Due either to the Boston City bombings or the unease of children’s violence in the wake of Sandy Hook, Hannibal creator Bryan Fuller elected not to screen episode 1×04 ‘Oeuf’. Instead, an amalgated version of the episode can be found as a six part web series on the NBC website that should ideally be viewed before episode five. If you haven’t watched them, it’s still possible to tackle ‘Coquilles’, though we’ll tackle both “episodes” in the following review since they both contain important developments.
Let’s bitch it out…The biggest narrative element to take away from ‘Oeuf’ is the introduction of Jack Crawford’s (Laurence Fishburne) wife, Bella (Gina Torres). She only appears briefly in the final webisode, but it’s clear that her relationship with Jack is on the colder side of frigid. It’s fitting, then, that ‘Coquilles’ elects to explore more of their complicated marriage.
One element that I’m enjoying a great deal about Hannibal is the time dedicated to the relationships between these damaged characters. It’s clear that their work solving these heinous crimes is affecting both Jack and Will (Hugh Dancy) – there’s even a moment when they snap at each other at the second crime scene. Much like a real life, though, there’s a great deal more to their relationship, as demonstrated by the final scene when Will senses that Jack needs him after the truth about Bella’s lung cancer has come out, even if it’s just for a silent companion.
The fact that Bella isn’t simply a cheating spouse who feels neglected by her powerful husband is a relief. During her first appointment with Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen), I was really concerned that the show would take the easy way out and simply make her an adulterer. Instead, the adultery is a byproduct resulting from her attempt “not to change” herself too much in the wake of her fatal diagnosis.
I particularly like Bella’s insistence on “cruelty-free” throughout the episode, considering that all of her actions are a betrayal to that principle. Her selfishness in keeping her illness a secret is cruel – she even admits she has no intentions of undergoing chemotherapy, suggesting that she would have died before letting Jack comfort her. But there’s also no question that she loves her husband – it’s just that she can’t make the effort to reach out or pretend to be comforted by him anymore.
That’s some deep stuff: a murky, morally complicated, truly adult relationship with no simple answers (and it’s not wrapped up by the end of the hour, either). How refreshing! How nice of Hannibal to reintroduce complicated drama back into primetime (or helping The Good Wife to shoulder that burden).
Perhaps it’s this reason that I’m already frustrated with the cases of the week (and I’m not alone). Give me bodies flayed to look like angels or used as mushroom composts, but for god’s sake integrate them into the plot better (and don’t dumb them down!). I’m so engrossed in Will’s sleepwalking, or the increasingly alarming relationship developing between Lecter and Abigail Hobbes (Kacey Rohl) that my tolerance for poorly structured cases of the week is already at an end. How did the Angel Maker manage to hoist a man two stories up in the air without anyone noticing? How did he then do the same freaking thing to himself (including the flayed back) without help? I know that we’re meant to suspend our disbelief and just go with it, but when there’s such an egregious “how the eff” moment, I find myself completely removed from the show. And considering how engrossing it is, that’s the last place I want to be.
- ‘Coquilles’, in case you’re like me and don’t know, refers to a dish served in a shell-shaped serving dish. I don’t really know what to make of this title
- MVP shout-out for this week has to go to Hugh Dancy. As Will becomes increasingly unhinged from putting himself (tonight literally) in the position of killers, the strain is wearing on his face and Dancy is making us feel every emotion. The introduction of sleep-walking in particular places – first on the highway, and then the roof – mirrors his (mental and physical) progression into increasingly dangerous territory
- The visual presentation of Will’s sleepwalking is exceedingly well done. Close-ups of his face alternate with cuts to the clock as seemingly brief snippets of time eat up hours. Just as Will finally falls asleep (his eyelids moving in REM for a few short seconds), he’s awoken – without an edit – on the roof by the insistent barking of his concerned dogs. Simplistic, but effective
- Judging from the scenes included in the webisodes (the case of the week involving guest star Molly Shannon is completely removed), 1×04 is heavy on the Abigail and Lecter relationship. It’s clear that the events of the pilot, and 1×03 ‘Potage’, remain integral to the series. The crucial scenes involve Lecter “adopting” Abigail by removing her from clinical care at the hospital and drugging her to help supplant her negative memories with positive ones. The result: she substitutes Lecter and Alana (Caroline Dhavernas) for her own parents. In an episode that appears to focus heavily on “home” and “family,” this is a very creepy development. Then again, Lecter does feed her sausage and eggs – the same meal she shared with her family before their deaths – so it’s not as though her family wasn’t already on her mind
- We’re slowly peeling back the layers on these characters backstories. ‘Coquilles’ offers a great deal of insight on Jack, but both Will and Lecter get tidbits in ‘Oeuf.’ We learn that Hannibal was orphaned at a young age and adopted by his uncle (a deviation from the novels), while Will’s mother was out of the picture and he was raised by his father who was heavily involved in boating. As usual, Lecter uses this to his advantage later: he critiques Will’s aftershave for smelling “like something with a ship on the bottle”. Tellingly Lecter also pricks his own finger on the hook Will has prepared, drawing a literal blood connection between the two men (as well as Abigail) in the process
- Interestingly Will also considers giving Abigail a fishing hook magnifying glass as a gift and the Angel Maker uses fishing line to suspend his macabre showpieces. How long until we see a case featuring with killer fishermen?
- Have we gone an episode without Lecter feeding someone something? There’s a fixation on showing him eating, feeding people or preparing food. Is it unnerving simply because we’re constantly meant to ponder the origins of his culinary delights? I did like the quick cut-away to a man being hunted in the woods when Lecter serves Jack “rabbit” in ‘Oeuf.’ It’s very much a wink-wink, nudge-nudge nod to the audience without being groanworthy
- Did anyone notice before that Lecter has a statue of a deer that is identical to the one from Will’s dreams? Clearly Will’s sleeping mind is trying to process his relationship with Lecter
- Finally, I need to discuss Alana Bloom: what is up with her?! Her behaviour in ‘Oeuf’ when she discusses Abigail’s treatment with Lecter is completely rational, but her language, clothing and attitude frequently seems to oscillate between professional and juvenile. I just don’t understand her character and it’s driving me crazy (in an interested, “give me answers dammit!” kind of way)
I’ll turn it over to you: did you watch the webisodes and, if so, what were your thoughts? (I think I would have rather watched that episode if we’re being honest) Did you find the connection between the Angel Maker’s cancer and Bella’s cancer too on the nose? Do you think Will can survive many more of these cases (he kind of has to, right? But he admits he’s already ready to crack and we’re only on episode five). And what do you think of Alana Bloom??? Comment away below
Hannibal airs Thursdays at 10pm EST on NBC