Six episodes in, and Hannibal gets its (other) psychopath to remember. Wait, is that Eddie Izzard? Eddie Izzard, world famous comedian, occasional cross-dresser, marathon man, accomplished actor and would-be mayor of London. And now, Hannibal's most memorable guest star so far.
It's a curious fact that apparently cuddly comedians and TV personalities make for surprisingly good screen villains. Look at Robin Williams in One Hour Photo, Matthew Kelly (“tonight Matthew, I'm going to be...”) in TV drama Cold Blood, Jim Carrey in The Number 23 and John Lithgow in practically everything after 3rd Rock from the Sun. Granted, none of those actors were exactly well served by their material, but the point stands. And in Entrée, Izzard plays a character that resembles Hannibal Lecter more than Hannibal himself at the moment. The one-off freaks of the week and their grisly crime scenes have been fine, but it's nice to see the characters face off against a villain worthy of their time. Eddie Izzard may seem like an odd pick, but he manages to pull it off. Hey, if Lee Evans can get himself taken seriously in Freeze Frame, anything is possible.
He's certainly given some promising material here – playing the dangerous sociopath Abel Gideon, Izzard seems to be relishing the role. After he brutally murders a nurse during his captivity, Gideon is questioned by Graham and Dr. Bloom. Is he also responsible for a series of earlier murders committed by someone dubbed 'the Chesapeake ripper?' All I know is that Entrée looks and plays a lot like The Silence of the Lambs. There's the suave psycho, locked in his cell, occasionally offing staff whenever the opportunity arises. There's also the first appearance of Dr. Frederick Chilton, as slimy and arrogant as ever. There's all the game paying, sneering and snarling of The Silence of the Lambs, and even a stand-in Clarice Starling in the form of Miriam Lass, an old trainee of Crawford's. (As Crawford asks the question, “Getting frustrated, Lass?”, I thought he was being a tad condescending, but her name is actually 'Lass.') Apparently dead for years, she's started calling Crawford again, confusing matters even further. The poor Lass plays a bigger role than might seem immediately evident, culminating in a scene straight from Brett Ratner's Red Dragon. And at last, we get to see what Lecter is capable of...
Unlike previous episodes in the series, Entrée is more driven by story than character. As pieces of the puzzle begin to fit into place, we see more of Graham's unravelling, Crawford's loss of control and Hannibal's evil capabilities. Not bad, considering that the title character is barely even in this episode (just long enough to feed Dr. Bloom and Chilton one of his dodgy dinners). The open ending suggests that Gideon will have a lot more significance to the series than any of the other criminal minds Graham has faced so far. Izzard's performance feels as though it's missing something – it's still just Eddie Izzard pretending to be scary – but a little more time inhabiting the character's skin should rectify that. There's also a reminder that we're only just beginning to uncover what Lecter may be capable of. Well, we know what he's capable of (we've read books and see films) but Hannibal is playing it incredibly close to its chest.
Fittingly, 'entrée' is the posh name for the dish served in-between the starter and main course. We're plenty of episodes into the series now, but haven't quite gotten to the meat of the dish. Entrée is a promise. It's coming, honest. Hannibal is rising (you see what I did there). They need not worry – as fast as they keep serving it up, I'm going to keep wolfing it down.