And so the third series of Hannibal is back in the UK after what feels like an exceptionally long wait! I’m planning to follow along with the series again this year, although I didn’t blog about the series opener because, quite simply, it felt like a prologue, an antipasto indeed, before we got started. So here is a two-for-one. Spoilers below.
Antipasto keeps Will, Jack, and the rest of the cast barring Hannibal and Bedelia at bay for the time being. The episode focuses on the question of how Hannibal treats those victims who are entirely under his control, rather than under his experimental protocol like Will. Interweaving the back-story of Abel Gideon’s imprisonment with Bedelia’s Stockholm syndrome, past and present, the episode explores the sort of attachments Hannibal is capable of and inspires in others.
There are moments in which Hannibal and Bedelia seem to share a very genuine and mutually pleasurable relationship, such as when they dance (a gentle hat-tip towards the ending of Thomas Harris’ Hannibal?) or tease their dinner guest. Bedelia’s expression of power, referring explicitly to the threat of Hannibal murdering and eating her while her interlocutor is oblivious, amuses Hannibal, and Bedelia shares the moment with him until the fact that it really isn’t that sort of party — but another, far more sinister sort — hits her.
The episode throws up a Will look-a-like in the form of Tom Wisdom’s poet and academic, but he is quickly cast aside, not only murdered but also aesthetically transformed in death: Hannibal’s pattern continues, after a period of prolonged “peace”.
What is most fascinating about Antipasto is Gillian Anderson’s performance. It is clear that she is thoughtful, insightful, and subtle, but what impressed me most was the final scene in which she seemed to be experiencing not a particular emotion, but a sheer, unnamable physical reaction, similar to her sensitive response to the bleeding rabbit corpse that she sees in the deli. She quivers and shakes, and tears fall, but her convulsion is all there is; there is no sense of a rational, cogent response. She is all feeling, all morale, rather than moral, as she chastises Hannibal earlier in the episode. After all, there is a strong chain of thought now that emotion is primarily somatic in origin; it is the hairs on the back of our neck rising that generates the feeling of fear, rather than vice versa.
Their exchange over the dying dinner guest, where they both interrogate the question of whether she is observing or participating in Hannibal’s crimes, raises the show’s central question of how complicit others are in his crimes. The question is also at the heart of the second episode, Primavera. Abigail, Will’s hallucinated travelling companion, expresses an open trust in Hannibal and a desire to return to him, and Will does just that. By pure coincidence, he arrives at the church where Hannibal has just abandoned the mutilated corpse of Tom Wisdom from Antipasto. The episode plays many of the notes from Harris’ novel, reshaping the Pazzi/Il Mostro subplot.
presented us with Anderson’s virtually unreadable somatic reactions to Hannibal and her surroundings, Will’s thoughts, feelings and intuitions are writ large in bloody hallucinations. The instinctive twinge that suggests to him that Hannibal is still in the church at Palermo would be implicit in a statement, “He’s still here”, but of course that is insufficient for Will’s genius. A flood of blood from underneath the door to the crypt is required. Far from Will’s empathic powers making him the most subtle character of the show, he is in fact the most heavy-handedly drawn. I hope that future episodes develop him rather more authentically. At the moment, Dancy seems to lack either Anderson’s subtlety, Mikkelsen’s solemnity, or the wry humour offered by Wisdom and Izzard in Antipasto
. (In fact, he has rather the air of Keanu Reeves a la Constantine
The A.V. Club reviews
are also worth a read, but I’d suggest avoiding the factually inaccurate Guardian reviewing by Brian Moylan.
In the Antipasto review, the A.V. Club reviewer focuses quite a bit on how Hannibal is not about sexual violence, perhaps prompted by Bryan Fuller’s interview about rape scenes on TV, perhaps because of the sexual punning between Bedelia, Hannibal, and a soon-to-be-victim over dinner. This is actually a really important element of the show’s USP, I think. It horrifies not with the worst things that people can imagine actually happening to them, but with a stylised horror and abuse that is hauntingly attractive and other-worldly.
The Primavera review focuses on a supposed parallel between Abigail and Bedelia, and the Abigail ‘twists’, but the initial ‘reveal’ that she is alive, when the doctor apparently ushers her into Will’s hospital room only seconds after he wakes up, is so unbelievable — and Kacey Rohl’s make-up makes her look noticeably different throughout the episode — that I really don’t think it can be credited as a genuine twist. It feels utterly par for the course with this show. I think that reading reduces the role of both female characters, as though just by being women they are interchangeable or necessarily parallels. If anything, Abigail is suggestive of Will developing a split personality; that is not the relationship that Hannibal and Bedelia appear to have…
Photo by NBC/Brooke Palmer, (c) 2014 NBCUniversal Media