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After last week’s unsuccessful episode (well, as unsuccessful as an episode of Hannibal can really be, which is still several times more interesting and complex than most shows currently on the air), the series bounced back in a masterful way this week with the haunting and gorgeous “Aperitivo.” It is a fitting name for the episode (for those not up to date on their Italian, an aperitivo is a pre-meal drink meant to stimulate the appetite), as it gave us our first real look at how Hannibal’s actions have impacted our five remaining Lecter victims- each scarred and marked by Hannibal the Cannibal (copyright to Dr. Frederick Chilton) in very different ways.
We were given a taste of Mason Verger’s physical scars last season, and we already knew that he is an awful person, but Hannibal’s presence in his life and disfigurement have given him a new mission: kill Hannibal. For fans of the Thomas Harris novels (and the film series), it’s interesting to see so much of the novel/film Hannibal present in the early parts of this season (particularly knowing that the main thrust of the Red Dragon storyline, which happens significantly earlier than Hannibal in the cannon, is still coming later this season). It’s not a complaint, as the Hannibal story has always been the weakest of the three novels, but it does take away a bit from Mason’s grand plans to know that Hannibal will be stuck in a cell rather than at the base of the Verger pig pits by season’s end.
Still, while Mason is a monster, one can’t help but understand where his pain and anger is coming from. There is a drive not only for revenge (which, as I’ll discuss in a minute, is the driving force for one of our motley crew of survivors), but also to best the best. Mason is a spoiled man, who is used to getting whatever and whoever he wants. Losing in the battle of wits and wills to Hannibal is simply unacceptable in his frame of reference. As such, he has opted to do everything in his personal power to win- including using Alana as a sounding board for his plans.
And man, do I like this new Alana Bloom. Alana has been a difficult character to understand throughout the run of the series. She’s been naive (at least from the perspective of the audience, who have known since day one the danger Hannibal is to the world), and that naivety has resulted in her character lacking the agency of Will or Jack. She’s the last one to believe the horrors in this world are a product of Hannibal, although she was correct in judging Will to be unstable, so I suppose we should give her credit for that. But, following her remarkable recovery from her trip out the window, this cold and calculating woman is someone I can get behind. Unlike Will or Jack, who are still ruled to some extent by their emotions when it comes to Hannibal, Alana is not. Hannibal may have been molding Will into a worthy opponent in this game, but he has inadvertently turned Alana into the one person who might be able to out think him.
She is, by all accounts, no longer worried about saving Will for any other purpose than to tempt Hannibal to show himself. She knows what Hannibal will do, where he would go, and she’s manipulating those around her to get him- she pushes Mason to search for Hannibal with his sizable financial abilities, she sees Will off on his journey, she tells Jack to go after Will. Alana is the puppet master for our heroes now, and it’s quite the character arc for someone I once wrote off as simply a pawn in Hannibal’s game. Caroline Dhavernas sells the hell out of this new and improved Alana. I now understand why she was such a highly regarded profiler at the FBI. When Hannibal finally meets his fate, I hope Alana is there with a front row seat.
While Alana may receive the most intriguing bit of character development, it’s Jack’s arc that is the true heart of the episode. I’ve been a bit on the fence regarding Laurence Fishburne’s work on the series. A lot of that comes from Jack being a rather thankless role compared to the two series leads, but I’ve never really felt all that connected to the character or the performance, save when Fishburne was working with Gina Torres. And wow, how powerful were those scenes between the pair in “Aperitivo”? I was wondering what had happened to Bella, and now we know. Hannibal is a show about many things, but one of the chief elements is death. For the past two and a half seasons, we’ve seen a myriad of murders, but Jack killing Bella was a major departure from all we have seen, both with his character and in the show’s handling of death. Compared to the beauty in violence motif that the series has made its calling card, there was such beauty in Jack’s selfless actions in that moment it took my breath away. It added new and complex layers to Jack, a man of principle who wants to protect the world from danger by chasing murderers and criminals, technically becomes a criminal and murderer himself with that action. Fishburne was spectacular throughout that sequence and the episode as a whole.
Having an entire episode nearly devoid of Hannibal, particularly after having several that were Hannibal-heavy, marked an interesting change. While he may not have had much of a physical presence this week, Hannibal was hanging over every scene like a pall, infecting it was tension and darkness. It was a lovely palette cleanser on the road to the main climax of the first section of the season. We know Hannibal’s time is running out. But now that we know he is being pursued from all sides, the only question left is who will catch him?
— The opening scene with Chilton and Mason comparing scars was as jarring as some of the murder tableaus. I can’t believe that Chilton made it through that shooting without any mental handicap (the bullet did impact his brain from what I can tell), I’ll accept that he’s alive and relatively well since he is a pivotal character in potential future stories.
— Speaking of future stories, news came down this week that NBC will not renew the series after this season. While Bryan Fuller has said they are in talks with other possible homes for the show, it’s international production deal may make that difficult to achieve (a bit of irony, since that deal was the sole reason the series lasted this long on NBC to begin with). Should any news come down regarding the show getting picked up (at this point, Amazon is looking like the best option), I’ll write it up.
— I didn’t touch much on Will’s story, since it was really only filling in the blanks of what we already knew. But it was extra creepy to see Will alongside Abigail throughout the scenes- and having her be covered in blood, which was not the case when he was hallucinating her in Italy.
— While Alana may be the puppet master, manipulating those around her to get Hannibal, Chilton is certainly trying his best to do so as well. While Alana is operating for revenge of any kind, Chilton wants to have Hannibal locked away in his institution. And anyone familiar with Silence of the Lambs knows how that is resolved.
— A final bit of housekeeping- I’ll be out of town for the holiday next week, so there won’t be a review due to my travel schedule. I’ll be back the following week and touch on both episodes five and six.