To me, Hannibal himself is the most interesting character in Hannibal so naturally “Sorbet” which dissects the up until now enigmatic nature of Dr. Lecter’s character was for me the best and most interesting episode of the show to date. In “Sorbet,” Hannibal has really hit its stride and is proving that it’s not only a worthwhile prequel but also a high quality one that expands upon the ground work of the source material laid down before it. It’s also just plain old entertaining television.
As I mentioned, I have found Mads Mikkelsen’s Hannibal Lecter to be the stand out character in the series, but up until this point, his appeal has resided solely in his mystery. Hannibal is intriguing not only because of what we know about him before the show even starts but also because of the hollowness of the character on screen. Hannibal’s psychiatrist Bedelia Du Maurier (played by The X-Files alum Gillian Anderson) hits the chilling nail on the head when she tells Hannibal that she knows he doesn’t wear his true self in public, that the form of Hannibal we see is a meticulously crafted persona. Her assessment of Hannibal is really a voicing of the audience’s relationship with the character. We see glimpses of the real Hannibal, delivered ever so subtly by Mikkelsen with an upturned lip or nearly imperceptible eye movement. What we see is often frightening so it was strange to hear Dr. Maurier, who doesn’t strike me as someone evil or cruel, say that the Hannibal she sees underneath is someone she “likes,” a far cry from the incomplete monster that Will Graham describes that should never have been brought back from the hospital by its parents. Either Dr. Maurier is lying or mistaken about what she sees, or she sees something we haven’t yet. The rest of the episode, I think, helps the audience to view Hannibal the way she does–sympathetically.
The show very rarely goes out of its way to show the audience what Hannibal is really like. Instead, it tends to explain Hannibal by contrasting him with other characters. The biggest example this episode was the obvious contrast between Hannibal and his invasive patient. The patient talks to Hannibal about how lonely he is and how painful it is to be alone. Hannibal responds in his own way that it doesn’t have to be. He clearly despises the patient (it’s arguable that the revulsion Hannibal felt running into his patient and his friend at the dinner party triggered his next “feast”) and he is clearly reluctant to admit any resemblance between himself and the overbearing, overly emotional patient, but it is undeniable after this episode that Hannibal, the emotionless, calculating, serial cannibal, is in fact lonely.
When you think about it, it really does make sense. He surrounds himself with like minded people (Will Graham, Abigail) and is constantly opening up his table to everyone he can in the most communal fashion possible. Of course, it doesn’t help that the food he serves is mostly human organs taken from victims Dr. Lecter has deemed unworthy of them. But really, in a way, even his desire to take human hearts, and kidneys, and stomachs, and livers from random people who are rude to him and transform these pieces of flesh into beautiful dishes served to his guests, is really a misguided way for Hannibal to understand his purpose in human society. I’m not endorsing his behavior at all and he clearly has many psychological problems, but it seems that Hannibal really considers himself an artist above all, taking something that is common and hateful to him and transforming it into something beautiful and nourishing. It’s how he has reconciled the fact that he is one of the lonely “hospital mistakes” Will Graham so adequately described. To him, his lack of feeling is a gift, and he is using it the best way he knows how. So of course he is intrigued by Will Graham and upset when he is late for their weekly pow-wow. Will is the person who is going to understand him, if anybody is. Will is the person who is going to see his work for what it is.
I was afraid that when they finally added the man to the mystery with Hannibal, it would ruin the interest I had in him as had been done with many fictional portrayals of serial killers before him. It’s hard to make an audience sympathetic to this kind of monster while still maintaining that mystery that draws people to monsters in the first place. It seems, at least so far, that Bryan Fuller has managed to walk that very thin line, aided by Mikkelsen’s stellar performance in the role he was almost born to play. Things have definitely taken a turn for the better now that Dr. Lecter has resumed his role in as the Chesapeake Ripper. Let’s hope the show doesn’t get cancelled right when it’s at its best.
- The cinematography and set design continue to be one of the strongest aspects of Hannibal. The shot of the opera singers vocal chords was not only delightfully weird, it also helped the audience see the way Hannibal views human beings and the things he finds beautiful. Two birds one stone.
- I seriously need to stop watching this show when I’m hungry. Hannibal can even make human kidneys look appetizing.
- I was a little taken aback by how stand alone the episode was considering how cliff-hanger like the last episode was, but “Sorbet” was so good I didn’t really care.
- This show balances its ensemble cast well. This episode in particular managed to focus on Hannibal but also give us sizeable developments with Will and Jack as well.