“the very air has screams”: HANNIBAL Season 1 Episode 10 (Fuller, 2013)

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Be honest: do you still wonder, perhaps late at night, if there is someone/something under your bed? This episode is called “Buffet Froid” (cold buffet) and starts with a young woman returning to her home on a cold, dark night, wisely ignoring rattling noises in her shed and heading inside, but we know from the statue outside that things aren’t going to go well.

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She tucks herself into bed but then hears water dripping through her ceiling. She heads up the dark, musty stairs to the attic to investigate – a big lump of her roof is missing. She staples plastic over the hole, but we’re outside, and we can see footprints. When she gets back to her room, she sees puddles, perhaps footprints, and as she reaches her bed, she is dragged underneath it and killed.

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Meanwhile, Will is getting more and more unstable. He draws a clock for Hannibal (a simple test for neurological problems). It looks fine to him. But to Hannibal:

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He goes fishing and cuts up the fish which bleeds profusely, like a human, and suddenly he is at the crime scene where the woman was killed, and he seems to be the killer. He rushes from the room, covered in blood, having contaminated the crime scene.

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Now even Jack is concerned. Officially. Hannibal offers to refer Will to a Neurologist, but says if there is no physiological cause found, he will have to accept a diagnosis of mental illness. Which is precisely where Hannibal is steering him. Hannibal accompanies Will to the Neurologist, Dr Sutcliffe (John Benjamin Hickey), but while Will is having a brain scan, Hannibal tells Sutcliffe that Will has encephalitis. How does he know? He says he smelt it.

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The scan shows massive inflammation on Will’s brain, but Hannibal persuades Sutcliffe to say there is nothing wrong, so that they can study Will’s response. For the good of science, of course.

But Hannibal’s plans don’t only require Will to think he is going insane – Jack needs persuading too. Hannibal tells him about the Neurological examination over a post-dinner brandy, then has a fascinating exchange about how Will’s empathy – his “mirror neurons” – make him vulnerable.

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Hannibal and Sutcliffe (they were at Hopkins together – presumably Johns rather than Anthony) meet for dinner and discuss a rare and expensive form of pork – jamon iberico. We learn that Hannibal loves his treats: the more expensive and difficult to obtain they are, the better. They decide that, if the eater decides the meat is superior, then belief determines value. “A case of psychology overriding neurology” points out Hannibal. This banter of course is really about Will Graham. What makes Will rare enough for Hannibal to care about?

So they have set his mind on fire, but when will they put it out? “Will is my friend” says Hannibal. He’ll put it out when it’s necessary.

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But Sutcliffe is running more tests on Will, which is not part of Hannibal’s plan. As Will comes out of the scanner, he finds the room deserted. Sutcliffe is very dead: he has had his face peeled back, like the woman at the start of the episode, and of course everyone assumes it is the same killer, the one under the bed, Georgia Madchen (Ellen Muth).

That night, as Will sleeps fitfully, his multiple stray dogs start to bark and growl. He realises Madchen is back – under his bed.

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He persuades her that she is alive, and not alone. She comes in for treatment. How much, Jack wants to know, will she remember?

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Although she has a disease in which she cannot see faces, she has witnessed Hannibal kill Sutcliffe and then hand her the scissors.

Remembering would be dangerous.

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“I know what monsters are”: HANNIBAL Season 1 Episode 9 (Fuller, 2013)

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This episode is named “TROU NORMAND”, which is a shot of liquor, usually Calvados, a potent apple liqueur from Normandy, served between courses of a particularly heavy meal. And yes, the first eight episodes of Season 1 were heavy going, and we know that the main course is yet to be served.

In this one, the FBI team are investigating a totem pole made of dead people in West Virginia. The bodies are carefully coiled together, making a puzzle for the investigators.

