As an episode title, 'Sorbet' may be the best that Hannibal has offered so far, in terms of the series' clever marriage of its own gruesome premise and the refined, decadent tastes of the culinary world. Additionally, considering its use as a palate cleanser between courses, sorbet also sets the tempo for the episode, working almost as a one-off digression into Hannibal's relationship with food, colleagues and patients, considering they all occasionally wind up on the same plate.
And while 'Sorbet' temporarily shifts the focus to Hannibal, it still manages to propel the series' narrative forward, while offering some tantalizing glimpses into the minds of the other characters; namely, Will Graham and Jack Crawford. Together the two have come to model what destructive properties an unhealthy obsession can provide. All but consumed by a need to avenge Miriam Lass and correct his mistake in failing to identify the Chesapeake Ripper, Jack's wracked with a series of terrifying nightmares which progressively hint at the burden Will is currently bearing.
To that end, Will has transitioned from sweat-drenched, fitful sleep, to somnambulism, to simply zoning out in his lecture hall, envisioning himself seated across from Abigail Hobbs. Still followed by visions of the stag, Will's condition doesn't seem to be evolving so much as just merely deteriorating and Hugh Dancy continues to play his character with a quiet restraint that elegantly reveals Will's fears of the slippery slope Jack has sent him careening down. It's the same self-control Mikkelsen exhibits in his rendition of Hannibal, hinting that what's hiding beyond the otherwise placid demeanor of Dr. Lecter is precisely what waits at the bottom of that slope Will is slipping down.
But, more than any other hour so far this season, 'Sorbet' belongs to Hannibal. Directed by James Foley (Glenngary Glen Ross, House of Cards), the episode opens by taking the audience directly into Hannibal's headspace, pushing in through his ear while the doctor enjoys a tear-inducing performance at a Concert for Hunger Relief. That's a unique way of establishing the perspective and shifting the focus away from the BAU and their befuddled search for the Chesapeake Ripper.
From there the narrative is split into two distinct parts. On one hand, Will, Jack, Beverly and Zeller stand in a hotel room remarkably similar to the one in The Shining, and have a difference of opinion on a murder that has the look and feel of the Ripper, but lacks the artistry of his killings. There's a shared desperation to identify and apprehend the Ripper that is, in some fashion, an extension of the group's loyalty to Jack, but also a devotion to their own ego, as demonstrated by everyone's admission they'd already touched the body, despite Jack's orders to keep it "fresh" for Will.
That's a nice bit of unforced sideline characterization in an episode that's otherwise devoted to the idea of expanding the character for which the series is named. And that, really, is a testament to the structure of 'Sorbet,' which, in addition to the solid BAU sections and the creepy repetitiveness of Jack's nightmares, builds itself around a series of encounters which merge Hannibal's personal and professional lives; each one revealing something about how he sees his patients and how he is perceived by them.
To do so, Hannibal brings back Dan Fogler's Franklin (the crying patient from the series premiere) and also introduces Gillian Anderson as Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier – Hannibal's psychiatrist and colleague. After running into him at the Concert for Hunger Relief, Franklin discusses during his session with Lecter a desire to become Hannibal's friend, referencing a past want to befriend Michael Jackson – which he believed would have turned the troubled singer's life around. But Franklin's thirst for friendship is really just a need to "touch greatness," masking an intense fear of loneliness that helps to elucidate Hannibal's relationship with Abigail Hobbs.
And surprisingly, Hannibal uses this notion of loneliness, coupled with Dr. Du Maurier's assertion that Hannibal is a "well-tailored person suit," to evoke a small amount of sympathy from the audience for a man who is a horrific individual. But make no mistake, we are encouraged to like Hannibal; he's an interesting and charismatic character – especially as played by Mikkelsen – but that brief moment where Lecter enters the waiting room only to find it empty, and his face drops… It's strange and interesting the response that particular scene triggers.
'Sorbet' presents many sides of Hannibal and adds depth to an already complex character and expertly shows off the skill behind the program. As Will states, in regard to the Chesapeak Ripper, "Every brutal choice has elegance, grace." That's a perfect way to sum up this series so far.
Hannibal continues next Thursday with 'Fromage' @10pm on NBC. Check out a preview below: