Hannibal, Season 3, Episode 4, “Aperitivo”
Written by Nick Antosca and Bryan Fuller & Steve Lightfoot
Directed by Marc Jobst
Airs Thursdays at 10pm (ET) on NBC
Four episodes into season three, the reverberations of the season two finale are still being felt. Given the monumental nature of “Mizumono”, that feels appropriate, and the first trio of episodes of season three have dealt primarily with the Red Dinner’s emotional and psychological fallout for Hannibal and Will. These episodes have been full of dream imagery and projections, exploring the psychology of these characters and meditating upon their decisions and pasts through recurring visual motifs and stylish directorial flourishes more than dialogue or plot. With “Aperitivo”, that changes, giving audiences a much more concrete look at the fallout of season two for the characters left in Baltimore.
“Aperitivo” takes viewers through Hannibal’s victims one by one, starting with Chilton and Mason before moving on to Will, Alana, and finally, Jack. Margot is present, but she was much more a victim of her brother than Hannibal, so she remains tangential to the episode, sharing a nice scene with Alana, but not receiving the attention of the others. Will is also comparatively marginalized, as viewers have already been privy to his grieving process, in “Primavera”, but the scenes we do get with him are incredibly powerful, particularly the boat engine scene. Hugh Dancy’s delivery of, “Because he was my friend, and I wanted to run away with him” is wrenchingly honest, filled with the simple truth of the statement, but also the guilt that comes with it. Fans of Thomas Harris’ work will be unsurprised to see Will working on a boat engine, a hobby that’s been mentioned and seen briefly in the series, but which plays a more prominent role in Hannibal’s literary antecedents. The end of the episode however, which sees Will sailing to points unknown (all the way to Italy? Seems ridiculous, but I love the idea so much I’ll give it to ‘em) in search of Hannibal, recontextualizes this scene—Will isn’t working on the engine as a way to occupy himself and clear his mind, some part of him has already decided to go find his friend, to run away with him as he wished to do in “Mizumono”. In the end, Will couldn’t accept what leaving with Hannibal would have cost him, the horrible (though beautifully scored with Grieg, more on this in Kate’s Classical Corner) image of Will holding down Jack for Hannibal to slaughter, but getting a glimpse of how close he was to making this choice adds weight to the events of “Primavera” and calls into question Will’s motivation in “Secondo”. Just what will Will do once he finds Hannibal?
The characters featured most significantly are Chilton, Mason, and Jack, though Alana’s scenes are the most intriguing. It’s lovely to have Raul Esparza back as Chilton and the episode does its work to make sure his return doesn’t feel like a cheat. Showing the path of the bullet fired by Miriam Lass that should have killed him, and its near miss of his brain, emphasizes Chilton’s trauma; it’s been a while since Gideon’s brutal attack on Chilton and this serves as a nice refresher for the audience that he does indeed have very good reasons to be vengeful towards Hannibal. Even more affecting is Chilton’s (and Mason’s) de-masking, stripping away the façade he applies daily to appear unchanged. The visual is striking, the fabulous work of the effects and makeup team paired with Esparza’s strong performance.
This is a new flavor of Chilton. In season one, he was a joke. After his experience with Gideon and realization of Hannibal’s true nature, he became a darkly comedic figure and audience surrogate. Here, he’s bitter and snide, focused on revenge in a way he couldn’t afford to be in season two, with Hannibal so near. His attempts to rally the troops, to push Jack and Will towards finding and capturing Hannibal, are couched in his desire to control and demean Hannibal, to regain the power stripped from him. Esparza is fantastic throughout, giving a brittle edge to Chilton that, combined with the excellent script, reestablishes a useful distance between him and the other characters. Chilton changes from season two’s likable coward to an unrepentant dick in the course of one scene, Chilton’s gloating exchange with Alana. It was fun having Chilton as a sympathetic presence, but this more challenging take on the character is intriguing and should open up new possibilities for the writers.
