“Hello, Dr. Lecter.”
The last time we heard someone say that on television, we’d just been handed the last shocking twist to the first season of NBC’s “Hannibal,” the sight of the well-tailored Hannibal Lecter standing with smug assurance outside the prison cell of FBI profiler Will Graham.
After a labyrinthine game of cat-and-mouse that lasted for most of the season, Hannibal got away with murder by pinning his many homicides on the mentally unraveling Will. It was a fantabulous sleight of hand that required not just steel nerves and savvy planning, but also convincing the latter to unconsciously swallow a human ear so that he could vomit it up to his own considerable horror in the penultimate episode.
Which, let’s be honest, probably tells you all you need to know about Hannibal Lecter. Just picture a really nice suit… And then picture the devil wearing it.
But before “Hannibal” returns tonight, here’s all the rest of the pertinent information you’ll need to enjoy the best psychological horror on television:
It’s No Surprise To Me, I Am My Own Worst Enemy
The good news is, Will Graham finally got wise last season to the truth about Hannibal Lecter. The bad news is, the details of that revelation might be lost, as it occurred during a hallucinatory fugue brought on by a raging case of encephalitis. We hate when that happens.
Hannibal has already very effectively framed Will for the crimes he himself committed, positioning himself outwardly as the man’s advocate and friend while quietly, carefully poisoning his mind and destroying his reputation.
Now, convincing the authorities of his innocence will be a challenge for the traumatized Will in any event — but if he doesn’t know that he knows what he knows, the first battle Will Graham wages will have to take place inside his own head. And that’s a problem, because it is really weird in there.
Prepare For The Battle Of The Paths
Will Graham’s gift, and curse, is empathy: the ability to walk a mental mile in anyone’s shoes, including those of the sadists, sociopaths and serial killers he’s hunted as an FBI profiler. Hannibal Lecter, conversely, is a brilliant psychopath; where Will has too much empathy, Lecter has none, yet he understands the mind of Will Graham better than Will himself.
Last season, we saw how powerful these opposite intellects could be when they were working in concert — and how Hannibal, an unparalleled manipulator, came so close once already to convincing Will that he himself is the monster. This season, we’ll be watching each man exercising his considerable gifts to try and destroy the other.
The Truth Is Out There
There’s someone else who knows what lurks behind Hannibal Lecter’s impeccable three-piece-suited facade — and unlike Will Graham, she’s not currently trapped in an institution for the criminally insane. Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier, the icy, canny therapist played by Gillian Anderson clearly understands more about her only client than she’s explicitly saying.
But with her unknown loyalties, murky motives, and chilling composure as she sits week after week across from a people-eater, it’s unclear whether Dr. Du Maurier will be a powerful ally or a dangerous enemy, and to whom.
Feast Your Eyes, Lose Your Appetite
A pro tip for “Hannibal” newcomers: Don’t blink, and don’t look away. Even at its most disturbing, each episode is a veritable buffet of imaginative eye candy. From the tormented mindscapes of Will Graham to the savory shots of Hannibal’s culinary horrors, one thing that sets this show apart is the way in which each episode is a visual feast… Albeit not one you’d ever actually want to eat. Seriously, if this show makes you hungry, there’s something very wrong with you.
And For Your Own Sake, Mind Your Manners
“Eat the rude” is the memorable motto of “Hannibal,” specifically of its titular character. Last season, Dr. Lecter made a multi-course dinner party out of a half-dozen customer service employees who failed to be polite.
With the only man who suspects Lecter’s killer tendencies now behind bars, the good doctor isn’t going on a diet anytime soon — and anyone who fails to observe proper etiquette at his dinner table is at substantial risk of ending up on it, and in several pieces. Better figure out now which one of those is your fish fork.
“Hannibal” airs on NBC, Fridays at 10 p.m. ET.