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Bello, Bellisima: NBC’s Hannibal Season 3 Premiere — Antipasto

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Warning: Spoilers
& Graphic Images

imagesIf you’ve read my previous blogs on NBC’s amazing and daring series Hannibal, you know I was catching up on Seasons 1 & 2, and so intentionally did not reveal any spoilers or important plot lines in case there were other viewers like me who had never seen the show. (For one thing, I’m rarely awake @ 10p.m., being an early riser, and for another, the local network here delays Hannibal by an additional hour beyond the 2-hour time-zone difference, but that’s another source of irritation and rudeness that I’ll have to address with them.) From now on, my Hannibal blogs will include some spoilers, but they are not merely plot summaries. That’s not my style.

images-12That being said, I have to say Bravo! to the writers of the Premiere episode of S3: “Antipasto,” and not just for going back to names of dishes that I can pronounce and understand as episode titles. The premiere of Season 3 was a bold and brilliant departure from the previous seasons’ premieres, as well as from the seasons themselves. It was symbolic of the manner in which Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen, above) and his former psychiatrist, Bedelia du Maurier (Gillian Anderson), who are now posing as husband and wife in Paris and Florence, are attempting to re-invent themselves.

Season Two’s Finale

images-25The extremely violent, excellently acted, brilliantly choreographed, and almost — dare I say, erotic — finale from season 2, left us with Hannibal being “recognized” for who and what he is by many of the characters in the show. Of course, Hannibal did not go quietly into that dark night. No, he raged against the dying of his light. His gutting of Will (Hugh Dancy) while holding him like a lover (above) was blatantly erotic and showed just how much Hannibal had come to care for Will Graham.

images-7And by “caring for Will,” I mean as much as a serial killer can care for anyone other than himself, and only because Hannibal believed Will could become more like Hannibal himself.

Throughout the first two seasons, Hannibal has been drawn to patients who seem to have some criminal, especially murderous, leanings, and has pushed them to “see” and to “become” — a common theme in the Thomas Harris novels on which the show is based — and to honor their true natures. In fact, one of Hannibal’s lines in last season’s finale was, “Now that you know me, see me.”

images-2His warning to his lover Dr. Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas) — that she had a choice to walk away, after she confronted him, weapon drawn, weeping at her own blindness and at his “betrayal” — surprised me. I thought he might find her pulling a gun on him “rude,” and we all know how Hannibal feels about rudeness. I wasn’t surprised that he’d emptied her gun while she slept in his bed beside him a few days earlier, or that he went after her when she pulled the trigger.

He had warned her, after all.

images-8His confrontation with Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne, above R), who seems to believe that “might makes right,” was one of the saddest in terms of Jack’s inability to outmaneuver Hannibal psychologically or physically. It was also one of the most beautifully choreographed.

images-6You could see Mads’ dancing background in virtually every move, but especially in his jump over the counter when he went after Jack (above). I don’t know if Mads was wearing a harness to help him leap over that counter, but even it he was, it was still a jeté magnifique.

imagesDespite Jack’s most valiant efforts to defend himself and take down Hannibal, however, Jack was simply no match for Hannibal’s physical agility and determination. Jack was left locked in the pantry, bleeding out, desperately trying to reach his dying wife on the phone to say good-bye.

images-24Most shocking in the S2 finale was the reappearance of Abigail (Kacey Rohl, above L, below R), whom both Will and Hannibal had begun to view as a “daughter-figure.” Will did so after he shot her father Garret Jacob Hobbs when the FBI, i.e., Will and Hannibal, were attempting to apprehend Hobbs for a string of murders. During that showdown, Hobbs had already killed his wife, pushed her, dying, out the front door, and was threatening to slice open his daughter’s throat. He did. Will shot him dead. Will became the “protective” father-figure. images-4Hannibal became  a “father-figure” after he caught her killing the brother of one of her father’s victims. Hannibal realized then that Abigail had been a willing participant in her father’s killings of the girls — she was the bait — despite her protestations to the contrary. Hannibal realized her potential to “become,” and told her he could protect her, as long as she asked for his help. Hannibal became the “teaching” father-figure.

images-7In S1, Abigail came to realize that Hannibal was a serial killer, and viewers were given the impression that Hannibal had killed her, however reluctantly it might have seemed at the moment he first tenderly touched her face after she had seen beyond his “person-suit.”