Mason, on the other hand, is the same as ever, though the change from Michael Pitt to Joe Anderson in the role is jarring, at least initially. Pitt’s over the top performance was a delight in season two, but the specificity of it, from his physicality to his mannered vocal inflections, created a very distinct, heightened character. Anderson is doing good work here, and his performance improves throughout the episode as he makes the character his own, but his vocal performance in the opening scene doesn’t quite work, an impression of Pitt’s chewy cadence rather than an embodiment of the character. The argument can be made that this is intentional—both Chilton and Mason are wearing masks, pretending to be who they were in season two, and as they take them off, they reveal their new identities—but it’s distracting nonetheless. It appears Mason will play a significant role in the season, so Anderson should have plenty of opportunities to show what he can do, and he’s already doing a good job of emoting through his prosthetics. Hopefully he’ll be able to give new layers of depth to the character, expanding on the fascinating, but rather simple Mason of season two.
Despite turning up in “Secondo”, Jack gets plenty of time this week as Jack recovers and later, says goodbye to Bella. It’s wonderful to see Gina Torres on the series once more (who knows, maybe she’ll pop up again in someone’s memory palace), making Bella as warm and graceful as ever. The creatives clearly have a fond place in their hearts for Torres and the character and they give Bella an absolutely lovely farewell. Torres is luminous, dressed in a gorgeous wedding dress as Jack remembers his and Bella’s wedding and beaming with contentment. The Bella seen here is one we haven’t been shown previously, a Bella before her cancer diagnosis and the despair that came with it. Even as she lays next to Jack in the hospital, her breathing labored, she glows, a far cry from the makeup and lighting used in Bella’s most recent appearances. Jack’s decision to euthanize Bella, keeping true to the wishes she expressed earlier in the show, is depicted as one of mercy, Jack finally able to let go and put his wife before himself. Before she leaves, though, she tasks Jack with an important mission: he needs to find and cut out the thing killing him. Just what that thing is is left open for debate. Is it Jack’s stubbornness, his inability to let go of Hannibal? Is it his connection to Will, who is intrinsically linked with Hannibal at this point? Is it Hannibal himself—does she think he will need to settle things with Hannibal in order to be truly at ease? Or is it something else entirely?
The episode handles Bella’s death and the weight of Jack’s loss beautifully, sitting with Jack as he waits alone in the church. Will arrives and sits quietly behind him, reminiscent of Will’s support of Jack in “Coquilles”. We already know where this exchange will lead both characters, but it’s nice to see just what pushes Jack to go after Will and try to bring him home. Laurence Fishburne gives a moving performance, highlighted by the still and patient direction. The camera holds closely on Jack while Will remains out of focus behind him; this is Jack’s moment and even Hannibal’s intrusion, through his immaculately handwritten letter, which quotes John Donne’s “A Fever”, can’t distract from it. Of Hannibal’s victims, Jack is the most at peace, still weary and still guilty over having introduced Will and Hannibal, but unlike Will he doesn’t still feel Hannibal’s pull and unlike the others, he does not seek revenge.
While Mason is the most active party on that front, the most enticing is Alana. She has a line early on, when speaking with Chilton, about the bone marrow in her bloodstream changing her mental state (which a quick Googling reveals is a real phenomenon), but the personality shift we see in Alana is one utterly in keeping with who she’s been and what she’s been through. The polite, detached, wrap-dress wearing woman of season one is gone, replaced with an imposing siren, her hair in loose, but clearly styled curls and wearing a red lipstick as bold as her striking new coat. As Alana speaks with Mason of vengeance, dressed in a no less fabulous, but even more severe black ensemble, the camera pushes in to a close-up of her face in what feels like an homage to The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (again, more in Kate’s Classical Corner). Alana has been a supportive figure in the past, deferring to Hannibal, Jack, or Will at times and trusting in the structure of the FBI. That trusting person is no more, replaced with a calculating, fierce renegade and watching her become a player, moving pieces into position to try to bring down Hannibal, should be a lot of fun. There are still glimpses of the Alana of yore—it’s great to see Will’s dogs again and know that she’s still keeping an eye on them—but the softer side of the character has been burned away and it will take a lot for her to come back, if such a thing is even possible.