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Will does his reenactment, then blinks and suddenly he is in Hannibal’s waiting room. He knows then that he is in trouble – the sleepwalking, the hallucinations and now he’s disassociating, and losing time. He has just driven 3 ½ hours from the crime scene to Hannibal’s office with no memory of it at all. Oh yes, he’s a sick puppy. Hannibal’s diagnosis is interesting:

Hannibal also summarises why we care about people we know and usually don’t give a damn about anyone else:

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“What if you lose time and hurt yourself? Or someone else?” Hannibal is planting the seed. Will may be capable of – anything.

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Will apologises to Jack for disappearing from the crime scene, but Jack hasn’t noticed anything wrong. Is there something wrong? No, Will grins, everything’s fine. No problems.

Abigail Hobbes is also in trouble. She is having nightmares where her father tells her he killed all those girls (in the first episode) so he wouldn’t have to kill her. But her support group morphs into those very girls, all saying “he should have killed you, so he wouldn’t have killed me”.

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Then Freddie Lounds tells her that she is broke – the families of those girls are suing her father’s estate, and she won’t inherit a thing. She needs to write a book, with Freddie’s help of course. Will and Hannibal try to talk her out of it, but she wants to prove her innocence.

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Will is getting more and more unstable. He is lecturing on the totem pole murders, but it turns out he is addressing an empty lecture theatre. Alana finds him there, tells him she can’t get involved with him:

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Meanwhile, the FBI have found the body of the boy Abigail gutted and Hannibal helped her hide in episode 3. Jack wants to put her in the room to identify the corpse because he still suspects Abigail of the murder/s. Alana and Will are dead against causing her more trauma. Hannibal? Well, he is into growth and becoming, and for this he puts people in difficult positions:

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But Hannibal is putting his own pressure on Abigail. He tells her that he is concerned that her book, and her digging up the body, all put him in danger. He insists that he must be able to trust her. Will realises that she killed the boy, and Hannibal admits he knew, because he helped her hide the body. Is Will going to report them to Jack? Well, no, because Hannibal talks him out of it:

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Now Hannibal has Will where he wants him – legally compromised, lying to Jack, and a partner – at least in co-parenting.

Hannibal is putting on one of his fine feasts for – yes – Freddie Lounds, with Will and Abigail eating various bloody concoctions. But Freddie has thrown him, by announcing she is a vegetarian! Hannibal rises to the occasion and prepares the finest salad she has ever tasted. Despite Will’s aggressive sarcasm and Abigail’s defiance, Hannibal manages to get them to agree: we’re all doing this to protect Abigail.

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After dinner, Hannibal washes and Abigail dries, and she finally confesses that she did help her father – she would befriend girls that looked like her and find out where they lived, so that he would kill them, instead of her.

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Hannibal comforts her:

Now she is totally in his hegemonic care, Will is a co-conspirator and co-parent, and Hannibal has a friend, and a family.

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This is his design.

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“I see a possibility of friendship.” HANNIBAL Season 1 Episode 8 (Fuller, 2013)

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So we’re over the half-way point of Season 1, and Hannibal’s fascination with Will has gone from amused manipulation to a possibility of friendship, based on their similarities, made piquant by their differences. This episode is all about friends – lovable, edible or just annoying.

Last episode we met Tobias (Demore Barnes), a friend of Hannibal’s (probably) most annoying patient, Franklyn (Dan Fogler, from Fantastic Beasts). Tobias is teaching a kid violin and talking about superior strings. “Are they made of cat guts?” the kid wants to know. “Not always” answers Tobias, and we then see him making new strings for the orchestra. They are guts, but not from cats.

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Franklyn is trying to “be” Hannibal – he has googled “psychopaths” and wants to discuss whether Tobias is crazy. Whether he is a “psychopath”. Whether Franklyn himself is a psychopath. Hannibal tells Franklyn he is not a psychopath, although “you may be attracted to them.” He certainly likes Hannibal a lot. And Tobias. He wants them to be his friends.

The murder victim in this episode (Baltimore is such a dangerous place!) is the trombonist from the Baltimore Metropolitan Orchestra. The killer has jammed a cello down his throat and played him – created a sound – “my sound”.

