In what is perhaps the most interesting, and certainly the most brazen, chapter of the series so far, episode seven of Hannibal serves up a heady mix of psychology and bloodshed. With Hannibal’s (Mads Mikkelson) antics as the Chesapeake Ripper once again in full flow, Sorbet offers not only a barefaced look at his life as a cannibalistic murderer, but also an insight into the working mind of the iconic Dr. Lecter.
With the series still facing a question mark over its future, having not yet been renewed, its no surprise that Hannibal has begun to play up the profile of its titular character, as the real glimpse of his capabilities seen at the climax of last week’s episode is built upon. With Will (Hugh Dancy) and Jack (Laurence Fishburne) continuing their search for the Ripper, Dr. Lecter’s unwavering confidence is seen all the more as he seeks out the ingredients for one of his famous dinner parties. Opening with Hannibal enjoying a night at the opera, the sophisticated tastes of the series’ lead killer are mirrored in the organs that he begins to collect for the feast. Kidneys, liver, hearts, and even a spleen are all on the menu, a wide range that confuses Will into searching for organ harvesters instead of the true culprit.
However, with the amusingly matter of fact manner in which Hannibal matches recipes to business cards, and the subsequent rising body count, Sorbet is also an episode that delves more fully into the psychology of its characters. Whilst the mindsets of Will and Jack are still unhinged (no real change there then), it is the new element of Hannibal’s mind that makes the episode unique. Many new aspects are being added to the mild-mannered killer, not least by the riveting scene between him and his own psychiatrist, Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier (played superbly by guest star Gillian Anderson). Up to now, it would appear that everyone is taken in by Hannibal’s act, and so it is all the more telling when Du Maurier asserts that she can see through his deceptions, naming her patient “a well-tailored person suit”. Brief instances throughout the episode belie the true nature of Hannibal, either through his tearful response to the opera, or his startled reaction when confronted by an empty waiting room. These moments are subtle but all the more effective, as the series continues to trickle out the true personality of its lead character, despite the flood of violent activity he is now committing. In any other hands this could be a dangerous tactic, but with Mads Mikkelsen fully in control of the character, these feint touches are brilliantly portrayed, bringing sympathy to a character who, on paper, deserves none.
With Hannibal’s story finally moving to the fore, it is a shame to see the rest of the show suffer as a consequence. Still plagued by visions of Abigail Hobbs, the great elk hallucination, and rapidly unimaginative death scenes, Will Graham’s narrative may be becoming less and less like the intriguing beginnings of his character. Scenes with Hannibal are of course still memorable, but this is due to the presence of the doctor, who continues to manipulate Will in this episode by moving the investigation away from an individual killer and onto a group of organ harvesters. Similarly, Jack Crawford’s angst is becoming all the more tiresome now that repetitive dreamlike moments are being added to his character as well as Will’s.
Whilst it could be the case that the two sides of Hannibal’s narrative will eventually rejoin, its current state says little for the future of the show as a whole. This is certainly a shame, as with Hannibal’s growth, and the introspection that the show has begun to develop on its main character, it could be that in some respects, Hannibal is beginning to bring its true promise to fruition.
“Nothing here is vegetarian” – In an episode of numerous amusing lines from the culinary killer, Hannibal’s simple introduction to his feast sums up the double meaning of almost everything he says.
Best Kill: Whilst it isn’t seen, the inevitability of Hannibal’s movements towards a broken down insurance salesman at the roadside is as effective as any of the series’ memorable tableaus.
Best Scene: The formally polite but endlessly intriguing session between Hannibal and his psychiatrist Dr. Du Maurier offers an unmistakable glimpse into Hannibal’s true self.