This is a quick run-through of what I like to think of as episode 2 of season 4 of Hannibal, following the Red Dragon/Tooth Fairy plot from Red Dragon.
Having become increasingly unimpressed with the A.V. Club reviews for Hannibal, I’ve stumbled across the ‘Eat the Rudecast’ instead. They’re worth listening to, although they’re a little long. As Hannibal is now screening on Saturdays in the US, the podcasts are also way ahead of the UK schedule, so beware spoilers!
As the episode title suggests, Hannibal is now following closely the crimes not of Hannibal himself, but those of the Red Dragon/Tooth Fairy. While we wait for the next full moon, and the next crime to be committed, this episode focuses particularly on family, and it gives us the opportunity to explore further Hannibal’s motivation for surrendering and allowing himself to be imprisoned. Having lost his sister, Hannibal’s urge to create a family with Will and Abigail is an interesting turn from the plot of the novels, but makes sense in the context of trying to fill in the gaps that Clarice Starling leaves in the narrative. In flashback, we get to see Hannibal and Abigail working together to fake her death and frame Will, and she is almost genuinely childlike in a way that she never seemed to be with Will, either in reality or in his hallucinations of her.
As part of inducting her into his own family, we get to see Hannibal’s unconventional therapy in helping Abigail address her understandable daddy issues. Although a lot of people were pleased to see Garret Jacob Hobbs back, if only briefly, I thought this scene went too far in its constant fascination with slitting throats. The scene in the novel between Hannibal and Clarice uses symbolic tokens of her father and the power of her imagination, and she has successfully ‘passed’ the test when she emerges empty-handed, needing nothing more of him than what she chooses to keep in her head. By contrast, Abigail is encouraged to murder her father symbolically by slitting his throat. There is a good deal of difference between leaving something behind and destroying something, and I think this scene was less powerful because of the change.
Aside from the flashbacks to previous seasons, there is a lot that the show has skimmed over in the jump between the first and second halves of this season, so this episode allows us to fill in some of the gaps. Margot and Alana are still together and have their Verger baby, we learn. Jack — if Hannibal’s deductions are correct — has a new partner and a new lease of life. And Freddie Lounds has graduated from blogger to fully fledged tabloid journalist.
It was great to see Freddie back in action, sniping with Will in some of the best dialogue of the episode (#murderhusbands). If the season stays true to the novel then we’ll have more to come from her. Given that they used up some of the plot points in earlier seasons (Ko No Mono), however, such as using Freddie as bait and faking her fiery death, it will be interesting to see what sort of twist they manage to give to the order of events. The show has proven that it can be endlessly imaginative with its intertexts, so I hope they manage to put Freddie to good use.
Richard Armitage continues to shine as Francis Dolarhyde, and in this episode we see his first encounter with Reba, the blind woman who offers him companionship and a model for living with disability that might have helped him had he not been so far gone. We also get to see a flash of his back-story and his own family issues with his grandmother. For a moment, I wondered whether it was Hannibal’s family that we were seeing (the empty plate beside the young boy suggestive of a missing sibling), but it can only be Dolarhyde’s scene, in context.
I am also liking Alana a lot more now that she has finally stepped out of the role of Will’s caretaker. Her interactions with Hannibal, and her motivation for holding the keys to the five doors that contain him, show her in a far more balanced life. As a character, she finally feels like she can hold her own. It’s only taken two and a half seasons…!