Finally, after more deliberation than should have been needed, Hannibal has been commissioned for a second season. It is therefore appropriate that episode ten of the series is all the proof required to see why, with Buffet Froid delivering perhaps the most chilling and narratively solid episode of the season.
Straight from the disturbing opening, Buffet Froid seems like a different kind of episode than those that have preceded it. For the first time, a murder is seen as it happens, when a young woman, alone in her home, is dragged under her bed and killed. Unlike previous episodes where the crime is seen only after in Will’s (Hugh Dancy) reenactments, the urgency created by showing this gruesome murder as it happens gives Hannibal an energy it hasn’t had before, and this is one of true fear. Whilst there are perhaps conventional horror techniques on show, the result is another confident and fresh element to the show.
This frightening beginning starts an episode full of intrigue and suspense, as Will’s condition deteriorates further into headaches and more loss of memory and time. It must be said though that once again, Hannibal seems unable to hold onto a central narrative between episodes. Whilst Will’s health has been an issue throughout, last week saw the return of Abigail Hobbs (Kacey Rohl) after several episodes. Following the revelations at the end of Trou Normand, it seems odd that this is not followed up on in this latest episode, which instead continues to focus on Will. This is not a great loss, as the Abigail Hobbs story became old very early on, but some consistency between episodes would give the show a more fluid feel instead of the noticeable changes in pace and story.
Having said that, Buffet Froid is a good enough episode to stand alone and apart from the issues of the series as a whole. When Will has another turn at the crime scene, he becomes convinced something is more wrong than usual. In his own words, “I know what kind of crazy I am and this isn’t that kind of crazy,” believing that something physical is responsible for what’s going on in his head. Confiding in Hannibal (Mads Mikkelson), Will is taken to see a neurologist friend of his and it is determined Will has a serious case of encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain. However, Hannibal’s interest is peaked and he convinces Dr. Sutcliff (John Benjamin Hickey) that they hold off telling their patient and instead study how this condition affects Will. As usual, Hannibal’s skills at manipulation are put on show, but in a more sinister way than ever before. The last few episodes have expressed Hannibal’s feelings towards Will as a friend, and so this behavior is all the more intriguing. It’s not without precedent, as Hannibal has sent Will into danger before to try and save himself. However, by withholding Will’s condition from him, Hannibal is showing his cruelty extends even to someone he may consider a friend.
With this manipulation playing out between Hannibal, Dr. Sutcliff and Will, it would not be a surprise to see the other story of the episode slip in quality, as this has been the major problem with the series as a whole. However, what makes Buffet Froid such a pleasing watch is that finally, this issue is solved. When it is discovered that the killer is the mentally ill Georgia (Ellen Muth), whose condition means that she sees herself as dead, her plight becomes all the more troubling for Will, who sees a lot of himself in this girl. Linking Will and his quarry in this way means that the killer is humanised in a way that has been lacking up till now, with a particularly affecting scene with the girl’s mother adding to the emotional weight of the episode.
In an episode that finally draws together all of its component parts, Buffet Froid is as pleasing an episode to watch as any that Hannibal has to offer. Hugh Dancy’s performance, which has been almost wasted up to now, is finally given the emphasis it deserves, and with Mikkelsen’s Hannibal still active behind the scenes of almost every shot, it is truly a gratifying prospect that this show can continue into a second series. Of course, this season has plenty more to give, and with its climax only a few weeks away, Hannibal is building to quite a finale.
“Dr. Lecter here is one of the sanest men I know” – Dr. Sutcliff may come to regret those words.
Best Kill: Sadly, to reveal the best kill of the episode would give away its biggest twist, but the brutalised faces of the killer’s victims are something not to be forgotten.
Best Scene: The surprisingly emotional scene between Will, Jack and Georgia’s mother is a rare example of how the show can construct compassion as well as horror.