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But why go to all that trouble? Franklyn tells Hannibal that Tobias had been talking about cutting someone’s throat and playing them like a violin – exactly what the FBI found. Will has a theory:

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Why would he tell Franklyn about it though?

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Hannibal goes to visit Tobias, talks about strings, composing or discovering music on his preferred instrument: the Theremin. With a little coded chat, they soon determine that they have a lot in common.

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Will wants to be (more than) friends with Alana – he kisses her, but she bolts. Tobias comes to dinner at Hannibal’s home, at which he admits he was going to kill Hannibal.

“Of course you were. I’m lean. Lean animals yield the toughest gut.”

Tobias says he changed his mind after following Hannibal to a bus depot, presumably the one referenced last episode (where the victim was cut in two and left sitting across the bus aisle from himself). He knows that Hannibal is the Ripper. Hannibal is not pleased. Tobias doesn’t care about being investigated by the FBI – he will just kill whoever they send to investigate him. Hannibal considers this reckless, and that’s not a term of praise, particularly when that might lead them back to Hannibal. But Tobias, of course, wants to be Hannibal’s friend. He wants a friend who understands him (and isn’t too fussed at the use of human body parts).

But Hannibal is not putting up with reckless friends, even if they have common hobbies.

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Tobias asks why, then, did Hannibal invite him for dinner?

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Now that is a great line.

They are on the verge of sorting it out with extreme prejudice when Will arrives seeking lonely hearts advice: “I kissed Alana!” Tobias beats it out of the window, and Will gets to eat the dessert he missed. He also gets to tell Hannibal about his latest symptoms – on top of sleepwalking and getting headaches, he is now hearing the cries of wounded animals – the latest was, he thought, in his chimney, which led to some drastic and unnecessary renovations. He admits to being “unstable.” Hannibal clearly decides he needs a challenge, and leaks the information about Tobias and his strings, and suggests Will should go investigate him. He knows Tobias will try to kill any investigators. But Will needs a challenge if he is to grow and become a true protégé. He needs to grow, and “to become”. That is the central theme of all Lecter texts.

Hannibal discusses all this with Bedelia, his psychiatrist, in one of the most fascinating exchanges of the show:

H: I met a man much like myself [Tobias of course]. Same hobbies. Same worldview. But I’m not interested in being his friend. I’m curious about him. And that got me curious about friendship.

B: Whose friendship are you considering?

H: [Now he’s talking about Will Graham] He’s nothing like me. We see the world in different ways, yet he can assume my point of view.

B: It’s nice when someone sees us, Hannibal. Or has the ability to see us. It requires trust. Trust is difficult for you.

H: You’ve helped me to better understand what I want in a friendship and what I don’t.

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Will and a couple of cops turn up to interview Tobias about the strings made from the unfortunate trombonist’s vocal chords, but Will is distracted by one of his imaginary distressed animal sounds. By the time he gets back inside, the cops are dead (they are clearly redshirts) and Will follows Tobias down the basement steps, much as Clarice followed Jame Gumb in Silence of the Lambs. There is an underground shoot out, just like – yep. Except Clarice appears to be a much better shot than Will.

Then there’s the whole Franklyn/Tobias/Hannibal thing that has to be resolved, and Hannibal is just the man for that sort of thing. Followed, of course, by the Goldberg Variations.

The Baltimore PD come to tidy up afterwards, with Jack and Will. There is a tender moment of blossoming friendship:

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Then Hannibal is back at Bedelia’s place, talking about responsibility. Does he feel responsible for Franklyn? Did Bedelia feel responsibility when she was attacked by her patient [and yes, we’ll hear a lot more about that in the future]? Yes, she says.

Was Tobias a cannibal? We didn’t see him eat anyone, but there were a lot of body parts about his basement, and abuse and exploitation don’t always have to be about eating, do they? He and Hannibal actually did have a lot in common. But he was too rash, too reckless. He could never be a protégé nor a friend. A friend would need to be a lot more vulnerable.

