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Hannibal – “Buffet Froid”

Usually, Hannibal episodes can do one of two things: they can develop the show’s protagonists in a meaningful sense, or they can have an engaging killer of the week. The pilot and “Amuse-Bouche” did both, but their job was to establish the characters rather than develop them, and in most subsequent episodes, either interesting villains or the advancement of the overall plot have taken the back seat. This week, in “Buffet Froid,” Hannibal elegantly ties Will Graham’s tortured psyche into a haunting plot about a killer with a chance for redemption.

The episode evokes overt horror elements in its opening; a pretty twentysomething woman living on her own discovers a leak and subsequently a hole in her roof in the episode’s lingering first shots. It’s very haunted house, but Hannibal dials up the horror all the way when she’s abruptly pulled under her bed, followed by gouts of blood and screams. It’s one of the series’ scariest scenes, and seems like the setup for a monstrous bogeyman, devoid of humanity in some way or other. Surprisingly, “Buffet Froid” goes the other way, and our bogeyman is the most relatable killer Hannibal’s ever done.

 

HannibalS01E10-1 Word Depository

JESUS CHRIST

 

Most of Hannibal’s killers have a mental illness to complement their murdering, but not one that ever excuses it. Garret Jacob Hobbs had an unhealthy obsession with his daughter as well as an “every part of the buffalo” attitude that gave his murders a fascinating and disturbing motive. Brain Tumour Jesus’ visions added a small enough element of the supernatural that it mystified the crimes, but didn’t detract from the setting. This week’s Georgia Madchen, on the other hand, was revealed to be totally pitiable: she has Cotard’s Syndrome, and so doesn’t know she’s killing anyone, nor even that she’s alive.

The horror of Georgia’s situation is driven home in a reveal in the episode’s final minutes. She walks in on Hannibal mutilating Dr. Sutcliffe and sees a faceless monster who hands her incriminating evidence and calmly walks out. Aside from Hannibal’s appearance tying in nicely with his psyhiatrist’s comment about his “person suit,” the audience sympathises absolutely with Georgia in that moment. Her vision of the world is terrifying.

Not content with making a woman who rips people’s faces off relatable, Hannibal goes and ties her directly to Will, a man so close to mental breakdown he worries if he’s even alive. When he shouts, “If you can hear me, you’re alive!” at her, it’s an attempt to get her to understand, but it’s also an affirmation of his own vitality. If his empathy can save someone directly, rather than bringing him closer to psychopaths, he can control a part of his disintegrating world. The scene where he reaches out to her under the bed is a little unsubtle in the “bringing her out of darkness” thematic content, but it’s also heartbreaking. Will and Georgia aren’t criminal and FBI agent. They’re two human in desperate need of connection and understanding, and though it doesn’t provide the latter, a connection is made, however brief.

The second pre- opening credits scene with Will and Hannibal is quite well-done in its varying degrees of subtlety in foreshadowing. Will’s comment about knowing he’s still alive thematically ties him to the episode’s killer. Furthermore, the buildup to and implications of Will’s clock were lovely. It’s actually a shock to see that, yes, there is probably something seriously wrong with him, and an even larger one to see Hannibal withholding information from him that doesn’t have to do with murdering people. The scene shows that Will trusts Hannibal immediately, offering little resistance to or questioning of drawing the clock, and just as quickly damages that bond.

 

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Huh. So he’s not actually crazy. Or, you know, mostly,

 

Jack Crawford hasn’t had much to do since that business with his wife’s cancer, but his scenes with Will bordered on the adorable. “I am not sand. I am bedrock.” would seem ridiculous in other circumstances, but Laurence Fishburne delivers it with such confidence that it works. For all his cold demeanor in the past few episodes, Jack actually cares quite a bit about Will, and the comparison to Miriam Lass actually reinforces his concern rather than being just a “I-couldn’t-save-her-but-I’ll-save-you” moment. It was that as well, but it managed to convey that, with all his protectors, Will might actually be okay.

