The fourth episode of Hannibal’s third season, “Aperitivo”, barely features the eponymous serial killer. Instead it focuses on a sick survivor’s club of sorts, dealing plainly with the aftermath of the season two finale and exploring the broken people left in Hannibal’s wake. Any other show might’ve opened season three with this episode, given that it follows the season two finale more plainly than any of the other past episodes, but by withholding this episode and jumping around in the timeline the show has gained a lot. Watching a depressed Will Graham sit in Hannibal’s abandoned apartment talking to the bloody hallucinatory ghost of Abigail is all the more poignant after episode two’s upsetting depiction of Will Graham’s mental state. Ditto when the scene leads into Alana asking Will if he can still ignore the bad parts of Hannibal for the good.
This episode doesn’t open with Will or Alana or Jack however, instead it starts with Chilton. The disgustingly opportunistic Chilton gets his own hospital montage. There’s a brutally gory and distinctly medical montage devoted to the gunshot to the face he received last season. The bullet arcs through his face, but the next we see of him he looks relatively normal. He’s been hired as a therapist for Mason Verger. Yes, Verger’s back, wearing a slick plastic mask that disguises the mangled remnants of his face. The two men make a show of unveiling their scars, both the result of Hannibal’s cruelty. Chilton removes a contact lens and reveals one dead eye, wipes off the make-up on his face and reveals his scar, then removes the metal plate giving half of his head structure. Verger slides his mask off and displays the smooth scar-tissue chin. Verger then fires Chilton.
Chilton seems to be meeting with his fellow Hannibal survivors, looking for some opportunity. Later in the episode Jack Crawford accusingly points out that after recovering from his injuries Chilton immediately copyrighted the phrase “Hannibal the Cannibal.” Chilton seems to be hunting Hannibal, getting the super psychopath back into his medical care would be a real money-making coup. Jack isn’t interested however; he’s left the FBI and is done with Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter both. He survived Hannibal cutting his throat only to bury his wife, and is no longer the man he was. Chilton goads him, reminding him he’s responsible for what happened to Will. Chilton posits that “maybe this is one of those friendships that ends after the disembowelling” but he doesn’t believe it. He correctly assumes Will Graham will forgive Hannibal, and go looking for him. He just wants Jack to help him follow Will. Jack’s having none of it, however.
Of course Jack gets his own heartbreaking send-off to his wife this season. Bella, having finally succumbed to cancer, gets a sad and lonely funeral with only Jack in attendance. There’s a poignant montage that intercuts the funeral preparation with Jack’s memories of his and Bella’s wedding. It’s touching and sad, and ends with Jack finding a letter next to his dead wife. The letter merely contains simple condolences, offered by Hannibal. Will walks in and they sit next to each other for a bit before Jack leaves, and leaves the letter in Will’s hands.
Chilton sees Will Graham before any of the other survivors of season two’s finale. He’s Will Graham’s first visitor, and wants to talk about Hannibal. “An optimist is someone who sees this as the best possible of worlds, a pessimist is someone who fears this is true. This is your best possible world Will.” Having survived Hannibal puts Will in a unique position in Chilton’s eyes, but Will doesn’t seem to agree. After Chilton suggests Will has wound up on the best path, Will imagines a few alternate ones. He most strikingly imagines killing Jack Crawford with Hannibal (over an elaborate meal no less). This grim image raises further questions of Will’s allegiance. He seems completely devoted to Hannibal now, a suggestion furthered by his meeting with Jack Crawford.
Jack walks into Will’s garage, saying he would’ve liked Will to look for him. Then he asks him about the phone call. The end of season two saw Will calling Hannibal and warning him that they were close to catching him. Which is what led to the brutal bloodbath that was the season two finale. It’s an intense and sad moment; it was easy to assume Will’s betrayal would slip under the radar, but it makes more sense that it didn’t. But the confrontation isn’t half as sad as Will’s response. He wanted Hannibal to run away, and he wanted to go with him. At this point in season three it seems completely clear Will’s forgiveness was honest, he misses his friend, Hannibal wormed his way so far into Will’s mind that untangling the two seems impossible. When talking with Hannibal, and a woman indoctrinated by Hannibal, Will might have had reason to lie about his emotional state. Telling Jack he wanted to run away with Hannibal can serve no purpose, maybe it’s designed to push Jack away, but even by this show’s standards that would be a stretch. The question now is can Will get over his psychological damage at the hands of Hannibal.
Will’s not the only one irrevocably changed by Hannibal’s machinations however. Alana, once the romantic interest of both Will and Hannibal, is first seen hospital ridden. She was thrown out of a second story window by Hannibal, and when Chilton comes calling on her she’s lying in bed with her legs carefully constrained. “I always liked the word defenestration, and now I get an excuse to use it in casual conversation.” It’s hard to tell right away how changed she is by her experiences. She is a casual casualty of Hannibal’s ploys, she meant little to him, but still suffered horribly. She certainly seems bitter, subdued, broken. But so does everyone else. Will’s quiet melancholy was revealed as loneliness, whereas Jack’s was revealed as fatalistic acceptance. Alana’s winds up resolving itself as something else entirely. By the time she’s walking again she has a certain newfound swagger, dressed in striking orange with bright lipstick and a silver cane. She’s been hired as Mason Verger’s psychiatrist as well.
She first meets the other Verger sibling. Mason’s sister cautions Alana about her brother’s appearance, and then about something else, “If my brother offers you chocolate, politely decline.” Creepy. Mason was already a cruel killer last season, and it seems unlikely that the experience of cutting off his own face and feeding it to Will’s dogs will have improved his temperament. Surprisingly however what Mason leads with when he meets Alana is religion. “Have you accepted our lord and saviour Jesus Christ into your heart?” It seems that after Mason’s near death experience at Hannibal’s hands he fancies himself a bit of a Christ figure. A resurrected being not driven by anything as paltry and work-a-day as revenge. A sentiment that rather clashes with the bounty he put on Hannibal’s head.
He interrogates the cold Alana, spittle working its way down his missing chin. He asks her how much Hannibal cared for her, and how she finds herself feeling now. Verger’s questions are uncomfortable and intrusive. “Hannibal got deeper inside you than anyone else.” Pretty gross, although given Mason’s past propensity for literally seasoning his cocktails with human tears perhaps not shocking. What does surprise however is Alana’s response. She’s seemed cold and distant all episode, but never colder than when talking with Mason. She grins cruelly at Mason’s final questions, responding that she could get behind “some old-testament revenge.”
Later she clarifies. With Jack abandoning police work, she’d rather take her insight into Hannibal’s mind elsewhere. After she suggests Verger will be able to track the man by the food he eats, he asks her why not go to the police. What Mason is offering that no one else can is “the theatre of Hannibal’s death.” Alana wants the killer dead, and given how reasonable she’s been in the past it’s an intense (but believable) shift. It’s dramatic character development, and seeing her work with Mason Verger to hunt Hannibal will be absolutely fascinating.
As for what the “theatre of Hannibal’s death entails”, Mason makes that clear when talking with his unsettling and unlicensed private doctor. The large bald man massages Mason’s scar tissue and legs, while Mason hints at some task he could only offer to someone extremely loyal. His doctor, named Cordell, accepts the responsibility blindly, and Mason disturbingly reveals his plans.
Mason: I’d like you to prepare for Hannibal to be eaten alive.
Cordell: How would you like him prepared?
Mason: Cordell. If I had lips, I’d smile.
The last thing we see this episode is Jack arriving at Will’s house only to meet Alana, who explains that it’s too late, Will has already left. And indeed he has, seemingly taking a sailboat in pursuit of Hannibal.