The return of Hannibal marks the collective release of a breath that fans have been holding since season 2’s finale. A finale that left four main characters on the brink of death, and their killer calmly walking away.
The episode opens with Hannibal, who has made it to Europe. We, at least, know the fate of one of our characters. He appears to have happily reconstructed his life there: good food, good drink, mixing effortlessly in high society, eating anyone he wants out of his way.
We’re brought to the first advert break without a clear idea of what’s happening. We’ve jumped about in time, and the episode has only raised more questions, rather than offering satisfying, and long-awaited, conclusions.
But that’s the thing with Hannibal, it requires its audience to work. It’s not a show that allows goggling at the screen while drooling into your ready meal. In fact, I wouldn’t recommend eating during this at all. The show is more of an open-ended theological discussion than a nice and simple linear story.
And it’s filmed for its aesthetics. The entire show is something of a dreamscape, with tight focus on slow motion details. It’s a work of horrific, violent, brutal beauty, as is each course of Hannibal’s meal.
Hannibal is living under the guise of his latest victim and his wife, with Dr Bedelia Du Maurier, his former therapist. She knows what he is, and she’s terrified of him. A quiet, barely spoken terror, played perfectly by Gillian Anderson. I wonder if we’ll see such emotional subtlety in the upcoming revival of X-Files. Their relationship balances on a pin; a pin of fascination, fear, and the lonely knowledge that they are the only ones that truly know and understand the other. But it’s a waiting game, waiting to see which strikes to kill the other first.
We learn, through flashbacks of Hannibal’s drawn-out cannibalism and psychological torture of Dr Abel Gideon (Eddie Izzard), that he is feeding Bedelia a diet designed to make her taste sweeter. And she knows it too.
Because it’s not animalistic with Hannibal, nothing is rushed. He relishes the preparation. He creates an eloquent poetry of subdued horror. It would almost be tender if he weren’t so heartlessly calculated.
And like everything in this show, the answers aren’t simply going to be handed to us. The credits roll without us knowing if anyone else survived season 2.
Nothing is rushed.