[Review] - Hannibal, Season 3 Episode 1, "Antipasto"

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television
So, here is my declarative statement of the day: Hannibal is officially my favorite TV show. Not favourite TV on right now, or favourite of the last five years. It's just my favourite. As in ever. I now feel that I am able to say, that of all the television that has come before this moment, Hannibal best exemplifies the use of the medium, the flourish of storytelling and is the most enjoyable both weekly and totally. This episode wasn't what tipped it over, this is something I've been ruminating on since last season ended in the magnificent fashion it did. Revisiting the series from the start over the past few months confirm what I can only describe as an honest and true love for the show. So, sorry Firefly, but you get bumped down into the number two spot. Don't worry, it's happened to others before you - Quantum Leap, The West Wing - and I've not forgotten about them. But Hannibal is a league unto itself.

Hannibal has always been an odd title choice for a series which has seen Will Graham function as the protagonist. The argument could be made that he and Dr. Lecter have shared the lead role. that was certainly true of last season. And while the series at large uses Hannibal's story as it's guideline, it is through Will's participation in that we have been invited to dine with the good Doctor. This episode, if only briefly, changed that. With Will nowhere to be seen, it was Hannibal's opportunity to step out, seize the agency of his own tale, and tell it in his own way. the episode even began with him looking straight at us and saying, "Once Upon A Time..." Instead, it shifted the weight onto Bedelia's shoulders. And the results were as you'd expect - flawless in presentation, succulent during ingestion, and leaving a fine aftertaste.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers what know they are being read.

There is a line in Silence of the Lambs, one that apparently informed Bryan Fuller's shaping of this season, in which Hannibal explains that, "Nothing happened to me...I happened." And that, as a modus operandi for the series works better than most things. Because, despite his name on the title card, the series is and has been Hannibal's effect on the lives of the characters of the show. He is as much a setting as a character. Will and Jack and Alana exist within his influence. To make it Hannibal's story, to have him tell it, and to make him the motivator of the story would be to rob him of his effectiveness. Like Star Wars delving into Darth Vader too often, it would humanize him too much. And as Hannibal declares in this episode, it's only cannibalism if they are equals. So, the show must always have a human core, some for Hannibal to terrorize, to dehumanize. Someone to react to Hannibal. Without Will, that job shifts to Bedelia.

This episode does two things very well and very quickly. It answers the most lingering of the questions left unanswered by last season's finale: did Bedelia get on that plane willingly, under corrosion or under duress. The answer it seems is mostly the latter, with a little bit of the foremost, and a constant threat of the middle. She takes great pride in maintaining complete awareness of her faculties, a small victory in an oppressive environment that she remains capable of freewill, if unable to exert it. The question that plagues Bedelia is, as Hannibal phrases it, "are you observing or participating." This was the question Hannibal had intended on asking of Will, but Will was always playing Hannibal against himself, in hopes of tripping him up.

With Bedelia, the option is more genuine. She has a legitimate choice to make. On the one hand, she can live with Hannibal under his various nom de plumes, and live quite well, in high regard and luxury, and be appreciated. To do so, she must sacrifice morality in favour of aesthetic; she must become like him, if not entirely embrace his methods. If she chooses to observe, she can do so silently, aghast but assured that she has not succumbed to his charms. If she participates, she sheds her humanity and becomes another one of Hannibal's' monsters. Either way, she knows she's on borrowed time, until the day that she becomes a liability or Hannibal finds someone knew. She's already flavouring her, after all.

Her third option is to run. This is how she knows she has free will. She can pick up that evening's wine, go and sit in a train yard all day and be steps from a freedom that she knows would be temporary at best. Which is why Hannibal offers her only two choices. The third choice is certain death. The other two offer prolonged life. So, she is terrorized, and has little choice but to stay. So, not entirely of her own volition. But neither is she entranced, not yet. If she chooses to participate, Bedelia will be shed and Hannibal's version of her will take her place (and despite the tears and horror, there seemed to be a faint quiver of joy as he snapped the TA's neck). That would be her beguiled, her lost to him, and by her definition, a bad day. If she chooses to observe, she remains free but captive. Ensnared would seem to be the best word. Right now, she's on the raggedy edge of making that choice.

The show has always looked gorgeous, but with the Italian architecture standing as backdrop, the show has transcended even it's own aspirations. There was a shot of Gillian Anderson walking in contrast to the ivory white of the medieval buildings that literally made me awe. And if the setting wasn't inspirational enough, they can augment it with the trappings, art and style of Europe. Nothing has made me miss Old Europe as much as this episode. There were still enough times for the show's own eccentricities to take hold. Hannibal's new office has taken on the columned motif that dominated last season's asylum scenes. And Anderson's blue Carmen San Diego hat was second to none in the costuming. Anderson has the power to carry this series on her own, the chemistry to make it marvelous with Mads, and the cutting, graceful style that puts others to shame. She slides effortlessly into scenes, as if designed to be there.

The real treat of the episode though was the return of Abel Gideon, and it never ceases to amaze me how much distance the show is able to run out of characters they've killed off long ago. I've gone on record as saying that Abel is my favourite character of the series, and the best addition Fuller and co. made to the Hannibal mythos. And despite having brought him back form the dead once already, last year they gave him a memorable send off. And yet still, more than enough room to milk more material. I believe it must be a condition of Mads Mikkelsen that he has absolute chemistry with all his co-stars, but he and Eddie Izzard (of whom I'm a fan of besides) have something perversely electric between them. That Fuller left gaps in their interactions to allow for trips back, like this, that provide additional excuses for interaction is part of the reason I feel the way I do about this show. They know what they have, and use it to maximum effect, for as long as they can, and it never feels forced.

As much as I'm excited about getting back to Will and finding out the full aftermath of the Worst Dinner Party Ever, this episode proves that Will is not integral to the continued nature of the show. And, it peaks my interest to find out why Bedelia had most of her arm down Zachery Quinto's throat.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


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