“The eating of the heart is a powerful image” HANNIBAL Season 3, Episode 1 “Antipasto” (Fuller, 2015)

Look, I know from the Fannibals sites that some people didn’t like Season 3, or at least not as much as one and two. I humbly beg to disagree. This season sees Hannibal exposed and ferocious, no longer wearing his “person suit” in which he was pretending to be the respectable psychiatrist, trying to help the FBI catch – well, himself. At the end of Season 2, he left most of the cast writhing in pools of their own blood, and we saw him drinking champagne on a plane to France. His psychiatrist, Bedelia, was by his side, wedded to him, it seems, by their shared responsibility for the death of her patient, whom Hannibal had referred to her. Obligated to him by his helping her cover up her killing.

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Hannibal’s fairy tale is set in Florence, Italy. You may remember a Hannibal of a different generation, in Silence of the Lambs, telling Clarice Starling that memory is what he had instead of a window, as she admired his drawings of the Duomo. Hannibal, it turns out, is an expert on pre-Renaissance Italian literature, particularly Dante, and wants the job of Curator and Translator at the Palazzo Capponi, which of course he gets, by killing the previous Curator and then consuming the man chosen to replace him: Dr Fell, who he meets and eats in Paris. Also by being able to recite Dante from heart at a moment’s notice:

Joyous appeared he in his hand to keep
my very heart, and, lying on his breast,
my lady, veil-enwrapped and full asleep.

But he awakened her, and of my heart,
aflame, he humbly made her, fearful, taste
I saw him, finally, in tears depart.

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Bedelia is no longer pretending not to know what Hannibal does, or of what he is capable. She has an insight into his Nietzschean ethos

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And Hannibal is loving Florence.

“I’ve found a peace here that I would preserve. I’ve killed hardly anybody during our residence”.

Well, the old Curator. And Dr Fell. And Mrs Fell. But the rude Professor Sogliato, who is a natural for dinner because he has been opposing Hannibal’s appointment and being, well, rude about his Italian – will he kill and eat him? No, that would not serve to preserve the peace.

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Bedelia has a flashback to her apartment, just after the bloodbath of the Season 2 Finale, where Hannibal is showering, washing off the blood. She asked him then what he had done.

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Bedelia is terrified of him, but still, they are living the high life.

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There’s a complication, of course, as can happen when you kill people (maybe eat them) and take their identity. This complication is a young scholar from England, Anthony Dimmond (Tom Wisdom from The Boat That Rocked and Avengers: Endgame) who worked for Dr Fell, cordially detested him, and won’t be too upset when he finds out that Hannibal is taking his place. Hannibal appears to show friendship, in one of those double entendres that Hannibal does so well

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We have another flashback to Hannibal’s extended feast on Abel Gideon, at which the only guest of honour was Abel himself.

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“you wish me to be eating oysters, drinking sweet wines and snacking on acorns.
All to make me tastier?”

Abel’s arm is hanging up in the basement being consumed by snails, to make them tastier. And Abel’s tasty flesh is being eaten by Hannibal

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At the dinner, Dimmond asks Bedelia (AKA Mrs Fell) if she is avoiding meat. She replies with one of the great vegan ripostes

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But what is she eating instead? Ah yes

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Dimmond, being a scholar, tells her

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Yes, Bedelia is being fattened up for a future feast. And she knows it.

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Dimmond gets his hopes up: “Is it that kind of party?” “It is not that kind of party” replies Hannibal. To Bedelia’s amazement, Dimmond gets up and leaves at the end of dinner. Alive.

But not for long. Hannibal is giving a lecture to prove his qualifications for the Curatorship. He lectures on mediaeval art, particularly drawing the comparison between Judas, who betrayed Jesus, and Pietro della Vigna, whose alleged treachery and suicide earned him a place in Dante’s Hell. Disappearing in the glow of his slideshow, Hannibal is soon replaced by the One whom Mads seems to be using as inspiration for his portrayal of Hannibal

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The theme of his talk is

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Lo fe gibetto a me de la mie case: I make my own home be my gallows”.

Realising that he is looking at her, and that he considers that she betrayed him (by resigning as his therapist), Bedelia gets up and rushes home to pack. Dimmond comes to the lecture, realises immediately that Hannibal has replaced Dr Fell, and they stroll through an exhibition of instruments of torture. Why do people love such exhibitions? In fact, why do we love stories about zombies, vampires, cannibals? Hannibal explains

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Or as Dimmond puts it

“What still slaps the clammy flab of our submissive consciousness hard enough to get our attention?”

Dimmond offers a sort of partnership with Hannibal. Big mistake. Since Will, Hannibal is not looking to take on new partners. Hannibal takes him home for dinner, just as Bedelia is about to leave, her bag packed and ready.

Wasting no time, Hannibal wallops Dimmond with a bust of Aristotle (appropriate on so many levels) and has a fascinating exchange with Bedelia as she wipes blood off her face, and Dimmond crawls painfully toward the door. He asks her, and us:

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She knew what he would do. She was curious about what would happen. She anticipated their thoughts, counter-thoughts, rationalisations. Is this (the bloody mess) what she expected? Yes, it was.