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“Nothing here is vegetarian” HANNIBAL, Season 1 Episode 7, (Fuller, 2013)

This episode is called “Sorbet” which, in a French menu, is the break, the refreshing fruit frappe served between courses to clear the palate. It’s all about preparing: not just the kitchen and the ingredients, but also the guests. It’s about content, and timing.

In this episode, we find out much about Hannibal, particularly the way he chooses and prepares his meat, but also some important psychological facts. We meet his psychiatrist, Bedelia Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson – Dana Scully from X-Files). She knows a lot about Hannibal – not everything, but a lot more than Jack and Will and the entire FBI. But, like one of Hannibal’s feasts, she is going to serve us each dish when it, and we, are ready.

The episode starts with Will lecturing at the FBI Academy about the Chesapeake Ripper, who we (but no one else) know is really Hannibal. We learn a lot about how Will believes the Ripper views his victims, and about his methods.

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A “sounder” is a collective term for pigs, and that is how Hannibal sees his victims – as pigs. Just as humans confine and slaughter pigs with barely a twinge of conscience, so Hannibal collects human organs for his freezer.

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Organs are carefully removed. Like an earlier Ripper named Jack, the conclusion is that the killer has anatomical or surgical training (although Jack the Ripper may have been a butcher rather than a surgeon). Another important fact that Will tells the kids and us:

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And so to the theatre we go, the concert hall in fact, where we hear a magnificent opera recital from the brilliant pen of Brian Reitzell, who went on, after Hannibal, to write the music for American Gods. Of course, we can’t just sit and enjoy it as Hannibal and his annoying patient Franklyn (and his friend Tobias) do, decked out in black tie and tux. No, we start with some lessons in anatomy and acoustics – the scene starts in the larynx of the singer and we then get to follow the music up her throat and into Hannibal’s ear.

After the recital, the Chairperson of the Baltimore Philharmonic gently chides Hannibal for not putting on one of his sumptuous feasts – she misses not just the food but the spectacle.

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Hannibal replies that he is waiting for inspiration. Perhaps Franklyn provides it: as Hannibal rather testily dismisses him, he asks:

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Hannibal is also busy torturing Jack with supposed calls from his missing student Miriam Lass. As Will puts it:

“The reason he left you Miriam Lass’s arm is so he could poke you with it.”

Meanwhile, Jack and Will are busy with a new killer, who the CSI gang are convinced is the Ripper (organs have been removed, if a bit sloppily). Will says no – this dude is collecting organs for sale, and trying to save the “donor” afterwards (without a great deal of success). This is not the MO of the Ripper:

So, asks Jack, how do you see the Ripper? Will considers, and then comes up with an analysis taken from Will’s analysis of Hannibal in Red Dragon (the book):

“… one of those pitiful things sometimes born in hospitals. They feed it. Keep it warm. But they don’t put it on the machines. They let it die. But he doesn’t die.”

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We finally meet Bedelia Du Maurier, Hannibal’s psychiatrist. It is perhaps not widely known that psychiatrists go to psychiatrists, but in view of the psychic storms they deal with daily, it makes sense. Hannibal later tells Will he started seeing a psychiatrist when he chose to become one.

Bedelia does not mince words. She is no longer practising, and stays available for Hannibal because she likes him. Turns out there are other reasons too, but we’ll save them for later episodes. She and Hannibal discuss honesty, and she shows that she can indeed be brutally honest:

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She also tells him that she is his therapist, not his friend, something he recently told the distraught Franklyn, who is a version of Benjamin Raspail from the books, one of the Silence of the Lambs characters whose names were not released by MGM for the television production. Caught in his own trap, Hannibal must look for company or even friendship elsewhere. Could it be Will?

Hannibal and Will have a lot in common, particularly a fascination with the motivation of the Ripper.

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We find out a lot more about Hannibal’s motivations in a series of montages showing how he chooses his victims (from their business cards) and the meal they will supply (from a set of menu cards in perfect copperplate handwriting).

