Hannibal, Season 3 Episode 1: Antipasto

Tucker Johnson's look into the series Hannibal continues with the start of season 3. Join him for a new season of disgusting wonder: 

When Hannibal first began in 2013, I honestly wasn't sure what to think. What I saw was a beautifully shot but formulaic monster of the week version of the Hannibal 'legend'. Luckily there was quite a lot more going on under Hannibal's skin and it didn't take long for me to realize that creator Bryan Fuller had a plan. Rather than pull a Game of Thrones and do a full service adaptation of the Thomas Harris novels that the titular character arose from, he instead decided to pull influences sporadically and create a world of pastiche that is far more interesting and appetizing than Harris, Jonathan Demme, Ridley Scott, Brett Ratner, or Peter Webber could ever hope to achieve. Only Michael Mann's Manhunter rivals this series for pure style but in a completely different way.

Arriving in the third season of Hannibal is like arriving in what I can only perceive were the most fragmented imaginings of Thomas Harris while he was dreaming up the novel Hannibal. We find ourselves subject to the gorgeous visuals that this series has made its name on, only aided by the fact that they are now shooting on location in Florence, Italy. The city lends itself well to the sometimes dream, sometimes nightmare that is Hannibal's time on the run from the FBI. In recent memory it's hard to think of another show that plays with time in such a way that viewers have absolutely no idea where or when they are throughout the episode yet can't ever bring themselves to let it bother them. Fuller approaches the story with the audience's apparent lack of concern with small details in mind. Last season ended with a series of escalating cliffhangers and it's almost laughable how little he deals with any of them in the first forty eight some-odd minutes of this season. In fact, we learn nothing of the fates of any characters that were at risk and instead spend the entire episode with either complete strangers to the series or with Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen) and his former psychiatrist, Bedelia du Maurier (Gillian Anderson), the only two characters we knew to be alive at the end of last year's finale. And it doesn't matter one bit. Almost immediately this trip through Europe becomes more engrossing than almost anything this series has attempted before it and that's saying something.

I'm not quite sure how but Hannibal actually manages to achieve something that I feel the films were rarely able to achieve save for perhaps Demme's Silence of the Lambs and that is terror. But Fuller's series manages to bring on a fear far unlike anything the name Hannibal has ever been able to inspire before. The fear doesn't reside in the killings. Quite the opposite actually. The death, the gore, the corpses, all are absolutely gorgeous. As gorgeous as James Hawkinson's cinematography which I still argue rivals even Game of Thrones on its best day. No, the terror resides in Hannibal's manipulative psychology. Like the psychopaths in Michael Haneke's Funny Games, Hannibal's power seems to stem from the fact that he's in control. Always. That horrifying notion of is strengthened almost subconsciously when the editing of the episode takes of forwards and backward through time, completely out of the audiences understanding or control. Yet each time we're served up the same situation. A character we know, good or bad, is in front of Hannibal with a strong disadvantage. It is revealed that Bedelia had a patient die in her office and Hannibal appears as her salvation. And inversely, Dr. Abel Gideon (Eddie Izzard) has himself for dinner as Hannibal, playing chef, serves him his own leg slow cooked and falling off the femur.

Bedelia has an incredible line somewhere around the midpoint of the episode. She utters "You no longer have ethical concerns, Hannibal. Only aesthetical ones." No truer words were ever spoken about this series. It seems to have taken this episode to make it clear that Hannibal has been a dream since the beginning, disguised as a police drama with a little flair. But in a world where a frail old man can build a twenty foot tall totem pole out of human corpses without any help why on earth should we expect the writers to care one bit about the audience's suspension of disbelief. You either buy into the aesthetic or you change the channel. And after the first 48 minutes of this season, I'm certainly pleased I didn't change the channel.

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