Saturday, 27 June 2015

HANNIBAL, 3.4 – 'Aperitivo'

Saturday, 27 June 2015


We're deep enough into the third season that I feel confident making bolder statements about the success of this year, so far. So, while I'm enjoying aspects of Hannibal now it's broken with its crime procedural format, there's a number of things that are frustrating me. I've mentioned them before, but they still keep nagging away at me whenever I settle down to watch. Firstly, while the show has always been a nightmarishly beautiful expression of art, I feel like they're going overboard this year. Almost as if the abundance of digitally-augmented slow-motion sequences (did we really need to see Dr Bloom's CGI skeleton?), are trying to cover for a lack of hefty plot. Secondly, that too many characters have miraculously survived their deadly encounters with Dr Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen), and I'm only buying the extraordinary staying power of a few. I mean, even the one character who definitely died—young Abigail Hobbs (Kacey Rohl)—keeps appearing as a hallucination, which reduces the sense of loss.

"Aperitivo" was a prequel to the first three hours, so in many ways felt like a redo of the premiere. It mainly served to explain the survival of the key players involved in Lecter's kitchen massacre, with Dr Chilton (Raúl Esparza ) flitting between them like a visiting angel. Oh yeah, Chilton's not dead either, despite getting shot in the face last season during an interrogation. To be fair, there was a lot of speculation amongst fans that he might survive—mainly because Chilton's a bigger player in the Red Dragon story this show's going be tackling soon, as the man who runs the hospital housing the infamous "Hannibal the Cannibal". I like Esparza in this role, so having him back certainly isn't a bad thing, but coupled with some of the other returns? I just wish death meant death more often.

The biggest question mark for post-season 2 survival arguably loomed over Dr Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas), who was pushed out of a high window. Her survival was more plausible than the others, but she's by far the most disposable character—unless you factor in Hannibal's lack of female roles, which may have swung her return. I just don't buy into the idea she'd be out for revenge quite so single-mindedly; enough to become psycho billionaire Mason Verger's (Joe Anderson) new therapist. A man who has the fortune and connections to mount an effective international manhunt for Lecter that's unburdened by due process. Oh yes, Verger—a character whose return to the narrative isn't a surprise, to anyone who's read the Hannibal novel, or seen the 2001 film. Anderson replaces Michael Pitt—who either didn't want to return to the role because of the extensive makeup now required, or wasn't asked back because he's a monumental pain in the ass, according to which theory you're inclined to agree with. I'm with the latter, going on some Boardwalk Empire mumblings. Anderson does a decent impression that's halfway between what Pitt was doing and what Gary Oldman did for Ridley Scott's movie, although his makeup was... not exactly disappointing, just less horrifying than the Scott's film. More a transitional phase of 1968's Planet of the Apes masks.

And finally, Jack Crawford's (Laurence Fishburne) back—which we already knew from "Secondo", but "Aperitivo" coloured in some of the details. One of the best moments of the episode was the sequence where Jack's wife Bella (Gina Torres) finally succumbed to her cancer, having spent a short time as her injured husband's bedfellow. As a real-life married couple, their scenes always deliver a lovely purity and humanity the show desperate needs at times. I'll miss Torres on the show, but with Bella's death being unambiguous and a factor for Jack deciding to go after Lecter (who left him a note at the funeral), I was glad she's gone.

"Aperitivo" didn't have many scenes with Lecter in them, and I don't believe Mikkelsen even spoke more than one line of dialogue, but it didn't seem to matter. His existence in the world is hanging over everyone, and this hour did a solid job making us realise nobody can simply go back to their own lives and put Lecter behind them.

Not least Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), who admitted to Jack that he considers Lecter a friend and even entertained the idea of absconding with him overseas. I'm not sure I really like what the season's doing with Will now, to be honest. His behaviour in the first season felt logical because he was suffering from encephalitis coupled with his "imagination", but since then we're being asked to simply buy into the idea these men have a bizarre, spiritual connection. And I can, to a point—but now I'm getting to the stage where I find it hard to see Will as a heroic figure, and the person we're supposed to be excited to see bring Lecter to justice.

In some ways it's great the show isn't that simple, because that is what makes Hannibal so different to other shows, but part of me wants Will to break free of whatever spell he's under and just capture or kill Lecter... a man who's killed and eaten hundreds of innocent people, let's not forget. Including Will's colleague Dr Katz and daughter-figure Abigail. At a certain point, I don't care how deeply Will longs to understand his own psyche from being in Lecter's company, he just needs to start behaving responsibly and in the best interest of the families of Lecter's victims.

Overall, I'm having some issues with season 3, but they're not insurmountable. I'm aware the show will soon pivot into a whole other phase, much as last season did. At least we've reached a stage where everything hanging over us about the season 2 finale's been dealt with, so we can get back to the matter at hand: everyone doing their best to find Lecter.


  • NBC cancelled Hannibal last week. But fear not, I have a strong suspicion it will find another home soon enough. NBC were a partner in the show's creation, but were now only paid $185,000 per episode, and each hour costs around $3,000,000. NBC's financial stake was relatively tiny, so losing them isn't disastrous. The bigger issue is the show doesn't have a U.S distributor for a theoretical season 4 (a way to actually be seen by people), so they just need to find it a new home. Amazon Prime have streaming rights to the show in the U.S, so they seem like the best and obvious choice, and I'm going to presume £185k a week isn't going to break the Amazon bank balance. I doubt any of this will affect the UK deal, so expect it to still air on Sky Living here.
  • This episode also introduced us to Cordell (Glenn Fleshler), Verger's physical therapist, who doesn't bat an eyelid when his employer asks him to prepare for a scenario where Lecter's caught and about to be eaten alive. I guess it's just Cordell's version of a "happy ending".
written by Nick Antosca, Bryan Fuller & Steve Lightfoot • directed by Marc Jobst • 25 June 2015 • NBC