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Hannibal: “Relevés”

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Alright, people, we’ve hit the penultimate season one episode. Hannibal began and finished the episode by tying up two loose ends that could potentially blow his cover of normalcy, by killing Georgia Madchen (Ellen Muth) and later revealing his true identity to Abigail (and, presumably, making sure she doesn’t make it to season two). On the outset, this episode felt slow and remained rather talky (especially for a series that combines dialogue-heavy scenes with action particularly well), but, like many episodes, picked up the pace and ratcheted up the tension immensely by the end, coming to a head in the scene between Hannibal and Abigail. Hannibal’s menace is rooted in his serenity, a point proven all too true by the look on Abigail’s face when he apologized for not being able to protect her “in this life.”

“Relevés” is really the first time where Will is given a concrete reason to distrust Hannibal. There have been other signs that Hannibal is not such a nice guy, but they’ve been in the abstract, like when he sees Hannibal performing life-saving surgery on a victim in “Sorbet.” But those moments are meant to be more winks and nods for us as omniscient viewers (there are plenty of those) than a-ha lightbulbs. Hannibal also spends a great deal of time in this episode overtly setting up Will for the fall. Hannibal isn’t being subtle when he apologizes to Jack for letting him down on the Will front. There was a genuine sadness in Hannibal’s apology to Jack, and that may have been just as much an apology to himself for losing his friend, for taking Will too close the edge and pushing him over rather than bringing him back.


Will doesn’t know that Hannibal is the copycat killer, yet. Nor do I think that Will suspects Hannibal. But in his hallucination concerning Abigail’s confession in her father's Minnesota hunting cabin, she asks if Hannibal revealed her part as the lure in her father’s killings. I loved that scene because the audience is always given a visual break when it comes to Will’s hallucinations. We may not know when they start, but the end is usually a tell that lets us know what’s real and what’s in Will’s mind, like, say, an elk afire that was previously the spectre of a dead girl. Will’s hallucinatory confrontation with Abigail had no start or end. What was real and what was in Will’s mind? What was confession and what was dream state?

Like in Georgia’s first appearance, there’s an interesting discussion about mental illness going on in this episode, especially because the line between Will’s physical and mental illness has not been fully parsed. To Georgia, a cure is only a broken promise. Doctors won’t be able to fix anything, in her words, “They’ll just know that you’re wrong.” So what is wrong? Not with Will, but what constitutes mentally healthy? It’s a question that’s pervaded the series, as character after character puts their explicit trust in Hannibal. But it’s Jack who hits the nail on the head. “Is it really mental illness, doctor? Or is is that [Will’s] mind works so differently than everyone else’s, we don’t know what to call it?” The same could be said for Hannibal. Maybe crazy doesn’t give enough credence to the truly crazy out there. What Hannibal has can't be explained by the inner-workings of the mind. Sometimes, evil is a more fitting word.

Hannibal’s main motivation for murder has largely been ascribed to ridding the world of those he finds offensive to his sensibilities. These people had to go because they simply weren’t up to Hannibal’s snuff. But that final conversation between Abigail and Hannibal added another layer to the Hannibal character. Why did he call to warn her father, Abigail asks. He was curious. He wanted to know what would happen, how everyone would react, and how the pieces would fall into place. This is the fundamental difference between Will and Hannibal. They are both unable to connect to others but for different reasons. Will can’t connect because he understands too much, emphasizes too much, while Hannibal can’t because he can’t empathize at all. Hannibal wants to know what would happen; Will deals with the happenings.

As much as I liked “Relevés” as a set-up for a finale I’m quite excited for, it was also the episode where I most acutely felt how short 13 episodes can feel. Hannibal is well-plotted, and Bryan Fuller and co. managed to blend the serial story with smaller episodic ones on a Justified-esque level. But what could they have done with more? The back half of the season has largely focused on the Will-Hannibal dynamic, and in the process, Jack has been relegated to a smaller role, which is a shame considering how commanding Laurence Fishburne is when given something meaty to do.


The same could be said for the scene in the lab between Aaron Abrams and Scott Thompson. Since the beginning, I’ve enjoyed the BAU squints. They added a playfulness and gallows humor to the oft serious proceedings. But in “Relevés,” the BAU (minus Beverly, who has a Will soft spot, and was being deposed all episode), pushed back against Jack’s reliance on Will’s strange tactics. It’s understandable that Will’s jumps and inferences wouldn’t be so attractive to trained investigators. They rib Jack about going back to the fundamentals of investigation, and even in that small interchange, I wished there would have been time to flesh them out more. It’s an ensemble show in the sense that Will, Hannibal, and Jack are the ensemble and everyone else can feel like background noise. Not to mention the conspicuous absence of Alana who sees a murderer on the lam shot outside her house by a man whom she has a deeply personal relationships with and we don’t hear from her all episode. And what the hell is up with creepy Dr. du Maurier? I want that full story! Then again, it’s probably a positive thing when I want more of a show, rather than less of it.

Stray observations:


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