If you’ve ever been to a marginally fancy restaurant (or, like, an Olive Garden), you know that “antipasto” essentially refers to an appetizer. While last season’s cuisine-terminology titles sometimes didn’t seem to be relevant to their episodes, an appetizer is exactly what we got last night.
Spoilers for last night’s episode, and all the prerequisite trigger warnings for Hannibal (cannibalism, gaslighting/emotional abuse, general gore and violence, you know the deal).
“Antipasto” opens in Paris, where Hannibal crashes an academic’s party. He discovers from one of the attendees—the guy’s former TA, in fact—that said academic is kind of an asshole. Hannibal tracks the academic back to his house and kills and eats both him and his wife.
There’s apparently a reason for this, because the next time we see Hannibal and Bedelia, they’re posing as the selfsame professor and his wife in Italy. Hannibal has taken advantage of yet another professor’s mysterious disappearance to step into that position, and is giving lectures on medieval torture devices and deaths by hanging in Biblical mythology, among other things. Bedelia is filling in as the perfect professor’s wife, attending the school’s social events and picking up groceries for dinner on the way home every day.
Everything seems to be going well until Dimmond, the TA from the party at the beginning, appears in Italy looking for his old protege. Dimmond helps Hannibal maintain his cover in front of his colleagues, but clearly knows something is up. He joins Hannibal and Bedelia for dinner, and comments on Bedelia’s dinner choice of white wine and shellfish. She insists it’s just that she doesn’t like eating anything with a nervous system, but Dimmond jokingly points out that it’s what the Romans used to feed livestock so that they’d have a delicate flavor. Bedelia is clearly spooked, and Hannibal looks a little like Dimmond has spoiled his big surprise.
Throughout the episode, the action is interspersed with flashbacks. Most of them cover Dr. Gideon’s nonconsensual stay in Hannibal’s house as Hannibal served Gideon parts of himself for dinner. Their conversation is constantly philosophical—Gideon dispassionately contemplates the snails and shellfish that Hannibal has cultivated to have a specific taste, by feeding them specific things. He ponders whether it’s better to be aware of being prepared to be eaten, as he is, or to be blissfully ignorant, like the snails. This theme comes home to roost for Bedelia—she is now aware that Hannibal is intentionally grooming her to be dinner and she’s deeply uncomfortable with it. We also get a flashback to Bedelia when she was attacked by her patient, and Hannibal part-helped, part-manipulated her out of trouble, showing us what might be have been the beginning of Hannibal’s power play over her.
Over the next day, Bedelia contemplates making a run for it, and almost successfully does—but Hannibal comes home with Dimmond just as she’s about to leave. He brutally murders Dimmond in front of her, and then gently removes her coat with his bloody hands. She’s not going anywhere.
Up till now, all of Hannibal’s murders this episode have been quiet and subtle, but he’s apparently done with that bullshit. He sets up Dimmond’s body in a grisly display in his lecture hall, and the credits roll.
“Antipasto” certainly sets the stage for the third season, but that’s… almost entirely it. Although last season’s finale perhaps suffered from a surfeit of things happening, this seemed to have the opposite problem. It was really quiet. (Hell, the first five minutes of the episode were completely dialogue-free.) There wasn’t a ton of tension until three quarters of the way in, when Dimmond reappeared, and it became clear why we were having all these Gideon flashbacks. All in all, it seemed like more of a prologue to the season than an actual season premiere. I think things are going to pick up next episode, though, and we’ll have more of that Hannibal-typical sense of ever-growing hysteria.
Going forward, I think there’s still more to learn about Bedelia. Last season we saw that she seemed to be clever enough to get the jump on Hannibal. When we saw her on the plane with him at the end of the finale, it led to a HeAteUs full of speculation that she was a full partner in his schemes, or at least sympathetic. This episode offers a different perspective—that Bedelia is as much a prisoner of Hannibal’s as Gideon was, even if she’s not eating her own limbs for dinner yet. I’m curious to see how her character develops now that she’s in the spotlight; for this episode, at least, she was our touchstone character, the one the audience empathized with, and if this continues we’ll get to find out a little more what’s going on in her head. I do hope that her character does have some agency in the plot, and isn’t just reduced to Hannibal’s victim in the end.
Next episode features the return of Will Graham, who is apparently still alive. In fact, if the preview is to be believed, Jack and Alana seem to have also survived the bloodbath that was last season’s finale. Till next week!
HeAteUs-es survived: 2
Artsy black and white Gideon flashbacks: Lots
Confirmed deaths from the Season 2 finale: Zero as of yet—there’s still hope!