It has been over a year since we last sat at Hannibal Lecter's dinner table. Tonight that all changed with "Antipasto", the season three premiere of NBC's Hannibal. Last night's episode focused exclusively on both Hannibal Lecter and Bedelia Du Maurier. After the disaster Lecter left in Baltimore last season, there were a lot of questions left hanging. This episode brought some answers, but many more questions still remain.
Hannibal walks into what appears to be a cocktail party. You see people talking, laughing, and drinking, but there's no sound except the music. The camera follows Hannibal as he winds his way through the crowds of people, focusing in on one man. The scene is very much like a predator hunting his prey in a nature special. However, the hunt is interrupted when someone sees Hannibal and introduces himself. With prey about, Hannibal certainly doesn't have time for such social niceties, but it would be rude not to engage the man. (And we all know how Hannibal Lecter feels about being rude.)
Anthony Dimmond (Tom Wisdom - Dominion) is the man who introduces himself. He had noticed Hannibal staring at Dr. Roman Fell (Jeremy Crutchley - Black Sails). Dimmond was Fell's teaching assistant at Cambridge University and has a great deal of contempt for the man. Perhaps a man who so easily garners contempt has also garnered Hannibal's? We later see Hannibal outside the event sitting on his motorcycle. As. Dr. Fell leaves for the evening, Hannibal greets him with "Bonsoir", and then rides away. However, the hunt must continue. When Fell arrives home for the evening, outside his house is Lecter on his motorcycle. Contrary to Hannibal's greeting, it will not be a good night for Roman. Mrs. Fell soon arrives home. She must smell that dinner has been cooked and looks particularly pleased. Yet when she rounds the corner into the dining room, the man sitting at the table isn't her husband. He is, however, probably eating him.
The credits then roll. Gillian Anderson's name makes its first appearance with her new role as a series regular. Then the premiere takes a step back to Hannibal's meals with Dr. Abel Gideon. You will recall that in season two Hannibal kept Gideon alive for weeks, slowly cutting off pieces of his body to cook, before ultimately killing Gideon. In the first of several black and white flashback, Hannibal is serving up Abel Gideon's leg for dinner. Not surprisingly, Gideon isn't particularly appetized by the sight of his own flesh smoked in thyme.
We are then transported back to the present in Florence, Italy where Hannibal and Bedelia appear to be living the "fairytale". The two are dancing at a rather lavish party celebrating Hannibal's appointment to a position at one of the city's more prestigious libraries. It becomes clear now that Hannibal killed off Dr. and Mrs. Fell to take their identities, and that he and Bedelia are now living as the couple in the Tuscan city.
After the party, Bedelia has Hannibal unzip her (gorgeous) dress so that she can take a bath. While the tub fills, she reveals that she still feels she is in "conscious control of [her] actions" which hasn't always been the case for her with Hannibal in the past. Bedelia takes her bath which ends up being not so relaxing as her head slips below the water and we see a vision of her drowning. She floats down into the dark, watery abyss before her head snaps back up in the tub and she struggles to breathe.
One of the most revealing flashbacks takes place after Bedelia leaves the FBI following having warned Jack Crawford that Hannibal Lecter is always in control. She enters her house, everything as she left it, but finds Hannibal showering off blood in her bathroom. She pulls a gun on him and he tells her that he has taken off his "person suit". This is how Bedelia ended up on that plane at the end of the last season and why she is now traveling around Florence, shopping for the ingredients for Hannibal's dinner parties.
When Anthony Dimmond unknowingly runs into the new Dr. Fell, Hannibal invites him over for one of those dinner parties. This leads to one of the funniest and most awkward dinner conversations to have ever taken place at Lecter's table. However, we also learn that Hannibal is feeding Bedelia a diet to improve the taste of her flesh, so there's that, too.
The most important flashback takes us back to Bedelia's patient who attacked her. We find her on the floor of her living room splattered with blood and an arm drenched in it after having that arm down her patient's throat who, from previous accounts, "swallowed his own tongue". She calls Hannibal and he tells her that what she's done was not self defense, but that he will help her if she asks for it. In a desperate situation, she asks for that help.
In the final scenes of "Antipasto", Hannibal and Bedelia's identities may begin to unravel with the presence of Anthony Dimmond. Hannibal can't have that though, so naturally, he beats Dimmond over the head with a bust of Aristotle, spraying Bedelia with blood. He askes Bedelia "Observing or participating?" When she declines to help Hannibal murder the man on her floor, he tells her that clearly she has already been participating.
"What have you gotten yourself into, Bedelia?", he asks her. Wouldn't we all like to know.
"Antipasto" was an excellent start to Hannibal's third season. Not surprisingly, Bedelia Du Maurier is one of my favorite characters in the series. She's always been somewhat of a mystery. A woman of few words, she is very controlled and her motivations have never been quite clear. Tonight though, we came to see just how much of a victim Bedelia is.
If Will Graham and his encephalitis were Hannibal's play thing in season one, then Bedelia is his new toy this season. Hannibal had been the one to refer the patient that attacked her. He had been manipulating her for presumably years beforehand. So when Bedelia killed Neal Frank, it was all going as planned. Just like when he warned Garrett Jacob Hobbs or pushed Will Graham, he wanted to see how they would react. And when Bedelia found Lecter in her house, she really really had no option but to go with him.
She could have shot him, but killing one person brought her enough trauma already that I'm not sure she could have pulled the trigger. She had tried walking away once, but just got dragged back in. Once she accepted Hannibal's help following her attack, she was fully in his control. And as she receded from society following that attack, Hannibal became one of her only connections to the outside world. So she goes with him to Europe and tries to pretend that she's fine. (Dana Scully would be so proud of just how "fine" Bedelia is.)
Certainly there are some darker aspects to Bedelia that we haven't seen yet. She has a not entirely professional curiosity about Hannibal's personality, and she did choose to go along with him, but if the bathtub scene is any indication, she is in way over her head. She is drowning in this "fairytale" life that Hannibal has created for them.
On the other end of the spectrum, Hannibal is thrilled with his new life. He is so happy that he's "killed hardly anyone" since they arrived. Bedelia makes the astute assumption that he sees "more interested in making appearances than maintaining them." Perhaps Hannibal knows that his time will eventually run out and he's just making the best of it.
Throughout the episode Bedelia sort of seems to fade away a little. She makes two trips to the specialty Italian grocer and by the second, she barely gets the end of her order out in a whisper. The blood dripping from the dead rabbit hanging from the ceiling really pains her. The normally calm and collected Bedelia is having a very hard time coping. The strong and intelligent woman that you know is in there has been worn down by all that Hannibal Lecter has put her through.
When it seems that Anthony Dimmond is going tear apart their new identities, she gets ready to run, but she doesn't even make it to the door. She stands by as Hannibal murders their former dinner guest. She's not strictly an observer anymore, but she hasn't quite begun to participate (at least not to the extent that Hannibal would like).
This murder elicits a rare, but small reaction from Bedelia. Is she just too traumatized to show more of one or is she transforming into something of Hannibal's creation? Time will have to tell on this one, but my guess is the former.
There really is no good way out of this for Bedelia. Maybe Hannibal gets his way and Bedelia becomes more of a participant than an observer. Maybe she becomes dinner. Maybe she kills herself. But in no way is she living happily ever after. We all know that Hannibal Lecter is going down, and Bedelia Du Maurier is going with him.