After months of anticipation Hannibal has returned to our screens, promising to serve up violence and intrigue aplenty. After last season’s pulsating, beautiful, and shocking finale, this season opens in a much more sombre and isolated fashion. Mental gymnastics and psychological warfare are still at the top of Bryan Fuller’s agenda, but this time around we’ll have to wait to see Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen) and Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) dissect one another.
This season’s opener, Antipasto, picked up where the previous season left off by following the exploits of Hannibal and Doctor Bedelia (Gillian Anderson) as they begin a new life overseas. I found this focused approach to be quite satisfying, because we rarely get to see Hannibal operating apart from the rest of the cast even though he’s the titular character. Hannibal is such an interesting and outlandish character; intellectually he dwarfs even the most learned of geniuses, and although his worldview is despicable it’s oddly compelling in its sophisticated simplicity. Hannibal is animalistic; kill or be killed, eat or be eaten. It’s not about sadism or getting off on violence, it’s about control and knowing your place in the food chain – as he says in this episode “it’s only cannibalism if we’re equals”.
We were afforded just as much time to connect with Bedelia as we were to indulge in Hannibal’s bad habits, which I personally enjoyed because previously her motivations have been incredibly opaque. It’s clear that Bedelia and our favourite cannibal have a lot of history together but we’re yet to dig into the murky details. Antipasto offered the first real insight into their relationship, establishing the dynamic that they’re going to have for the foreseeable future and also hinting at the origin of Bedelia’s descent into villainy.
Bedelia believes that she’s a mere bystander in this story, an observer following Hannibal’s exploits for the sake of intellectual curiosity, but that perspective is shattered by the end of the episode when Hannibal rightly points out that Bedelia is his accomplice. She has the option to help his victims, to warn them of their fates, and she also has ample opportunity to escape his clutches. She freely chooses to follow his activities, to ‘observe’, but when the credits roll we’re all aware that she’s participating.
This is an interesting concept, because it raises questions about the audience and their relationship with the series. We as a viewership choose to tune in; we could change the channel at any moment but instead we revel in Hannibal’s crimes and even route for him at various junctures. We want him to kill his victims and we even watch him eat them!
Overall, this episode of Hannibal was excellent, despite the fact that it somewhat controversially chose to ignore the fates of Will Graham, Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne), Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas), and Abigail Hobbs (Kacey Rohl). By failing to address last season’s cliffhanger and delving deeper into the relationship between Bedelia and Hannibal this episode afforded said relationship time to blossom, and it was as riveting as ever to see Hannibal psychoanalyse an onlooker of his crimes. I would recommend this series to anyone and this opening episode only leaves me hungry for more.