If there were any doubts left about the true nature of this version of Hannibal Lecter, the ending of ‘Entrée’ cleared them up very nicely, as Lecter chokes our poor Clarice Starling substitute into unconsciousness. No doubt with something terrible in mind for her.
Except that Miriam Lass (who never appears in the present, only in Crawford and Lecter’s flashbacks, creating a lasting impression on both of them for both the right and the wrong reasons) is far from a Starling substitute, even if this episode is rife with shout outs to The Silence of the Lambs,* and definitely doesn’t deserve that title. She’s a force in her own right, clever and insightful – and apparently related to a character from another of Bryan Fuller’s shows, Dead Like Me – and dedicated enough to bring about her own downfall at Lecter’s hands. Anna Chlumsky did wonders with what she was given to work with. The few scenes that she had left me really wanting to see more of her, so it was heartbreaking to watch as, unlike Graham, she isn’t nearly as lucky in escaping Lecter’s office alive. Heartbreaking but hardly surprising, as she’s been considered dead a long time before the episode began, and doubly dead by the end of it.
Or is she? As others have already pointed out, Lecter merely caused her to pass out, and the frantic calls she makes to Crawford had to have been recorded at some point. Perhaps we shouldn’t give up on Miriam Lass just yet.
This encounter, and those like it in ‘Entrée’, is perhaps what I like best about this episode, which is a major feat, since I like just about everything to be found in it. There’s the once again top notch acting; Dancy in particular left me chilled as he experienced a murderer’s savage enjoyment and was left hollowed out and shaking from it. Fishburne’s anguish as he tried to trace the calls from a ghostly Lass, and deal with the skepticism of others, is wrenching. Chorostecki once again turns in a great performance as Freddie Lounds, still smug but also willing to co-operate with her ‘persecutors’, even managing to get some snide lines that smack of the truth.
There’s the introduction of Dr Frederick Chilton ( portrayed wonderfully by Raul Esparza), as slimy and self-satisfied as he ever was in Harris’ books. I’m already left wondering why Lecter has neglected to eat him as well as the snooping Lounds; I do believe Chilton would disgust even Freddie. Still, Lecter has already hinted to Chilton what he really thinks of him, leaving the obnoxious director lost for words, for once.
There’s the portrayal of Crawford’s past relationship with Lass, and the guilt he feels for having essentially sent her to her death; a sentiment that might be echoed if we ever get around to seeing Agent Starling, or whoever Fuller constructs to take her place if MGM and Lifetime still refuse to play nice.
There’s the fact that Freddie Lounds actually does something productive, for a change.
There’s Lecter’s quietly furious reaction to Lounds’ aforementioned productivity, as another person claims his kills. This was rather curious to watch – I personally never thought Lecter placed any importance on his role as the ‘Chesapeake Ripper’, but apparently he’s rather averse to plagiarism, which makes sense and only makes me more curious as to what his reply will be. (Jumping ahead to the promo for the next episode for a second, it would appear that the reply is more bodies. Are you surprised?)
There are the interactions between Crawford and Lecter, filled with subtle torment and apparently sincere emotional connection, at least when it comes to the absent Bella.
There is most definitely Eddie Izzard’s frankly harrowing performance as Dr Abel Gideon – if Lass was a tribute to Agent Starling this episode, no prizes for guessing who Gideon represented in this letter of love to The Silence of the Lambs, even if the two never interacted.
(I won’t say that I love the violent re-imagining of Gideon’s dispatch of the night-nurse – I really could not watch, both as Gideon prepared to strike, and as Graham retrod his steps, although I know thumbs meet eyes at some point. But the savagery of the aftermath is once again filled with a strange beauty, and I admire the guts of Hannibal even as I mourn that Utah cancelled their broadcast of the show for just such images.)
Finally, there’s the scene where we get to see Lecter kill for the first time – or, if not kill, at least take swift and deadly action. As the light begins to dawn in Lass’s face and horrified realization grows, we see Lecter come back down from his perch on the second level of his office, curiously missing his jacket. His shoes as well, we quickly discover, as he stalks up on poor Miriam and seizes her from behind. It’s certainly not as grizzly as Gideon’s torture of the nurse earlier; there’s almost a tenderness in Lecter’s dealing with his prey, even as he calmly cuts off her air supply. He even performs a strange action once she’s passed out – does he sniff her hair, nuzzle her, simply bow his face close to her head? Hard to tell from the angle we’re shown, and all the more terrifying for it. This is a man who’ll kill not because Lass has offended him or because he dislikes her, but to protect himself, calmly, methodically and in a brutally efficient manner.
All these wonderful things add up to what I love most; in ‘Entrée’, we’re flat out shown that all bets are officially off. Those who’ve read Thomas Harris’ work, or are even vaguely familiar with it, will have recognized several key scenes here given to different characters, or taken out of the context of the books and shaken up. Things that we might have assumed will happen further down the timeline have already occurred, inevitable plots are no longer inevitable. We can no longer assume we know how Graham will eventually catch Lecter – or even if he’ll catch Lecter – or what Lecter will get up to once he’s in captivity. ‘Entrée’ reminds us that the show is not just a prequel but a whole retelling of the Hannibal Lecter universe; what happens in this episode means that even those who’re familiar with the source material now have absolutely no idea where this series is going to go next.
We’re left in the dark. I’m nervous and excited as to what we’re going to find there, and what’s yet to be served up.
Bryan Fuller, I salute you.
Next on the menu in 1×07: Sorbet: The ‘Chesapeake Ripper’ steps up his game, there’s so much dramatic irony in the air you could choke on it, and the gorgeous Gillian Anderson makes her long awaited appearance. Bring on that frozen desert/ palate cleanser.
* Remember when I said that the series appeared to be taking the rights they had with Harris’s work and running with them? Well, they’ve gotten around the drawback MGM and Lifetime have forced on them with honors. I do delight in how they managed to sneak in all the tributes to a book that they, legally speaking, don’t have the right to use.