The third episode of Hannibal is a relief, letting go of the “case-of-the-week” format; we are formally introduced to Abigail Hobbs (played by Kacey Rohl). Abigail is daughter and only survivor of Garrett Jacob Hobbs, the serial killer from the pilot. After her father tried to kill her–and killed his wife–Abigail has been in a coma.
And so this episode breaks the structure that the series has established, relegating Will Graham, to the supporting cast as Abigail awakens and has to deal with her new reality: her mother was murdered by her father, her father is dead, her father was a brutal serial killer whose targets were chosen for their resemblance to her, everyone in the neighbourhood has marked her as a monster as much as her father was. Even the FBI are investigating her as a possible accomplice.
By focusing on Abigail, and exploring the ramifications of her father’s particular pathology–that he justified the killings as not being murders because he used the whole body–we see the first time a character realizes they have unwittingly consumed human flesh, something that must come back, when Lecter is finally unmasked as a killer. Abigail jerks forward, the floor dropping out from under her. And, as if to remind us that this is something that will repeat, Abigail suffers this again later, realizing how much of her everyday life was made out of the dead.
While the episode moves Lecter to the sidelines, it does further the idea of him building killers. They’ve casually established that he kills playfully, a series of puzzles–lessons–for Will Graham to (fail to) solve, because Graham suffers from the ability to think like a killer. When Lecter enters the classroom to watch Graham lecturing his students, it is as though he is testing Graham as both an adversary and as a potential son, wondering how long before Graham becomes a monster.
More overtly, Lecter puts Abigail in his debt–he helps her hide a body when she is attacked and kills in self-defense. The whole episode seems determined from the outset–opening with a flashback to Abigail’s first successful hunting trip, taking down a deer with her father, her reaction to the event–to implicate her as both victim and killer. And of course, this is Hannibal–there’s no chance to cleanse one’s self of murder, like a toxin. And now that she’s toxic, Abigail has nowhere to turn, and Lecter turns that to his advantage. He has, I expect, a protege now, even if unwilling.
Now, while Graham and Lecter recede into the background a bit, they are replaced by another duo–Alana Bloom and Freddie Lounds. The two women engage Abigail for different ends (Bloom to both heal and investigate her, Lounds to take advantage) and it’s in those interactions that the episode really blossoms for me, along with Abigail and Lecter. A friend of mine remarked that the relationships that feel the most vital or interesting in the series are the ones that aren’t preordained according to the source material.
We’re allowed to see Bloom as quite a bit more effective than Graham–while he’s better at inserting himself into a killer’s shoes, Bloom can trace and surmise on human behaviour without letting it rip into her in the same way; she sharks effortlessly through her encounters.
Contrary to Bloom, though, Freddie Lounds doesn’t quite work for me yet. I’m having trouble working out her motivations because her actions are almost as alien as Lecter’s, but without the eerie position he has. Hannibal Lecter is the mystery, but Lounds doesn’t have the same narrative weight; when she behaves in ways that feel counterproductive, it starts to grate on me because then it feels like she’s just a tool of the narrative rather than a character. I expect them to dig more deeply into her drives.
“Potage” maintains the level of discomfort that marks the series, a sort of sickening flatness that reflects Mads Mikkelsen’s default facial expression while playing Lecter. But we are given a breather, between the shift in focus to Abigail and the shift from Lecter to Bloom as the primary psychiatrist figure, the absence of a Lecter culinary scene. It still isn’t perfect, is still finding itself, though, and I’m still wondering how long they can hold onto the dramatic irony, how much the audience knows, how much we’re waiting for something to break the tension, before it starts to chafe.