He starts with a medical examiner who rudely accuses Hannibal of lying. Hannibal asks for his business card, and then appears when the man’s car mysteriously breaks down on a rainy road.

The rude medical examiner is found in a school bus, his top half sitting across the aisle from his bottom half. He is missing a kidney and his heart.

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Will realises, though, that the mutilations are just theatre.

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Hannibal and Alana prepare these organs for dinner (she presumably believes them to be from a different mammal) and duel flirtatiously as he tries to draw out what she knows about Will. Hannibal’s interest in Will is growing in each scene. He suspects Will can become a friend, perhaps even become an Übermensch like himself.

In the meantime, Hannibal is preparing his banquet for the Philharmonic. There is the montage of business cards and recipes involving liver pate, brisket, lungs and brains, and various business owners, who presumably have offended Hannibal’s intense dislike of discourtesy. This montage is accompanied by the rollicking “Golden Calf” aria sung by Mephistopheles in Gounod’s Faust.

“Le monstre abject insulte aux cieux! [The abject monster insults heaven!]”

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This spate of mutilations leaves the investigation team baffled. No longer are they seeking an organ harvester – one of the victims is missing a spleen. Who on earth is waiting for a spleen transplant? There is only one explanation:

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But despite the excitement of hunting and cooking, Hannibal is unhappy. There is a poignant scene of Hannibal sitting, forlorn, at his desk, checking his appointment book (last appointment Will Graham) as we hear, what else, the Mozart Requiem, the musical quintessence of melancholy.

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He goes looking for Will, who is day-nightmaring about Abigail (who is calling him “Dad”) and girls mounted on antlers. Hannibal interrupts his bad dreams and sees the range of atrocity photographs will has been studying.

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There follows a discussion of the possible motivations of the Ripper, in which Will is starting to get close to the truth. Hannibal suggests that perhaps the Ripper is displaying his enemies after death, as happens in many cultures. Will disagrees – “These aren’t the Ripper’s enemies. These are pests he’s swatted.” They are just being punished for undignified behaviour. Disgraced.

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As he prepares his banquet, Hannibal tells Will why he gave up surgery:

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This is news to us, although we know that, as a child, he was unable to save his sister Mischa – could this be an indirect reference? Anyway. There follows a wonderful montage of Hannibal’s banquet plates, followed by a round of applause from his guests, who are all about to become unaware cannibals.

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But before they can eat, Hannibal has a warning:

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What they applaud now, they will later consider appalling, abject, psychologically shattering. The gross hypocrisy of their logic is impossible for even the brilliant Doctor Lecter to comprehend.

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Who is the Ripper? HANNIBAL Season 1 Episode 6, (Fuller, 2013)

In this episode, we meet Abel Gideon (Eddie Izard), a doctor, like Hannibal, a killer, like Hannibal, and believed by Frederick Chilton (Raúl Esparza), the “keeper” of the Baltimore asylum for the criminally insane, to be the Chesapeake Ripper (who of course is really Hannibal). Gideon has been in the asylum for the last two years, since killing his wife and her family – on Thanksgiving. The murders ceased two years ago, and Chilton believes, therefore, that Gideon is the Ripper. Will doesn’t buy it.

Gideon kills a nurse in the psych hospital, a grisly murder which Will Graham kindly re-enacts for us (it’s just his thing), including a scene involving eyeballs that could come straight out of King Lear. The nurse’s body is laid out like the “wound man” diagram from mediaeval medical texts (the image that gave Hannibal away in Red Dragon). The nurse’s multiple wounds, however, were delivered post mortem, but Jack remembers taking his new recruit, Miriam Lass (Anna Chlumsky from Veep) to see a Ripper victim, where she deduces that the Ripper keeps the victim alive and conscious during the mutilations. Also, the Ripper removes organs, if only the yummy ones: liver and thymus.

