It’s difficult to review “Entree” as a stand alone episode because it is, maybe more than any television episode I’ve ever seen, only half of a full story arc. I was legitimately surprised when the credits rolled because the entire episode felt like the set up for a feature length film so the end came as quite a shock. For this reason, I decided to review the episode for what it was, a springboard that sets up more story lines than it resolves because if there’s one thing “Entree” does well, it’s set up next week’s episode for a real roller coaster of events.
When the teaser at the end of last week’s episode name dropped the Chesapeake Ripper (the media-ascribed, serial killer name for Hannibal Lecter’s grizzly handy work), I knew there would be a big step forward in terms of the plot surrounding Hannibal’s true nature. But like so many other moments during this show, Hannibal is noticeably absent whenever his evil is most in the spotlight. Instead of focusing on Hannibal, the early parts of the episode introduce Dr. Abel Gideon (guest star, Eddie Izzard) who has claimed the title of the Chesapeake Ripper both verbally and by brutally murdering a female doctor in the psychiatric hospital and displaying her body in the Ripper’s signature style. In a sequence of interviews that are way too reminiscent of Silence of the Lambs to be unintentional, Dr. Bloom and Will come to the conclusion that Gideon is just not the right kind of crazy to be the Ripper, thus the Ripper (who has been inactive for almost two years) must still be on the loose.
What’s great about Gideon’s presence is the way he serves as a foil to Mads Mikkelsen’s Hannibal. Everything about Gideon (his body type, the cell he’s in, his whimsical playfulness with his interrogators) seems to channel Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of Dr. Lecter and how different that Hannibal is from Mads’ version. It’s interesting because, overall, Gideon is rather boring as far as serial killers go on this show. He’s a cat playing with its prey before finishing it off. Hannibal, on the other hand, is playing a much different game. He’s more like a spider who uses the movement of the fly to its own advantage. He gets involved with his prey, lays traps for them in their psyches. Little does Jack know that when he’s opening up to Hannibal about his former protege’s death, he’s actually talking to her killer, the person who’s been using her death to taunt him, to break his spirit, to make him attack straw men. For Hannibal, there’s no spark of enjoyment in his murders. His manipulations of Will, Jack, Dr. Bloom, and especially Abigail are more like networking in the business world, a means to an end. After all, Hannibal isn’t interested in the kill. He’s interested in the meat. That in essence, is what separates Hannibal from every other killer we’ve seen in the past five episodes, Gideon included. He may not feel bad about taking a life, but it doesn’t seem to be something he particularly likes doing either.
This is why up until this episode, Hannibal has seemed, dare I say it, likable. Bryan Fuller has achieved the impossible by making a real serial killer an object of the audience’s respect if not their affection. He’s definitely the most charming character in the show. What was great about “Entree” was the way it quite abruptly reminded us just how terrifying Hannibal really is, shattering the positive illusion he’s set up for us and everyone around him. When we get the flashback to the way Hannibal abducts Miriam as Jack is relaying his feelings of guilt about her death, we see how horrible his facade really is. This is the first time we get to see Hannibal in “I’m a killer” mode. That image interspersed with Hannibal relaxing by the fire, sniffing his brandy, and listening to Jack’s thoughts about Miriam reveals just how much of a blank slate Hannibal really is emotionally, how everyone who looks at him, including the audience, sees what they want to see.
What “Entree” did really well, was set up the premise for next week. Hannibal is in play, and after five episodes worth of buildup, he seems pretty terrifying. His mind games with Jack Crawford using Miriam’s recorded pleas for help were particularly chilling and very effective at hitting Jack where he is most vulnerable. Hannibal has spent the entire show, up until now, becoming “close” to all the people who will soon be hunting him. He’s taken know your enemy to new lengths by psychoanalyzing all of his potential enemies (at their own request). Next week will be a big episode. “Entree” covered a lot of ground and set up a high stakes scenario. I’ll expect something fast paced and violent, like Hannibal when he takes his shoes off.
- Will was noticeably absent from this episode. I expect he’ll play a bigger part next week as the hunt for the Ripper gets underway.
- Jack’s line about how he keeps wondering where his wife will die was incredibly sad.
- Even though Nathan Fillion did it first on Buffy, I can’t believe Will (as Gideon) was allowed to push his thumbs into the nurse’s eyes on network television. The way he did it slowly made my stomach turn.
- Anybody else think that everything Hannibal makes looks delicious?
- How terrible is Dr. Chilton at his job? Not only does he inadvertently make a psychopath believe he’s an even worse psychopath, his sales pitch for Will to become his patient goes something like Hey, you’re really weird. We’re always talking about how weird you are. Want to stay in our asylum so we can study how weird you are?
- The original fourth episode, “Ceuf,” which was pulled in light of the Boston Marathon bombings and the Sandy Hook shootings and turned into a web series can now be purchased on iTunes for those interested.