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Hannibal – TV Review (S1E3, Potage)


This is the third in my set of reviews of series 1 of Hannibal. The full set are listed under the ‘Hannibal’ label. These reviews are partial and don’t really provide a plot summary, but they are liable to contain spoilers for the whole series, so please proceed with caution! 

The writer’s walkthrough for the AV Club is here, and the AV Club’s own review here

In brief: at times chilling, with an eerie soundtrack and added layers to each of the main characters.

Potage was intended to be the second episode, but was bumped back for practical reasons. I think it works well as a third episode, however, giving time for the two main characters, Will and Hannibal, to develop as a pair before developing Abigail as a character in her own right. In this episode, again Alana seeks to police Will’s connection with Abigail, but she is overruled by Jack and Hannibal (in the role of Will’s psychiatrist), opening up space for a newly active Abigail to influence the series plot arc. Whilst the other characters are more concerned with how Will connects to Abigail, I think Hannibal’s attachment to her (beyond her use an instrument for instrument for manipulating Will) is rather more interesting.

Jack’s suspicion that Abigail helped her father murder may not convince Will, but has a certain logic to it that Hannibal admits in episode 2. Nevertheless, he would find it “vulgar” if it were true. This is the true test of how Hannibal relates to Abigail: although in Amuse Bouche he claims to feel huge responsibility towards her, ultimately he is just curious to see how much “taste” she has, how nuanced is her psychology, given all that she has been through. He would like her to be better than Jack’s conclusion that she was an accessory to her father’s crimes, utterly under his influence. 

Although her practicality in the face of her trauma and her ability for manipulation (even manipulating Freddie Lounds into giving her information) might make her of interest, Hannibal’s curiosity is piqued most at the moment that Abigail proposes re-enacting her father’s crime with Hannibal playing “the man on the phone”. Her verve and long stare are too pointed for Hannibal to fail to notice; it is a dare or challenge from her to him. In this context, Abigail’s murder of Nicholas Boyle in a panicked act of self-defence offers Hannibal a chance to reciprocate the challenge, a chance that he grabs with a ruthlessness that leaves Alana Bloom with head injuries!

In his walkthrough, Fuller talks about Hannibal feeling a sense of responsibility towards Abigail, having not necessarily grasped the far-reaching consequences of his curiosity when he warned her father that the FBI were onto him (Hannibal refers to this himself in episode 2). 

I think Hannibal’s response is certainly complicated by this sort of emotional response, but I see curiosity more as his primary motivator. Now that he is in some way responsible for Abigail, what can he make her into or help her become? Come the end of the series, when he kills her, we know that Hannibal’s sense of responsibility extends only so far: as far as he can “help” her through his brand of radically unorthodox (and unethical) therapy. 

We also see from his discussions with his therapist later on that Hannibal is in search of some sort of connection; as Gillian Anderson’s character says, someone capable of “seeing” him as he truly is. Whilst Will is the primary focus of this drive, Abigail also provides an opportunity for Hannibal, even before her killing of Boyle. At the end of the episode, he and Abigail agree to keep one another’s secrets, and for Hannibal I think this is a real test of whether another can “see” him. Abigail’s expression after Hannibal has turned his back on her indicates that she is wavering, however, and Hannibal comes to realise his mistake when she betrays him and uncovers Boyle’s body. Once her path begins to diverge from his, Hannibal’s sense of responsibility towards Abigail is over. 

The two exchanges between Lounds and Hannibal here are also intriguing. Compared to their first meeting, Lounds is now far more in possession of herself, presumably after having got the measure of Hannibal’s interests via their quid pro quo in the previous episodes. She is openly defiant, and he seems amused by her in their second encounter. There is a certain level of mutual respect — perhaps mingled with contempt — that is great fun to watch.

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