I don’t feel like writing introductory paragraphs this week. Let’s get straight to the meat and potatoes.

Joe Anderson stars in "Aperitivo."

Season 3, episode 4: “Aperitivo” (June 25, 2015)

“The aperitivo opens a meal, and it is similar to an appetizer. Most people gather around standing up and have alcoholic/non-alcoholic drinks…Occasionally small amounts of food are consumed…”Wikipedia

Guest stars: Joe Anderson, Gina Torres, Raúl Esparza, Katharine Isabelle, Glenn Fleshler, Kacey Rohl.

So: if an aperitivo opens a meal–and I doubt you need me to tell you that the term is the Italian form of apéritif–what’s it doing as the title of the season’s fourth episode? In a word: flashback. We still have a lot of catching up to do, with the characters Hannibal Lecter left in his wake, and it turns out that Will, the FBI, and Rinaldo Pazzi aren’t the only ones looking for him.

“Aperitivo” kicks off with two such figures, Frederick Chilton and Mason Verger. The other good doctor wishes to see Hannibal take up permanent residence at the Baltimore State Hospital etc. and make shitloads of money as the world’s leading Lecterologist–even having trademarked the phrase “Hannibal the Cannibal.” Verger, meanwhile, ostensibly seeks a new therapist to treat the post-traumatic stress disorder that came about as a result of his ordeal. However, what really drives him is a hunger for revenge–a literal one, heh heh.

As tempting as a team-up may seem, they really do have incompatible goals, leaving Chilton to hit up just about every other series regular with an offer of collaboration. His encounters with Will and Alana Bloom both take place during their convalescence, and note how the scene with Will plays out as the “true” version of the visit from Abigail seen in “Primavera.” Contemptuously rebuffed by his associates, Chilton slinks back to Baltimore etc., there to await his next guest appearance.

Recovery leaves Alana with a limp, a cane, a propensity for bright red lipstick (not that I’m complaining!), and not much apparent desire to return to the Feds. I remain unclear on whether who approaches whom in the matter, but she ends up signing on as Mason Verger’s therapist-slash-Lecterology-consultant. Not a career move with much of a future, but on the up side, she earns a bit of casual flirting from Margot. So she’s got that going for her.

Jack’s recovery seems to coincide with his wife Bella’s final turn for the worse, and in the episode’s emotional center we watch him walk away from the FBI to care for her. Her passing leaves him a bit aimless, so I guess it’s only natural he’d glom onto Will as a surrogate for those pent-up tender mercies. Hannibal thoughtfully sends Jack flowers.

One of the best things about Hannibal is that while the Will/Hannibal/Jack triangle is the heart of the series but their drama caused a lot of collateral damage and will continue to do so. Makeup and masks provide a bit of a subtheme, as Chilton and Verger compare battle scars, while Alana’s new taste in lipstick contrasts with the blood on Abigail’s face. The return of Alana and Margot marks the start of a focus on female characters, already presaged by Bedelia and Chiyoh, on a show whose first two seasons felt a bit gender-lopsided.

And, of course, the cast rises to the challenges, with Caroline Dhavernas exhibiting a new steely ruthlesness, Katharine Isabelle taking a more subdued path, and Raúl Esparza remaining scummy as ever. Gina Torres imbues Bella’s final appearances with tragedy. Joe Anderson–the new Mason Verger, replacing the second season’s Michael Pitt–fits into the role like a hand in a glove, and Glenn Fleshler makes a strong impression as a new character: Verger’s newest not-even-remotely-conscience-impaired minion Cordell Doemling.

So what we have is mostly a catch-up episode but a pretty damn good one.

Fortunato Cerlino stars in "Contorno."

Season 3, episode 5: “Contorno” (July 2, 2015)

“A contorno is a side dish and it’s commonly served alongside a secondo. These usually consist of vegetables, raw or cooked, hot or cold. They are always served in a separate dish, never on the same plate as the meat.” Wikipedia

Guest stars: Joe Anderson, Fortunato Cerlino, Tao Okamoto.

Now that we’ve caught up with all of the players, it’s time to start advancing the plot of the Italy arc in earnest. Inspector Pazzi stands at the center, confirming that “Roman Fell” is indeed Hannibal Lecter, and ultimately deciding to sell Il Mostro to Mason Verger, who puts out feelers in Florence once Alana realizes someone (Bedelia du Maurier) has been buying his favorite wine and truffles on a regular basis in the city.

The series has drawn parallels between Pazzi and Will and Jack in the past, and his motives seems less…pure, somehow, than his American counterparts’. He blames Lecter for his disgrace, and he wants to impress his young, sexy new wife. Hannibal also discusses the Pazzi family’s infamous history; maybe, he implies, treachery runs in the Inspector’s blood.

As I’ve said before, if you’re read the novel Hannibal or watched its film adaptation you know Pazzi is heading for an ignoble end, but by this point you don’t need to know anything about Lecter beyond the show to see a grisly fate looming over the inspector. It clearly shocks Alana to see Verger so casually send Pazzi to his inevitable doom, but her very association with her employer tarnishes her to an extent…and it’s not like revenge doesn’t drive her as much as Pazzi. After all, she’s the one who literally slept with the enemy, and supported Hannibal over Will the longest.

Not that Alana’s friendship or sex ever meant anything to Lecter, as he makes clear when she calls him to warn him of the blatantly obvious. Mind you, he is busy at the time, taking care of the very person Alana calls to tell him about. Guillermo Navarro–one of the series’ best directors–has fun with this particular Thomas Harris set piece…made all the more enjoyable with Jack as a witness, and the fight scene that ensues. There is just something about watching Mads Mikkelsen and Laurence Fishburne beat the ever-loving shit out of each other that just pleases the lizard-brain on the primal level. Hannibal escapes, but his neck is clearly in the noose, and Mason Verger’s holding the rope.

Okay, so where’s Will during all of this? Still riding with Chiyoh on the train back from Lithuania, comparing notes on what it’s like to have been so thoroughly ensnared by Lecter. Later, Chiyoh introduces Will to one of Alana’s new favorite words: defenstration. Once he recovers from his traveling companion’s attempt to recreate the title of Throw Momma from the Train, it’s time to start walking back to Italy.

“Contorno” is definitely my favorite episode of the season so far–having taken its damn sweet time bringing the viewer up to speed on the new status quo, it’s time to get stuff moving. A sense of escalating tension drives the episode, building anticipation for the last two episodes of the arc–episodes which promise to blow us away. Can’t wait.


HANNIBAL title screen.

Next on Hannibal: Verger means to have his revenge on Hannibal and Will. Can Jack prevent getting caught in the crossfire? What roles will Alana, Bedelia, Margot and Chiyoh play? Also, while Florence burns, Alana and Margot make love. The Italian story arc concludes next week.

Season 3 episode ranking

  1. “Contorno” (3.05)
  2. “Antipasto” (3.01)
  3. “Aperitivo” (3.04)
  4. “Secondo” (3.03)
  5. “Primavera” (3.02)

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