Hannibal framed Will for her murder by forcing Abigail’s ear through a feeding-tube into a relatively unconscious Will, who vomited it back up along with his medications. Although Will didn’t recall killing Abigail, he believed it might be possible since he could find no logical explanation for vomiting up her whole ear, un-chewed and without apparent bite-marks. (Viewers didn’t know how the ear had gotten into his stomach until the premiere of  S2, when Hannibal’s force-feeding was shown.)

images-2Abigail reappeared in the S2 finale, upstairs, with a crying, bewildered, and obviously disoriented Alana Bloom, and pushed her out a second-story window, leaving her broken on the stone doorstep below, in the pouring rain. She then went down to Hannibal, where he then proceeded to slice her throat open as her father had originally unsuccessfully did.

Will and Abigail lay side-by-side, both bleeding out, with Will vainly attempting to reach her and stop her bleeding as he had done so long ago in her father’s kitchen.

images-3The final, pre-credit scene, showed Hannibal stepping out into the rain. In this metaphorical baptism, Hannibal is re-born.

Having finally been seen for exactly what he is, Hannibal can now become himself most fully.Unknown

If you were foolish enough to turn off the S2 finale before all the credits rolled, then you missed the most startling moment of all: Hannibal, drinking champagne aboard a jet, with his companion, the lovely Dr. Bedelia du Maurier.

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Hannibal’s “Kind of Peace”

images-18Season 3 begins in Paris, where Anthony Dimmond (Tom Wisdom, above L), a former Teaching Assistant (TA) of a Dr. Fell, makes Hannibal’s acquaintance, meeting Hannibal as “Boris Yakov” and sans the ubiquitous plaid suits and sans the laquered hair.

They later discuss a few things at a party, mainly some poet’s “bad writing,” before Hannibal leaves to follow an older gentleman at that party home, where he kills him and eats his liver, greeting the man’s wife-now-widow with a pleasant Bon soir when she enters the apartment.

images-10Later in the S3 premiere, no longer in Paris but in Florence, viewers learn that the beautiful Bedelia, played by Gillian Anderson, is living with Hannibal as man and wife. We are treated, too briefly, to a dancing scene, where Hannibal gives us a glimpse of a smile. When the dance ends, he gazes down at Bedelia and murmurs, “Bellisima,” to which she softly responds, “Grazie.”

(Emily Nussbaum of The New Yorker wittily mused on Gillian Anderson’s gorgeousity —

I think it’s the wardrobe change, or perhaps Bedelia’s bathing in Hannibal’s victims’ blood, but it may be Gillian’s physical proximity to Mads that has her glowing.)

images-21In any event, Hannibal wants to “preserve the kind of peace” he’s found in this new life, where he’s “hardly killed anybody.”

Yes, let it be a fairy tale, then…

Not That Kind of Party

images-24Between flashbacks containing Abel Gideon (Eddie Izzard) and Hannibal, as Hannibal is slowly chopping off bits of Gideon’s body and feeding them to him while they discuss the definition and morality of cannibalism, Hannibal is posing, in his new life in Florence, as Dr. Fell, whom he murdered to “vacate” the faculty position he held, making it available to himself. Bedelia is aware of this. She is posing as Mrs. Fells.

Alas, Dr. Fells’ former TA Dimmond appears in Florence, too, meets Hannibal again, who is now calling himself Dr. Fells instead of Boris Yakov. Dimmond’s no fool, or so it seems, and though he casually and repeatedly tells people that he knows Dr. Fells well, and hints at the “stories he could tell” were he not “such a good friend,” Hannibal invites him to dinner.

images-16There, Dimmond comments on Bedelia’s diet, and the exchange which follows, involving what the Romans fed animals to ensure their unique taste, and ending with “It’s not that kind of party,” is too exquisite for me to ruin it for you here. You have to see it to catch all the nuances, the sexual innuendo, the chemistry between Bedelia and Hannibal (and between Gillian and Mads).

