PRIOR NOTE: This review won’t have major spoilers, but if you want to go into the episode with not even a general idea of what will be happening thematically, then maybe come back later after you’ve seen it. I’ve also got a few minor images from the episode.
Hannibal is back with a vengeance as Season 3 kicked off today showing where Hannibal and Bedelia are in their lives. We delve into their relationship, their actions, their positions and their insights, but that’s all we get. Will Graham isn’t even mentioned until 19 minutes in and the next time he is mentioned is 41 minutes in. While next week promises Will Graham, this week had none. But that’s fine.
Hannibal Lecter is, after all, the titular character of the show and while this episode was a slow-burn semi-dramatic piece, it was necessary given the large break between Season 2 and now. Also, given the new setting and completely new relationship that almost sprung itself on the audience, the show needs to delve into it. I thought some parts were unnecessary, but I also felt as if Bryan Fuller really wanted to drive home the point of the episode. With references to Dante’s Inferno and the Ninth Level of Hell (which always seems to be the go-to text when characterising upper-class characters on tv and in film), the episode was needed to illustrate what Hannibal has become. As we saw at the end of Season 2, the deer is dead. The Wendigo has ascended. Hannibal has become something similar to the Devil himself.
We see that Hannibal is becoming more and more open. People are picking up on him. He revealed himself at the end of Season 2 and now he has a “bride” that knows his secret. With the Red Dragon story coming up, we can expect that Will Graham will land Hannibal in jail soon. Talking about Red Dragon, that was also subtly hinted at through imagery, but this imagery leaned more on the idea that Hannibal was Lucifer. We see Hannibal becoming more and more like Will as there are suggestions that he is being haunted. To add to a generally nostalgic feeling the episode hopes to garner, flashbacks of classic scenes are featured, some being extended and changed.
Hannibal Lecter has become something new. Now he appears to flaunt his killings and dance with a bride like he doesn’t have a care in the world. He seems to not care about ethics, stating that “ethics become aesthetics” and trying to make Bedelia more like him. His relationship with her is a real treat. The food porn/facts and frequent audience in-joke double entendres about eating people continue over into this season, but the show had changed. It’s not worse, but at this point it’s not better. It’s a different kind of good. Gillian Anderson, Eddie Izzard and Mads Mikkelsen deliver phenomenal performances as ever and Bedelia was a real standout, given her lack of screentime previously. This episode wasn't as disturbing as one would expect from Hannibal, but it did deliver some funny moments, which felt refreshing.
Next week will probably be used to show the audience how Will and his side have changed. I can pretty much expect that Hannibal Lecter will hardly have screentime, but that’s also ok. These two characters are so complex that if they had both changed so much and they had equal screentime in the episode, it would detract from the effect. Therefore, while the episode felt bold and new, it feel down by focusing completely on its titular character and his “relationship”. But this was a necessary evil to warrant what looks to be a stellar season.