Yes, NBC cancelled Hannibal, but we still have nine episodes left (after tonight’s “Aperitivo”) in Season 3, and there is still hope for Season 4, according to Bryan Fuller. So while we keep our fingers crossed and sit on the requisite pins and needles, let’s dive into tonight’s offering — “Aperitivo” is largely a table-setting episode (sorry), one that returns old friends and one particular enemy, tugging all the necessary threads into place so they can begin to unify.

The first three episodes beautifully established Season 3's dream logic narrative with effortless transitions between Hannibal and Will, reinforcing the firm grasp the former has on the latter’s psyche — which may not be entirely intact. Or is it? Tonight’s episode rewinds and much in the same way last week utilized the metaphoric visual of moving backwards, this episode takes us back both literally and figuratively. So, what’s everyone else up to?

Dr. Frederick Chilton is ever the opportunist, and while Mason Verger and his jarring reconstructed face (rightfully) distrust Chilton, the good doctor senses an opportunity he simply cannot ignore: Verger is fully dedicating his time and money to locating Hannibal for the purpose of having him eaten alive in an act of what Verger perceives as Biblical — and therefore righteous — revenge. Enter Alana Bloom, who utilizes her psychological expertise to easily manipulate Verger into believing she’s there to help his cause.

As for Jack Crawford, he’s forced into early retirement, with only one loose end to tie up before his involvement in the pursuit of Hannibal can continue: the death of his wife, Bella, who is given the most solemn and graceful farewell in a sequence that lovingly plays on the bittersweet similarities of the preparation for marriage and the preparation for a funeral.

Thematically speaking, “Aperitivo” works wonderfully, with Jack and Bella’s bedridden conversation about the “best possible world” circling back to Will and Abigail’s discussion of the best case scenario — if everything that is going to happen will happen, then the worst ending is also the best ending and vice versa. It’s not that everything is as it should be, nor that it is to be expected; it just is, and it is to be accepted. This is more evident in Jack’s reflection on the morning Bella passed away, as he looked out the window and realized that the view was exactly the same whether she was alive or dead, whether he was grieving or happy. The world remains the same, and what happens to us is inconsequential.

Just as Will finds himself scarred by Hannibal, so do the characters previously left behind at the end of Season 2. Jack, Dr. Chilton and Alana were all maimed both physically and psychologically by Hannibal, with the former overtly representing the latter. It’s as if Hannibal needed to physically wound them to reflect their anguish on the inside.

Alana’s conversation with Will about his friendship with Hannibal reinforces this season’s concepts of love and co-dependency — “Friendship with Hannibal is blackmail elevated to the level of love,” as Alana so eloquently puts it, although Will’s reply speaks to something more cutting, describing love as a “mutually unspoken pact to ignore the worst in each other in order to continue enjoying the past.” That’s not love, Will. That’s dependency. And with Hannibal, there is no “co” to proceed it.

Something feels missing from “Aperitivo,” which gives the impression that we’ve skipped an episode, or that there’s a missing link. This may be due in part to director Marc Jobst, who makes his debut on the series this week. Jobst lacks the gorgeously nightmarish fluidity of Vincenzo Natali’s first three episodes, but perhaps that’s the point. “Aperitivo” is much more direct, a straightforward episode meant to allow us to catch up with familiar faces and set us on the path to cohesion. This isn’t to say that Jobst doesn’t have an eye for the dramatic: the scene with Alana in the hospital bed as her hips are being set back into place is effectively stark, while his revisit of Mason Verger’s special Dead Ringers operating room is straight horror.

The end of the episode adds further complexity to Will’s mental state: while he’s still enamored with his “friend” and needs to reunite with Hannibal in order to reconcile his confused feelings, he remains morally clear. What Will needs is closure.

Also, #SaveHannibal


Additional Thoughts: 

Skyfall — although the latter was a more effective reveal.
  • “And I will hear the lamentations of their women.” Mason has been watching Conan the Barbarian, I see.
  • Speaking of Mason: Michael Pitt has been replaced this season with Joe Anderson, and the transition is nearly seamless. But where Pitt had combined elements of the eccentricity and cadence of Gary Oldman’s version in the Hannibal film, Anderson is sort of just mimicking them both. Perhaps it seems this way because his face is largely covered with makeup and he’s confined to a wheelchair. There’s only so much you can do.
  • And speaking of the Vergers, we get a brief appearance from Katharine Isabelle’s Margot, whom I have dearly missed.
  • We also meet Cordell, Verger’s living assistant who is helping his boss “set the stage” for the death of Hannibal. Cordell is played by Glenn Fleshler, whom you probably recognize as George Remus from Boardwalk Empire. Too bad he’s not speaking in the third person here.