When the season two finale of “Hannibal” aired last year, it was Bryan Fuller’s televisual equivalent of a mic drop. It was frankly, one of the best episodes of television ever created, a slow-motion excursion into horror, a perfect crash of all the events from the first two seasons. And if it truly were the end of the show (thankfully it was not), it would have been a diabolical capper to a gorgeous show. Almost all the characters were dying (Will, Jack, Alana and Abigail) with Hannibal Lecter leaving the country in a rain-dropped flourish, accompanied by his former therapist, Bedelia. The wait for the third season has been most excruciating, a 14 month wait to be exact. And now it’s back on June 4th, in its season one timeslot, and it’s time to ask yourself: what’s the verdict on the first three episodes on Hannibal season three?
They’re amazing. Simply amazing.
The new season of “Hannibal” is where Bryan Fuller and company go full Argento. It’s a slow-motion nightmare of blood splatters, hallucinations, and dismembered corpses made into a horrific origami tapestry. It’s beautifully directed by Vincenzo Natali, of “Cube” fame. The episodes are filled to the brim with Gothic imagery (the episode were lensed in Italy), the score by Brian Reitzell climbs inside your head and batters it with a ram, and runs the gamut from sonic dissonance to pipe organs. Never has there been a perfect marriage of the audio and the visual. The imagery of blood spilling into a room (shades of The Shining) never fails to inspire chills. The vaulted cathedrals that the characters navigate through are gorgeous. You know, you’re in for a great start when the first image we see is the innards of a motorcycle as it roars to life. It’s no wonder the series inspired a book of art.
The first three episodes that NBC sent out for critics, are like one long movie. You get lost in the haze of Hannibal Lecter. It’s a little like playing catch-up with the gang since they’ve been away. We meet up with Hannibal eight months down the road from ‘Mizumono’ as he makes his nest in Italy. Don’t expect easy answers about the bloodbath finale. Instead, the creative team slowly dole out answers in a piecemeal fashion that keeps you hungering for the next episode, which will hopefully provide more answers. Each act break in each episode, serves to tell a little piece of the story. It’s really fascinating to watch the precision in which, the story gets doled out When the premiere starts, the writers drop you right in without a life preserver and trust that you can swim along without any help. There’s a sense of discombobulation, especially when you factor in that there’s people speaking Italian or French, and we’re not provided subtitles. Again, cleverness on the part of the writers, as it puts us in an uncomfortable place. The episodes make you realize the weight of the unspoken word, relying on acting and visuals to spell things out, rather than simply blurting them out, or spelling them out in a long winded fashion.
One beautiful thing the show does, is weaving in the literary influences (in the case, we’re going through “Hannibal Rising”) with the true crime stories (look up Il Mostro, if you must. It’s the stuff of nightmares) and creating a palette of story that propels us forward into the abyss. If anything, the show leaves with a darker feeling than the last season. The places feel haunted, dark, foreboding rooms lit only with candles, people rushing around and saying nothing, others sitting in silence. Dungeons and basements riddles with snails and secrets. And even when I’ve spent all this time telling you how dark and bloody this season is, I’d also be remiss to tell you how funny it is. When Hannibal jabs an icepick into someone’s head, and then it’s later removed in a bloody fashion, he simply retorts, “Technically, you killed him.” I mean, that’s so, so dark and so funny. Mads Mikkelsen is so great at the droll sensibilities that needs to be essayed for the character that Lecter is. There’s much I wouldn’t dare spoil, because that would be rude, and we know what Lecter does when people are rude. I will say this, disorientation is key when watching this show. Flashbacks, half-memories, and hallucinations have always been the bread and butter of this show and it still does it so beautifully.
As we’ll see this season, the ghost of Hannibal Lecter looms large over this season, even when he’s not occupying a single space. I can’t wait to see what’s next.