Hannibal – Antipasto Review
Massive Spoiler Warning for Hannibal Season 2!!!
If one thing can be said for Bryan Fuller’s gore-filled and psychologically disturbed TV series Hannibal at this point, it’s that it keeps building upon itself. With the way last season concluded, I was surprised that the show got another season, let alone would find ways to build on top of that. Luckily, Bryan Fuller is a masterful director and he finds the perfect new kitchen for everyone’s favorite loquacious cannibal in this new season. What are the merits of this first episode? Read on and find out.
For those who have missed Hannibal up to this point (In which case why have you? It’s fantastic!), the efforts of FBI consultant Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and Special Agent Jack Crawford (Lawrence Fishburne) to expose Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) for the intelligent, cannibalistic psychopath that he is ended rather violently. As far as the audience knew at the end of season 2, Will Graham was eviscerated, Abigail Hobbs (Kacey Rohl) who was thought to be dead at the end of season 1, shows up again to defenestrate Dr. Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas) and get her throat slashed by Hannibal. Afterwards, Hannibal is seen on a plane, fleeing the country with his former psychiatrist, Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson). This brings us to the beginning of season 3, where Hannibal has gone to a party in Paris and consumed Professor Roman Fell (Jeremy Crutchley) and assumed his identity in order to take a position as a professor of Italian literature at a prestigious institute in Venice. Professor Du Maurier we learn is posing as his wife. We also learn that she has joined Hannibal because of some rather unhealthy fascinations with the behavior she sees in Hannibal and knows he is capable of. She knows he is dangerous, and the fact that he will likely eat her is reinforced when a dinner guest of Hannibal’s (the living kind) points out that the she has been a diet historically given to animals to fatten them up and improve their flavor before consumption, but her fascination with Hannibal psychologically and the lifestyle he leads has her mentally trapped and unsure of what path to follow.
I might as well get what few complaints I have about this episode out of the way first. Considering how plot driven Hannibal is as a whole, it was somewhat disappointing that there was so little forward momentum in terms of plot progression this episode. The episode spends its running time going back and forth between flashbacks of Dr. Du Maurier’s interactions with Hannibal immediately following the climax of season 2 and the present setting where Hannibal throws himself into studying Medieval Italian literature like Dante in order to maintain his position and his secrecy in spite of the snobbish disdain of one of his colleagues, Professor Sogliato (Rinaldo Rocco). From a character standpoint, all of this is great, but considering how tense and violent the climax of season 2 was, a little more discussion of that ending’s fallout would have been appreciated. Other than lengthy flashbacks to Hannibal’s last meal with Dr. Abel Gideon (Eddie Izzard) in which Hannibal fed Dr. Gideon his own body parts as a kind of “shared supper” between friends, there isn’t much added to the series in this episode that we didn’t already know. Also, the only interesting character other than the main cast is the man who knows who Hannibal really is, but he’s unceremoniously killed off mainly to reinforce an already established characterization trend. I would really have liked to have seen more of him, but that’s clearly not going to happen now.
Honestly, those are my only complaints, and everything else is so good that it’s hard to really care about them all things considered. Mads Mikkelsen is my favorite Hannibal Lecter, and he continues the trend of being as intelligent and charming as he is unhinged and terrifying like he did in previous seasons. I had liked Gillian Anderson’s Dr. Du Maurier a lot in previous seasons, but I had always felt that we were seeing her character after everything interesting in her story had already occurred. In this first episode, we finally see the origins of her complicated relationship with Hannibal as we see the immediate aftermath of Dr. Du Maurier “being forced” to kill one of her patients who attacked her, a patient who was previously in Hannibal’s care. Through character interactions (and through Fuller’s gorgeous and disturbing art direction) we learn that Dr. Du Maurier is concerned that she is losing control of her own actions and being metaphorically consumed by Hannibal’s charisma and the intrigue of his lifestyle. In Hannibal’s case, he spends the episode going back and forth between proving his intellectual credentials and questioning Dr. Du Maurier on whether she is, in his words, “participating in or observing,” his lifestyle. The setting of Venice allows Fuller to bring endless gorgeous shots of ancient Italian art and architecture, gorgeous scenery, and, of course, delectable food. It’s always been the darkest and greatest secret of Fuller’s Hannibal series that all of the food that Hannibal prepares looks absolutely delicious and you want to try it yourself, even if the likelihood of that food being made of people is about 95% (sometimes he makes normal food). Everything about Bryan Fuller’s direction and cinematography makes everything seem delectable and inviting in spite of how twisted and horrible you know everything is.
Antipasto is by no means the best episode of Hannibal ever made. It’s fairly light on plot and doesn’t tell us much that will connect seasons 2 and 3 that we didn’t already know. The new characters were either not interesting or killed off before they could be properly explored. These minor problems are overshadowed by everything that makes the Hannibal TV series great. Mads Mikkelsen’s entrancing performance as Hannibal, Bryan Fuller’s artistic and terrifying direction, the interesting and often disturbing characters with fully developed arcs and plotlines, and, of course, all the scrumptious food. I’ve watched every episode of Hannibal, and there are no bad episodes of Hannibal. This episode is good. It’s just not as good as some others. Still should keep watching though.
Antipasto is a decent episode of Hannibal that is let down by minor drawbacks. It's lack of forward plot momentum and poor use of potentially interesting new characters keeps this from being as great as it could be. Everything else is classic Hannibal, and thus is definitely worth your time to watch.