We’re checking in on the “cannibalized” episode of NBC’s Hannibal to see what we missed in the portions of ‘Oeuf’* that were excised and what all the fuss is about.
*Although many websites are calling it ‘Ceuf’, this is clearly a typo on NBC’s part.
Let’s bitch it out…At this point, it’s unlikely that the fourth episode of Hannibal will ever air in North America (reminder: it is available on iTunes, recently aired internationally and will likely be included on the DVD release, should there be one).
For those of us who have seen ‘Oeuf’, I’m sure the inevitable question is: why? Having watched the episode (my impression of the webisode content can be found here), which features Molly Shannon as a mother looking to create her own artificial family by kidnapping boys and making them kill their original families, there’s nothing particularly disturbing or graphic about it.* I would actually argue that this is the least disturbing hour that the series has produced so far with 1×05’s ‘Coquilles’ (aka the Back Angel killer) proving far more graphic and upsetting (Fun Fact: that was the one that prompted the Salt Lake City affiliate of NBC to refuse to air any more episodes of the show)
*Eric Goldman of IGN suggests that the burnt body of one child is upsetting, but I would argue that this isn’t anything worse than procedural crime shows.
Let’s be honesty: what befell ‘Oeuf’ was a case of unfortunate timing. The proximity of the episode to the Boston Marathon bombings (and, more likely, the school shootings in Sandy Hook) prompted creator Bryan Fuller to pull the plug on the episode. It was the content of the case of the week – kids killing kids – that many considered contentious, but having seen the episode it’s hard to see what he was worried about. Certainly there are kids with guns, but this encompasses only a single scene. It’s also clear that the children have been emotionally manipulated by Shannon’s character, who is presented as the true mastermind behind the murder spree.
Whether or not this is a case of social hysteria is uncertain since ultimately the decision was Fuller and NBC’s alone to make (ABC’s decision to pre-empt an episode of Castle featuring a bomb threat seems more pertinent, though that episode aired a week later). At this historical moment, it appears that child murder is simply too taboo for TV. To be clear, though, this isn’t a new phenomenon: child murder(ers) has been off-limits in North America for a long time (consider how frequently we see young children killed. It rarely occurs and when it does, it is almost never depicted on-screen). Whether or not this particular case required “cannibalizing” is up for debate, but at least we live in an age in which the content is available via alternative means, thereby ensuring we can make up our own minds.
What’s interesting about the episode is that it is destined for notoriety as the “banned” episode of the series, despite doing very little to earn such infamy. If I were discussing this episode with casual viewers, I would likely only recommend watching the webisodes as they are the only interesting aspects of the episode. Shannon is wasted in the role (she appears in three scenes tops) and the case – notwithstanding your reaction to child violence – is familiar enough that it could have been an episode of Criminal Minds or CSI.
Speaking to the episode’s role in the series’ larger mythology, it is worth noting how interested Hannibal is in the idea of family. This was evident in the clips and it is only more evident in the case. The case acts as a parallel to the experiences of both Will (Hugh Dancy) and survivor Abigail Hobbs (Kacey Rohl) in the wake of the events of the pilot. Shannon’s character wants the boys to leave behind their original family in favour of a “better” self-created option. This echoes Will’s home full of stray dogs, as well as Abigail’s comments about being unable to escape her father’s influence, including her inability to attend certain post-secondary institutions because “my father killed girls at all the schools I applied to.” Although these aren’t necessarily new elements (this thematic idea was also present in 1×03 ‘Potage’), ‘Oeuf’ really solidifies how intertwined family and genetics are with behaviour and motivation.
If I’m being honest, though, only the final scene – the one introducing Gina Torres as Jack Crawford’s (Laurence Fishburne) wife, Bella – really benefits from the additional details provided by the case. After catching up with the murderous Lost Boy clan and eliminating Shannon’s character, Jack interviews one of the boys. Not only does the boy’s situation mirror Abigail’s in that he “doesn’t get to go home anytime soon” and will have to speak with “lots of doctors”, but it’s heavily implied that the boy’s question to Jack whether he has children of his own is what inspires Jack to proposition Bella. This provides some additional context for the line, though Bella’s reaction will remain unclear until the following episode when we learn more about her fatal cancer diagnosis.
Side Note: Matt Fowler of Showrenity makes a good point about Abigail’s line joining the FBI. In the wake of last week’s Silence Of The Lambs-centric episode featuring a very Clarice Starling-like character, this line seems more relevant. Not only does Abigail represent a prototype for Starling’s relationship with Lecter, she also anticipates the arrival of Miriam Lass (Anna Chlumsky) in 1×06 ‘Entrée’.
Bottom Line: ‘Oeuf’ contains many scenes worth screening, but they’re primarily included in the webisode clips available online. Only hardcore fans of the series need to seek out this full episode, which proves a disappointing showcase for Molly Shannon and a forgettable case of the week.
Hannibal airs Thursdays at 10pm EST on NBC