There's a memorable shot in "Sorbet" when a disgusting and unrecognisable arrangement of flesh is gradually revealed to be the throat of a beautiful opera singer, as the view pulls out of her gullet. It encapsulated Hannibal for me; a show that's ultimately about the ugliness that inhabits seemingly normal and even beautiful people. The show is asking us to believe a character like Dr Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) wouldn't arouse any suspicion by now, but that's ultimately the fun of the show. It helps that we know Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) will expose and catch him one of these days, too, so until then it's just a fascinating game of cat-and-mouse—where the mouse is unaware he's befriended the cat.
He's the eponymous anti-hero of the show, but this was the first episode that truly focused on Dr Hannibal Lecter as a person, and Mikkelsen more than rose to the challenge. I already prefer his take on the character over Anthony Hopkins's (whose 'teeth-sucking' and iconic face-mask now feel quite silly when you try to imagine Mikkelsen's Lecter going down that path). He's taking a more realistic approach that I'm responding to, but that's not to say Silence of the Lambs itself has sunk in my estimation. It's a classic and remains the benchmark to compare this TV show to, in my mind.
One thing I loved about "Sorbet" was the insights into Dr Lecter and his life. He's lonely. When Graham didn't make his appointment, he actually sought him out. He gives the impression of being sociable whenever he's cooking with Dr Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas) and holding his renowned 'feasts' for the city's elite, but this is ultimately just part of his act. Certainly in the case of the sick pleasure he gets from serving human organs to his peers, although there's perhaps more of an argument for Bloom being someone he genuinely admires (she has an excellent taste palate) and wants to get closer to romantically. We'll have to see if he's actually capable of love and sex.
"Sorbet" also introduced Lecter's own psychiatrist, Dr Bedelia Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson), who isn't quite at stupid as I thought she'd be written. Indeed, she's fully aware that Lecter only presents her with a "version" of himself because he likes to wear a "person suit", but hasn't yet twigged the sinister reason for this secrecy. I have to wonder what the long-term plan is for Dr Du Maurier, too: her classy French name and intelligence means she isn't one of the people Lecter tends to victimise, but I can't see Anderson sticking around on Hannibal for long (she has a new NBC show called Crisis to star in). Maybe she'll be the first to realise what Lecter is after a few more sessions, and pay the inevitable price for that.
Also interesting to note that Lecter clearly wants to be Dr Du Maurier's friend, and yet she shoots that possibility down in the same way he likewise had to with an over-friendly patient—who's following Lecter to opera and trying to ingratiate himself in any way possible (like revealing they share a passion for fine cheeses). There were a number of amusing scenes as Lecter visibly squirmed at the thought of this cordial oaf—but an oaf all the same—tried to toady up to him. I was quite surprise he lasted the hour without becoming part of Lecter's fridge. (Which reminds me that we also saw a potentially incriminating piece of equipment that Lecter owns: a case containing handwritten recipes about how to cook body parts. I have a feeling Graham will discover that at some point in the show's future—hopefully two seasons away.)
There was a storyline snaking through this episode, carried over from last week's "Entrée", about Graham and Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) trying to find the real Chesapeake Ripper, but it wasn't quite as strong as last week's. Once again they investigated various cadavers and crime scenes who might be the Chesapeake Ripper, eventually finding the culprit (a part-time ambulance driver who's been removing organs from his victims) without actually discovering the Ripper himself—whom we know is Lecter, taunting the FBI's incompetence and trying to humiliate Crawford in particular. I continue to enjoy how Lecter gets involved in their investigations; dropping the occasional insight to Graham in a manner that's almost playful. It's not enough to simply avoid getting caught, he has to almost rub it in their faces without them even knowing. However, there were signs here that Graham may be onto Lecter, or at least the possibility of a theory developing that Lecter could be a serial killer may start to take shape... but my guess is Graham will ignore his gut instincts because, well, he sort of likes and is intrigued by Lecter. Graham's a similarly isolated and lonely man, so it's funny that the possibility of friendship is clouding his thinking.
Overall, there was a great deal to savour and enjoy in "Sorbet", even if it perhaps wasn't as dynamic as the story's first half. But for the most part I actually preferred this, because it had a much greater focus on Hannibal Lecter and gave you some insights into his personality and behaviour. My only concern right now is how the Minnesota Shrike storyline has faded away over the past three weeks, because it felt that was going to be the big ongoing concern.
written by Jesse Alexander & Bryan Fuller / directed by James Foley / 9 May 2013 / NBC