With the premiere episode of Season 3, Hannibal has suddenly become the closest thing to art house cinema on TV. Gone is any allusion to being a police procedural, or any determination to be about propulsion after the grandiose ending of Season 2. "Antipasto" is instead a languid bathing in cinematic competence. It's full of things to draw the eye, but there are some details that could have been missed. Let's take a look, shall we?
Letterboxes for Flashbacks
One of the things this episode makes immediately clear is that it's essentially dissected between past and present. That's all pretty standard, but Hannibal Season 3 seems determined to literally frame the past how the characters see it. It looks particularly cinematic, with black bars above and below the image, and even a monochrome filter for Hannibal's conversations with copycat killer, Abel Gideon.
One of the highlights of the episode was seeing the moment Dr Bedelia Du Maurier concedes to being a part of Hannibal's life. Such a decision is the undertaking that brings the characters irrevocably to the present, and thus, the cinematic letterboxes move out of view. This is the perfect way to have what starts as a neat cinematic trick come to punctuate the narrative beautifully.
Hannibal hasn't changed
You might think that Hannibal would have changed his ways somewhat, being on the run and all. Season 3 sets out right from the start to prove you wrong. One of the best exchanges in the episode happens at a book launch, where a rather disgruntled poet tries to vent his jealousy to Hannibal. Bad move. He complains to Hannibal "It takes me six to eight months just to write one line", hoping to showcase his genius. Hannibal simply responds by saying "why?"
It's that kind of raw simplicity that defines Hannibal. In a moment, he can go from being impossibly cultured and intellectual, to questioning your entire constructed being. It's almost as if he sees people as pigs posing to be more than they are, and when someone attempts to bolster their ego and social standing in front of Hannibal, well... he just hears squealing.
That's dead Zachary Quinto!
I was genuinely excited to find out Zachary Quinto would be appearing in Season 3. His turns on American Horror Story and Heroes make him perfect for this show. I would not have expected him to be the patient who attacked Du Maurier and set off her entire relationship with Hannibal Lecter. Aside form having to adopt a slightly tasteless haircut, he's landed a pretty easy job here. He just has to lie on the ground and have Gillian Anderson's hand shoved in his mouth. A pretty sweet deal if you ask me!
Bedelia is being watched!
This could be my favorite shot in the whole episode, and it completely illustrates how tactful and mature the show is being now. Every scene involving Bedelia Du Maurier is soaked in anxiety. She speaks but doesn't express herself. Every eye on her is a potential threat, and she is fixated upon products of Hannibal's violence.
I'm almost annoyed I can't showcase the impeccable sound design that leads to this shot of what seems to be a set of CCTV monitors, with Bedelia in the center. Where are these screens, and who could be watching her? The truth is, no one. These monitors are barely detailed. They're practically just floating images. You realize here that it's an imagined shot; one that's actually from Bedelia's perspective. We're not seeing the act of watching, but instead the very idea of being watched.
Hannibal as the devil
What's amazing about this episode is that it focuses almost entirely upon Hannibal's character, yet is just as compelling, if not more so, than anything involving Hugh Dancy's Will Graham. One of the tensest scenes of this episode comes when Hannibal delivers his lecture on Dante. For one, notice how this image vaguely mirrors the Red Dragon painting that Francis Dolarhyde obsesses over. Hannibal also speaks with a sense of distance and professionalism, yet upon the theme of betrayal, he gently touches Bedelia on the shoulder as an invisible threat. The moment essentially translates to "snitches get stitches", but it's done with such grace, you come to realize that this show is at once brazenly obvious and incredibly subtle.
This episode brings us into Hannibal's state of mind more than any other, and it's not through him just talking about his feelings (what you crazy? Mads wouldn't do that!) Just look at how the episode ends, with the flashback to Abel Gideon suggesting that Hannibal wishes he could be with Will Graham at that moment; either eating with him or just... eating him. The moment is intercut with Hannibal on a train in the present. The very images we see are his thought processes, and the questions they pose are they ones he wrestles with. Basically, Hannibal misses his BFF and that's what the entire episode is about. Bring on next week!