With the aptly titled ‘Antipasto’, Hannibal shows that it continues to be one of the most daring, unique shows on TV. While most shows open their seasons with a bang, this year, Hannibal took its sweet time, focusing on character exploration. More interestingly, it focused on only two of its main characters. When you consider it left last year with three of its main cast hovering between life and death, and ‘Antipasto’ featured none of them, that’s a pretty gutsy move.
‘Antipasto’ showed what Hannibal and Bedelia have been up to since fleeing the States. Hannibal doesn’t live as a refugee from justice like most people. He lives in high style, moving in the upper circles of Parisian and Florentine society. There are so many shots of Gillian Anderson looking fabulous against glamorous backdrops, sometimes it felt like a photoshoot for a fashion magazine. There were also more artsy close up shots than usual, so it was almost like a high society living advertisement with a twinge of horror. One might complain that there were too many artsy close ups, but then in an interview, showrunner Bryan Fuller said, “And I love pretension. I love cinematic pretension. I think it’s a lot of fun.” For some reason, self awareness makes pretension a lot more tolerable, so you do you, Bryan Fuller.
Underneath the glitz and glamor, we got a little bit of Bedelia’s backstory. But if you thought that meant you would better understand Bedelia’s character or motivation, you were mistaken. I for one am even more baffled by Bedelia. She believes she is in control of her actions. Time will tell if she’s right, or if she’s under Hannibal’s thrall.
There is a chance that Hannibal is not as in control as he might like to think he is. Certainly, this was the suggestion of Abel Gideon (Eddie Izzard) who was shown in flashback form. It was a welcome surprise, mostly because Gideon was brutally murdered last season after being served his own severed limbs as a last meal. We got to see a little more of that gruesome, seriously twisted dinner. Izzard played his role of intelligent psychopath with such glee and condescension, you almost wish that there was a way for him to come back to life just so he could taunt Hannibal some more. Sure, he was a terrible person, but he could verbally spar with the best of them.
Now, Hannibal’s enemies are smug academics. It’s certainly a step down. Although, there was a hilarious moment when one of the smug academics, Tony, was having dinner with Hannibal and Bedelia and he asked if it was “that kind of party” when Bedelia mentioned Hannibal was concerned with how she tasted. No, she meant he’s a cannibal and you should run, not tell Hannibal you know he assumed a false identity and that you’re travelling alone. And while Hannibal easily took care of Tony, if one pretentious poet could figure out that Hannibal assumed someone else’s identity, how long before the net closes in?
It took a bit to grow on me, this slow open to the season. Last year’s Hannibal literally opened with the climax- a scene from the finale, with Jack and Hannibal engaged in a battle to the death. In comparison, ‘Antipasto’ was more of a simmer than a roaring boil. It’s a different kind of tease, demanding a different kind of patience. And the show has earned this. It does its own thing, oftentimes ignoring TV conventions. We will get to the main course we’ve been waiting for, eventually. In the mean time, we should enjoy the antipasto because not only is it tasty, but it sure is pretty.