As the name ‘Aperitivo’ suggests, the fourth episode of Hannibal‘s third season took place before the first three episodes, giving us the best look yet at the direct aftermath of the blood bath from ‘Mizumono’. But it had even more revelations up its sleeve: ‘Aperitivo’ also revealed something crucial about Season 2’s episode ‘Yakimono’, something showrunner Bryan Fuller has always been quite frank about. It showed us that Raúl Esparza‘s Frederick Chilton, the man who took a bullet from the brainwashed Miriam Lass, had survived the attempt on his life. The how was presented to us in graphic detail: when the bullet left Miriam’s gun, it entered Chilton’s face just below his left eye and then tore its way through flesh until it left Frederick again through the back of his head, having missed the brain and spine completely. This is why Chilton isn’t dead, but merely left with a recurring morning routine to cover up the deformities this assault caused. It also left him with the desire to catch the man “who framed and maimed” him, and a need to forge alliances. This led Chilton to visit Mason Verger, Will Graham, Alana Bloom and Jack Crawford, a series of calls that served as an elegant storytelling device to present us with the state of mind of all these people Lecter left with both physical and psychological scars.
‘Aperitivo’ was a breath of fresh air. We got to see a lot of people we hadn’t seen for a while, and this large ensemble combined with the Baltimore scenery that has been absent from the first three Season 3 episodes, made it feel both like a break from the previous outings and a return to the familiar from Season 1 and 2. Quite fitting, since the focus of the episode was how all these characters we’ve known for such a long time, have changed following their encounters with Dr. Lecter. These people fall into two categories: those who now see Hannibal clearly and are driven by revenge, and those who see themselves clearly and are now driven by regret. The former group consists of Frederich Chilton, Alana Bloom and Mason Verger: Chilton wants to lock Hannibal up in his hospital for the criminally insane, Alana wants “Old Testament revenge” and, well, Mason wants “Dr. Hannibal Lecter to be eaten alive,” and is aided by his new physician Cordell Doemling in order to get this done. The other category is represented by Jack Crawford and Will Graham: both men wish they had made different decisions. In the case of Jack this has to do with how he broke Will and how he went after Hannibal alone on that fateful evening. Will on the other hand, well, regrets not leaving with Hannibal and now fantasizes about a world where he and Lecter killed Jack and are still be together. It’s the world where the teacup came back together again, where a place was made for Hannibal, Abigail and him.
One of Hannibal‘s undisputed strengths is that it’s a series that is about character, emotion and memory above all else. It’s about the psychological and the irrational, about how circumstance and feelings can overpower the rational and make your decisions for you. While that’s apparent from the revenge arc the show’s got going now, it’s even more beautifully represented by scenes like those between Bella and Jack. Laurence Fishburne and Gina Torres have always been terrific together and their moments during ‘Aperitivo’ were no exception: their acting combined with the stellar writing was heartbreaking. Especially the moment when Jack utters how the view from the windows of his home should change now that his wife has passed hit hard, as did the scene where Jack thought about his marriage to Bella at her funeral. These scenes showcase a tremendous understanding of the human mind and soul, and completely make you understand why Jack wound up in Palermo in ‘Secondo’. While he’s told Chilton he’s done with Hannibal and Will, he can’t help but fall back on his urges when he’s all alone and in mourning: “You don’t have to die on me too,” he tells Will, his friend and someone whose misfortune he feels completely responsible for.
Like all Hannibal episodes ‘Aperitivo’ was completely immersive, something that’s achieved because all of the show’s components work in tandem and reinforce each other. The writing, acting, direction, cinematography, score, effects, editing, design… all of it is outstanding on its own but is even more beautiful and rich together, which results in the unique and stunning atmosphere that’s offered up week after week. While some feared the recasting of Mason Verger would ruin this immersion, that’s not the case: now portrayed by Joe Anderson (because Michael Pitt couldn’t fit this show into his schedule), Mason is still the vile but entertaining character we got to know in Season 2. Anderson, like Pitt before him, looks to the Gary Oldman performance from Ridley Scott’s Hannibal and puts his own spin on it. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable turn in all its twisted grotesqueness, and because of it Anderson’s scenes are immensely rewatchable. While his scenes with Esparza’s Chilton and Caroline Dhavernas Dr. Bloom were fantastic, his dynamic with Cordell is the most intriguing: Cordell is portrayed by the delightfully creepy Glenn Fleshler and one wonders where the show takes the dynamic of these two characters. For now it seems like their bond is a lot closer to that from the Thomas Harris novel Hannibal, which differs significantly from the Ridley Scott adaptation. On that note: let’s hope we’ll see a lot more of Margot Verger soon; this season could really take her to some interesting places.
Immersive, compelling, thrilling; three words that sum up ‘Aperitivo’ adequately. The table’s set now; let’s see what dish will be served next week. 9/10