Hannibal, NBC’s beautifully violent drama about psychiatrists and cannibals is back. For those who are just tuning in to the show. Last night’s premiere titled “Antipasto” probably wouldn’t be a great place to start as it’s one of the strangest season premieres I’ve seen. It’s missing most of the main cast and focuses mainly on building the mood and atmosphere of our new setting: Europe.
When we last left the characters in Hannibal many of them were on the cusp of death in Lecter’s kitchen. “Antipasto” doesn’t touch on any of those characters. Instead, it opens with Lecter speeding through Paris on a motorbike. He attends a high class party, follows a distinguished lecturer home, and kills and eats him. All of this is done stylistically, focusing more on architecture, soundscapes, and slow-motion close-ups than on the inevitable violence viewers come to expect. The murder of the lecturer is never shown. Instead, we see Lecter preparing and cooking a liver, and the look of surprise on the lecturer’s wife’s face when she comes home to see Hannibal dining in her house. Hannibal’s response: Bonsoir.
That’s just the cold open. The main trajectory of the episode itself revolves around Bedelia Du Maurier and Hannibal’s relationship with each other and how they are spending their time in Europe. Mads Mikkelsen and Gillian Anderson are electrifying together and the push-pull between two psychiatrists examining each other keeps the dialogue fresh and elegant. Neither character will truly give away their motivations, and it’s within the subtext that most of the information lies.
“Antipasto” provides numerous flashbacks. These range from glorious black and white scenes of Hannibal feeding a top-of-his-game Eddie Izzard to himself to the direct aftermath of Bedelia’s murder of a patient, who happens to be Zachary Quinto. These scenes are weaved seamlessly within the main narrative, told in a widescreen aspect ratio that stretches itself out when we return to the present day.
Plot machinations are thin, but we learn that Du Maurier is definitely uncomfortable in her situation, but the full extent to which she is under Hannibal’s control is debatable. She admits herself that part of it is professional curiosity. The Izzard flashbacks show Hannibal feeding oysters and snails to his victim, in order to make the meat tastier. In a gut-bustingly hilarious double entendre told by Hannibal while dining with a new friend (“It’s not that kind of party.”) Bedelia realizes that Hannibal is using the same method to sweeten her up. It’s a scene both morbid and funny.
The dark humor and cannibal puns are still there as well as the beautiful dreamlike imagery. Hannibal has the best cinematography on television, hands down. It also has the best sound design, not to mention the excellent set design, costumes, and writing. It’s stupefying to think that a show like this found a home on NBC. The first two season were pulpy crime storylines with Italian giallo influences. The season three premiere goes full giallo. The close-ups, the setting, and even the Goblin-esque sound cues evoke masters like Dario Argento.
The episode ends with Hannibal murdering his earlier dinner guest in front of Bedelia, who he subsequently turns into a human origami heart, and flees the country. “Are you observing or participating?” Hannibal asks of Bedelia. She replies that she is observing, but Hannibal counters that she is indeed participating by choosing not to help the man he’s about to murder. The scene is incredibly tense and adds further mystery to the what’s really going on in these character’s heads.
“Antipasto” is a season premiere that serves as a palette teaser, one that brings up more questions than answers. It’s subtle, deliberately placed, funny, horrifying, and tense. It’s one of the best episodes of television this year.
Are you a Fannibal? What did you think of the season premiere? Let us know in the comments below!