So massive was the bloodbath that ended Hannibal’s second season that four episodes into Season 3, we’re still dealing with the aftershocks from that event. “Aperitivo” finally picks up with the entire cast and stands as a showcase for just how much Hannibal Lecter has damaged all of these people, both physically and emotionally. Everyone in “Aperitivo” is walking around with some Lecter-initiated war wounds, and though the cannibal barely appears in the episode (and even when he does, he’s consigned to brief flashbacks or dream sequences), his presence is deeply felt. So heavy is the shadow he casts over all of these people that he doesn’t need to be in their immediate orbit, doesn’t even need to be on the same side of the world, to consume their every waking moment.
Take Alana Bloom, the last major question mark left hanging over the slaughterhouse that was once Hannibal’s home. She, too, survived, but with a shattered pelvis to show for it. But this is not the same Alana Bloom we knew before. The final major holdout last season in accepting that Hannibal was a diabolical killer (one with whom, you’ll recall, she shared a bed), her character was previously defined almost exclusively by her open concern for the men around her, leaving her as easily the least compelling member of the series’ cast. But this Dr. Bloom immediately seems different. Reduced to walking with a cane, Alana now feels more self-possessed and dispassionate. With Jack claiming to have relinquished any lingering feelings concerning Hannibal, and Will too conflicted about just what his feelings toward Hannibal even are, Alana now stands alone among the survivors as desiring revenge against the good doctor, something she discloses during (and is perhaps even the impetus for) her sessions with her new patient, Mason Verger.
Yet Mason is also a Hannibal survivor, and as despicable a man as he is, he’s as entitled to his vengefulness as any of them. Mason, now played by Joe Anderson, fairly seamlessly taking over from the memorable Michael Pitt (a feat made a bit easier to achieve by the amount of facial prosthetics the character now requires), is already embarking on his plan, originated from Hannibal the book and film, to hunt Hannibal down and feed him alive to his pigs. His plan gives the storyline a familiar framework, but as always, one of the pleasures of Hannibal is watching how it subverts the established lore of these characters while remaining reverential (speaking of reverential, for a show that went in such a completely different direction with Hannibal Lecter from Anthony Hopkins, it’s a bit surprising just how much this incarnation of the Verger character is cribbed directly from Gary Oldman’s performance and appearance in Hannibal).
Also making a return appearance is Dr. Frederick Chilton, a man who has been indirectly “killed” by Hannibal Lecter twice now, yet keeps on popping back up, like a live-action Kenny. Considering that the last time we saw Chilton, a bullet was sailing clean through his head, he’s looking pretty good, with makeup, a contact lens and a bridge of false teething piecing him together quite nicely. Chilton, ever the self-serving opportunist, is seeking Hannibal Lecter not out of vengeance or desire, but for the requisite fortune and glory. He wants the man locked up in his institution, and is such an eager beaver to cash in on having such a famous patient that, we’re told, the first thing he did upon getting out of the hospital was to trademark the name “Hannibal the Cannibal.” And, for a show as frequently somber as this one can often be (especially this season), having Raul Esparza’s endlessly enjoyable superciliousness back on display is exactly what Hannibal needed right now.
That just leaves Jack and Will, both of whom, we know from the previous episodes, do wind up overseas on the hunt for Dr. Lecter, yet here, both men are still trying to figure things out. Will has taken refuge in his “memory palace,” where Abigail Hobbs can still keep him company, but he openly admits to Jack that he entertained notions of running off with Hannibal prior to that fateful night. Will’s pursuit of Hannibal is perhaps most intriguing of all because his are the only motives that remain completely opaque, perhaps even to himself. He doesn’t know how he feels about Hannibal Lecter, except that he doesn’t feel complete without the man in his life. Jack, who has been displaced from the FBI, is ready to wash his hands of all of them until Bella, his ailing wife, takes a turn for the worse, leading Jack to do the very thing he refused to do once before and take his wife’s life to end her suffering. Bella’s death is the one thing in “Aperitivo” that seems to exist outside of Hannibal Lecter, until Jack receives an impeccably written letter from the man at his wife’s wake. In the end, what else does Jack have left besides Hannibal Lecter? What do any of them have?
And that’s where “Aperitivo” leaves us. Hannibal Lecter is out there and he’s left a motley crew of scarred pursuers hot on his trail, each pursuing a different endgame. He wouldn’t have it any other way.
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