If Will and Jack was almost cute, Will and Beverly bonding in a murder scene was downright adorable, in that twisted way Hannibal does everything. “Flirting” is definitely the wrong word for their attempts to discover Georgia Madchen’s motives, but it’s interesting that Will called her rather than anyone else to validate his sanity, and more interesting that she’s entirely on board with that. Katz hasn’t got much development, being a secondary character at best, but she does make one important contribution this week; when she says that Georgia was trying to claw off a mask, Will’s face reveals that he honestly hadn’t thought of that. She’s one of the only people not named Hannibal Lecter to offer Will any insight into a crime that hadn’t already occurred to him, which adds a new dimension to their relationship.

 

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I reiterate: JESUS CHRIST

 

“Buffet Froid” lets Will Graham use his empathy powers in a way that actually helps someone in need rather than destroying his mind, which affords him a little stability and control in his life. It establishes that he’s got people who care about him and that want him to be safe, but at the same time it pulls the rug out from under his feet. His best friend betrays him and the audience is left unsure as to how far he’ll go to study Will. The season is building to some sort of mental collapse and with this week’s encephalitis reveal has sped events up dangerously.

In Memoriam: Dr. Sutcliff, a man killed for the crime of not enjoying immaculately prepared human flesh, also something to do with Will’s brain. But mostly because he wouldn’t eat Hannibal’s food. Although that may have actually been a pig, which is the probably the first thing Hannibal’s served someone that can be confirmed as not people.

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Hannibal – “Trou Normand”

Having spent the last few episodes playing around in Hannibal Lecter’s psyche, Hannibal gets back to Will Graham in “Trou Normand,” suggesting some worrying things both about him as a character and his future on the show. The episode also tries to bring back some of the psychological fascination that its killers of the week had at the beginning of the season, with less success.

But look, he's so happy!

But look, he’s so happy!

Hugh Dancy gets a wonderful scene at the beginning of the episode, where post-crime scene, he loses three hours of time and finds himself in Hannibal’s office. Will quietly loses his mind, playing up the vulnerability he’s been displaying for most of the season in a very believable breakdown. The scene is also indicative of his developing relationship with Hannibal; he goes to his office, a safe space, when he mentally dissociates from the extreme stress placed on his psyche. Hannibal pushes it further in a frankly adorable line, where he says “I’m your friend. I don’t care about the lives you save. I care about you.” This development works because we know that their friendship can’t last given the serial killer thing, but possibly less sustainable is the drama revolving around Will’s psyche. Alana Bloom tells him he’s unstable, and he agrees, so I’m curious what happens next after he snaps in some way or other. I assume it’ll happen at the end of the season, but what next for his character in season two? Though I’m confident the writers have some sort of idea, I can’t think what it is.

“Trou Normand”s totem of corpses is one of the most viscerally disturbing murders Hannibal has shown so far, and the clinical detachment with which it’s portrayed is even more effective than usual. As usual, the crime scene FBI People banter was entertaining without overdoing levity, but the highlight of the case was Will explaining that, to the killer, it didn’t matter how the victims were killed. His aim was their death rather any sort of performance, until his final installation. Usually Hannibal villains have a motive other than straight murder, and, initially, it was both refreshing and starkly frightening.

However, when revealed, Lawrence Wells came as somewhat of a disappointment. True, his introduction, sitting in an armchair with all his possessions, ready and willing to go to jail is very evocative. That part of the plot, the fact that the villain’s plan worked, and he is essentially unpunished, went very well. He didn’t, though, have the delusional sort of insanity that made Garrett Jacob Hobbs, Mushroom Man, and Brain Tumour Jesus so interesting despite minimal screen time. Furthermore, Jack and Will’s discovery of him seemed far too easy, even if the man planned it himself. Hannibal goes out of its way a lot to show that the FBI are actually quite good at their jobs, but sometimes it’s unsatisfying how easily Jack and co. track down the crazies. Likewise, the plot involving Wells’ son seemed rather tacked on; even though he did need some depth, his relationship to his family wasn’t something I really cared about, and Hannibal wasn’t able to convince me that it was important.

