For fans of the Thomas Harris novels, and the films based on them, Hannibal may so far have been a somewhat unwelcome departure from what they have come to expect from adaptations of Dr. Hannibal Lecter. With a mentally altered Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and a hugely understated Hannibal (Mads Mikkelson), the series has sought to carve itself a new narrative space in Harris’ creation. However, with episode six of the series filled with references and plot points from the source material, Hannibal seems intent on keeping to its roots after all, throwing caution to the wind and revealing Dr. Lecter for what he truly is.
With the Abigail Hobbs narrative still on the back burner, episode six marks a change both in tone and subject, bringing in a wider narrative for the series to follow. Opening in what is most certainly the future home of Lecter (a Baltimore psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane), Entrée is an aptly named episode, serving to introduce a new element for the show to follow. After two years as a model patient, Dr. Able Gideon (Eddie Izzard) kills a nurse in a fashion similar to the infamous Chesapeake Ripper, a surgical killer who apparently disappeared at the same time Dr. Gideon was admitted. Believing he might be the Ripper, Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) and Will Graham investigate with the help of the returning Alana Bloom (Caroline Dharvernas), who has past experience with Gideon.
Right from the very beginning, Entrée serves as a reminder of the show’s origins. From the presence of the arrogant Dr. Chilton, to the set design of Gideon’s cell block, the episode channels Silence of the Lambs to its very core. Even Eddie Izzard seems to be attempting to evoke the performance of Anthony Hopkins as he sneers and mocks from inside his cell. Imprisoned for killing his wife and family at Thanksgiving, Izzard’s Dr. Gideon snidely takes credit for the work of the Ripper. However, it is quickly revealed that this is not the case, and that in fact, as many will know, the real Ripper is Dr. Lecter.
For the first time in the series, Hannibal is the central killer of the episode, even if it is only the audience that knows it. It is therefore surprising that the doctor does not feature much, appearing in only a few scenes. Instead, Entrée delivers in backstory, using flashbacks to reveal the events of two years previous when Crawford was investigating Hannibal’s work as the Ripper. These flashbacks introduce Miriam Lass (Anna Chlumsky), a trainee agent hired by Jack who, despite her name, may as well be called Clarice Starling for all the difference there is in her character. Having disappeared whilst investigating the Ripper, memories of Miriam are brought up for Jack when he receives a series of phone calls supposedly from her or, more likely, the Ripper himself. Laurence Fishburne continues to impress with another strong performance as Crawford, who is struggling to deal with not only his guilt caused by the fate of his trainee, but also his sadness from learning of his wife’s cancer.
However, it is Lecter that once again steals the episode, an impressive feat for a character barely seen. The key to this success is that if Mikkelsen’s brooding figure is not seen, it is still surely felt, with the consequences of his past actions fueling the drama of the episode. The brief scenes in which he does feature are brilliantly played, from the brief moment of Lecter learning the “confirmed” identity of the Ripper as Gideon, or the amusing dinner party with Alana Bloom and the ill-fated Dr. Chilton. Many know the future of these characters, and so it is a delight to see the beginnings of a narrative that will become so important.
Whilst there is much to enjoy from this more focused story, it does rather blatantly display the show’s intentions. The joy of Hannibal has been its subtlety, its ability to take its time and only barely scratch the surface of Hannibal’s actions as a killer. What Entrée does, whether for good or bad, is to bring these crimes into the harsh light of day and with almost no regard for keeping anything back. In the past, the lushly detailed meals served up by Hannibal tease his true identity, while the final moments of this episode shout it for all to hear. Whilst it is good to see the show move on to perhaps a more attractive narrative, there is a chance that Hannibal may have shown its hand too early and undone the solid groundwork that has already been laid. Only time will tell if this change is as obvious as it seems, otherwise the mystery of Dr. Lecter may be over all too soon.
Best Kill: Will’s reenactment of Gideon’s murder of the night nurse is a brutal change from the show’s usual finesse when it comes to killing.
Best Scene: Hannibal’s dinner parties are always enjoyable to watch, but with the doomed Dr. Chilton in attendance, the atmosphere is all the more substantial.