We join Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen) on the rain slicked streets of Paris, Dr. Lecter in self imposed exile after the massacre of last season’s finale. We get no answers as to the safety of Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas) or Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) in this episode, but if the preview of the next one is to be believed they’re all alive and well, which might be kind of a cop out after the entire last season intermittently teased the bloody confrontation between Crawford and Lecter, his murderous alter ego now laid bare, but if any show deserves the benefit of the doubt it’s this one.
Hannibal returns as a much different show, or at least a much different episode, than we’re used to. The formerly sardonic and artsy FBI procedural has transformed into a lush European travelogue. Hannibal’s ride concludes at a fancy party full of French artists and intellectuals. There he strikes up a conversation with a poet named Tony, one who can sense the good doctor’s contempt for everyone in the room. But Lecter isn’t there to make friends, he’s after ancient Italian scholar Dr. Fell, looking to assume his identity to obtain a position as a Library Curator in Florence, Italy, and if you know anything about this show you know that the real place Dr. “fell” was into Hannibal’s stomach.
Hannibal’s European Vacation isn’t a solo jaunt, in tow is fellow deranged psychiatrist Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier (the ageless Gillian Anderson), last seen mysteriously accompanying Lecter on a plane at the end of last season, she’s running away from her own bit of ultra violence, which (through a series of widescreen flashbacks) turns out wasn’t as much in self defense as previously thought. Another series of flashbacks, this time in black and white, treats us to the final days of Abel Gideon (Eddie Izzard) as Hannibal slowly feeds him to himself as penance for claiming responsibility as the Chesapeake Ripper. “You’re the devil,”, Gideon taunts his captor as they feast on one of his expertly prepared severed legs, “I can’t wait until this happens to you”.
Flash forward to Florence and all is not well, with Lecter coming under scrutiny as an Italian Library Curator who is not Italian, even after he gives a well received presentation on Dante. Tony returns, being a former colleague of Dr. Fell and recognizing Hannibal as an imposter, and proposes an alliance with the embattled Lecter. But Hannibal’s not looking for another Will in his life just yet, and Tony’s inability to mind his own business gets him cracked in the skull with a bust of Aristotle.
For the past two seasons Hannibal has grown to be one of my favorite shows and even though this episode was just a tad slow paced and unsatisfying in regards to tying up threads from last season’s bloody conclusion, it still felt great to be back in the company of these actors. Mikkelsen continues to be a revelation as Lecter, showing just a touch more vulnerability as he’s now in a position to be less calculated than before. The visuals remain absolutely gorgeous as well, a sequence of Anderson drowning in her bathtub, trapped under the crushing weight of her guilt, being the standout.
The coming weeks are sure to bring more story to the forefront regarding the supporting cast in the aftermath of Lecter’s betrayal but in retrospect this episode establishing Hannibal and Bedilia’s life in exile was really enjoyable, as unconventional but ultimately satisfying as the series as a whole has been and will hopefully continue to be.