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“HANNIBAL: Season 3, Episode 1” (TV Review)

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In many ways, the third season premiere for Bryan Fuller’s adaptation of the HANNIBAL mythos is much like the cannibalistic doctor himself: mysterious, unpredictable, cerebral and incredibly refined. Furthermore, the premiere’s masterful visual composition- jumping from flashbacks of multiple color palates, dream sequences, extremely methodical experimental shots and traditional lensing- earns an uneasy trust from the audience, much like Hannibal’s relationship with du Maurier as well. But following last season’s bloodbath of a finale, the audience who has restlessly awaited for HANNIBAL’s return are asked for a bit more patience in “Antipasto”, as not only is HANNIBAL unraveling the story at its own pace, but by its own unique design.

For those who have fallen in love with HANNIBAL’s past seasons, there are certainly elements that pop out through the perpetual montage that will put a satisfied grin on their faces. The sharp, concise wordplay of Hannibal is back in a big way, and watching Hannibal struggle with his own pride as it jeopardizes his identity and freedom is a joy unto itself. Meanwhile, the nightmarish visions and attention to detail are back as well, yet this time fueled by the feminine perspective of du Maurier, which feels much more anxious and vulnerable as opposed to Will’s wholly encompassing and terrifying dream world. And, of course, the bloodshed returns as well, especially when Hannibal decides he’s had enough of an inquisitive acquaintance; even du Maurier gets a bloody sequence where she examines an ex-patient who may or may not have suffered through Hannibal’s intellectual manipulation.

But most importantly, HANNIBAL gets an enormous amount of storytelling done in a 40+ minute bottle thanks to its lack of inhibitions and the stark decision to tell the story as they would like to tell it. The non-linear structure of the episode feels incredibly art house within its initial appearance, but in pulling back the gorgeous surface, the structure actually gives us exactly the information we need while filling in the necessary gaps. By learning bit by bit what is going on in the heads of Hannibal and du Maurier, we understand their motivations in a way that efficiently cuts out the exposition and changes the character dynamic scene by scene. Therefore, instead of a chaotic or convoluted descent into madness, HANNIBAL instead offers a calculated, confident take on Hannibal’s post-season two story in a way that would make it’s namesake proud.

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While Bryan Fuller’s brilliant voice is loud and clear throughout the episode, one cannot deny the impact of having Vincenzo Natali behind the camera. In a fluid storytelling style that reflects both the series as a whole and his incredibly curious personal aesthetics, Natali provides a sense of exploration that feels risky in conception but meticulous in execution. Natali’s comfort behind the lens is transparent, and many trademarks of his directorial style come with his endeavors as well, whether it’s the nuanced dark humor of Abel Gideon’s annoyances towards Hannibal or the incredible tension wrought from a simple change of pronunciation. Natali has never been known as one for subtlety, but his restraint from becoming too explicit allows his ambitious filmmaking style to remain so without become indulgent, complimenting HANNIBAL’s elegant streak tenfold.

Of course, part of HANNIBAL’s returning charm comes in the form of its excellent cast, which “Antipasto” has limited to only select key players this week. Of course, Mads Mikkelsen’s performance is simply bold this week, and his embodiment of Hannibal is so layered and precise that it’s nearly impervious to criticism at this point. But not one to be shown up, Gillian Anderson kills it this week, bringing out a multi-faceted, emotional performance that highlights the good, bad and ugly sides of du Maurier and her complicatedrelationship with Hannibal. And then there’s the excellent appearances by the supporting cast as well, including an incredibly charming Tom Wisdom as well as the wry fan favorite Eddie Izzard. Perhaps the only unfortunate aspect would be the minimal appearances from talented SALEM vet Jeremy Crutchley as well as Zachary Quinto whose cameo, if not revisited within the next few episodes, might have been the greatest trick Fuller ever pulled on his audience.

However, HANNIBAL’s third season luckily starts off with a surreal bang instead of a whimper, and Fuller’s particular brand of macabre magic works wonders to provide an intimate, somewhat claustrophobic tale that still feels completely grand and epic. Fuller understands his audience, delivering a satisfying, dread-inducing hour of television while also knowing how to best subvert the expectations of any new viewer. Much like a voyage on the high seas, there is much inherent beauty and danger in HANNIBAL’s third voyage, and presented in a fashion where you’re either immediately on board or jumping ship. So those of us chomping at the bit for another serving HANNIBAL’s particular brand of European cuisine, Bon Appetit, as if “Antipasto” is any indication, Fuller’s guidance will be as treacherous and terrifying as Dr. Lecter himself.

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About the author
Ken W. Hanley
Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel "THE I IN EVIL", and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.
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