[This post contains SPOILERS for the Hannibal season 3 premiere.]
In its season 3 premiere, ‘Antipasto,’ Hannibal dramatically switched gears, shifting the focus away from the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit and placing it squarely on the titular cannibalistic serial killer. Aside from a brief flashback featuring a silent Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne), the episode exhibited a dearth of the show’s usual players. While we can expect Jack, Will, Alana, and more to be back in ‘Primavera,’ the premiere effectively created a new and fascinating dynamic that offered tremendous insight into the way Dr. Lecter’s psychological manipulation works and on whom.
Hannibal has relocated to Europe to escape his crimes, and he has done so in the company of Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson), his former therapist, now posing as the wife of Dr. Fell, Hannibal’s assumed (or is it consumed?) identity. On the surface, this is your typical fugitive-on-the-run-from-the-law scenario, but at the same time, it is also Hannibal placing himself in a kind of self-imposed exile. As the good doctor states, quoting Dante: “I made my own home be my gallows.” This means a return to the United States will carry with it a heavy penalty, but the exile also means Hannibal is separated from the person he is most concerned with and fascinated by: Will Graham. His expulsion from the United States and subsequent distance from Will plays into the plot of the season, with Hannibal using his latest horrific, yet irrationally beautiful tableau made from aspiring poet Antony Dimmond (Tom Wisdom) – which we can call ‘Hannibal’s Broken Heart’ – to lure Will and the FBI into his web.
The plans Hannibal has for Will, Jack, and Alana are intriguing, but proportionately enthralling are his ambiguous intentions for his equally well-dressed and erudite traveling companion, the wonderful Dr. Du Maurier. Although she has been around since the first season (having first popped up in ‘Sorbet’), Bedelia is something of a mystery to the audience. She has served as a therapist to Hannibal on several occasions, helping him through his friendship/manipulation of Will, but her counseling has often felt coerced, or at the very least, unenthusiastic on her part. Bedelia could be characterized as distant and cold, reserved in the way that suggests she is either rigidly professional, frightened of the man who seeks her counsel, or she has something else entirely up her sleeve – perhaps it is a combination of the three.
Even before her expatriate status, it is clear Bedelia knows the truth about Hannibal; she has seen what lies beneath the person suit, and yet has still provided him with treatment. From the snippets of conversation the audience has been given, regarding an incident involving a deranged patient who attacked her, and whom it was assumed Hannibal dealt with in his inimitable fashion, we have also been led to assume their continued relationship was based partially on the idea that Bedelia owed Hannibal a debt of some sort for saving her life.
This puts her in an ethical quandary, helping a serial killer to better understand his fascination with a being he sees as somehow pure, and yet strangely like himself, as repayment for saving her life. She has been an accessory to many of the murders he has committed. But then again, she also came to Will to confirm his suspicions about Dr. Lecter, while he was awaiting trial for crimes he did not commit.
So, who, then, is Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier? Is she the willing traveling companion of Dr. Hannibal Lecter, or is she unconsciously under his control? And concerning that disconcerting flashback in which she got up close and personal with Zachary Quinto, is Bedelia more like Hannibal than we previously thought, or does her status as a confused and possibly psychologically manipulated killer make her more like Will Graham? Or is she simply another victim, waiting to be slaughtered and eaten when it suits her captor?
Let’s try to unpack a few key scenes from ‘Antipasto’ to find out.
Is Bedelia On the Menu?
Of all the indelible moments from the season 3 premiere, the dinner scene with Hannibal, Bedelia, and a very game, but misinformed Antony Dimmond was the clear standout. The scene is rife with dramatic tension with regard to Dimmond’s presence amongst the phony Fells (though he doesn’t know who they’re pretending to be at the time), but it is also filled with enough innuendo to choke a horse.
When the young rhymester notices Bedelia’s dining on oysters, acorns, and marsala, he notes how those items were fed to cattle by Romans to make the meat taste better, Bedelia responds by saying, “My husband has a very sophisticated palate. He’s very particular about how I taste.”
It’s an in-joke that is as perversely funny as any of the other humor on Hannibal, but thanks to Anderson’s performance, there’s more than enough evidence to conclude Bedelia’s aware the likelihood she’ll be served up next. Bedelia’s hand shakes demonstrably as she brings her fork to her mouth, while director Vincenzo Natali focuses the camera on her thoughtful chewing, followed by what appears to be her reluctance or inability to swallow the mollusk, knowing precisely what its purpose is.
Carnal implication aside, Bedelia knows she’s sitting across the table from a man who not only eats other humans but also does so because he sees his victims as inferior to him – which Hannibal explains to Dr. Giddeon in one of the many flashbacks of the episode. But would Hannibal really seek counsel from someone he thought was beneath him? It seems unlikely, which means perhaps Bedelia isn’t on the menu, and the flavor enhancers she’s consuming are simply another form of psychological manipulation and control.
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