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Hannibal – TV review (S1E12, Releves)

The penultimate post in my set of reviews of series 1 of Hannibal. The full set are listed under the ‘Hannibal’ label. Next week will see the review of the final episode, and then some more general reflections on the series as a whole. I already cannot wait for series 2!

Bryan Fuller’s walkthrough for the AV Club is here, and the AV Club’s own review here

In brief: an intriguing and dramatic set-up for the final episode; wordy, but weighty and suspenseful.

Recovering from his encephalitis-induced fever, Will encounters Georgia Madchen in the hospital, our killer from episode 10 (Buffet Froid). I didn’t find Georgia particularly engaging in that episode, and I don’t find her particularly engaging in this one either. She discussed with Will her distrust of the medical profession: “They won’t find what’s wrong; they’ll just know you’re wrong,” she warns him. The dialogue is good, but there is something wrong and awkward in the acting, so I struggle to believe that her words would impact Will so strongly as they seem to, prompting him to begin accepting his disintegration as inevitable and impossible to arrest.

Circumstances are now pushing Hannibal further and further in committing apparently random murders, incinerating Georgia in the oxygen tube she is being treated in. I didn’t like her, but she didn’t deserve that! He does so because, despite Georgia’s diagnosis, he cannot be sure that she didn’t see his face whilst he was murdering Dr Sutcliffe. At the end of the episode, it is Abigail who must succumb to his drive for self-preservation. For Hannibal, this murder is intensely personal and almost melancholy. He apologises to her for not being able to protect her “in this life”. I think this is genuine, but it is mingled with a sense of disappointment in how she has turned out since her father’s death.

Although he is not present, we can be sure that Hannibal would be disappointed in the way Abigail conducts herself with Freddie Lounds. Lounds shines; she is back in her element again, “helping” Abigail write her book, but also critically analysing her. She identifies “a very specific brand of hostility” as the trademark of uncaught killers, but Abigail is too cock-sure to recognise this as relating to her, and the conversation turns to Will before turning to Nick Boyle for a second time, when Abigail looks chastened; she “finally gets” that killing is the “ugliest thing in the world”, as she says to Will later. Abigail lacks the careful self-awareness and self-control that characterises Hannibal, and he has not been able to foster it in her.  In a way, this is what disappoints him and makes him lament his ability to protect Abigail in the moments before he murders her.

I found the interaction between Dr Du Maurier and Jack particularly intriguing. Her coldness more than matches Jack’s blunt approach that mixes blackmail with insinuation. Seeing her against Jack, we can see how Anderson’s facial control matches Mikkelsen’s, and when she reflects on Hannibal’s relationship with Will, although she seems forthright, she is obviously guarded and only half truthful, gibing at Jack that he is inadequate as a friend to Will when compared with Hannibal. The scene with Jack adds to the later scene between Anderson and Mikkelsen, when Du Maurier speaks to Hannibal as a “colleague” (for a moment, we think she might use the word “friend”), urging him to stop “whatever he is doing”. Hannibal remains convinced that Will needs his “help”, however, and continues to offer him the same sort of help he tried to offer Abigail: manipulation of identity. Hannibal is trying to help Will understand the flaws of his thinking about himself, and Hannibal does not accept the idea that there are limits to his own powers. The stage is set for the confrontation between Will and Hannibal in the final episode.

As a final thought, I was amused that the A.V. Club reviewer wrote about Hannibal’s unfettered intellectual curiosity and willingness to toy with others as if it were a surprise. I assume this is because they have deliberately tried to analyse this Hannibal from first principles, without drawing on the Harris novels to shade and colour him from the start, as I’ve done. 

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