"Ye're tardy; I should have been aflame ten minutes since."

“Ye’re tardy; I should have been aflame ten minutes since.”

Abigail Hobbs’ return left me somewhat conflicted. Dead Girl Support Group could have been a great scene, if played a little less melodramatic, but as it happened, the chorus of accusation ended up silly rather than disturbing. Similarly unexciting was Abigail’s new relationship with Freddie Lounds, because it’s very obvious what an awful human being Freddie is, and that this is going nowhere nice for Abigail. It did, however, facilitate Abigail calling out Will on his paternalist attitude towards her. Her interactions with him and Hannibal this week clearly indicate that she doesn’t want a father figure, and it is interesting to watch Freddie use that to get closer to her.

The best parts of Abigail’s story are the few choices she makes herself, and this week one of her only acts of agency comes back to haunt her when Nicholas Boyle’s body is discovered. Really, “Trou Normand” highlights how utterly hopeless Abigail’s situation is; the only decisions she’s made on her own – killing Nicholas Boyle, collaborating with Freddie Lounds – have made her life even worse than it already is. The episode’s final revelation that pretty much everything Jack Crawford said about her is true puts her in an interesting position. It’s easy to make the audience sympathise with a serial killer; obvious, given this show is about Hannibal Lecter. But Abigail’s revelation is hardly coloured by ambiguity at all. Hannibal tells her “You’re not a monster. You’re a victim.” Everything in her life is determined by others acting upon her and the result is a character who is deeply transgressive in her actions, but not her motivations or disposition. I severely doubt she’s going to live through the season, but Abigail’s story definitely has enough steam to carry another few episodes.

Drop dead.

Drop dead.

On a more continuity-related note, I very much enjoyed Hannibal’s manipulation of Will when he discovers that he helped dispose of Nicholas Boyle. The “both her fathers” line is an excellent example of Hannibal using what he knows about Will’s mind to manipulate him. The sort of manipulation that Hannibal is known for in most of his incarnations has been absent thus far, and it’s subtly introduced in that scene. I hope we get more of that, because Mads Mikkelsen is absolutely killing the subtle suggestion embedded within a larger point that works so well on Will. You don’t want your new daughter to go to prison, do you, Will? Here, I’ll pat you on the shoulder to re-assure you that covering it up is the proper, paternal response to Abigail gutting a guy with a hunting knife.

Hannibal is moving its plot along, which is necessary given how close it is to the end of the season, but it’s usually better when it’s not doing that. The show excels at its characters, not its narrative, and too much of the latter is, oddly, less interesting than Hannibal or Will just talking to someone. Luckily, “Trou Normand” had some lovely images, some very good depictions of Will’s mental collapse, and a promise that Abigail Hobbs is going some very interesting places. It’s enough to make up for the less interesting places she’s going, and the half-hearted family plot with Lawrence Wells. Even given Hannibal’s foregone conclusion, I’m very excited as to where the end of the season is headed, which almost certainly nowhere cheerful.

In Memoriam: Abigail Hobbs’ innocence, although ambiguously. It’s difficult to tell whether it’s alive or dead at this point.

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Hannibal – “Fromage”

Hannibal has it easy in one important aspect; it doesn’t have to iterate its premise very much. As an adaptation, even a loose one, certain groundrules are previously established, and certain expectations are pre-existing. Hannibal could have been quite lazy with its subject matter, given that Hannibal Lecter murdering people and talking about is such lucrative territory, but this week’s “Fromage” has fully revealed what the show is really about: crazy people being crazy at each other. Principally these people are Hannibal and Will, and the expression and interaction of their psychologies drives a lot of what makes the show good.

