‘Hannibal’ Review: Gorging at Dr. Lecter’s ‘Memory Palace’ Will Satisfy Horror-Starved Fans

The world’s most beloved psychopath returns to NBC as Season 3 premieres on Thursday night

Last Updated: June 19, 2015 @ 11:59 AM

Season 3 of Bryan Fuller’s “Hannibal” makes a quantum leap deep into Dr. Hannibal Lecter’s demented psyche — including his “memory palace.” Where Season 1 most closely resembled standard TV storytelling and Season 2 explored Will Graham’s damaged self, the NBC horror-thriller treads even more lethally dangerous territory this outing, while indulging Lecter’s twisted sense of humor.

Set in Italy, where Lecter — inhabited with such elegance by Mads Mikkelsen — is nesting with Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson), “Hannibal” pours out in deep jewel tones, slow motion and black-and-white flashbacks that pay homage to the country’s great 20th-century cinema, like Bernardo Bertolucci’s “The Conformist.”

Those who remember Paul Schrader‘s 1990 film “The Comfort of Strangers,” starring another excellent onscreen psycho, Christopher Walken, will find this rich tapestry of opulence and intrigue familiar. But Anderson’s Bedelia is a different sort of companion from Helen Mirren‘s Caroline in that film.

"Hannibal" season 3 Mads Mikkelsen, Gillian Anderson (NBC)

To connect the dots of “Hannibal’s” relationships would be to spill some of ‘Season 3’s delightful secrets, but it’s no spoiler to say that the body count piles up each episode as if Lecter is experiencing a serial killer’s midlife crisis. Some people buy a Porsche, others eat human livers with fava beans and a nice Chianti.

Where Season 2 left off, Dr. Du Maurier was on an international flight with Lecter, while Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) and Abigail Hobbs (Kacey Rohl) were bleeding out back at Lecter’s place. Dr. Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas), pushed out a window, had some nasty cuts as well.

Episode 1 picks up in Florence, where Hannibal has secured a lecturing position much to the dismay — and despite the best efforts — of Professor Sogliato (Rinaldo Rocco).

“Bonsoir,” says Dr. Lecter, greeting his first victim of the new season, an author at his own book release party. Afterward a mysterious stranger, Anthony Dimmond (Tom Wisdom), explains that Lecter’s future main course is a terrible poet.

“Distasteful,” Dimmond suggests during a later encounter.

“On the contrary,” Lecter quips in his private joke.

When Dimmond, full of charm and insouciance, insinuates himself into the seemingly happy couple’s insular world, Bedelia warns, “It’s definitely not that kind of party.

Fuller indulges in some heady metaphor and innuendo, to the point that if “Hannibal” wasn’t already too cerebral for the average horror fan, it may have accidentally stumbled into the muck of pretension. (The dead may not walk in “Hannibal,” but the good doctor does generally ensure that they’re well fed before they depart.)

On the flip side, viewers who enjoy guessing games might go a few rounds of “name the artistic influence” during slow-motion and lingering shots that could be framed in New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

But despite the audience-building challenges Fuller sometimes throws in the path of his monster — “Il Monstro,” the Italians call him — it’s hard to hate him; Hannibal Lecter is one of the most interesting characters you hope to never meet.

Executive producers on the series include Fuller, Martha De Laurentiis, Steve Lightfoot, Katie O’Connell Marsh, Elisa Todd Ellis, Christophe Riandee and Sidonie Dumas.

“Hannibal” airs Thursdays at 10/9C on NBC.