One of the balancing acts that Bryan Fuller and the Hannibal writers have to perform is dropping hints and tidbits for Lecter fans while making sure that the chronology of the show makes sense. There are certain things that people who loved The Silence Of The Lambs are going to want from a show about Hannibal Lecter. Episode Six, ‘Entrée’, serves many of those up courtesy of its special guest star and the facility in which much of the episode takes place.
After two years as a model prisoner at the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, Dr Abel Gideon (Eddie Izzard) brutally murders a nurse and stages the corpse in the manner of the Chesapeake Ripper, who Jack Crawford never caught. Gideon is now claiming responsibility and the fame for those killings. When Crawford and Will Graham notice discrepancies, they decide to leak the story to Freddie Lounds in the hope that the real Chesapeake Ripper will resurface. Instead of a fresh murder, however, Jack gets a haunting call from the trainee agent who disappeared while chasing up a lead two years previously and whose body was never found.
While much of the series has been generously sprinkled with nods to Red Dragon, ‘Entrée’ is packed with references to The Silence Of The Lambs. It’s the first time the show has taken us to the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, where Hannibal will eventually take up residence, and we meet Dr Frederick Chilton (Raul Esperza). Hannibal serves lambs’ tongues at his dinner with Chilton and Alana Bloom. Miriam Lass (Anna Chlumsky), the trainee who Jack pulls out of class to help him hunt down leads for the Chesapeake Ripper, is presented to us as an almost proto-Clarice Starling, not just in looks, but in her way of speaking to her superior. The scene in which the two first meet feels almost like a recreation of Crawford’s first discussion of Buffalo Bill with Starling, although the black-and-white visuals did feel like one stylistic step too far.
Then there’s this week’s special guest star: Eddie Izzard as the homicidal Dr Abel Gideon. While Izzard might seem like an odd casting choice (beyond the fact that Fuller loves bringing back people he’s worked with), the actor gives a calm and measured performance that’s surprisingly effective. Given that he’s occupying the position Hannibal will later claim, Izzard’s restraint is most welcome. The fact that the crimes Gideon is taking credit for are Hannibal’s gives the direct dialogue lifts from Lambs (“So rare to find one in captivity,” etc) a lovely added twist.
If there’s a lot that feels familiar in ‘Entrée’, there are several surprises that pack some serious emotional impact. It’s a relatively quiet episode for Will, but his re-creation of the nurse’s murder is one of the most shocking instances of those sequences. His interaction with Freddie Lounds (Lara Jean Chorostecki) is still wonderful, as the smiling tabloid hack responds to his muttered insults with double the sharpness. It’s also worth noting that the previously unshakeable Crawford is shaken by the feeling of responsibility towards Miriam Lass. Like last week’s episode ‘Coquilles,’ there’s a surprising amount of time spent exploring the character. Fishburne continues to put in sterling work as he vents his frustration at not being able to help Bella, before the phone call from the rookie he recruited pushes him even further.
Chlumsky (In the Loop, Veep) gives Lass a Starling-like steely jaw, but while Clarice’s intuition saved her in Jame Gumb’s house, nothing can help Lass in Hannibal’s study. Her desperate call to Crawford (“I was so wrong. I don’t want to die like this”) doesn’t lose its impact on repeat listens.
What’s even more stomach-turning, though, is the moment when we cut away from the attack on Lass to Hannibal sitting by the fire with Crawford. Lecter tells Crawford that he musn’t give up on Bella, but the glint in Mads Mikkelsen’s eye is another reminder of what lies behind the good doctor’s mask. To make the moment even more chilling, we still don’t know what he did with Lass. The arm may have been found, but where is the rest of her?
Using elements from the Lecter canon that we’re already familiar with, ‘Entrée’ starts to move larger pieces of the series into play. If it feels a little incomplete, it’s because it’s the first episode which hasn’t offered the viewers a moment of closure. No one’s been caught, no one’s been stopped. Instead, Hannibal has been forced into action.