With this week’s “Entree,” ‘Hannibal’ continued to subvert the expectations of a network crime drama, further proving that this new series has both the capacity and ambition to function as something much greater.
A nurse in a psychiatric prison is killed in brutal fashion at the start of the hour, but there is no doubt about who killed her, nor is there any hunt for the killer. The murderer is Dr. Abel Gibson, who claims to be the famed serial killer known as the Chesapeake Ripper. We’re introduced to the head of the prison, an arrogant man who believes Gibson’s claims with unsettling certainty. Will Graham isn’t convinced, and eventually neither are Alana Bloom or Jack Crawford. When Jack starts receiving mysterious and seemingly pre-recorded calls from a former FBI trainee, Miriam Lass, it’s all but confirmed that Gibson isn’t the real Chesapeake Ripper (the real killer is of course the one making the calls). But that creates a much more challenging question: Who is the real Chesapeake Ripper?
“Entree” is built around answering that questions. Not for the characters on the show, but for the audience.
The name of this episode is no accident. The first five hours of ‘Hannibal’ did a fabulous job of establishing the world, the tone, and the characters, as well as the lengths the show is willing to go to shock with depictions of madness, violence, and depravity. But there was one element conspicuously absent: the eponymous serial killer, Hannibal Lecter.
Oh sure, Dr. Lecter (portrayed brilliantly by Mads Mikkelson) was present in the first five episodes and played a big role in the proceedings. But Dr. Lecter THE SERIAL KILLER was not. He was devious, polite, and impossibly creepy, and the show heavily implied that he committed more than one murder. But the audience had never actually seen him act violently on screen.
Until this week. Through flashbacks, the tragic story of Miriam Lass is rolled out. Jack Crawford pushed her to gather information illegally from doctors first-hand, and one of those doctors happened to be Lecter. She got too close, and Lecter strangled her with his own hands. All that’s left of her in the present day is, apparently, a severed forearm and hand, left by Hannibal for Jack to find.
Mikkelson’s usual mannered inscrutability is going to lend exceptional power to moments in which Lecter does show emotion, and we got the first taste of that here as he reads about his murders being credited to Gibson. I suspect that going forward, the series’ focus is going to shift towards Hannibal as an active serial killer, and his own psychosis to go along with Will’s.
And if “Entree” is any indication, this will be fascinating and fertile storytelling ground for ‘Hannibal’ to cover.