Quite the couple, they make.

Bedelia’s Secret

images-23Alas, all is not well in Bedelia-Land.

Though Hannibal claims to have found a sort of peace, Bedelia is clearly uneasy, anxious, and increasingly frightened.

images-7The scene of her waiting for the train — to what destination, we are not told, since she walked to the market — while gazing up at the surveillance cameras, serves as a metaphor for Bedelia’s life with Hannibal. She is more than uneasy, in fact: she is terrified because she is constantly being watched.

images-9We also learn where Hannibal went immediately after the carnage in S2’s Finale — to Bedelia’s house. When she entered, she discovered him taking a shower in her master bath. He came out of the shower to find her sitting on the bed, with a loaded pistol in one hand, and a drink in the other. After asking if he could get dressed, he told her he’d taken off his person-suit.

She asked how that felt.

He told her she was in no position to ask such a question.

Now, in Florence, living with Hannibal as his wife, Bedelia’s trips to the market do nothing to quiet her.

images-20Her attendance at Hannibal-as-Dr.-Fells’ lecture on Dante is apparently required, because she is obviously uncomfortable, and she bolts as soon as she catches a glimpse of the former TA Dimmond, leaving Hannibal to gaze upon her empty chair.

images-22Scurrying home to their elegant Florentine apartment, she packs, and is just about out the door when Hannibal opens it, followed by the big-mouthed Dimmond, whom Hannibal must deal with.

05HANNIBALRECAP6-blog480Hannibal’s and Bedelia’s ensuing conversation about “participation vs observation” open other, symbolic, doors: into how much Bedelia knows about Hannibal, how long she’s known it, and the secret Bedelia and Hannibal have never revealed about the time she was attacked by a former patient of Hannibal’s, who was killed, and Hannibal’s role in that.

It is this secret that has apparently bound Bedelia to Hannibal, even when she tried to “retire” from clinical psychiatry.

No other major characters appeared in the premiere, so their fates are as yet unknown. I have intentionally avoided viewing any Season 3 trailers which might reveal who survived and who didn’t, and I have not included them here.

Meanwhile, I say Bravisimo to Bryan Fuller and the others who have changed the entire approach to Hannibal.

Because, after all, now that he has been seen, he can become.

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Why HBO’s TRUE DETECTIVE is not Shallow

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Boy, does Emily Nussbaum of the New Yorker dislike the female characters in the first season of HBO’s hit series True Detective. In her article “The Shallowness of True Detective,” (dated 3 March 2014 but already available online), she says the female characters are “paper-thin,” though she doesn’t insult the actors playing them, and that “none” has “any interior life.” She then compares them to female characters in shows we should like better, none of which I like at all. The problem with Ms. Nussbaum’s view of the show’s portrayal women seems to be her apparent lack of literary background — like classic noir-crime fiction and Southern Gothic — which is what the show (and its creator’s novel & stories) most resemble.

First of all, let me state most emphatically, that I am a feminist, though I’ve never been to see sexual harassment around every corner. That said, I adore classic and neo-noir-crime fiction, where the emphasis is virtually always on the male protagonists, usually narrated by them, and involves their getting involved with attractive women who are liars, whores, adulterers, predators, murderers, or all of the aforementioned, while said femme fatales maintain innocent exteriors. Don’t get me wrong: the males in noir-crime fiction aren’t angels, by any means, and that’s part of what I like about them: they’re interesting. But so are the women.

Think James Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice or Double Indemnity. Think Cornell Woolrich’s I Married a Dead Man, where the heroine is a liar, a murderer, a conspirator in a murder, and an unreliable narrator, to boot. Think anything by Jim Thompson, from The Killer Inside Me to The Grifters, from Pop. 1280 to A Hell of a Woman. Creator and writer Nic Pizzolatto’s novel Galveston has the same kind of characters, though they’re more mature in True Detective. So do his short stories. Pizzolatto doesn’t seem interested in women unless they’re classic noir-crime fiction women, and that means they’re going to be badder than they initially seem.