Miriam Lass disappeared while illegally (with Jack’s tacit approval) chasing up the medical records of the victims of the Ripper. He is stricken with guilt and wants to catch the Ripper – enough to (as Will puts it) “get into bed” with Freddie Lounds whom they ask to publicly declare Gideon to be the Ripper. Hannibal is royally pissed off about this. No one gets to take credit for his work.

Now Jack is getting phone calls from Miriam – one while he is asleep in his bed, another from his bedroom while he is interviewing Gideon. Could she be alive after being classified as missing, presumed dead, for two years? The next one has a phone number attached – but when they trace it, they find not Miriam, but just her arm.

Miriam is present in this episode in flashbacks – always in black and white. Over a postprandial brandy, Hannibal asks Jack to share his memories of Miriam, but as the scene fades to a flashback, it is not Jack but Hannibal being interviewed by Miriam. She is asking him about a hunter he treated when a surgeon, who later became a victim of the Ripper. Then she finds a picture of the wound man on his desk (a direct reference to the way Will found out Hannibal in Red Dragon), and Hannibal comes up behind her in stockinged feet and grabs her by the neck.

So, dude – where’s my cannibal? No one is getting eaten in this episode, although there are hints of body parts being removed. But the episode is full of mental cannibalism – the preparation and consumption of thoughts. First – who are the psychopaths? Jack and Will are convinced Gideon is not the Chesapeake Ripper and hope to draw the real one out by getting Freddie to “confirm” a lie. They do something similar (insulting the Tooth Fairy) in the book/movie of Red Dragon, with rather drastic results. Freddie wants to know whether Gideon really is the Ripper. “Why not?” seems to be their reply. After all, Alana explains, “certain personalities are attracted to certain professions”. Psychopaths are attracted to roles as CEOs, lawyers and the clergy. Number five on the list, says Jack (and Miriam tells us the same thing in a flashback), is surgeons.

Number 6, sneers Will, is journalists. Number 7? Freddie makes Will say it: law enforcement. Well then:

Then we have that dinner party – our three favourite psychiatrists (at least until Bedelia makes an appearance next episode), those who feed on our diseased minds, discussing – what else? – tongues. Their tool, and their weapon.

Bloom and Chilton heap compliments as Hannibal serves one of his most gourmet dishes:

Inspired by August Escoffier, we are having Long Tangyuan en papillotte, served with a sauce of duxelles and oyster mushrooms. Picked myself.

They laugh about tongues (the main ingredient), although where would psychiatrists be without them? Alana hasn’t eaten tongue before; Hannibal responds that this was “a particularly chatty lamb” although who knows whose tongue it really is? Chilton, like all good dinner guests, has a story about the Romans, killing flamingos just to eat their tongues, and Hannibal responds with probably the second most famous Hannibal aphorism (after the one that got us all interested in Fava Beans):

Hannibal is speaking in tongues.

 

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Inside the shell: HANNIBAL season 1 episode 5 “Coquilles” (Fuller, 2013)

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The fifth episode of the first season of Hannibal is called “Coquilles” which is the shellfish dish at a grand French banquet. Consider the nature of a shellfish – soft and vulnerable inside, yet presenting a hard, almost impenetrable surface to the world. Know any humans like that?

Things go on inside us that no one can know. That’s the theme of this episode.

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Will Graham is walking barefoot in the middle of a highway, closely followed by a stag, and we are starting to realise that things are going on inside Will as well, things even he cannot understand. This stag is a fascinating piece of symbolism, and there are numerous pages and some fiery debates on the Internet about what he represents, or even what he is called: Stagman and Ravenstag are commonly used, but there are others too. Bryan Fuller calls him a Wendigo. Throughout the series, he comes in various shapes: the stag with raven feathers, or sometimes a man with stag antlers and apparently charred skin.

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Image from Deviant Art

The Wendigo (sometimes Wetigo) is a figure from North American Algonquin folklore. He is a mythical figure – giant, fierce and cannibalistic. He gathers strength from feeding on human flesh, but the flesh makes him grow larger, and so his appetite can never be satisfied. The Wendigo is able to return from death unless destroyed by fire, and some stories say that his bite will infect the victim and turn him into a Wendigo too.

