Happy families: Hannibal Season 1 episode 4 “Œuf” (Fuller, 2013)

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“Œuf” on a French menu means egg, and from eggs of course come children – families. This episode features a woman (played by Molly Shannon) who is abducting children – middle children who have a grievance against their families. She persuades them that she is their family, and that they can only have one family. So she takes them back home to kill their “previous” families. This, as Will would say, is her design.

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Will, by this episode, is in deep psychoanalysis with Hannibal, and is discussing his feeling that he is somehow psychically linked to Abigail’s father, Garret Jacob Hobbs, whom Will shot in Episode 1, a shooting that left will “psychologically incapacitated” as Fuller said in an interview. He feels like he was doing the same things, even perhaps at the same times – having a shower perhaps – as Hobbs. “You could sense his madness, like a bloodhound” Hannibal tells him. “Like – you were becoming him.” Will snaps back “I know who I am. I’m not Garret Jacob Hobbs, Doctor Lecter.” But could he become that? Will, says Hannibal, created a family for himself. No, not his houseful of stray dogs. He is referring to Abigail. She is now on the way to become Will’s family. This, perhaps, is Hannibal’s design.

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Meanwhile, Abigail is immersed in grief and trauma, having lost her family very suddenly (and violently) in Episode 1. Hannibal is determined to do something about that, and of course it involves psychological manipulation – of everyone involved. He takes Abigail to his home, against her doctor’s wishes (Alana Bloom) and cooks her sausages and eggs – the last meal she had with her family, the first meal with him as her new family. He makes her a tea of hallucinogenic psilocybin mushrooms, asks if she trusts him, and it produces in her the confusion he has planned.

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She smashes a teacup, a crucial image for Hannibal, representing his longing to be able to turn back time, and restore his eaten sister to life. Hannibal is obsessed with Stephen Hawking’s description of entropy as proof of the “arrow of time” – we “know” that time only flows one way because a shattered teacup does not gather itself back together (Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, pages 152-3). Hannibal likes Hawking’s early theory that, when the universe stops expanding, time will reverse and entropy mend itself; the teacup will rise and become whole again. Mischa will return, uneaten. Hannibal is apparently a believer in Nietzsche’s eternal recurrence, although, as he picks up the broken shards, it looks like he might also believe he can break the causal chain and restore his family, but through Abigail and Will.

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When Alana appears, furious, he apologises, tells her she is right, he was wrong, that Abigail was not ready and that he has given her a mild sedative (half a Valium). Now Hannibal does not apologise as a rule, and this is not a genuine apology of course but another manipulation.

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Abigail is not mildly sedated; she is tripping out across the universe, and although she recognises Alana, it is not long before she sees the faces of her parents across the table – the family squabble resolved, she sees – family. She sees mother (Alana) and father (Hannibal) as her dead parents. Can she eventually learn to see two daddies?

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They capture the family-killing gang, and Jack talks to the boy who was (maybe) just about to become the latest family killer. The boy tells Jack that he, Jack, cannot understand families, because he doesn’t have children. In bed that night, we finally meet Jack’s wife Phyllis, whom Jack calls Bella (Gina Torres from Suits, who is Laurence Fishburne’s real life wife). Even Hannibal hasn’t met Bella yet, despite already turning Jack into an “innocent” cannibal with his boudin noir (blood sausage) from Ali Bab’s Gastronomie Practique.

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Jack asks Bella if it’s too late for them to have kids. She turns away, her eyes hooded – “it is for me” she replies. Although he is head of Behavioural Science, Jack cannot understand what problem she is hinting about. We know, of course, or at least we do if we have read or seen Silence of the Lambs.

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Sorry – no more spoilers.

This episode was originally set to be broadcast on April 25, 2013. However, five days earlier, the episode was pulled from the broadcast schedule in the U.S. at the request of creator Bryan Fuller, and instead appeared on the Internet as “webisodes”. The episode was still shown in other countries. It was widely reported that this was in response to the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15, but in fact, the change had been notified some hours before the bombing happened. It seems likely that this change (they showed episode 5 instead) was due to the Sandy Hook shootings the previous December, in which 20 children aged six or seven and six school staff were gunned down. America was traumatised once again as families were torn apart by gun violence.

The episode is all about families – we find out about Will’s family (poor, moving around as his father looked for work in shipyards), Jack’s (lack of) family, Abigail’s recently killed family, the murdered families of the so-called “lost boys”, the friendly badinage among the Behavioral Analysis Unit who are almost a family themselves. We even get a tiny but delicious taste of Hannibal’s family. He lost his parents when he was very young; he was “the proverbial orphan” until adopted from the orphanage by his uncle at the age of 16. We are suddenly accessing material from the book Hannibal Rising rather than Red Dragon, although of course without World War II to explain the circumstances (this series gives us a much more millennial Hannibal).

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No wonder Hannibal is cooking eggs. No wonder the episode is titled “Œuf”.

 

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