This review contains spoilers.
It’s taken four episodes, but we’ve finally, finally been given a sense of what happened in the aftermath of Lecter’s going-away party at the end of last season. But this week’s Aperitivo does much more than that: it changes the entire landscape of Hannibal.
When Jack wakes up, he is surprised, as are we—he because he never expected to and we because he does so next to Bella who we’d all but forgotten. Which is hardly fair since Gina Torres’ character has been one of the more interesting women on the show. In the fairly straightforward structure of this episode—each character who survived Hannibal’s manipulations last season is addressed both individually and how his or her story meaningfully overlaps with other survivors—Jack’s short-term resolution is that, “encouraged” to take a break after his questionable choices re: Lecter, he decides to nurse his ailing wife in her last weeks although he does take a break from that to confront Will about his betrayal.
While that confrontation is a great (and extremely) revealing scene, what I find more fascinating is the entire storyline—especially its end—about Jack and Bella. Lawrence Fishburne and Gina Torres do a skilled and touching job here but what makes their performances so palpably good is the courage it takes to do them at all. The one thing almost any happily married couple fears, because they know it will and must happen, is the day that they will be parted. To actively choose to take on a role where you will be forced to act out that fear? Worse yet, where you will choose to bring that separation about to spare your beloved pain? Not for the weak-willed. But it adds a layer of depth and tenderness to their performances that would be hard to generate from pure technique.
Jack is not the only one to visit Will. It turns out that Graham’s dream about waking up to Abigail was actually a bit of wish fulfillment built on a real visit from Dr. Chilton, who, we’ve known all along, had to have survived Miriam Lass’ bullet. How else can Lecter end up under his care? Of course, his face was torn apart by the shot, leaving him blind in one eye, with part of his jaw gone and a gaping hole in his cheek, but this is hardly the biggest change. The experience has pushed the psychiatrist from his defensive posture, when it comes to Hannibal, into a more aggressive stance. Beneath it all, he remains essentially the same person—he is, as Will points out, a compulsive imitator—but rather than imitating Graham or Bloom, he has now chosen to mimic Lecter. He is creating a web of intrigues involving the cast of wronged characters in order to exact revenge on Hannibal. This is his design, he is likely telling himself.
Whether he has the skill to do so remains to be seen, but I wouldn’t give great odds on it.
Alana Bloom, on the other hand, might very well be up to playing at this level. One of the things I’ve talked about in reviews during previous seasons is that we are told or it is implied that Bloom is a respected colleague of Lecter and Graham’s. That is, they view her as a professional operating on a level somewhere near their own (to whatever extent Hannibal is ever capable of admitting that). And yet, we have seen absolutely no evidence of her actual competence. She has seemed woefully blind about the psychotic nature of her own lover, as well as the illness and innocence of her friend. She has little insight and rarely contributes anything meaningful to the conversation, regardless of topic.
None of this, however, is true of the woman we see talking with Chilton in the hospital or visiting the Verger estate this week. This is not the kind or concerned psychiatrist who repeatedly warned Jack that he was endangering Will’s mental health by putting him in the field. Nor the passive damsel in distress who not one but two serial killers used in order to toy with Graham. From her precisely on-target description of friendship in her discussion with Will (“Friendship with Hannibal is blackmail elevated to the level of love.”) to her calm and calculating co-conspiracy with Mason Verger, this is very much not the Alana Bloom of seasons one or two.
And that’s a problem. Okay, yes, we needed her to step it up and be a character worthy of our respect. But what we did not need was for her to become a different person altogether. And that seems to be very much what’s happened here. This isn’t Alana with a backbone. This isn’t Alana at all. And while we are supposedly given an explanation for this change—“They told me a lot of marrow got into my blood and that I should expect to find myself thinking differently”—that just reads like a flimsy excuse for poor writing, which is the one thing we don’t expect from this show.
And it’s not just that Alana doesn’t sound like Alana. It’s that she sounds an awful lot like Will (he finishes her thought on friendship so smoothly that you hardly notice there’s been a change in speakers)…who sounds much like Bedelia…who occasionally also sounds like Jack. All the voices on the show are starting to take on a specific tone and set of verbal mannerisms, and they are all Lecter’s.
In some cases, this makes sense. We know, for example, that Hannibal has actively been trying to make Will over in his image. To make the profiler a serial killer companion for himself. So the fact that Will reflects Lecter’s philosophizing and abstracted speech patterns is just an indication of the cannibal’s progress toward this goal. We recently learned that the doctor has been playing a similar game with Bedelia, so perhaps we should not be surprised that she too sounds much like her former patient. And Chilton was quite comfortable owning up to Will’s labeling of him as a mimic, so there are no strong objections there, either.
To hear it from Alana, though, just feels wrong. To see it as well in the newly reserved and stiff way she’s holding herself (a stiffness that has little to do with the injury she sustained and a great deal to do with newly acquired psychic armour), is something else entirely. Surely there was a way to give her the edge necessary to hold her own without actually turning her into a copy of her adversary?
And finally, while we have seen much of Will Graham this season, we have not understood a great deal about what happened before he set foot on the Continent. Aperitivo has some real surprises when it comes to him.
The biggest, by far, is his open admission to Jack that he called Lecter, that he warned him to run, and that, most importantly, that he did it because he “wanted to run away with him.” It’s one thing to insinuate this to your dead foster-daughter. It’s quite another to say it out loud to your boss and quite-alive friend, especially since it means you’re also confessing to complicity in one murder and two attempted murders (at least), including that of the man you’re admitting the whole thing to and who also happens to be a law enforcement officer.
And yet, it must be a relief to say it, and it does make sense. After all, as he informed Chiyo last week, “I’ve never known myself as well as I know myself when I’m with him.” For a man whose empathy runs so deep that he cannot make eye contact with other people for fear of being drawn into them (and thus out of himself), the opportunity to share his life with someone who allows him to experience himself more fully must be terribly tempting, even separate from the other more intellectual inducements.
But the insight into the groundwork Will laid before coming over—his careful study of Hannibal’s home, his negotiations (or careful lack thereof) with key players, and his preparation of a mode of transportation that made him difficult to track by both the U. S. government and Hannibal—suggests that he does not intend this to be either a case either of simple reunion or revenge.
Unfortunately, NBC may have cut Graham’s plans short with its cancellation of the series after this third season. We know that Bryan Fuller writes each season to be self-contained, thus there will be an end of sorts when the season concludes. Still, not all is lost: the creator/showrunner is shopping the series around to other outlets (most notably Amazon) and no one is quite ready to give up on the cannibal yet.
So fingers crossed and social media pleas deployed! There’s still some chance that Hannibal, unlike so many of his victims, can still be saved. It would be a shame to let something this tasty go to waste.
Read Laura’s review of the previous episode, Secondo, here.
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