In the show, this figure often stands in for Hannibal as Will struggles to understand that his friend is the Chesapeake Ripper, and Will is surprised to find a statue of a stag in Hannibal’s office. But, more generally, the giant form of the stag represents the animal inside each of us, the incongruity of our belief that we somehow transcend our animal selves, while in fact our basic instincts and appetites continue to drive us. Welcome to the Wendigo syndrome, a voracious appetite, which made the Native Americans believe that the white man was afflicted with a Wendigo disease when they saw him steal their lands and slaughter their people.

Anyway, the police pick up Will, and the stag walking behind him turns out to be his favourite mutt, Winston. They take him home and, next morning, Hannibal has some significant remarks on Will’s fragile state and Jack’s manipulative practices, and the way Jack got Will back on the job.

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The creepy dude, called “the angel-maker” who is the one-episode antagonist for this one has a special power – he can see demonic people. Where we see a nice couple going to their room in a motel, he looks up from his ice bucket and sees a couple of demons with burning skulls.

These sort of delusions never end well, and in this case, their holiday ends with them on their knees, hands clasped in prayer, and the skin of their backs flayed and suspended from the ceiling. They have been turned into angels, praying for the crazy dude who, the team figures out, has a brain tumour and is terrified of dying in his sleep. Turns out his victims are not quite as innocent as we think either. Seems angel-maker really can sense bad dudes. He’s doing, Will tells us, God’s work. He’s making angels out of demons.

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Meanwhile, Jack and his wife Bella are having dinner at Hannibal’s table, and Hannibal’s keen sense of smell tells him what Jack hasn’t figured out yet: Bella is also dying of cancer. Jack just thinks she is having an affair.

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Hannibal serves a delicacy – “a masterpiece foie gras au torchon with a late harvest of vidal sauce with dried and fresh figs”. Bella declines the course, due to the well-known cruelty involved in producing foie gras. This leads to a fascinating conversation about the nature of the human/animal binary and the human predilection toward cruelty.

Hannibal: too rich?

Bella: too cruel.

Hannibal: First and worst sign of sociopathic behaviour – cruelty to animals.

Jack: that doesn’t apply in the kitchen.

Hannibal: I have no taste for animal cruelty. Which is why I employ an ethical butcher.

Bella: be kind to animals and then eat them?

Hannibal: I’m afraid I insist on it. No need for unnecessary suffering. Human emotions are a gift from our animal ancestors. Cruelty is a gift humanity has given itself.

For the next course, Hannibal serves roasted pork shank.

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Later, Bella comes to consult Hannibal as her psychiatrist. She is unwilling to tell Jack about her fatal diagnosis, because he has enough to worry about. Or because she is having enough trouble working out her own response to death, and has no desire to deal with how Jack will respond. Hannibal gives her a look – is it a kind of empathy?

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Meanwhile, Hannibal is still working on Will, turning him against Jack. Just as the angel-maker has feelings of abandonment, so Will might feel abandoned by Jack – Jack has abandoned him “in the way gods abandon their creation”. Hannibal wants Will to change creative deities, become Hannibal’s protege. It’s working too: Will tells Jack off and is forced to apologise when Jack barks “I didn’t hear that! Did I?” (a line from the book Red Dragon, although not spoken by Jack in that text).

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They track down the angel-maker’s wife, who explains how she withdrew from him and ended up leaving him as the cancer progresses. A rather dark light bulb goes on for Jack.

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Will is getting worse – the headaches, the sleep walking, and the hallucinations. Just as the angel-maker has a brain tumour and Bella has lung cancer, Will also has hidden things going on: beneath the hard surface of his coquille he has encephalitis. Hannibal, with his unerring sense of smell, knows it immediately, but he is not going to tell anyone about it. He is going to use it, to draw Will towards his becoming.

This is his design.

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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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