We all mourned the news that Hannibal was cancelled by NBC. But while we eagerly await more from Bryan Fuller (who suggested a second life may be in store), we still have several episodes left of what’s been a delicious third season thus far. And last night’s “Aperitivo” did not disappoint.
We’re still dealing with the fallout from earlier seasons, for obvious reasons. Two characters we haven’t yet seen this go-round, Mason Verger and Frederick Chilton, meet “face to face,” literally, when they both remove the make-up/contact lenses/facial prosthetics that are barely containing the ravages of Hannibal Lecter’s handiwork (both directly and indirectly). They both want to find Lecter (a “prize pig,” they agree), but they won’t be doing it together, since Chilton wants him institutionalized, and Verger wants to understand Lecter so he can better understand himself. No hard feelings, apparently, since Chilton wishes Verger “Happy hunting” as he departs.
Once again, we’re taken back to the gory “embrace” shared by Lecter and Will Graham during last season’s earth-shattering final episode, and we see Will waking up in the hospital. This time, despite a little tease-hallucination thing, there’s no vision of Abigail to greet him. It’s Chilton, bearing flowers, and their exchange echoes Will’s earlier chat with Abigail (Lecter’s cuts were “surgical” because he wanted them to live ... or did he leave them to die?) “A coupla suckers we’ve been,” Chilton says, but Will’s in no mood to bro down with the guy who’s dying to get Lecter into his hospital (“the man who framed and maimed us!”)
The chain of fraught meet-ups, all haunted by the aura of the man who controls nearly everyone’s desires from afar, continues when Will’s hospital fugue melds into an operatic revisiting of the dinner party, yet again. And, we’re on a snowy farm where he’s tinkering away as Jack Crawford appears. “I had hoped you’d come looking for me,” Jack says. “But I understand why you didn’t.” He’s come to make sure Will stays on message with the butt-covering “official” version of what happened that night. And he wonders why Will warned Lecter, and told him to run. “Because he was my friend. And because I wanted to run away with him,” Will says.
And we get another duo in the next scene. Chilton, again hoisting a bunch of flowers, paying another unwanted hospital visit. This time, it’s to see Alana Bloom, who survived her window plunge but now languishes in the most artful traction device imaginable. (Strong contender for best line of the episode: “I’ve always enjoyed the word ‘defenestration.’ Now I get to use it in casual conversation.”) A lot of marrow got in her blood, and she’s been told that she’ll begin thinking differently than before. Chilton, of course, has one thing on his mind: Lecter. Will and Lecter will soon be in each others’ orbits again, he tells her. And he wants a front-row seat.
Alana, confined to a wheelchair, pays a visit to Lecter’s old abode. Since every scene in this episode appears to be set as a two-hander, of course she finds Will there, too, “visiting old friends.” After everything Lecter’s done, she wonders, can Will still overlook the worst in him? Stiffly, he tells Alana he wants to be alone, and she silently wheels away. But he’s not alone, we see, as he looks over and sees a bloody apparition of Abigail smiling back at him.
Anyway, Alana’s got somewhere to be. Now using a cane, she heads to the palatial manse of Mason Verger, where she meets Margo Verger; Margo crisply warns Alana not to eat any chocolate if her brother offers. And it’s Mason she’s there to see, of course. “Dr. Lecter got deeper inside of you than any of us,” the drooling, misshapen Verger cheekily observes. These two don’t see eye to eye on many things, but they do both have a desire for revenge.
The episode’s most tender moments come in the scenes between Jack and his wife, Bella (played by, of course, Laurence Fishburne’s real-life wife, Gina Torres) He will recover from his injuries, but she will not defeat her advanced lung cancer. “I have refocused,” he tells Chilton when he’s the next on the relentless doctor’s checklist o’ visits. (Another strong contender for best line of the episode, is an over-it Jack reminding Chilton: “The first thing you did after being shot in the face was copyright ‘Hannibal the Cannibal.’”) Jack has no interest in helping Chilton, and he’d rather put Lecter behind him, too. All that matters is Bella, and her death is handled with admirable grace and dignity. The only non-flashback glimpse of Lecter we get the entire episode is to see him pen a sympathy note to Jack, which Jack discovers as he’s sitting with Bella’s open coffin.
Will appears, and the pair share a moment as Jack describes the pain of watching Bella die even though he knew it was inevitable. “I know what’s coming for you, Will. You don’t have to die on me, too,” Jack tells him. As he leaves, he hands Will the letter from Lecter.
But since this is Hannibal, after all, the focus returns to the fiend in absentia. Verger plots his revenge as his nurse-henchman Cordell rubs his scar tissue with care. An “elaborate ceremony” awaits, he hopes: “I would like you to begin arrangements for Dr. Hannibal Lecter to be eaten alive.”
Without missing a beat, Cordell asks how he’d like to see Lecter prepared for consumption. “Oh, Cordell ... if I had lips I would smile,” Verger purrs. We get a weirdly jaunty, uber-gross (duh) scene where Verger gets a little more reconstructive surgery done before a meeting with Alana. Where is Hannibal? Since he “obviously has good papers and money,” and is a man of refined tastes, Europe seems to be the logical destination. His tastes are very specific, and “that’s how you’ll find him,” Alana says. “His name will change, but his taste will not.”
When Verger wonders why Alana is helping him, she’s quick to reply. “You’re preparing the theater of Hannibal’s death,” she says. “I’m just doing my part to get him to the stage.”
When Jack heads to Will’s farmhouse, he finds Alana waiting instead. He’s already gone to do what he has to do, she tells him ... and as we see Will sailing away, literally, we’re left wondering what shore he’s seeking now.