So, calling Marty’s wife, Maggie — played well by Michelle Monaghan, “the only prominent female character on the show … an utter nothing-burger, all fuming prettiness with zero insides” and “an outline” is ignoring the fact that no other character in the entire show, besides Detectives Martin Hart and Rustin Cohle (Harrelson and McConaughey, respectively) is developed (though Nussbaum does say that the show is only about those two characters, and I agree wholeheartedly with her on that, and she praises the actors’ performances). I didn’t even realize that the two black detectives interrogating/interviewing Hart & Cohle 17 years after their first investigation of the murdered Dora Lang even had names until my boyfriend, reading the credits one night, said, “Who are X and Y?” I had to look them up. They’re those detectives.  Tuttle, Ledoux, Charlie Lange, the other detectives — all male characters — are so cardboard, most of them don’t have names.

In fact, however, Maggie is developed, and not just a cardboard outline. She’s developed along the lines of the females in classic noir-crime fiction. And along the lines of Southern Gothic fiction, like William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, where sister Caddie, who’s not actually in the novel, has her story told by everyone but her: her retarded brother Benji who views her as a  mother figure, her older brother Quentin who views her as a love-worship object, and her younger brother Jason who views her as a whore (even while he wants to sleep with her himself). In True Detective — no spoilers here — what Maggie did to Rust Cohle in episode 6, and what she did to her husband Marty in the same episode, was calculated, cruel, and vicious. It’s also exactly what a noir-crime fiction femme fatale would do. Then she’d maintain her innocent façade. Ditto Maggie and other women in that genre of fiction.

Hart and Cohle are homicide detectives. They constantly see the bodies of dead victims, investigate the DBs (Dead Bodies), as they’re referred to in the show, and so the women and children in the show are objects to these detectives.  It’s a short step from seeing their victims and DBs as objects, to seeing all the women in their lives as objects. That includes Marty’s daughters, who, as teenagers, are clearly separated into the age-old, mutually exclusive Madonna/Whore categories. In classic noir-crime fiction, the woman is usually something to be won or possessed: she, too, is an object, even if she plays the villainous game better than most of the male protagonists in this genre do.

I love the show. Except for the convoluted Ginger-Cohle-Hart combo kidnappping & shoot-em-up scene in episode 4, which detracted from the show’s main forward drive, I think it’s some of the finest writing and acting since the first season of Damages or of American Horror Story. I gotta admit, though, that I also love FX’s Justified, where the women also take a backseat to the male protagonists. (Actually, this season, the female characters of Justified don’t even seem to be in the same car as most of the male characters, but that’s another post for another day.) I like intellectually and artistically challenging drama, and True Detective seems to be delivering that so far (except for the above-mentioned shoot-em-up, which bored me silly, but excited quite a few of the male fans, I hear).

Maggie’s not a “nothing-burger… with zero insides.” She’s just as calculating, deceptive, predatory, vicious, and morally shallow as Harrelson’s Martin Hart and McConaughey’s Rustin Cohle characters are. Maggie, her daughters, and the dead Dora Lange are also a lot more developed than the two African-American detectives re-investigating the original 1975 fetish-murder of Dora Lange, though every female except Maggie is quite a bit less well-developed, even if we’re comparing them to the females in classic noir-crime fiction.

And, I admit it, after all the bare behinds of the women in the show, I did appreciate the chance to get a good look at Matthew McConaughey’s well-developed glutes.

I’ll leave you with the opening credits of True Detective, about which Ms. Nussbaum claims this:

On the other hand, you might take a close look at the show’s opening credits, which suggest a simpler tale: one about heroic male outlines and closeups of female asses. The more episodes that go by, the more I’m starting to suspect that those asses tell the real story.

The opening credits are accompanied by the show’s theme song, “Far from Any Road” by The Handsome Family.

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