Thursday, June 4, 2015

REVIEW: 'Hannibal' - Hannibal & Bedelia Adjust to Their New Reality as She Tries to Maintain Some Control in 'Antipasto'

NBC's Hannibal - Episode 3.01 "Antipasto"

Having successfully escaped FBI capture, Hannibal is moving through the European landscape, with Bedelia in tow. But Dr. Lector's old habits and opulent tastes are still on display as he settles into a new identity and life in Florence, Italy, working at the Palazzo Capponi museum. Glimpses into the past help inform his relationship with Bedelia, a pairing not clearly defined as friend or foe.

Hannibal took on a dream-like quality in the second half of its second season which culminated in a tragic nightmare of a season finale that left all of the regulars bleeding out by the hands of Hannibal Lector. "Antipasto" continues that atmospheric mood of a dream even though it's purpose is largely to show the life of Hannibal and Bedelia on the run in Europe. It's just as operatic as the show is at its best. These character are used to an opulent lifestyle. They walk through this world with composure and philosophic ideals. That's important in showing the characters' mindsets behind the terrible acts of violence. It allows the audience into the heads of the two of them. Even though they are on the run, they are still operating exactly as they were previously. Although they are in hiding as married couple, Hannibal is still killing people and making delicious looking meals out of them while Bedelia is still struggling with the line between curiosity and participation.

"Antipasto" is a fantastic character study for both Hannibal and Bedelia. It has no ambition of answering any of the lingering cliffhanger questions about who died at Hannibal's house. Hannibal was exposed as the cannibal killer he really is. And yet, he is never fearful of getting caught. He is able to enter into this European society seamlessly. He is allowed entry into a teaching position and able to give lectures to crowds of people who will listen to his philosophies. That could be seen as careless from a person who does not want to be capture by law enforcement. However, it's powerful to see Hannibal operate with no fear. As this show has demonstrated numerous times, he is always in control of every single situation. He is able to masterfully manipulate people without them ever realizing what he is doing. He can slyly work his way into this new position simply by making the previous curator and his wife disappear. And no one is any wiser. They don't know what happened to them nor do they really care. One man protests to hiring Hannibal in the position. But Hannibal is still able to lord over everyone else with his immense wealth of knowledge.

It continues to be a very powerful performance by Mads Mikkelsen. He is powerful but subdued. Hannibal understands that he is the man in charge of this world. He doesn't need to be showy about it. He is allowed to enjoy the pleasantries of the world without fear for his life. He knows that whenever someone gets too close to either him or Bedelia and who he truly is, he can simply kill them because they won't expect it. None of these European characters fear Hannibal as a cannibalistic serial killer. He admits to Bedelia that he hasn't killed much since traveling abroad. But he has still killed in order to obtain a highly regarded position in society. Sooner or later Hannibal's luck will run out. Will Graham is probably still alive and now more confident than ever to capture him because he knows the full truth. And yet, this premiere still positions Hannibal as a man with immense power even though he is no longer operating under the name of Hannibal Lector in public.

That leaves Bedelia in a very unique situation given that she is Hannibal's traveling companion on this journey. It was a terrific final reveal seeing her sitting next to him on that plane out of the country at the end of the previous season. How could she willingly choose to stay so close to him when she was able to accurately point out to both Will and Jack just how manipulative Hannibal really is? What's going on in her mind is the most captivating story of this premiere. She fully believes that she still has full control over her actions. She is choosing to stay with Hannibal purely out of professional curiosity. She saw him as a patient for years following the violent attack in her office. And yet, she could always tell that he wasn't being his genuine self. Now, she is fully aware of the truth. That provides some interest in Hannibal that is captivating to her. She understands that he could kill her at any given moment. She is allowed to live her own life. However, that is largely filled with routine trips to the deli and meals with Hannibal. She wants to believe that she still has a choice. And yet, its a devastating and daunting thought that Hannibal may be controlling her just as strongly as every other aspect of his life.

The premiere uses artfully shot flashbacks to help fuel and understand the motivations of both Hannibal and Bedelia. With Hannibal, it's more of the final days of Dr. Abel Gideon shown completely in black-and-white. There's still so much beauty to be seen in those sequences. But it's very much telling of the way that Hannibal sees the world. Even though he is enjoying being open with what he does with a companion, it's not the experience he fully wants. He is able to lord control over Gideon in a much more transparent way than any of his previous victims. It has always been torturous and gruesome in having Hannibal serve Gideon his own body parts as meals. However, is it enough satisfaction for Hannibal to savor knowing that his victim is fully aware of what is happening to him? Gideon slowly comes to terms with what Hannibal is doing even though he continues to get inside Hannibal's mind and what he truly wants in this world. In the present, Hannibal's living situation with Bedelia is incredibly different. And yet, he is still able to wield his power over him.

Bedelia has been forced to question every single interaction she has ever had with Hannibal Lector - especially when her patient attacked her and he intervened. He referred the patient to her which makes her curious if he wanted this kind of relationship all along. He didn't care about her psyche in the aftermath of this trauma as long as he was able to control her life afterwards. In some ways, Bedelia feels incredibly trapped in this predicament. The only amount of control she really has is in sliding underwater in the bathtub. And yet, she does come up. For every opportunity she has to escape, she chooses to stay. That is a meaningful choice. It's a choice that has to be about something much more than professional curiosity. She knows that the meat he serves in his exquisite meals is human. She can try to avoid it only to consume the snails and clams that Hannibal knows will make her palate even better later on. Even in those small details where she believes she has control, she doesn't. It sickens her knowing beforehand what Hannibal plans on doing to Mr. Dimmond. And yet, she still chooses to stay and be an active participant in his demise. She does not run or try to stop what Hannibal is doing. It's a captivating internal character beat that Gillian Anderson plays tremendously. She does her best to exude some control. She can take some comfort in being able to pull a gun on Hannibal. But both of them are fully aware that she won't pull the trigger. Just like both are aware that Hannibal will continue to kill and then consume his victims. It's chilling and poetic storytelling. It's a grim start to the season. But with Hannibal, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Antipasto" was written by Bryan Fuller & Steve Lightfoot and directed by Vincenzo Natali.
  • It's going to be so terrific having Gillian Anderson as a full-fledged series regular this season. She has been phenomenal in her appearances in the first two seasons. And this premiere promises to delve even deeper into who Bedelia Du Maurier really is and how far she is willing to go with Hannibal.
  • Even though he was destined for death the moment he appeared on the screen, Tom Wisdom was very effective as Mr. Dimmond who believed he understood Hannibal only to be tragically misguided.
  • Hannibal is often a very dark show with very little comedic beats. That's what makes Mr. Dimmond's confusion about what kind of dinner party it was so delightful. It showcases that the show does have a sick and twisted sense of humor as well.
  • No surprise here, but Hannibal and Bedelia are also great dancers.
  • Three seasons in and Hannibal finally offers his philosophy on what classifies as cannibalism. He explains to Gideon, "It's only cannibalism if we're equals." Will is the only person Hannibal really sees as an equal in this world. So eating Will would be the only truly disturbing act and meal for Hannibal.
  • Bonsoir.