Hannibal, series 3 episode 1 review: Dr Lecter returns, but does he have a new accomplice?

Spoiler alert: Not much killing then eating of people (yet) as Lecter and his companion relocate to Florence

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The Independent Culture

Having played everyone like a fiddle (Stradivarius, most likely) and left them sloshing about in their own blood in series two’s dramatic finale, series three finds Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) swanning about Italy posing as an academic, hardly killing then eating anyone at all. The fate of Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) et al will have to wait for now, as will the introduction of Richard Armitage’s much anticipated Tooth Fairy (what’s the matter, America, have you not got any actors?). However, this series opener was a tasty morsel that sufficiently whet our appetites.

NBC’s Hannibal has always been a slightly mad beast, revelling in its macabre palette and constantly lingering over shots of freshly harvested organs and expensive furnishings. ‘Antipasto’ (yes, they’re going with Italian culinary terms this time round – can’t wait for the ‘Lasagne’ episode!) was, by comparison with previous endeavours, a relatively sane and sombre experience. Lecter was in Florence, via Paris, masquerading as the curator Dr Fell (who he’d nibbled on in France) and was accompanied by an ever so slightly befuddled Dr Bedelia Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson). Was she accomplice or victim? "Observe or participate?" as Hannibal put it.

The answer slowly became clear as Bedelia toddled about a sumptuous-looking Florence, visiting pricey looking delis to buy truffles and whatnot, looking every bit like Gillian Anderson doing a photoshoot for Billionaire’s Wives. "I’ve killed hardly anybody during our residence," opined Hannibal, suggesting that either he’s really itching to do some extravagant murdering or he’s a changed man. Turns out it was the former, obviously, as he was soon trotting out the old "my wife and I would love to have you for dinner" lines at random English poets.

The rest of the episode was taken up with a distracting (for British audiences, anyway) flashback sequence which mainly involved us watching Eddie Izzard eat his own legs. I’m not joking, watch it. Izzard’s turn as the demented Dr Abel Gideon has been decent enough, however he is still undeniably Eddie Izzard and you’re always expecting him to mumble something about poking badgers with a spoon. He was being served himself by Lecter, of course. "You’ll fall right off the bone," he said. And, in all fairness, it looked like he’d done Dr Gideon’s leg really well. Oddest episode of Come Dine With Me ever.

Where we go from here is relatively uncertain, however we know that Francis Dolarhyde (the Tooth Fairy) will pop up at some point and a quick peak of Star Trek’s Zachary Quinto as the patient that Bedelia murdered (or did she?) suggests that that back story is going to get a jolly good airing.

Hannibal remains a show that flirts dangerously with being very silly, however it struts about with such devil-may-care panache that it gets away with pretty much everything it wants to. If you’ve not given it a go yet, then I would give serious consideration to chewing over this new series.