It’s time for yet another flashback on Hannibal as we return once again to the immediate aftermath of Hannibal’s rampage. If there was any good to come of the events of that night it would be that it incentivised the survivors of Hannibal’s various attacks to come forward and meet. Of course, not everyone is eager to face off against Hannibal but it doesn’t look like that is going to stop Dr. Frederick Chilton and Dr. Alana Bloom from trying. Like the previous episode, this one re-introduces a number of characters like Chilton and Alana, but surprisingly, also the incredibly Verger siblings. It’s a fairly diverse set of characters and the one thing they have in common, apart from each being incredibly damaged and thoroughly traumatized, is that they hate Hannibal Lector. Hannibal, for better or worse, isn’t set in a world where something as simple as a mutual enemy will assure cooperation however and thus it falls to this episode to explain the dynamics between each of Hannibal’s victims.
We’ll begin with the sinister Dr. Chilton. It is incredibly difficult to feel any real sympathy for Dr. Chilton after seeing his questionable ethics and his even more questionable actions in the previous seasons. Chilton, like several other Lector victims, wants revenge. Chilton felt duped and used but more than anything, he feels that Hannibal played him like a piano and left him to take the blame. Chilton survived the bullet to his face last season but no without scars. His role in this episode is simple – he is the Nick Fury of the band of Lector victims, proposing that they unite to capture Hannibal and inflict on him what he did to them. Unfortunately, Chilton’s time in on the operating table did nothing to improve his already lacking charm and he is met with barely concealed hostility at each turn. It’s a shame too – had Chilton just been a little friendlier and a little less sneering, he might have got the cooperation he wanted. Still, Chilton’s visit is the event that really gets the episode’s ball rolling; the seeds of revenge have already been planted in each victim’s head without Chilton’s head, but he keeps their momentum going, eventually leading to Alana seeking Mason Verger out. Chilton’s visit to Will was interesting not because of what they said but because it’s a mirror image of the conversation from the second episode – except we learn that Will wasn’t talking to Abigail, like he thought, but to Chilton instead.
Will’s state of mind in the immediate aftermath of his recovery is strange, to say the least. The bloodbath at the end of the last season ended up settling him firmly on Hannibal’s side but it takes more than a few mental acrobatics for the rest of us to understand why. Will, despite everything, ended up believing his own bullshit, essentially. He was to bait Hannibal out, but Hannibal proved to be too strong a fish and dragged Will into the water with him. The end result is that Will feels an emotional dependency on Hannibal (one that is oddly mirror in Hannibal too), so much so that in the most optimistic world Will can currently imagine, Hannibal and Will murder Jack together. More than anything Will does in this episode, that is the most shocking; a sign that Will has given himself to Hannibal more than any of the characters, including Hannibal and Will himself, realize.
Jack feels the weight of his guilt, just like Will and in as many directions. We do not generally consider Jack Crawford’s emotional state but with his wife’s passing and the constant guilt of having set Will on the path to becoming the next Hannibal Lector, it is impossible to think that Jack Crawford isn’t burdened by his own demons. The pain on his face when Will candidly told him that he (Will) would have picked Hannibal’s side over Jack’s was painful and not just because it meant that Jack had lost Will. The series made it clear that Will was truly better off where he was at the beginning of the show – teaching and living his own little life apart from the rest of the world. Unwittingly, Jack created a monster in Will by exposing him to the insanity of violent crime and Jack blundered again by thinking he could use whatever Will became to capture Hannibal Lector. It is possibly the guilt of those mistakes that pushes Jack to reverse his decision to stay away from both Will and Hannibal and keep the former from a third catastrophic decision. It is actually really difficult to understand just what the dynamic between Jack and Will is at this point in the story. Are they friends? Are they even really friendly? Or have they realised that their paths have diverged and that true reconciliation will take some effort? It will also be interesting, given the amount of screen time given to it, to see how Bella’s death will affect Jack going forward. Already, we can see that he has changed subtly – he is no longer the aggressive, confrontational boss that we are accustomed to. Instead, he’s morphed into a more understanding, sensitive man and it would seem that that new man wants to save Will from Hannibal instead of just condemning him to his fate.
Speaking of character changes though, there hasn’t been a more extreme change in this series than the one in Alana Bloom. Alana in the first season was painfully naïve and almost a non-factor in the series’ key conflicts and while she was dragged into the mix on numerous occasions in the second season, she remained very much on the periphery and her role was reactionary more than proactive. That all looks set to change however – the new Alana is cold and dispassionate, unflinching but also unpredictable. The change in her character is a little to exaggerated however, and it doesn’t really quite fit in with what we knew of her character previously. Her agenda of exacting revenge on Hannibal also comes across as a little unwarranted especially when you consider how little she has suffered in comparison to some of the other characters like Chilton and Will. Still, the character’s renewed agency is good to see and so far at least, she has been the main mover and shaker in this episode, taking the first step along the path to actually making something happen in this season. Her partner in crime is none other than the incredibly creepy, downright repulsive, Mason Verger. Mason Verger is one of those characters that is so slimy that even knowing that he is not supposed to be likable doesn’t make even slightly more palatable. In the time since we last saw him, Mason has found God, but any god willing to save Mason’s soul is not a god that the rest of us can believe in. As it turns out, Mason’s understand of religion is just as faulty as his understanding of basic humanity and thus his character is complete – he was an abusive, cruel, violent sadist before, and now he’ll probably be a religious fanatic on top of it.
The one really disappointing thing about this episode is that it retroactively reduced the previous season’s body count substantially. Chilton, who we assumed had been shot by Miriam, is still alive. Of everyone involved in the incident at Hannibal’s house, there was only one casualty. Happy as I am that they survived, I do feel like it cheapens the violence in the show and reduces it to just a weak attempt at shock value without the narrative courage to stand by it. On the whole, the show also suffers heavily when it narrows its focus to its secondary characters – the season’s first episode was slower than this but Mikkelsen’s Hannibal is significantly more on-screen gravitas than any of the characters featured in ‘Apertivo’. In terms of pacing, it also feels like this episode should have come before last week’s ‘Secondo’ – this episode, despite being about characters we don’t really care all that much about, advances the plot further than the current first three episodes and begins to give the season’s narrative an overarching shape.