‘Hannibal’ (Season 3): Isolation Abroad

There’s no denying that the world of Hannibal is defined by its dream-like quality. From Will’s descent into an encephalitic madness in season one to the increasingly bizarre imagery featured towards the end of last year, the show operates in a reality all its own. Up until now, though, there’s been at least some tether to reality, familiar elements to keep us grounded in the show’s world. With the first two episodes of season three, though, showrunner Bryan Fuller has taken away all those tethers, leaving us more at Dr. Hannibal Lecter’s mercy than ever before.

The chief way the show does this is through isolation, not only in removing as many familiar faces and places as possible from these first two episodes, but in the way the characters themselves are isolated. While Bedelia seemed like a confident, willing partner to Hannibal at the end of season two, we now find that she’s more damaged and self-doubting than ever. A good day for her is simply having the sense that she’s fully in control of her own actions, and not under Hannibal’s sway. A bad day is going to the one shop that seems to be hers alone and still seeing blood and death all around her. Whether he’s affected any brainwashing techniques or not, it’s clear that Hannibal’s hold on Bedelia is suffocating, and it makes for some serious discomfort.

Then there’s Will, who’s torn himself away from every friend and colleague at the FBI and instead gone on a one-man hunt across Europe for his former friend. Like Bedelia, Will is trapped by Hannibal’s mind games, unable to fully hate the man for all the horrors Hannibal has visited upon him. For the majority of the second episode, the show sells us that Abigail somehow survived having her throat slit a second time – both through our understanding that she’s lived through it before and the fact that Hannibal’s precise enough to keep her alive if he wanted to – before tearing her away from us – and Will – yet again.

It’s the way Abigail serves the plot, though, that shows how messed up Will is, as well as why he’s unsure how he’ll react once he finds Hannibal. He’s not just mad at Hannibal for killing her, but ashamed of himself for rejecting Hannibal’s offer and putting Abigail in that position. On top of that, there was Will’s vision of an organ-born stag stalking after him, one that serves as both one of the show’s most disturbing images and a reminder of the obsession that has isolated Will once again. However close to insanity he has seemed in the past, Will is closer now than ever before, all without the safety nets of two characters we aren’t even sure yet are still alive, Jack and Alana.

Even the master manipulator himself is isolated, with Hannibal in exile and reeling from the loss of Will in his life. Truthfully, Hannibal has adapted the best to his new life abroad, but his continued obsession with Will shows that he’s not going to be able to move on until the two men finally meet on equal ground. Like everyone else, Hannibal is adrift, though after two episodes of isolation and surreal moments of self-exploration, it seems likely that the real conflict will begin in the coming weeks.