This review contains spoilers.
If my half-hearted theory from last week’s review ended up being incorrect, it’s hard to be disappointed. Because what Hannibal dished up this week is far better and more intriguing.
But first, a moment of silence for Abigail Hobbs…
I am quite sad to see Abigail go. It’s unusual on American television to see a girl of her age exhibit such intelligence and depth, let alone have her played as well as Kacey Rohl has done. The young actress again proves her skill in the scene between Abigail and Freddie Lounds where it is made clear that the difference between the two women is simply that of stages of development. “Abigail is one of those very smart girls who hasn’t quite figured out that very smart girls grow up and know all the moves they’re making when they’re trying to hide something.” Pronoun antecedent confusion aside, Freddie’s words reveal much more about the reporter than the girl she’s taking advantage of, but Abigail’s reactions are precisely the right volume to support the idea that, if she had a future, it would look very much like Freddie’s present.
And the buildup to the fate of Abigail is some of the best television I’ve seen in a long time – taut, perfectly paced, and built on carefully constructed narrative logic.
Georgia’s death at the beginning of Relevés is a disappointment (it was nice seeing the distinction she embodied between actual mental illness and the kind of depravity posited in many of the show’s other killers), but it is her murder which finally allows Will to really begin to put the pieces together and begin tightening the noose. Next week’s series finale seems to be all about who will get caught in that noose.
Crawford is also putting pieces together, but unfortunately, he’s coming to the wrong conclusions. Still, it is his series of mistakes that ultimately creates the tension that drives the episode.
He seeks out Dr. Du Maurier, and again, there’s something very strange about her in relation to Hannibal. His dining room has a wall with plants growing out of strange recessed ledges; her kitchen is adorned with simpler shelves with rows of potted plants on them. In both cases, it appears there is not really enough light in the room to nurture such plants (and who uses such low-level mood-lighting in their kitchen of all places?). But it’s the way she responds to him – an almost perfect replication of Lecter’s restrained answers and unreadable reactions – that is most suspicious. In scenes with Hannibal, this might be read as a counselling strategy. But because we see them here with the very different Crawford, we learn that this is who Dr. Du Maurier is. Did she learn it from Hannibal or vice versa? Either way, by the end of the scene, she makes it clear to Jack that she believes that Graham is in far more danger from him than Hannibal.
She obviously thinks Lecter is in danger too because she tells her patient and colleague, “Whatever you’re doing with Will Graham, stop.” She chides him to maintain his boundaries with Graham, but this comes off hollow since she is clearly ignoring those between herself and Lecter. Why is she taking such a risk? Because, she intimates, when she was attacked, it was apparently Lecter who saved her, killing his former patient to stop him from hurting his current therapist. I wonder if she suspects that Hannibal may have set her up from the start. What better way to secure such a skilled therapist and guarantee absolute confidentiality?
We learn more than just Du Maurier’s motivations, however. When Will takes Abigail back to the cabin in Minnesota and then has another break with time loss, it gives Hannibal the perfect opportunity (which he himself set up by pushing Will in the first place) to tie up at least one loose end… and reveals if not all, at least a sizeable portion, of Lecter’s own motivations.
Lounds and Dr. Bloom are right about Abigail. Not only is she smart, but she is the first of those caught up in the Shrike/Ripper killings to see the mind at the centre of it, beating both an FBI agent and a professional profiler to the punch. Whether or not Hannibal wanted her to see at this moment is debatable: he could have lured her there simply to learn what she knew about Will’s suppositions. But what he intended is less important or interesting than what actually happens.
On learning that Hannibal has been setting Will up to take the rap, the last piece falls into place for her and she asks Lecter why he really called her father. “I was curious what would happen. I was curious what would happen when I killed Marissa. I was curious what you would do.” He tells her that he was hoping she would kill Boyle so he could see how much like her father she is.
For weeks now, it’s been part of the tension of the series: is Hannibal acting out of actual concern for Will or is he just playing him, making him dance just so he can sit back and watch? The psychiatrist certainly seems to make it clear to Abigail in what we must assume are her last moments. And it only makes sense: if you had such a dangerous curiosity about what people will do under great stress, what better vantage point from which to pull the strings and watch than a therapist’s chair. Is it really that simple?
I doubt it greatly. I suspect that at least some of his interest in Will is more of a fraternal nature, but his interest in how people work continues to drive him – even to kill Abigail for whom he also seems to have genuine affection. What kind of monster would want to watch people suffer and die horribly just to satisfy an idle curiosity?
The kind of people who would tune in and watch Hannibal for twelve weeks straight.
It’s fairly easy to get an audience to empathize and like a good guy… someone who is just trying to get through a difficult situation to the best of his or her ability – we identify easily with that because that’s what we think we do. But it takes true talent to get us to acknowledge our own darker sides. We tell our friends that we watch Hannibal – not for, but in spite of all its blood, gore, and cruelty – because we are fascinated by the psychology of the characters… the people caught in such situations.
In this week’s Relevés, Bryan Fuller holds a mirror up to all of us watching, and we finally see, in the reflection, Hannibal Lecter staring back.
And the most frightening thing about it? We’ll all still tune in next week.
Read Laura’s review of the previous episode, Rôti, here.
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