Hannibal 3×01 ‘Antipasto’: Observing or participating?

Hannbial - Season 3

A woman slides into a bathtub, only her head above the water.  She stares at the faucet, one drop filling the tub at a time, slowly dripping in the pool she lies within.  Her head slips under, slowly encompassed by the pool, and she finds herself falling, further down into the abyss, the water omnipresent, the surface getting farther and farther away the more she falls.  The tranquility of her fall is broken by her eyes suddenly opening, her body jerking her above the water.  She gasps for air, shocked, horrified, unsure of what just happened.

Hannibal 3x01-1

Source: NBC

This is, in essence, what Hannibal is about: the inexorable pull of evil on the hearts of those close to it.  The bulk of the episode’s emotional weight falls on Bedelia, not because she’s the most interesting of the characters in the episode, but because she has the emotional stakes, being the character that is most reactionary to Hannibal.  We’ve always seen Hannibal as the center of everybody’s orbit, as Will, Alana, Jack, Gideon, Chilton, everybody has found themselves in that orbit and has been sucked in as a result.  We don’t necessarily get a concrete understanding of where Bedelia is in terms of that orbit, but he can clearly see that she is becoming further and further warped and entangled in that orbit.

Hannibal 3x01-3

Source: NBC

Season 3 opens with only Hannibal and Bedelia in “Antipasto”, as they’ve absconded to Italy to run from Hannibal’s crimes in the United States.  Hannibal is happy as can be, giving lectures on Dante, eating an academic every now and then, integrating himself into a place where he feels more at home.  Bedelia, on the other hand, is clearly suffering from her mind pulling her in two directions.  She has that darkness inside of her that makes her curious about the evil that Hannibal embodies, as she wants to know what Hannibal does, as well as more about the way he thinks.  But she’s also terrified, as she walks by police officers and security cameras and wants the courage to scream for help.  She’s equal parts fascinated and horrified, and even though she still feels in control of herself, she knows that Hannibal is already manipulating her.  She can leave or run at any time, but Hannibal has already constructed walls that she cannot penetrate.  She’s trapped, even if she doesn’t realize the full extent of it quite yet.  Wherever she looks, she sees the evil that Hannibal emanates, such as the drop of blood coming from the rabbit.  It’s the one image she fixates on, and the more she’s with Hannibal, the more she’ll fixate on it.

Hannibal 3x01-2

Source: NBC

One facet of the premiere that I particularly enjoyed was the notion that Hannibal both embodies evil but also is a mortal man.  Season 2 really explored Hannibal in a way that made him human, and this premiere both reminds us of his mortality and his knowledge of his mortality.  When we see the flashbacks to his dinner with Gideon, we see how Hannibal still has needs like any other human being.  Most of all, Hannibal is looking for connection.  Gideon was a killer like Hannibal, but Hannibal sees him as deeply inferior to him, somebody to have around for the sake of just having somebody around.  Bedelia is someone that Hannibal can corrupt and manipulate, but she’s still somewhat boring for him.  Will, on the other hand, is the closest thing to an equal Hannibal has ever seen.  And all through his time in Italy, even though Hannibal is enjoying himself there, he’s missing a piece of himself.  Because just as Hannibal made his mark in Will, Will did the same to him.  And that mark is still there, even now.

Hannibal 3x01-4

Source: NBC

In this, we see the horror of intimacy, a psychological horror that Hannibal draws from as much as it can.  In connection, we’re fulfilling a part of our own desires, but we’re also fulfilling part of another’s person’s desire as well.  And in that back and forth, there’s an inequality, people trying to draw more from the other than is healthy, love and parasitism going hand in hand.  And in the case of Hannibal, the horror comes from becoming attached to somebody whose purpose is to slowly bleed you dry.  With Hannibal, he wants to literally bleed those who he views as worthy through his own personal code, but he mentally and emotionally bleeds absolutely everybody around him.  In the case of Bedelia, we can see through her flashback how “Antipasto” opens to a relationship where Bedelia has been mentally and emotionally bled for a long time now.  And she’s coming to the realization that, as Hannibal murders Anthony, her curiosity is going to be her undoing.  She decided to be intimate with the wrong man, and it’s a mistake that she can never take back.

“Antipasto” was an incredible premiere, both because it narrowed the focus of the episode and because it constructed an effective and complex picture of Hannibal and Bedelia in Italy.  Eventually, we know that Hannibal is going to be caught, but the question is whether or not the kind of evil that Hannibal encompasses can ever be caught.  His darkness infects everybody around him, and those with the infection will pass it on to others.  Even with Hannibal in Europe, even when Hannibal eventually is caught, even when he eventually dies (as every mortal man or woman will), is there really a way to get rid of everything that he is?

It’s a question that likely has an answer we don’t want to hear.

So what did you think of the premiere?  Do you think the rest of the season will be just as good?  Let me know in the comments!

Michael St. Charles

is just a Michigan State University grad who loves a good story. If he’s not off teaching the young ones how to solve quadratic functions or to write an expository essay, he’s watching old-school HBO shows, indie horror movies, or he’s playing Resident Evil 4.

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