Hannibal 1.07 "Sorbet"
Director: James Foley
Writers: Jesse Alexander & Bryan Fuller
As you probably know, a sorbet is a frozen dessert of fruit juice, wine, and/or liqueur over sweetened ice, similar to an Italian ice. I suppose it could also be used as a palate-cleanser before moving on from one course to another, but that's the only connection I see between the name and this week's contents. If you get it, please let me know, but it seems like a stretch given the full-bodied meatiness of this episode. Although Hannibal does seem kind of sweet this time out.
Many critics hailed last week's episode, "Entrée" as the welcome appearance of the Hannibal we've been waiting to see, but in actuality, this is the week that brings Hannibal the Cannibal to the forefront big time. Last week was a hollow, derivative echo of what this show is capable of, and this week, writers Jesse Alexander and Bryan Fuller, along with director James Foley, dive head-first into the murky waters of Hannibal's psyche.
And it's a surprisingly sensitive, lonely place that helps to further establish Mads Mikkelsen's Hannibal as a much more sympathetic lead than Hugh Dancy's Will Graham.
That may be a part of the problem the show is having connecting with a casual audience. We've yet to see any of the serial killers actually performing their heinous acts, but every week we get to watch Will reenact them in brutal detail. This, combined with Dancy's flinchy, unapproachable take on Will makes him a very difficult protagonist to relate to. Whereas, Mikkelsen's Hannibal is charming, flirtatious, and at times even heroic – on the surface, anyway. There's a fair amount of cognitive dissonance going on here that your typical CSI/Law & Order/NCIS police procedural fan might not be interested in engaging with.
But the show is called Hannibal for a reason.
We all know what Hannibal has been up to both as the Chesapeake Ripper and in his copycatting of the Minnesota Shrike's killings, but this week we actually see him in action – although as with the other killers on the show, we never see the act itself, only the aftermath. The entire episode is centered on exploring Hannibal's psychology and his social network, as for the first time, we see him interacting with friends and acquaintances outside of the Behavioral Analysis Unit team.
The always entertaining Ellen Greene appears briefly as Mrs. Komeda, lamenting the fact that Hannibal hasn't thrown one of his elaborate dinner parties in far too long. This inspires the deliciously quotable line, "You cannot force a feast. A feast must present itself," which serves as a cue for Hannibal's patient Franklin (Dan Fogler) to interrupt them with an extremely needy bid for attention.
Gillian Anderson also makes a steely appearance as Hannibal's psychiatrist Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier, providing us with an opportunity to really see Hannibal's inner workings on display. This therapy session is offset by his own session with Franklin and serves to illuminate the loneliness at the heart of the most popular serial killer in American pop culture. Dr. Du Maurier makes a point of establishing her professional boundaries, declaring that Hannibal is her patient and colleague, but not her friend (this after Hannibal has rebuffed Franklin's own efforts to insert himself into Hannibal's life as a friend, rather than as a patient).
She also makes it clear that she is aware he is not honest with her. Her description of him as wearing a "very well-tailored person suit – maybe more of a human veil" is haunting both in what it suggests about his personality and in how it affects his demeanor. We haven't gotten a look at the monster at the core of Hannibal's personality, although Will has gotten glimpses via his Ripper investigation. As far as Hannibal is concerned, he is passing. Mikkelsen gives the impression that Hannibal plays the role of human enough that sometimes he himself forgets that he is a monster.
This is such a wonderfully nuanced performance that I can't believe there are people ou
t there who don't want to watch this show. They way this episode dwelt on notions of friendship and loneliness was almost heartbreaking at times. Will seems to be the closest thing to an actual friend that Hannibal has, and he is visibly disturbed when he misses his "therapy" appointment. So disturbed, in fact, that he tracks Will down at BAU headquarters – interrupting a very disturbing dream where Will sits with Abigail on opposite sides of an antler-mounted corpse; and when they are disturbed by Hannibal's arrival, she calls him "Dad."
No wonder we want to love Hannibal! He just wants a friend. Someone who understands him. Someone who has intimate knowledge of him and provides stability.
It is this blatant equation of his own situation to Franklin's that spurs Hannibal to action this week. It doesn't hurt that the killer of the week is harvesting organs, poorly, and that everyone on the BAU team believes that he's the Ripper. He's not, obviously, but it doesn't stop Hannibal from suggesting to Will that maybe the Ripper isn't just one person, but an organ harvesting team.
This week's killer is another example of a killer who just isn't given much attention beyond a few quick strokes to establish their motivations and methods. However, it does provide Fuller and Company with an opportunity to stage a murder scene in a stand-in for the infamous Room 237 from the Shining's Overlook Hotel.
That bit of urban legend misdirection leads the team down a rabbit's hole of dead-ends as Hannibal begins preparing for an extravagant feast for his art-crowd sophisticate friends. It also provides more than one moment of pure dark entertainment as Scott Thompson, Aaron Abrams, and Hettienne Park banter while Hugh Dancy frowns in exasperation.
The conclusion to the killer of the week storyline opens up Hannibal to Will in a way that makes it seem like Will is beginning to suspect the Ripper's true identity. There's a shared look between the two as Hannibal utilizes his medical experience to save the life of the Organ Harvester's last victim that was telling.
James Foley's direction is sure-handed and amusing as we get a montage of Hannibal choosing delicately hand-written recipe cards from his collection, then alternating with pulling business cards from his rolodex to supply the raw materials for the feast. We don't learn what most of the slights were that put them on Hannibal's shit-list, but at this point we don't need to know. They are pigs to the slaughter.
Cannibalism has never been so enticing as when we finally see his table unveiled in the closing shot of the episode. It's simply gorgeous. For some insight into the preparation of the food for this show, check out the Feeding Hannibal blog by Food Stylist, Janice Poon. Oh yeah, there are recipes!
Jesse Alexander's script is strong and doesn't rely on too many references to the Harris novels, although Will's description of how he sees the Ripper is word-for-word his description of Lecter in Red Dragon, "one of those pitiful things that are born in hospitals from time to time. They feed it, and keep it warm, but they don't put it on the machines and it dies." The characterization of Franklin, in particular, is extremely humanizing while making him extremely annoying at the same time. He provides a nice funhouse mirror for Hannibal's own loneliness and Dan Fogler's performance is spot-on as Hannibal's biggest fan/neediest patient.
And here's the episode, for those of you waiting to catch up:
Paul Brian McCoy is the writer of Mondo Marvel and a regular contributor to Shot for Shot at Comics Bulletin. His first novel, The Unraveling: Damaged Inc. Book One is on sale now forKindle US, Kindle UK, and Nook. You can also purchase his collection of short stories,Coffee, Sex, & Creation at Amazon US and UK. He is unnaturally preoccupied with zombie films, Asian cult cinema, and sci-fi television. He can also be found babbling on Twitter at@PBMcCoy and blogging occasionally at Infernal Desire Machines.