The much anticipated third season of Hannibal begins with the show’s familiar omniscient voice of Mads Mikkelsen informing audiences of what had just happened in the last season/episode through the simple but loaded ‘previously, on Hannibal’. However, viewers of the show clearly didn’t need to be reminded of the bloodbath that was Mizumono, not only because the episode marked Hannibal as, in my clearly non-bias opinion, the best TV show to have graced our television screens from 2013 (and even ever), but also because the opening episode does not even address this episode that left thousands and thousands of people crying, screaming, standing up in their seats with their eyes falling out of their skull (*cough*). Instead, you’d be forgiven for completely forgetting about the Season 2 finale and thinking that Hannibal had randomly turned into an extremely classy, alternate-universe E! reality show that follows the lives of a workaholic husband and his distanced wife.
The tone of the episodes in Paris/Florence is set from the beginning – we see Hannibal Lecter looking scruffy and imperfect for the first time; visual metaphors and conceits are immediately introduced through the motorbike/moon imagery; and, as Matt Zoller Seitz pointed out, the frames and mise-en-scene are a lot less claustrophobic compared to season 1 and 2. Moreover, in the process of mourning the death of Will’s pendulum swings, whilst re-watching this episode it’s noticeable that the opening of season three has Hannibal’s own take of this — when he is entering the building in Paris, we see a quick succession of multiple fade-to-blacks accompanied by the juxtaposition of the scene’s slow-motion with Hannibal walking in. As this is happening, each fade-to-black and fade back to the Hannibal universe reveals something new: first we see the back of Hannibal’s head, next the front of his face, next a glass of champagne, next a person who is inevitably on Hannibal’s dinner menu for tonight, and so on — it’s as if, much like the opening of season one with Will Graham and his pendulum swings, we are being introduced into Dr. Lecter’s world; Hannibal got into Will Graham’s brain, it’s time, Bryan Fuller – the show’s writer/showrunner – seems to say, we got into his. These similarities in introductory shots to the characters can also be read as an introduction to their psychotic makeup: Will recreates murder scenes, whereas Hannibal creates them, this exemplified by the fact that this is essentially an introduction to Mikkelsen’s character. For the first season, audiences – whether they’d watched the films or read the book – knew who Hannibal Lecter was, he needed no introduction. Will Graham, however, is less well-known, and thus season one almost completely revolved around Will and getting a look into his brain. Season two began to introduce audiences to the inner workings of other characters, however as Hannibal entered more and more into his brain and into controlling Will, the show started to become more an examination of Hannibal through Will- but only lightly. In season three, we finally go inside his brain, whether that’s through stories told by other characters, widescreen flashbacks, or the fade-to-black sequences said above.
Comparing this episode with the past two seasons also proves to contrast the verbal nature of season one and two with the visual nature of season three. Whilst the previous two seasons were obviously shot beautifully, season three takes it to the next level, creating an array of oxymoronic visual metaphors and conceits, one in particular being the use of the single drop of blood. We see this first quite early on in the episode during Bedelia’s flashback; the blood, dripping from Hannibal’s body, is prolific. As the camera continues to focus on the blood dripping down, it can’t seem to focus on one particular drop of blood, instead just watching blood poor to the ground in a beautiful slow-motion micro shot. This quickly changes, however, when Bedelia enters the shop in Florence and the camera focus pulls to a rabbit. The camera focuses on the rabbit’s drop of blood, and watches as it falls to the ground, splattering once it hits the surface. This, to me, seems to be much more effective than the previous mass of blood Hannibal was washing off, and perhaps Bedelia can see this too: a drop of blood is much more meaningful, dangerous, and effective than a volume.
People who’ve watched this show for the past two seasons keep telling me they ‘don’t get’ season three. The reason they ‘don’t get’ season three, I think, is because the past two seasons have always been quite conventional in terms of the crime slash horror genre narrative-wise: there is a murder, FBI investigates, find murderer, ends at that episode (Hannibal is obviously a lot more complicated than this, but I’m oversimplifying to make a point). Instead of this, season three has a completely broken and multi-stranded narrative, along with the visual conceits and more dramatic/complex scenarios: this show seems like it’s asking a lot from its audience, but when one returns to Hannibal’s conversation with Gideon in one of the over-saturated widescreen flashbacks, it’s clear this season, or at least the first six episodes in Florence, are meant to be watched as a fairy tale — we are meant to take Hannibal’s ‘once upon a time’ introduction seriously, as we are experiencing his past and present, we are experiencing this show. This is made clear by the closing of Antipasto as Hannibal leaves us with his creation – the visualisation of his broken heart; the visualisation of Hannibal externalising his experiences.
FAVOURITE QUOTE: “Morality doesn’t exist, only morale” – HANNIBAL LECTER
BEST ADVICE: If you are travelling alone and someone asks if you’re travelling alone, don’t tell them you are travelling alone.