“It’s nice to have an old friend for dinner.”

With a throwback like that, Hannibal does double duty on ‘Entrée’ by teasing the unpleasant fate of Dr. Chilton (Raul Esparza), and offering a chilling look into the calculating, bloodthirsty mind of his “friend” and colleague, Dr. Hannibal Lecter.

So far, the series has made excellent use of Hannibal’s culinary expertise and the sickening thought of what (or who) is actually on the plates at Casa de Lecter, but it has always been something of a lingering, recurrent element that cunningly combines the decadent allure of haute cuisine with a persistent level of fear. We have to watch while an apex predator invites an unwitting scavenger to enjoy some of his kill.

And although Mads Mikkelsen’s elegant and subdued rendition of Dr. Hannibal Lecter didn’t figure as prominently in the episode – which features the welcome presence of not only Eddie Izzard as murderous surgeon Dr. Abel Gideon, but also Anna Chlumsky as Jack Crawford’s unlucky recruit Miriam Lass – he was, like the truth behind the lavish, exotic food he so enjoys serving, an undeniably dark presence.

Up until now, aside from the skillful butchering of some internal organs, Hannibal’s machinations (and murders) have been more understated and used in a manner that effectively illustrated his intellect and extreme psychopathy – give or take the occasional, yet totally forgivable plot hole. But here, the series uses Dr. Lecter’s involvement with Miriam Lass’ disappearance to such a degree that he is no longer just a peripheral menace toying with Will Graham’s troubled psyche, interfering with cases or manipulating young and impressionable women who may, or may not be killers themselves. In effect, ‘Entrée’ serves Hannibal up as the plot on which the rest of this season (and, hopefully, future seasons) will begin to focus.

But more than putting the focus on the series’ titular character, the episode takes great care to once more demonstrate just how deeply effected everyone is by the killings, and – especially in the case of Jack Crawford and Hannibal Lecter – the supposed reemergence of the Chesapeake Ripper.

Which brings us to Eddie Izzard’s Dr. Abel Gideon, who, after murdering his family during Thanksgiving – “You know how stressful the holidays can get,” Gideon wryly explains – has been a model prisoner in the Baltimore psychiatric hospital that will one day welcome Dr. Lecter. However, after brutally murdering a hospital nurse in a fashion precisely like the Chesapeake Ripper, the conclusion by some – and by some, that means Dr. Chilton – is that the killer’s two-year break from ripping can be explained by his being detained in the hospital.

The killings are too precise, though, and Dr. Chilton is too eager to lay claim to having a notorious and frighteningly elusive predator in the confines of his hospital. “The reason we failed to find the Chesapeake Ripper? Because I already had him.”

There’s a shadow of doubt cast early on in a nice scene where the interviews conducted by Dr. Bloom and Will are intercut with one another, and Izzard is afforded a chance to deflect their questioning the authenticity of his claim with some dry humor and an entertaining amount of Anthony Hopkins-like posturing. We learn through a discussion between Lecter and Chilton that psychic coercion is actually responsible for Gideon’s paint-by-numbers slaying of the nurse. And that’s just fine, because Dr. Gideon is merely the connective tissue between Hannibal’s eventual emergence via flashback and the haunting of Jack Crawford by his inability to save his wife or Miriam Lass.

What’s most disconcerting about Crawford’s plight is how integrally Hannibal figures into both. Jack’s aware his wife is confiding in Dr. Lecter things she won’t confide in with him (in fact, Phyllis is no where to be seen this episode), and Lecter, bound by confidentiality, cannot divulge this information. Moreover, with the late night phone calls, severed limbs and general madness surrounding the Chesapeake Ripper’s unconfirmed final victim, Jack is forced to defend his ability to differentiate dreams from reality. “I know when I’m awake,” he asserts when questioned by a member of his team.

The crushing weight of responsibility Jack feels toward his wife and Miriam is only exacerbated by his failure to do anything about it – something it seems Hannibal might take some genuine pleasure in. But it also pulls Jack even more into the framework of the series, by illustrating how completely the notion of death surrounds these characters. While Will teeters on the edge of sanity, imagining gouging the eyes of some poor nurse, Jack is faced with death no matter where he looks; it’s in his past, his present and his future. And if he were to look even more closely, sitting right next to him, sipping a brandy.


Hannibal continues next Thursday with ‘Sorbet’ @10pm on NBC. Check out a preview below: