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Hannibal: “Sorbet”

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For an episode that featured a whole lot of death, “Sorbet” was full of life. There was a playfulness, almost a deviousness to “Sorbet” that felt so naturally in place within the context of the episodes, even though most of those lighter tones were caused by brutal mutilation. Previous episodes have been the Will Graham Show (not a complaint), with the exception of last week’s “Entree,” which was all about Jack. But this was Hannibal’s episode. So far, Mads Mikkelsen has been playing Hannibal Lecter as an intensely straight-laced human being, the kind of guy neighbors tell local news stations they never suspected of being a serial killer. It’s antithetical to Anthony Hopkins’ hammed out performance and that’s, in part, what has made it good. But “Sorbet” features a gaiety in Hannibal we haven’t really gotten a glimpse of before, and that gaiety could very well lead to the man who ends up behind glass after Will figures out that the serial killer he’s been hunting has been his buddy all along.


The seamless integration of that extra sense of playfulness, of Hannibal’s own revelry in his misdeeds, can be attributed, largely, to two slight shifts from the first five episodes. First, “Sorbet’s” camerawork and cinematography was flawless and markedly different from the slower movements of earlier episodes. While the corpses of victims often led to the previous episodes more stunning scenes, the deaths in “Sorbet” were comparatively banal. The camera moved considerably more, especially in the beginning when it tracked throughout the opera house. I was stunned by the shot of the opera singer’s vocal cords going at full force. This was an episode about hiding what’s within behind a mask of normality so it’s only fitting that Hannibal is introduced through a literal interior. That movement lent a sense of urgency and action to an episode that wasn’t as action-packed as previous outings. That sense of momentum can also be attributed to the quick editing. Where scenes lingered before, they were cut quickly, namely between Lecter’s therapy sessions as both patient and doctor.

Second, this is the first time we get to see Hannibal not at work. It’s easy to forget Lecter has patients beyond Will, namely the needy Franklin, and hobbies beyond manipulating FBI agents and having friends for dinner. Notably, Franklin reveals a parallel between himself and Hannibal. Does the stone-faced sociopath just want a friend? That is why he is creating the makeshift family with Will, Alana and Abigail Hobbs. But in other episodes, these creations of what he deems as meaningful connections have seemed like fun and games for Hannibal, while “Sorbet” added a sense of desperation to Hannibal’s machinations. Is he flirting with Alana because he’s attracted to her? Alana points out that Hannibal had an affair with another woman while she was his protege, referencing a sexual urge in Hannibal for the first time. Or are his casual flirtations simply a way to keep her around? Will has his own parallel scene, in which Abigail calls him Dad, that puts him at odds with Hannibal. Will eschews these connections, while Hannibal craves them. Just as Franklin sought Lecter out at the opera, Lecter seeks Will out to play to a round of throw off the investigator when Will misses an appointment.


This desire is largely revealed by Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier (played by a cold-as-ice Gillian Anderson, which: Yeah!), Hannibal’s own psychiatrist, who immediately calls Hannibal out on his secretive bullshit. Du Maurier can never be truly friends with Hannibal because he is not her real self in front of her. What Du Maurier deduces through her sessions, Will sees through Hannibal's crimes. “The Chesapeake Ripper wants to perform. Every brutal choice has elegance, grace,” Will says. “His mutilations hide the true nature of his crime.” Hannibal is the opposite of his crimes: He is elegant on the outside and brutal within. Hannibal will always be a patient, not a friend, just as Franklin is a Hannibal’s patient and not his friend. While Franklin’s tendencies to stalk belie his promise that he won’t approach Hannibal outside of their sessions, Hannibal simply puts his mask on again in front of Du Maurier. Yet, Hannibal mimics her gestures of intimacy with Will, offering him a glass of wine but, unlike Du Maurier, his offer of wine is to highlight the lack doctor-patient divide between them. Dr. Du Maurier (she shares a last name with Daphne Du Maurier, who wrote “Rebecca,” among others) was only on for a short while, but Anderson whet my appetite for more icy standoffs between her and Lecter. If she can pick out Hannibal’s secrets immediately, what the hell is she hiding?

As for this episode’s murders, Hannibal’s villainy cast a long shadow over the organ harvesting Silvestri. The case-of-the-week plot was purposefully an afterthought and served little purpose beyond a reason to misdirect the FBI’s Ripper investigation. It was inconsequential. When Hannibal is at the opera, a woman insists that Hannibal resume having dinner parties again, because they’re not only good for sustenance but a form of entertainment as well (he eventually serves the meal to applause). He responds he needs inspiration to create a feast. In “Sorbet,” Hannibal has been inspired, and he’s got masterpieces to create.

Stray observations:

  • Recipe of the week: Crispy lemon calf liver
  • This episode was right to focus on Hannibal, especially after the no-duh reveal at the end of “Entree,” but it’s a testament to how much I liked Raul Esparza that I want to know what happened with Dr. Chilton and Abel Gideon, the latter of whom I was not all that psyched about. I figure Chilton is due to come back, but I’m hoping there’s more to Gideon than we got.
  • Jack’s still losing it over the guilt of Miriam Lass. Like Will, his nightmares are blending into his reality, a sign of Will’s own unhinged psyche. But now Jack is feeling preemptive guilt about Will, along with the weight of Miriam's death. Possibly, Will’s eventual capture of Lecter assuages that guilt by the time he sends Clarice Starling after Buffalo Bill.
  • The use of black and white in flashbacks in murders hasn’t been consistent. Lass was in full black and white, as was Hannibal’s initial meeting with this episode’s victim. But Hannibal’s confrontation with the stranded doctor is in color. UPDATE: Commenter NonchalantBlueberry points out that the murder was in the timeline of the show, rather than a flashback. I didn't think of it in terms temporality.
  • “We’re either looking for someone with short bowels or the Ripper is making sausage.” Cut to making sausage.
  • I loved the little spat between Scott Thompson and Aaron Abrams. It was so unnecessary but totally adorable.