After a lot of focus on Will Graham and some time spent on the private life of Jack Crawford, this episode of Hannibal brings the spotlight back to its titular character with a funny but often sensitive episode about friendship and fine dining.
Crawford is determined to stop the Chesapeake Ripper killing again, but Will doesn’t believe that he’s to blame for the most recent body, despite the fact that similar organ removal was attempted. Hannibal muddies the investigative waters by sourcing ingredients for an elaborate dinner party, while considering his relationships with needy patient Franklin Devereaux (Dan Fogler) and his own therapist Bedelia Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson).
Hannibal has explored its characters’ lack of emotional connection before, with Jack and his wife Bella, and Will with… well, anybody. ‘Sorbet’ announces itself as a grand theatrical episode with a shot emerging from the inside of a singer’s throat, but it balances the wicked dark humour of Hannibal’s cooking with a surprising tenderness. Franklin’s urgent need to become Hannibal’s friend is clearly something the good Doctor has no interest in (the look of disgust when Franklin tapped his knee was another great Mikkelsen touch), but he does recognise the need for some human contact. Franklin can ramble on about cheeses, classical music and why he might have been able to turn Michael Jackson’s life around if he had just known the singer, but Hannibal looks elsewhere for companionship.
It’s easy to establish Lecter as a character who is entirely set apart from humanity, but the episode gave us a glimpse of something approaching sympathy. Straight after informing Franklin that their relationship was professional (and after Franklin comes very close to comparing him to a prostitute), Lecter visits his own psychiatrist. As played by Gillian Anderson, Bedelia Du Maurier is a similarly icy presence. She likes him, but they’re not friends.
She tells Hannibal that he is wearing “a very well-tailored person suit,” which she retracts slightly to “a human veil.” Hannibal’s whole existence in the human world is a performance, but once the boundaries of their relationship are established, Hannibal quickly turns to the person he considers a friend: Will. He establishes that the two of them have “conversations” rather than actual therapy, which of course means that their relationship can be unprofessional. Hannibal is great fun to watch when he hates someone, but he’s fascinating to observe when he actually likes someone. When Will fails to show up for his appointment, Hannibal is visibly upset. It’s moments like this that make Fuller’s interpretation of the character so interesting. There are no caricatures here; Hannibal may toy with Will, but he obviously gets something from him that he can’t find anywhere else.
Elsewhere, we get some wonderfully shot Hannibal grand guignol. Jack’s need to catch the Ripper leads to some interesting dream sequences, while the hotel bathroom scene (possibly another nod to The Shining) has a grisly but inventive explanation. After the weekly monster parade, it’s good to feel like the show is on a set of rails now. Hannibal needs to stay one step ahead of the FBI, which means leading Will to catch people if it suits him and varying his crime scenes. While Will is trying to keep Jack on course, he’s having some fairly impressive dreams of his own featuring Abigail Hobbs. Even in a Hannibal-heavy episode, the plot doesn’t drag its feet.
While we got a glimpse of Hannibal’s humanity, there was plenty of evil on display too. He discovered that his attempts to infuriate Crawford were successful, he accompanied Jack and Will on their “very educational” hunt of the murderous medical student, and we saw his recipe/business card rolodex. He charms Alana with a private reserve of beer and impresses his dinner guests (including Pushing Daisies‘ Ellen Greene) with a fabulous spread. This is quite possibly the funniest episode of Hannibal, and that balance between the grotesque and the believable is an act the show continues to perform beautifully. “Before we begin, I must warn you. Nothing here is vegetarian.”