After three episodes of arty, expressionist storytelling, many viewers were undoubtedly ready for “Aperitivo”’s straightforward approach, but this critic can’t help but hope future episodes will fall somewhere between the abstract, more psychological start of the season and this episode’s fairly literal narrative. Hannibal is good at both, and fans were overdue a bit of tablesetting and backstory, but there’s a sweet spot between the two extremes that allows the story to push forward and build momentum without sacrificing the introspection and imagery that separate the series from the rest of television. Now that each of the characters have been given their due and been allowed to recover, at least physically, from the Red Dinner, season three can start to move forward, informed by but no longer mired in the events of “Mizumono”.
Kate’s Classical Corner:
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Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, Op. 46, II. The Death of Åse by Edvard Grieg (1988): Will imagines dinner with Hannibal and Jack
The sole featured classical selection in “Aperitivo”, The Death of Åse is a gorgeous choice by Brian Reitzell, both for its lush string sound, a rare choice for the show, and its literary ties to the scene. While classical music is a prominent part of the series’ soundtrack, the pieces used tend to be for piano or solo instrument (or voice) with orchestral accompaniment, and those few pieces with a strong string sound tend to be played beneath dialogue, in a dinner or party scene. The only other similar instance that comes to mind is the use of the Adagietto, sehr langsam from Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 in “Naka-choko”, one of the series’ most chilling moments (for this classical musician, at least). That moment’s power came in its contrast, the use of a beautiful, heartfelt ode to love composed by Mahler for his wife with Hannibal and Will’s preparation and enjoyment of their first dinner of long pig. Here, the parallels of the scene are what stand out.
Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite is comprised of music written to accompany the Henrik Ibsen play which follows its lead, Peer Gynt, as he lives his life trying always to be true to himself first and foremost, only to discover at the end of his life that this holds little meaning and he’s not sure that there is any core of his being to be true to. In his unexamined pursuit of his truth, Gynt nearly misses the death of his mother, Åse. The music by Grieg for this moment is intense, dark, and mournful, fitting for the scene Will envisions of how the Red Dinner would have gone had Jack not gone to Hannibal’s early and had Will chosen Hannibal over Jack. The themes of identity and subjective truth that run throughout the series parallel interestingly with Peer Gynt and the connection of the death of Jack, at times a father figure, to the death of Åse is obvious. Will scoring this moment for himself with this piece implies his consideration of himself as Gynt, and given his end of episode abandonment of his dogs and social ties in Baltimore in favor of an open-ended pursuit of Hannibal, this suggests a realization in Will of the folly of this choice. As fun as it is to dive into the notion of Will as Gynt, however, it’s likely the only important factor for Reitzell in choosing this piece is that it’s absolutely stunning music and fits wonderfully with the scene.
—The score is full of woodwinds, particularly clarinets and bassoon lines. Given Chilton’s presence in so much of the episode, this makes sense: one of the series’ most memorable bits of scoring is the Messiaen-inspired clarinet used when Chilton returned home in “Yakimono” to discover a kill-suit clad Hannibal waiting to frame him.
—Once again, Reitzell uses tinkling percussion to accompany breaking glass, here when we flash back to Alana’s defenestration (she’s right, it’s a good word) and watch her skeleton crash to the ground. Similarly, wooden percussion is used evocatively to mimic raindrops (or in this case, blood drops) as Jack dreams of his near death, watching his blood rise to the ceiling rather than drip through the floor.
—The organ has featured prominently this season, connected with Italy in general and the Norman Chapel specifically. Here it turns up when Jack is at the church for Bella’s funeral, ramping up when Jack discovers Hannibal’s letter, creating an aural tie to Hannibal, who at this point is likely already in Florence.
—Will’s Happy Place Theme returns in part this week as Will sits in Hannibal’s kitchen, having asked Alana to leave, and looks over at his projection of Abigail.
—The Eastern-influenced sound used with Mason in season two returns here as Mason’s red-clad surgeons attempt to repair his face.
—The absolute highlight of the score this week, however, is the quick three note nod to The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly that accompanies the push in on Alana as she speaks of Old Testament vengeance. It’s a beautifully Western-inspired moment that promises a much more proactive Alana this season.
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