddly captivating relationship between Hannibal and Bedelia. We finally learn that Hannibal’s hold over Bedelia comes from him witnessing the aftermath of her killing one of her patients (played by Star Trek’s Zachary Quinto) and convincing Bedelia to let him help her cover it up. Very similar to his hold over Abigail Hobbs in Season One. Throughout the episode, we see Bedelia questioning why she continues to stay with Hannibal, heading to the train station intending to leave and apparently changing her mind at the last minute. Does her dream of drowning in black water (Alana had a similar dream in Season Two) indicate she’s willingly submerging herself in the dark depths of Hannibal’s world?
The most important thing we can take away from this episode is Bedelia seemingly does not feel safe, yet its clear there’s something keeping her to Hannibal. Is it simply the threat he’ll reveal her secret? Or is she drawn to Hannibal in some way? Is the cover of them being husband and wife more than a cover? Has Bedelia come to love Hannibal? Bedelia may believe she’s in complete control of her actions, but as Hannibal’s controlled breakdown of Will’s mental state in Season One proved, Hannibal is a master at controlling someone without them even knowing it. During his murder of Dimmond, Hannibal questions whenever Bedelia is merely observing or participating in his murders. While Bedelia is adamant she’s merely an observer, Hannibal notes that her actions all indicate she’s participating. Has Hannibal revealed that Bedelia is slowly slipping into darkness?
Hannibal himself portrayed lots of complexity in this episode. Hannibal apparently cannot let go of his murdering ways, seemingly sounding bored when he notes he’s “killed hardly anyone” since they’ve arrived in Florence. Knowing the character, Hannibal’s bloodlust cannot be sated. Even when in hiding it’s only a matter of time before he kills again. While he may claim he’s no longer drawn to Will Graham, I wouldn’t take Hannibal at his word. Will still seems to be preying on Hannibal’s mind. As the flashbacks with Gideon proved, Hannibal longs for someone to join him in his cannibalism. He seeks company and Hannibal longs for Will Graham to be that company. Hannibal only selects a few people to try and fill that hole. Will and, in Hannibal’s future, Clarice Starling. Perhaps Hannibal is moulding Bedelia into the person he wants to fill that hole?
Hannibal is a show filled to the brim with symbolism. Nearly every shot in an episode is somehow a hint to a characters true intentions or a reveal on what is actually happening. My favourite use of that in this episode was when Bedelia looked straight at Hannibal during his lecture on Dante and seeing his face melt away, to be replaced with the face of the devil behind him. Mads Mikkleson has always said he plays Hannibal as a devil walking among men, was this Bedelia finally seeing Hannibal for what he is? The flashbacks with Gideon also reinforce how Hannibal works. He doesn’t go for the quick kill. He likes to draw it out. Play with his victims. Break them down. The flashback could be a literal metaphor for Bedelia’s current predicament.
Is Hannibal taking her humanity apart piece by piece while letting her be fully aware of what he’s doing but with no way to stop it? The “Observing or participating” scene also makes us question if she’s a victim or an accomplice. It’s one of the reasons I love Hannibal. It’s one of those shows where each viewing of an episode gives a new reading, a new interpretation, a new take on the story and characters. It’s only when returning to an episode after the finale that viewers are able to put all the pieces together and realise the truth of events. Hannibal is a show that doesn’t treat it’s viewers like idiots. It doesn’t hold you by the hand. You have to pay attention and pick up the pieces yourself.
In terms of plot, it seems the writers have taken the approach the current season of Game of Thrones has, adapting the plot in a different order than fans of the books would expect. Hannibal hiding in Florence under the name of Dr Fell is a plot line from the third book Hannibal, yet here it’s occurring before the events of Red Dragon which will cover the second half of this season. With it being unclear on whenever the show can use Clarice Starling or not (MGM currently holds the rights to the character and plan to make their own show starring her), it makes sense to make good use of the material the show does have. Hannibal’s lecture on Dante is a scene lifted entirely from the page to the screen, with the addition of Bedelia. Let us also not forget that a lot of the necessary back story for the book Hannibal took place in the latter half of Season Two, thanks to the introduction of Mason and Margot Verger.
We’ve heard reports in the past that showrunner Bryan Fuller has adjusted his original seven season plan down to five seasons. With Red Dragon and parts of Hannibal and Hannibal Rising taking up this season, perhaps the remaining material of those two books as well as Silence of the Lambs and Fuller’s planned ending will take up the remaining two seasons? Bringing the opening third of Hannibal forward certainly frees up the show to focus more on the remaining material later in the show’s run as well as filling out this season. Red Dragon will provide plenty of material for the back half of the season, but not enough to fill thirteen episodes so merging the first third of Hannibal with the events leading up to Red Dragon provides plenty of material for the first seven episodes. I’m excited to see the direction the writers take the story next.
Hannibal consistently remains the best directed show on television. It’s almost a shame the show is relegated to the small screen. What I wouldn’t give to watch Hannibal on a cinema screen. The show’s scrumptious visuals, delicious cinematography and utterly delectable set design make it a show that deserves to be watched on the biggest screen possible with the highest resolution you can. If there was ever a show to make you consider upgrading your TV subscription to HD or purchasing box sets on Blu-ray, it’s Hannibal. While it may lack the CGI spectacle of shows like Game of Thrones, Agents of SHIELD or Arrow, Hannibal manages to feel cinematic in every episode.
I must praise director Vincenzo Natali for providing a gorgeous episode in every aspect. The framing change from full screen to wide screen for the episode’s flashbacks was an inspired choice as well as the colour choices; black and white for Hannibal’s flashbacks and full colour for Bedelia’s. The episode itself had an unearthly dreamlike feel to it. The transition from Hannibal’s first flashback to the present with the line “Let it be a fairytale then. Once upon a time…” almost made the present feel like the flashback and the flashback the present. It led to a story like feel to the episode that was utterly marvellous. I almost wonder if the fairy tale feel was intentional to shadow Hannibal and Bedelia’s relationship. Will it become a Beauty and the Beast like tale?
All in all, this was an utterly fantastic start to what promises to be another fantastic season. I’m excited to see Hannibal and Bedelia’s relationship to further develop and continue to see what Hannibal will do next, now he’s removed his “person suit”. The wait for this season has been a long one, but, like a fine meal, the wait has made it all the sweeter when it finally arrives. Like one of Hannibal’s dishes, this season has been long prepared and beautifully presented. Our first course has arrived and certainly deserves the full marks it’s been awarded. I exceedingly look forward to the remaining twelve. Welcome back Doctor Lecter. We’ve missed you.