Will and Alana Bloom’s romantic scenes are an excellent example of this preoccupation, as they’re just as important to the episode as Hannibal’s relationship to the killer of the week, Tobias Budge. The scenes are full of psychological analysis, both implied and explained out loud. Alana very rationally talks herself down from going any farther with Will and it’s abundantly clear what it means to both of them. There’s clearly a mutual attraction, but Alana knows that unless Will is going to stop being a curiosity, she can’t separate academic fascination. “Fromage” does a great job of showing that this is at least as important to the show as various murders. When Will shows up at Hannibal’s house after he’s rejected, it’s adorable, but it’s also an admission by the show that it’s principally about how these two minds function. Everything they do matters, because the crimes aren’t the focus. It’s a show about people.

Before I explore that theme a little more, I’d like to comment on this week’s crime-scene empathy. It’s a pretty interesting idea, and I’d hesitate to call it a gimmick, but after last week it seemed like it might be heading in that direction. Not that there was anything wrong with last week’s hotel murder, but it didn’t do anything new. However, this week’s was wonderfully chilling. The murder itself is the result of a much more interesting mind than the previous few episodes, but what really makes the scene is Garret Jacob Hobbs clapping in the seats. Hannibal keeps coming up with new ways to show us how tortured Will’s psyche is, and a visit from the man himself is chilling. The way the camera moves to him smirking alone in the audience reinforces how much his murder Will’s been trying to repress and its symbolic development from the animals to a human presence lurking in the corners of his psyche. Better yet, it isn’t another bloody elk.

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“Now I’m not condoning any of this, but you have to admit that this human cello thing is pretty fucking cool.”

Other fun with the murder of the week: Beverly Katz holding a bow and looking nonplussed. Her banter with the two other FBI People is one of the most consistently funny pieces of dark comedy the show has to offer.

The episode’s central murder is musically-themed, a man’s throat cut and his vocal cords played like a cello, and as such the soundtrack is almost constantly present, emitting some kind of noise or other. This ties in nicely with Will’s deteriorating mental state, symbolising the mental “noise” his brain is constantly suffering, what with the empathy combined with the traumatic recent past.

Having established Hannibal Lecter’s loneliness and god complex in previous weeks, “Fromage” has what I can only describe as fun with it. We know Hannibal wants a friend, and now we have someone who wants to be friends with him in Tobias Budge, musician, luthier, and musically-themed serial killer. Tobias gives Hannibal a message via poor, stupid Franklyn Froideveaux and the two spend most of the episode circling each other like cats. Tobias seems to genuinely want Hannibal’s approval; unfortunately, Hannibal can barely conceal his contempt. You’d think a friend who shares his interests would be nice, but the thing is, it’s crucial to Hannibal’s character that he’s not only a serial killer, but the serial killer. Everyone else kills out of compulsion, or emotional fetters, or sheer fucked-upness, but Hannibal tells himself that he kills for a nobler purpose.

Hannibal’s paradox is that he wants understanding, but no-one that can truly empathise with him is worthy of his time. Will, as he mentions obliquely to his therapist, is the closest he can get to true understanding without being a competitor. Franklin is a useful example here, as it’s clear that Hannibal has a sort of condescending regard for him, enough to refer him to someone else and ask Tobias not to kill him. However, as soon as Franklin becomes an irritation in his confrontation with Tobias, Hannibal snaps his neck, partially because he’s a liability in the situation, but partially to spite Tobias, who was “looking forward to that.” Hannibal murders a man out of sheer contempt, both for the victim and the would-be murderer. He hates that someone who he doesn’t respect thinks he understands him, which is abundantly clear when he subsequently murders Tobias. With an elk statue. Sigh. You just can’t get away from them, apparently.

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You say the word “elk” enough, it loses all meaning.

With “Fromage,” Hannibal has definitely let its audience know that, as much as it masquerades as a crime show, it’s first and foremost about exploring peoples’ heads in excruciating detail. There are a few murders and a kiss, but all of them are in service of how the characters interact on an intellectual and emotional level.

In Memoriam: Franklyn Froideveaux, who probably had it coming, given that he tried to reason with a guy who makes instruments out of people and stalked Hannibal Lecter. Idiot.

