John Lucking reviews the seventh episode of Hannibal….
If humour is relative to the show it exists on then by Hannibal’s standards ‘Sorbet’ was a laugh-out-loud romp. By this point Mads has tuned his portrayal of Lecter so finely that even the slightest turn of the dial in either direction manages to leap out from the show around it. His acts of horror have all taken place off-screen and in their place we are given wry asides and people-based puns, all of which emanate from a stony exterior which cracks only in the presence of blood and chaos. ‘Sorbet’s’ goal, however, is one of insight and introspection; to finally take us into Lecter’s world – his real world, not the facade he’s developed and perfected over decades. The way to Lecter’s mind is of course via the bodies of others, and so our introduction this week begins in the throat of an opera singer. It’s an amazing shot; a smart use of CGI which takes us into Lecter’s head through his aural cavity before showing him on the brink of tears at the performance unfolding before him. Before this scene we are given a brief introduction to Will as he tells his class his latest theories on the Ripper, but even this serves to illuminate Lecter’s thinking process as Will adopts the word “sounders” for the Ripper’s prey. “Sounders” refers to a small group of pigs and this is how Will believes the Ripper sees his victims: “not as people, not as prey… pigs.”
Miriam Lass is also brought up again by Will while Jack watches on from the side. The lasting impact of violence has always been a strength of this show, so it’s nice to see her introduction and (apparent) death was more than a self-contained narrative within the previous episode. Jack’s mental state throughout is shown to be in a parallel decline with Will as he begins hallucinating and endures nightmares over the guilt he feels for Miriam’s death. There isn’t much for Jack to do in this episode, and while Will does get to deal with another crime scene this is far from the focus of the episode. The killer-of-the-week isn’t even a killer; he’s a man trying to make some money with illegal surgery who botches a job. It’s another smart workaround to satisfy the audience’s blood-lust without the show repeating itself ad nauseum, and even the low-key nature of the crime helps to amplify the episode’s primary focus of Lecter.
Hannibal has so far done an amazing job of shooting food (something notoriously hard to do), and this week it reached further even further with an overall sensory focus. Sound, sight, taste, smell and touch all factored into Lecter’s grand scheme of a feast for his friends, but more surprising is that this week marks the first time we have seen Lecter hurt. Admittedly, his version of being hurt may involve nothing more than a swallow and slight depression of the cheeks, but he is unmistakably hurt when Will fails to make an appearance for his scheduled appointment. While at the opera Lecter also bumps into a patient named Franklin, a man with an apparent almost teenage-like admiration of Lecter. Franklin tells Lecter in their next session that their meeting was no coincidence; that he’s been following him and looking for chances to meet with him outside of their strictly regimented doctor-patient environment. Franklin talks of a desire to have met with Michael Jackson -to touch greatness- and it’s clear that this adoration has transferred to Lecter. While traditionally repulsed by the weakness of others, it seems Lecter feels a sense of pity -perhaps understanding- with Franklin. While he mistakenly perceives Lecter to be equal, Lecter does seek understanding or kinship with another soul. Franklin states during his appointment that he wishes to see Lecter outside of time he has to pay for, and the connotation of being an emotional prostitute is something Lecter clearly takes umbrage with, but it also leaves a mark on his psyche. He is above Franklin and yet he is subject to the same weakness and therefore open to indignities; in both needing a friend and the feeling of being let down by that same person.
This need for friend carries directly over to the next scene featuring (drum roll please) Gillian Anderson as Lecter’s psychiatrist, Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier. It’s been a long wait for this meeting and it does not disappoint; Bedelia is clearly intellectually equal (if not superior) to Lecter, but this proves to be a double-edged sword as she recognises that his outwards appearance is a construction. Franklin having left an impression leads Lecter to reach out to Bedelia as a friend and not a psychiatrist, but he is rebuffed precisely because of his facade. Bedelia knows that he is wearing a mask, but she does not know what it hides. Going one step further she refers to this construction as a “people suit” – an apt metaphor and perhaps a nod to Buffalo Bill’s preferred summer-wear. Gillian’s role this episode is brief but impactful, and essentially it’s just enough to make you thrilled to see her again.
All three scenes of therapy also deserve special note for their constant momentum. The episode was directed by James Foley, and it seems apparent that if someone with a less intricate understanding of shooting dialogue-laden scenes had directed that the episode would undoubtedly sag in the middle. The lighting and framing throughout all three sessions proves distinct, with Lecter undergoing an unspoken arc as told through these scenes alone. Even the scenes of food preparation are given a kinetic energy that helps propel ‘Sorbet’ to its conclusion. This is perhaps the show’s tightest hour so far, but for Hannibal it seems (as it always should in a perfect world) that each director brings a certain strength with them to their episode, amplifying something from the script that another director would not, rather than (as it usually is in this world) a never-ending series of directors failing to live up to the potential set by the pilot.
Having failed to connect with Franklin, Bedelia and Will Lecter’s attention thus turns to the people he can impress; his chosen dinner guests. We’re shown somewhat more practical information such as a sampling of his victims, including how he selects them and the ritual that precedes a feast for high society. Will’s assessment of his victims as sounders is particularly prescient as we see bodies matched with recipes, all of which are taken handily from a Rolodex with an accompanying business card belonging to the deceased. The preparation of a heart wrapped in bacon certainly wins the award for the strongest competing feelings of the week, with disgust narrowly winning out over hunger. Lecter also gets to step outside of the office again, first visiting Will after he fails to materialise for their appointment, and then accompanying the FBI to the location of our suspected organ harvester. It’s good to see him in a range of environments and it also helps prevent him from becoming caged within his office, something which there’ll be plenty of time for later in the series (assuming NBC don’t discard their one prestige drama). Arriving at the scene Lecter is forced to insert his hands into the stomach of a dying man to stem the bleeding and the thrill of this is too much for him to contain; he turns to Will and smiles. This is perhaps the first moment in the show so far that Will has shown any concern towards Lecter, and while it did only manifest in an unconscious sneer, it’s clear that this will be one of many moments that Will later looks back on dumbfounded at his lack of vision.