Hannibal gathers its rogue gallery in an episode that feels more like set-up than a legitimate, stand alone episode.
Let’s bitch it out…
Lest we wonder what happened to all of the victims Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen) left in his wake over the last two seasons, ‘Aperitivo’ provides us with answers. Unfortunately it does little more than that as this first half of the season continues to focus on style over substance. I’m all for memorable visuals and meaty character work, but at some point there also needs to be a plot to hang the framework on. Thus far Hannibal S3 has been a little too heavy on the former and too light on the latter.
Still it is good to see our familiar faces. The main instigator in this episode is Dr. Chilton (Raúl Esparza) who survived his gunshot to the face in 2×07 ‘Yakimono’, though not without some fairly substantial damage. I quite liked the brief scene between Chilton and Mason Verger (Joe Anderson, replacing Michael Pitt) when they both remove their masks to reveal the results of Hannibal’s handiwork. Chilton is, in essence, an emissary: his mission is to gather the victims together and encourage them to combine forces to punish the cannibal.
Chilton finds less success with Will (Hugh dancy), but that’s primarily because Will remains in thrall to Hannibal’s manipulations. It’s interesting to watch these events unfold after watching 3×02 ‘Primavera’ because there’s no question here that Abigail’s (Kacey Rohl) presence is a symptom of Will’s wounded mind. We also know that Will knew that in ‘Primavera’, which means creator Bryan Fuller wasn’t playing fair in the earlier episode. Needless to say Will isn’t game for Chilton’s plot and by episode’s end, we see Will bade Jack (Laurence Fishburne) goodbye before escaping to Europe to track down his absent “friend.”
Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas) is much more willing to hear Chilton out. Despite (arguably) suffering the least intensive wounds, Alana is the character who is most changed as a result of her interactions with Hannibal. As Alan Sepinwall suggests, gone is the naive, idealistic woman from the last two seasons. In her place is a colder, more distant, more vengeful woman who has no qualms about acting as Mason’s therapist…and co-conspirator in the plot to bring down Hannibal.
That leaves Jack, who ends up being ‘Aperitivo’s emotional lynchpin. The former FBI agent manages to recover from his wounds before his wife Bella (Gina Torres) expires and their final interactions are laden with grief as well as beauty. I loved the contrast between Jack’s memories of their wedding and his preparations for her funeral. In a way, Jack’s interactions with Hannibal better prepared him for Bella’s death; he’s finally ready to process her passing and even ends her pain himself. This explains why Jack is so determined to rescue Will. He has nothing else left: no job and no wife. All that remains is his friend.
- This is the first episode of the third season that isn’t helmed by director Vincenzo Natali and it shows. The cool visual aesthetics of the series remain constant, but there’s a lack of truly memorable images like the ones in the first three episodes.
- With that said, I did love how Mason’s surgery was a direct homage to David Cronenberg’s twisted and delightfully creepy film, Dead Ringers.
- The repeated motif of opening each act – revisiting the actions that led to each character’s injuries – is an easy way to explain their motivations. It also has a nice visual symmetry. My favourite was the superimposed skeleton / X-Ray image of Alana’s fall out the window.
- Anderson’s portrayal of Mason is helped by the prosthetic work, but his line delivery too often felt like a “Michael Pitt as Mason Verger” impression. Also: as a character, Mason is so much more frightening / interesting with his mask on.
- Glenn Fleshler makes quite an impression as Mason’s hulking, quiet nurse who moonlights as some kind of killer/fixer on the side. Here’s hoping we get to see Hannibal go up against this guy this season.
- Katharine Isabelle briefly appears as Margot to shepherd Alana into Mason’s room. She doesn’t have a lot to do, but there’s something that clicks between the two women. I didn’t realize they had never met (I could have sworn they crossed paths at Will’s house one time).
- Finally: What should we make of the fact that both Alana and Bedelia (an unseen Gillian Anderson) wear the brightest, flashiest coats on the series? Does Hannibal have a type?
- Will (when Jack asked why he wanted Hannibal to run): “Because he was my friend and I wanted to run away with him.” The slash fiction just writes itself, doesn’t it?
- Alana (when Chilton asks how many bones she broke): “You say that like I broke them”
- Alana (when Will suggests Hannibal remains his friend): “Friendship with Hannibal is blackmail elevated to the level of love”
- Jack (to Chilton, about Hannibal and Will): “Maybe it’s one of those friendships that end after the disembowelment”
Your turn: did this episode struggle with a lack of plot development? Do you like Joe Anderson’s take on Mason Verger? Are you sad to see Gina Torres go? Are you glad that Chilton and Alana survived? Sound off below.
Hannibal airs Thursdays at 10pm EST on NBC. Next week: the noose tightens as everyone converges on Florence. Here’s a preview of ‘Contorno’