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Hannibal – “Sorbet”

Hannibal’s plot is occasionally difficult to detect, cloaked as it often is in compelling but resolution-deficient character interactions, lovingly-shot murders, and dream elk. It’s most evident in the most recent episode, “Sorbet”, in which we look at what Hannibal Lecter’s life is like, and not much else.

 

All right, yes, there’s a killer this week. But he’s a med student organ harvester, and isn’t even as psychologically interesting as last week’s Dr. Abel Gideon. After a body turns up in a hotel room with some Chesapeake Ripper-style mutilations and organ removals, Will Graham gets pulled out of his classroom to do that empathy thing. His and Jack Crawford’s exchange in the drive to the scene highlight the macabre nature of this “talent” that the show sometimes glosses over: “I’ve had the room sealed. You’ll get it fresh.”, to which Will replies “Fresh as a daisy.” As much as Hannibal likes to shock its viewers with tasteful gore, it’s easy to forget that its protagonist’s special ability is pretending to be a serial killer. Little comments like that bring the viewer back to the reality of what it is most people do on the show beyond the veil of dreamlike imagery.

 

I'd make some sort of joke about Jack being sad, but honestly, his life is unpleasant enough as it is.

I’d make some sort of joke about Jack being sad, but honestly, his life is unpleasant enough as it is.

 

The show’s dark, subdued sense of humour also serves it well in “Sorbet”s ostensible A-plot. FBI-people Beverly Katz (Hetienne Park) and Brian Zeller (Aaron Abrams) are on the scene before Will, and after Katz lets him know that she touched the body and her impressions, Zeller chimes in, saying “I, uh, also did a little bit of touching.” The mutilated body not ten feet away makes his sheepish delivery far funnier than it should be, allowing a small moment of humour to precede one of Will’s empathic crime scene investigations. This one was as interesting as the rest, featuring an elk so as to remind the audience that, yes, the spectre of the Hobbs family is still around.

 

Hannibal is sometimes a straightforward procedural, and, unfortunately, this week’s case is pretty uninteresting. It had a similar progression to “Amuse-Bouche”; the breakthrough came in the last couple minutes after the case took back seat for most of the episode, and the killer was subdued without much difficulty. However, “Amuse-Bouche”s Mushroom Guy was much more interesting psychologically than “Sorbet”s Devon Silvestri, who had a single appearance and not much in the way of motive.

 

I’d complain more, but “Sorbet” did something the show hasn’t done since it began: actually focused on Hannibal Lecter as a character for the majority of an episode. We get an idea of his social life: he goes to the opera, visits his own therapist (Gillian Anderson!), and puts on elaborate cooking shows with what is definitely human meat this time, for sure. This seems fairly standard fare for a character we’ve been conditioned to have certain expectations about. What’s unexpected is that all these, even the human meat, are indicators of profound loneliness. Hannibal Lecter is lonely.

 

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The face of pure existential despair.

 

Giving the man an inner life and vulnerable emotions didn’t work out so well last time someone tried it: see Hannibal Rising, but the subtleties in “Sorbet” convey his state without diminishing any of his menace. The episode opens with one of Hannibal’s patients fumbling to form a connection with him, and the audience is given the impression that as a professional he’s above that sort of thing. Later, however, Hannibal’s own therapist sees right through him, accusing him as wearing a “person suit” and asking him if it’s lonely presenting a meticulously-constructed persona. He protests, almost weakly, that “I have friends, and the opportunities for friends. You and I are friendly.” But while she likes him, Hannibal’s therapist isn’t his friend, and you can see in Mikkelsen’s performance that he’s almost imperceptibly let down by this. His “person suit” barely wavers, but it does slip.

 

In his subsequent session with Will, Hannibal asks, seeking reassurance, “Am I your psychiatrist or are we simply having conversations?” In context, it sounds like a psychiatrist’s leading question, but it disguises that he really wants an answer; are he and Will friends? He asks a similar question while cooking eating dinner with Alana Bloom, “Why didn’t we [have an affair]?” Bloom changes the subject, but Will engages with Hannibal, obliquely implying that they are in fact friends. In three short interactions, Hannibal Lecter is more convincingly humanised than he’s ever been. He wants a connection to an equal, and he’s frustrated that no-one can understand him.

