The third season of Bryan Fuller’s HANNIBAL premiered last night on NBC. It’s been a long wait for this season. Since its inception, HANNIBAL was a late winter, early spring offering. For some reason, NBC’s scheduling moved it to the summer death slot. Was this to bury HANNIBAL or to utilize HANNIBAL to build ratings? I ask this question, because HANNIBAL seems to be the TV show everyone is afraid of. Fans are afraid of it because of the genuine scares. Middle America fears it because titular star Mads Mikkelsen isn’t Anthony Hopkins. Censors fear it as a result of its frank depictions of violence. Critics and die hard horror fans, on the other hand, have embraced the show. Since I am both of those, it’s no wonder that in my TOP 10 FANTASY AND HORROR TV SHOWS OF 2014 I proclaimed HANNIBAL the best show on television. Period. I’m happy to inform you all that the third season has not faltered from this standard of excellence.
There’s no Will Graham this time around. The season 2 cliffhanger left our intrepid FBI agent and company in various stages of vivisection. We’ll have to wait until next week to see who survived. Instead, ANTIPASTO is all Hannibal, who we learn has relocated to Venice. Or is it? As the story unfolds, we come to realize Hannibal is actually the window dressing for the episode. The narrative bounces between the present with Venice, recent past with the torture of Eddie Izzard’s Gideon and the secrets of Hannibal’s relationship with his former shrink, Dr. Du Maurier. And that’s the catch, right there. ANTIPASTO is on much the same level as MAD MAX FURY ROAD. You see, for as much as MAD MAX FURY ROAD was a Mad Max movie, the story was about Furiosa. In turn, for as much as ANTIPASTO is an episode of HANNIBAL, the story is about Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson) and her dark spiral from being an observer into a participator.
ANTIPASTO is written by Bryan Fuller & Steve Lightfoot and directed by Vincenzo Natali, the man behind some of the most disturbing genre bending movies of recent times, namely the cult hit CUBE and Frankenstein-esque SPLICE. His pacing is perfect and he brings out a side of Gillian Anderson I’ve not seen before. Yet it is Fuller and Lightfoot that sneak in many prose puns throughout, dialogue that is more typical of the Hopkins Hannibal, which is most curious. Lines such as “We’d like to have you for dinner” and so forth. Until now, Hannibal hadn’t really displayed this verbiage, the snarky sense of humor that Hopkins showed in the movies inspired by the same source material. Is this showing a new personality trait as Hannibal’s insanity runs out of control? Perhaps this little character quirk will be enough to bring the rest of the public on board with Bryan Fuller’s reimagining? Regardless, it beckoned something that is not often a signature of HANNIBAL: Out loud laughing. It’s a welcome change and evolution for the show, balancing well against the scenes of extreme horror carefully placed throughout the episode. Call it a little bit of sugar to lessen the bitter, if you will? I like it and believe it adds some much needed middle America appeal without souring the main course that die hard fans are accustomed to.
Those of us that watch HANNIBAL are almost cult-like in our adoration of the hourly drama, eating up each offering with glee. Perhaps this is a reflection of the titular antagonist, whose culinary offerings are as gourmet as the show itself. Full of visual imagery, each episode of HANNIBAL is a finely crafted piece of art bouncing beautifully though its non-linear story with the grace of upper class cuisine. Each portion of the timeline represents a different dish on your plate, as you yourself would alternate between the various sides of your meal. HANNIBAL a special, fancy horror d’oeuvre, which I’ll gladly share with that select niche of other HANNIBAL enthusiasts as we sit on our band wagon, waiting for the rest of you to join.