The problem with having a show that is, in essence, a pastiche of creepy imagery and twanging chords, is that occasionally someone wants you to do something called “plot” and it’s a major distraction from getting the lighting just so. In “Aperitivo” the third episode of Hannibal’s third (and, we now know, last) season Will Graham, Jack Crawford, and Alana Bloom do a lot of talking and introspective brooding in the service of setting up an elaborate plot line feature Mason Verger (remember that guy who cut off his own face?) and the plan to capture Hannibal the Cannibal (TM).
Verger, who used to be Michael Pitt and is now a disfigured understudy, is an excellent villainous foil. He creates less havoc than Hannibal and racks up a significantly lower kill count, but he’s a far more heinous character. He hurts kids. He rapes his sister. He’s vile. The nice thing about that setup is that the audience does not care at all what happens to him — and one senses that it will be elaborately gruesome. His plans to capture Hannibal, which he makes painfully clear to Raul Esparza’s opportunistic Dr. Frederick Chilton, are what they are, but #fannibals know that Lecter isn’t getting fed to Verger’s pigs. Verger is essentially committing suicide by genius murderer, which is a cool way to go if you’re gonna end it.
In a sense, the Verger/Hannibal dynamic feels like a meta-commentary on the show itself. Surely the NBC execs who canceled Hannibal had complained (at length, one imagines) about the relentless gore and explicit violence. With Verger, we see proof that there are worse things to be than a murderer. At least Hannibal has excellent taste, which we’re led to believe is the only way to track him. Verger just has money and impulses. DO YOU GET IT NBC EXECUTIVES? TASTE IS WHY WE NEEDED THAT EXTRA MONEY FOR ESCARGOT!
The unfortunate casualty of all this set-up is Will Graham, who remains cuddly, handsome, and unknowable. Unlike Hannibal or Verger, Will doesn’t really represent anything in this bloody pageant so it’s hard to give a damn about whatever is furrowing his brow. Hugh Dancy has ridden the seer aspect of the profiler character pretty far off the rails, which doesn’t feel likes it’s his fault so much as it is a product of some underwritten, if beautifully shot, scripts. At this point, Will seems more like a prophet than anything else, but his martyrdom is drawn out to the point of being a bit dull. If the show killed him off and just let Hannibal fight super villains, that would be totally fine. We’d watch that.
Or we wouldn’t. Doesn’t matter, it’s canceled anyway.