 

The show’s most interesting juxtaposition is multi-scene montage where we see Hannibal take business cards from his collection, match them to recipes, and then cut to preparing some sort of organ for consumption. It’s a beautiful bit of cinematography, like all Hannibal’s dinner scenes, but it differs in that this time, it’s pretty obvious that, yes, it’s human meat this time. And now that we know, Hannibal goes all-out, crafting a frankly delicious-looking table full of meat dishes, and then commenting as the episode ends, “Nothing here is vegetarian.”

 

I...I'd eat it.

I…I’d eat it.

 

This is delightful not only for the macabre sensibilities it displays, but how it ties in with the feeling of loneliness that pervades the episode. This round of killings for the “Chesapeake Ripper” is the result of pent-up frustration; everyone but Will has rejected his overtures at companionship, so he’s reaching out the only other way he knows how: ritualistic murder and cooking. In a sense, he forms a connection with his victims; he keeps everyone’s business card in a stylish rotating holder and clearly respects the results of the killing if not the subjects. It’s also quite telling that Will shows up for a few minutes at the beginning of Hannibal’s dinner party/food performance art piece, but leaves after delivering a bottle of wine and a short conversation. The rest of the guests are barely pictured, having one short shot of their faces. They’re Hannibal’s world, that he’s evidently tired of, representing a group who admire him but can’t possibly understand him. Will is outside the world of cannibalistic dinner parties, but he’s the only character who Hannibal ever relates to and isn’t rebuffed by.

 

Oh, and Jack gets a dream sequence that rather obviously compares his current protégé, Will, to his dead protégé, Miriam Lass. It’s a good reminder of his mental state, as he doesn’t get many scenes this week, but it’s a tad obvious, especially when the show garnishes a dead-eyed, stitched-up Will with a missing arm. It really isn’t necessary to emphasise how emotionally fragile Will is and how Jack’s reliance on him is dangerous every two to three scenes, especially where we know both of them are going to live through the full series.

 

This week, Hannibal recognised that its characters are sometimes more important than its plot, and gave its title character almost the full episode to showcase his inner life. Even stranger, this worked, giving him some quite interesting depth. The episode’s supposed main plot wasn’t enormously interesting, but the show does sometimes need to pretend it’s a procedural and not a human drama.

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Hannibal – Introduction and “Entrée”

Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal is not a show that should rationally exist. Thomas Harris’ Lecter books have been adapted to hell and back with wildly mixed results: The Silence of the Lambs needs no validation from me, while Hannibal Rising is easily the least-necessary origin story in all of film. The latter’s teen-angst ninja Hannibal and preposterous revenge plot is what fans of the character usually expect out of recent adaptations. Hannibal is on NBC in today’s television world, where not being on HBO, AMC, or FX is usually strikes one through three for any TV drama. It features none of the original actors from the actually decent adaptations, and Laurence Fishburne as Jack Crawford appears to be an attempt to lend the show star power with an actor who’s not been in a decent movie since 1999.

Nothing in that previous paragraph matters, because the creator of Hannibal actually gets it. I’m not entirely certain what it is, but he’s made a show that is, so far, really good and equally appealing to those with pre-existing interest in the character and those without. Hannibal Lecter doesn’t even murder anyone until the fifth[1] episode, Entrée, and Mads Mikkelsen plays the character so sympathetically that someone who’s followed Hannibal since the show’s pilot without any prior knowledge might actually be surprised when he does.

Entrée, is a good a place as any to start as I’ll probably be talking about the show every week. So far it’s the least self-contained of episode so far, introducing a new killer, but not actually resolving any plot threads. Its role is mostly to develop Hannibal Lecter and Jack Crawford, with Hugh Dancy’s Will Graham pushed somewhat into the background.

