"I'll show you mine if you show me yours."
This episode's opening scene is pure magic. Dr. Chilton and Mason Verger, two characters who should surely be dead after the events that concluded Hannibal's second season, find themselves having a bedside chat. Verger, nearly eaten alive by a pack of hungry boars, has little more than scar tissue on the bottom half of his face. Chilton, shot point blank by Miriam Lass, removes a prosthetic that emulates a cheek bone and half a jaw. Both men are drastically disfigured and their appearances are the literal representations of the other characters that reappear in this episode. All of the survivors of Hannibal's reign of terror are permanently scarred. None of them are whole.
In a season full of unexpected moves, Apertivo tries the most unexpected of all by having an entire episode without the show's titular character. It does finally manage to shed some light onto the fallout that came from the massacre that concluded season 2 though so I can't be entirely frustrated by this fact. Honestly, the audacity of a show completely unwilling to reveal what happened to nearly half its cast for three episodes is worth salivating over. In a world where television seems only to cater to its audience, to simply provide a distraction rather than reinvent or challenge what we're all used to, Hannibal is the freshest breath of air I've had since Mad Men. And as fresh as this decision is "Apertivo" winds up being the least inventive of what Hannibal has done so far this season. It's almost entirely expository, not that that's not a bad thing. The episode almost works at its own personal breath of fresh air after the waking nightmare that has been the first three episodes this season.
Will and Hannibal still don't meet but a reunion of a different and equally important nature does occur. Will and Alana Bloom find themselves together in Hannibal's former home. Utilizing one of the prettiest color palettes the series has ever employed (in a show that is already disgustingly gorgeous) Alana and Will have a melancholy conversation about forgiveness. More accurately, forgiving Hannibal for what he's done so that Will can continue benefitting from his exposure to the killer. Will even comments on their "mutually unspoken pact to ignore the worst in each other to continue to enjoy the best". This solidifies a notion that this season has been hinting at all along. Will and Hannibal are the flip sides of a coin. The light and dark of each other. Without the other they can't fully exist.
But enough about Will and Hannibal. They're the furthest thing from the focus of "Apertivo". This episode wants to catch up with everyone else because the most broken character we get to the meet this season is Alana Bloom. Physically she's doing fine (all things considered), except she walks with a limp and requires a cane. But as a character, as a person, she's entirely changed. She disguises the woman we knew, in much the same way that Verger and Chilton disguise their physical weaknesses, because Alana sees her former self as a weakness. It can be the only reason she's assumed this new persona. A much stronger, more severe persona that won't ever be fooled or taken advantage of again. This point is underlined made in maybe the best line of the episode: "You cannot see what you will not see. Until it throws you out a window." She embodies this in every way. Her clothes are bright, primary colored and make her look like a 1940's femme fatale. She's covered in make-up and lip stick as if she's proud of the fact that she's masking her true self. Most important of all is the fact that once the episode has moved all of its pieces, we learn that Alana is actually the main motivator for revenge for both Chilton and Verger. She's pushing the both of them over the edge.
This entire episode works at a follow up to Bedelia's line to Hannibal in last week's episode. He is drawing all of these characters to him and even though they are all fueled by their respective forms of revenge and forgiveness, it all seems to be playing into Hannibal's design. What's more daunting is this series generally likes to work with two story arcs per season and we're almost halfway home. Something big is coming. Something bloody.