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He helps her off with her coat. She’s not going anywhere.

And nor is Dimmond, whose corpse Hannibal folds up into the shape of a heart and leaves in a distant cathedral – but more of that next episode.

And nor are we. We are also curious about what will happen. We also anticipate thoughts, counter-thoughts and rationalisations. We also expect things to happen, whether it be in this show, or in our own lives, filled with appetite and consumption and instruments of torture.

That’s participation.

As usual, Hannibal has the final word, in a line that sums up pretty much everything I have been trying to say about cannibalism, and the link to carnivorous virility, and our assumption that it’s OK  to eat anyone whom we classify as less than us.

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As Claude Levi-Strauss said:

“We are all cannibals”.

 

Next week: Beneath the Planet of the Apes

Who is the Ripper? HANNIBAL Season 1 Episode 6, (Fuller, 2013)

In this episode, we meet Abel Gideon (Eddie Izard), a doctor, like Hannibal, a killer, like Hannibal, and believed by Frederick Chilton (Raúl Esparza), the “keeper” of the Baltimore asylum for the criminally insane, to be the Chesapeake Ripper (who of course is really Hannibal). Gideon has been in the asylum for the last two years, since killing his wife and her family – on Thanksgiving. The murders ceased two years ago, and Chilton believes, therefore, that Gideon is the Ripper. Will doesn’t buy it.

Gideon kills a nurse in the psych hospital, a grisly murder which Will Graham kindly re-enacts for us (it’s just his thing), including a scene involving eyeballs that could come straight out of King Lear. The nurse’s body is laid out like the “wound man” diagram from mediaeval medical texts (the image that gave Hannibal away in Red Dragon). The nurse’s multiple wounds, however, were delivered post mortem, but Jack remembers taking his new recruit, Miriam Lass (Anna Chlumsky from Veep) to see a Ripper victim, where she deduces that the Ripper keeps the victim alive and conscious during the mutilations. Also, the Ripper removes organs, if only the yummy ones: liver and thymus.

Miriam Lass disappeared while illegally (with Jack’s tacit approval) chasing up the medical records of the victims of the Ripper. He is stricken with guilt and wants to catch the Ripper – enough to (as Will puts it) “get into bed” with Freddie Lounds whom they ask to publicly declare Gideon to be the Ripper. Hannibal is royally pissed off about this. No one gets to take credit for his work.

Now Jack is getting phone calls from Miriam – one while he is asleep in his bed, another from his bedroom while he is interviewing Gideon. Could she be alive after being classified as missing, presumed dead, for two years? The next one has a phone number attached – but when they trace it, they find not Miriam, but just her arm.

Miriam is present in this episode in flashbacks – always in black and white. Over a postprandial brandy, Hannibal asks Jack to share his memories of Miriam, but as the scene fades to a flashback, it is not Jack but Hannibal being interviewed by Miriam. She is asking him about a hunter he treated when a surgeon, who later became a victim of the Ripper. Then she finds a picture of the wound man on his desk (a direct reference to the way Will found out Hannibal in Red Dragon), and Hannibal comes up behind her in stockinged feet and grabs her by the neck.

So, dude – where’s my cannibal? No one is getting eaten in this episode, although there are hints of body parts being removed. But the episode is full of mental cannibalism – the preparation and consumption of thoughts. First – who are the psychopaths? Jack and Will are convinced Gideon is not the Chesapeake Ripper and hope to draw the real one out by getting Freddie to “confirm” a lie. They do something similar (insulting the Tooth Fairy) in the book/movie of Red Dragon, with rather drastic results. Freddie wants to know whether Gideon really is the Ripper. “Why not?” seems to be their reply. After all, Alana explains, “certain personalities are attracted to certain professions”. Psychopaths are attracted to roles as CEOs, lawyers and the clergy. Number five on the list, says Jack (and Miriam tells us the same thing in a flashback), is surgeons.

Number 6, sneers Will, is journalists. Number 7? Freddie makes Will say it: law enforcement. Well then:

Then we have that dinner party – our three favourite psychiatrists (at least until Bedelia makes an appearance next episode), those who feed on our diseased minds, discussing – what else? – tongues. Their tool, and their weapon.

Bloom and Chilton heap compliments as Hannibal serves one of his most gourmet dishes:

Inspired by August Escoffier, we are having Long Tangyuan en papillotte, served with a sauce of duxelles and oyster mushrooms. Picked myself.

They laugh about tongues (the main ingredient), although where would psychiatrists be without them? Alana hasn’t eaten tongue before; Hannibal responds that this was “a particularly chatty lamb” although who knows whose tongue it really is? Chilton, like all good dinner guests, has a story about the Romans, killing flamingos just to eat their tongues, and Hannibal responds with probably the second most famous Hannibal aphorism (after the one that got us all interested in Fava Beans):

Hannibal is speaking in tongues.

 

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