Before anything else, I have to comment on this week’s monster, Dr. Abel Gideon, played by Eddie Izzard. I had no idea Izzard did things outside his brilliant standup comedy, and was even more surprised to see him lend a fairly uninteresting character presence and charisma. Dr. Gideon kills a nurse at the psychiatric facility he’s held at in exactly the same way as the uncaught “Chesapeake Ripper,” actually Hannibal Lecter. Our protagonists and various other FBI people obviously don’t know that Lecter moonlights as a cannibal serial killer, which provides the impetus for the plot without making Gideon much more than a straightforward murderer. Izzard’s performance, however, made me forget that he wasn’t much more than a cipher until a day later, because he plays it with just enough camp to be entertaining while evoking in small part Anthony Hopkins’ original performance. The fact that all his scenes are set in The Silence of the Lambs’ Baltimore State Forensic Hospital helps with this, certainly, but Izzard deserves credit. Nowhere is this more evident than, when questioned why he’d murdered his family on Thanksgiving two years ago, he replies “You know how stressful the holidays can get.”

Entrée is a very-reference heavy episode for anyone familiar with Lecter as a character. Dr. Fredrick Chilton makes an appearance and though he isn’t as out-an-out loathsome as in most of his incarnations, he’s slimy enough that the audience forms an instant dislike. His appearance elicits a highly entertaining, but totally undeserved reference to Silence of the Lambs’ ending at one of Lecter’s many immaculately-shot dinners: after polite conversation about the meal between Lecter, Chilton, and Dr. Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas), Lecter drops “It’s nice to have an old friend for dinner.” I’d be lying if I said I didn’t go into paroxysms of fanboyish laughter, but after I’d subsided, it was evident that the line really didn’t need to exist. You could almost see Mikkelsen wink as he delivered it, and the audacity of the line nearly excused how gratuitous it was.

The episode’s other major piece of nostalgia ties directly in with Jack Crawford’s character arc, which is surprising in both its quality and its existence. Fishburne, for the first three episodes, was doing a serviceable but standard “gruff police chief.” He had some good lines and I have no complaints with his performance, but it didn’t seem like he was going anywhere. “Coquilles” introduced his wife, Bella, (Gina Torres), and suddenly Jack started to look like a real person. Bella had some sessions with Lecter and how complicated their marriage is gets thrust frankly on the audience by way of lung cancer and infidelity. The suddenness doesn’t remotely detract from the fact that we like Jack now, and we know why he’s so hard on the people under him. His life, at this point, is not very nice.

This week, Jack gets a bit of backstory with a trainee FBI agent named Miriam Lass, highly reminiscent of Clarice Starling. She’s a bit of fun when Jack starts to get messages from her two years after her disappearance and presumed death at the hands of the Chesapeake Ripper. A series of flashbacks conveys their relationship concisely and gives Jack a much more personal connection to his job. The real treat, however, is her scene with Lecter in his office.

Hannibal’s discussion with and subsequent murder of Lass conveys a lot of information in relatively few lines. You get that she suspects, he knows she suspects, and he respects this and leaves deliberately leaves incriminating drawings out for her to find before strangling her at the episode’s abrupt conclusion. It’s possible that this is sacrilegious, but I quite like that his brief interaction with her may have informed his relationship with Starling in The Silence of the Lambs. From a real-world perspective, that obviously makes no sense; Silence of the Lambs was released more than twenty years earlier, but I think Hannibal deserves credit for suggesting something new about a character whose role is iconic as Hopkins’.

Entrée is a solid episode of a show that shouldn’t be remotely watchable. Discounting what a surprise Hannibal has been, it’s a B+, maybe an A-. Counting what a surprise Hannibal has been, it’s a “dear lord how could something that has anything in common with Hannibal Rising be this good?” Seriously. Wow.


[1] The chronological fifth episode, “Ceuf,” was pulled due to the Boston Marathon bombings and until I figure out how to watch it in full, I’ll be treating it as if it doesn’t exist.

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