26th Jun2015

‘Hannibal 3×04: Aperitivo’ Review

by Gretchen Felker-Martin

“Bella’s dead. That should change the view from these windows. It’s not right if the view stays the same.”

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‘Aperitivo’ was an hour of small stories, a step back from the formless horror of Hannibal’s solo adventures in Europe and the protracted seance of Will’s pursuit. Il Mostro himself makes only a few momentary appearances, mostly in flashback and voice-over. The episode follows Will, Alana, Dr. Chilton, Jack, and Mason Verger(recast, not that it’s easy to tell, as a viciously dry Joe Anderson) as they contemplate what Hannibal has made of their lives. Each thread plays out as its own vignette, each one cutting to black at its conclusion like a series of films in miniature.

Chilton, the episode’s self-deprecating door to door salesman, begins an understated hour that takes what could have been a mess and transforms it into a living, breathing version of the show’s fixture: the corpse as art. The good doctor, last seen receiving an impromptu lobotomy at the hands of Jack’s tormented protege Miriam, has scuttled cockroach-like away from another mortal wound. This one though, as a visceral CGI tour of the wound reveals from the inside out, has left him pitted, largely toothless, and half-blinded. From Will’s ruined stomach to Alana’s glowing skeleton, the show took its cast and made them the objects of its artistic fascination.

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The incursion, reconstruction, and anguish of each injury is recreated and dissected from all angles both through elaborate visuals and through the lives of the characters as they struggle to cope. Will retreats into his memory palace, emulating his tormentor, and seeks solace with the ghost of Abigail. His tethers to the normal world, a world to which he never really belonged, have been cut and his flight to Europe given elegant grounding in just a handful of scenes.

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In one remarkable tableaux he dreams of finding the better world Chilton says he’ll never have, leaping up at the dinner table to murder Jack in concert with Hannibal. “Because he was my friend,” he tells Jack when the other man asks him why he warned Hannibal with a telephone call. “And because I wanted to run away with him.” They remain bound together, the twisted intensity of their connection preferable to the relationships Will has now decided to discard.

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Jack tries to find a different severance, to take forced retirement as a way to give up Will, Hannibal, and a life of staring into the abyss. What awaits him is another void, the death of his beloved wife, Bella, with whom he has come to associate his innermost sense of self. “You aren’t going into the ground with me, Jack,” she tells him earlier, when he awakes beside her in the world’s artsiest hospital, “so stop trying.” When Jack holds her at the moment of his death their faces are halves of an abstract image, eyes closed in death and mourning. Later, he fantasizes about his wife holding up a dress, then walking down the aisle in sequences that give his imagination a weight we usually see assigned to Will. In the end he is unable to save Bella, unable to stop Will from racing off in pursuit of Hannibal. Removed from his position at the FBI, he has become a footnote to his own career, his pursuit of Will to Italy a chance at a quiet, personal redemption.

Alana and Mason Verger both begin the hour as installation art, immobilized forms reshaped by Hannibal. Alana’s refusal to believe the dreadful secret of Hannibal’s evil nature in season 2 has left her itching to get even. “I don’t need religion to recognize the appeal of Old Testament revenge,” she tells Verger when the two meet on the patio of his belligerently ostentatious mansion. Verger, for his part, is hellbent on seeing Hannibal dead but chronically unable to stop being a vile, sucking anus of a human being for half a second to forward his own goals. He insults Alana repeatedly, mocking her for her sexual connection with Hannibal. “Dr. Lecter got deeper inside you than he did any of us,” he chuckles, moments before gagging on his own drool while Alana watches impassively.

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Alana’s brief moment in the stables with Margot sells on the strength of Katherine Isabelle’s marvelously dry eye-undressing. The Verger mansion, too, is home to unforgettable images like the great pile of stones looming over Mason’s broken body as he cackles “I’m free!” or the bucolic but ever so slightly unsettling timbre of the mural behind his bed. It’s another house, though, that dominates the hour. Waiting so long to pick up the plot threads left hanging by ‘Mizumono’ gave Hannibal the time it needed to flesh out(pun heavily intended) the tragedy itself into something that would ring and resonate through virtually every episode of season 3 thus far. The characters continually revisit the house, both in their minds and in the waking world. They dream of shattering windows and blood splashing onto Hannibal’s immaculate floors.

Chilton, in a clever piece of pacing, pops up at approximately the same point in each smaller narrative. He’s outside looking in, turning to people who at best don’t care about and at worst despise him for a chance to recapture Hannibal and reclaim some vestige of his former self. He doesn’t get his own story aside from his repeated pleas and the other characters’ repeated refusals, though his and Mason’s undressing the wounds Hannibal gave them is a ghoulish spectacle. ‘Aperitivo’ is a view of people who’ve had their lives taken from them, turned over in a monster’s hands, and given back as poisoned gifts. They were art to Hannibal, amusements to pass the time, and now that he’s tossed them aside they have to find their own directions in life.

Or at least aggressively pursue lucrative copyrights.

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