So. Hannibal 1×03: ‘Potage’

Spoilers for Hannibal, episode 3, ‘Potage’.

After the fungus obsessed killer of last episode, ‘Potage’ brings us squarely back to the case of the Minnesota Shrike, the wake of his murders and the fate of his daughter. Abigail Hobbs wakes from one nightmare – killing and dressing a deer under her late lamented father’s instruction, that all of a sudden transforms into a dead girl (or possibly even herself) – into another living nightmare.

She has to come to terms not only with the fact that her father killed her mother and tried to kill her, but that he also killed eight other girls as substitutes for her, and stuffed pillows with their hair. Waste not, want not, after all, which he carried even further by feeding parts of the bodies to his family. Abigail reacts to this epiphany – and to Lecter’s calm ‘It’s quite probable’ – about as well as you’d expect.

It gets worse: by now the general public assumes she was complicit in her father’s crimes and react accordingly, the authorities have her under suspicion, and one of the few people that’s at least candid with her about all this is a reporter who manages (albeit probably unintentionally, give Lounds some credit) to sic the brother of one of the victims on her.

On top of all this, if she wasn’t a killer by the start of the episode – of humans, at least, although she’s clearly remorseful about that deer – she most certainly is by the end, having managed to gut Nicholas (said grieving brother of the lady with missing lungs in ‘Aperitif’) like a fish, when he worked up enough nerve to attack her.

I have to congratulate Abigail on not ending ‘Potage’ in a writhing mess, although inside we can’t even begin to fathom how fractured she is. Kacey Rohl does a fantastic job portraying Abigail as necessarily manipulative, scared, awkward, horrified and, by the end, filled with fascinated understanding and some small terror.

Will Graham, meanwhile, has to come to terms with the fact that the girl he has obsessed over and longs to protect is afraid of him, thanks to an aforementioned unprincipled reporter…as well as the knowledge that he might have been wrong  about his analysis of the ‘copycat Shrike’. Abigail’s ill-fated friend Larrisa tries to come to terms with knowing her best friend’s father killed and ate people – she could have done better, but she could have done a lot worse. Hannibal Lecter must come to terms with the fact that someone at least guesses at his secret – with very good grace, I must say.

And I had to come to terms with the fact that, after all my praise of the juxtaposition of shots in the first episode, as well as appreciating the irony of Lecter watching Graham discuss and analyse the murder he committed, Lecter might not be the ‘copycat Shrike’ after all…

…or at least, I would have until I remembered the rock. AKA the rock that Larissa threw at Nicholas with enough force to draw blood, and which Hannibal quickly hid. Perhaps we can guess at how Nicholas’s DNA got into Larissa’s mouth after all.

Still, it made me do a double take for a few seconds, which is one of the things I enjoy about this series. It keeps you guessing. Since we’ve never actually seen Lecter kill anyone on screen as of yet, there is always the slight possibility that he was merely enjoying a plate of perfectly legitimate lungs, as opposed to illegitimate ones. As with the scene between Lecter and Lounds last week, you’re never absolutely certain of what’s going to happen next.

Speaking of our intrepid reporter, her first appearance in this episode, having managed to get into Abigail’s hospital room and attempt to interview her, caused me to once again exclaim out loud unto the heavens thusly:

“Oh for God’s sake!!!”

It would not be the last time Lounds caused this reaction in me during this episode. You would think, after the debacle of last week, that she’d be just a tad less eager to snoop into the business of serial killers, if only for a few episodes. But maybe that was just me. It seems she’s not going let a little thing like someone being shot in front of her, and nearly getting killed herself, to stand in the way of updating her blog with something fresh, new and unfortunately true.

All I can say is, good for her…sort of, brave woman, but I really hope they only carry her antagonistic relationship with Graham so far, as well as showing a limit to places she can get into by use of her cunning and such. What’s next, the FBI headquarters? I accept Lounds as an antagonist of sorts, but she had better not spend the entire season bringing Graham and those close to him to the attention of various killers or harassers, however unwittingly.

However, I did enjoy her discussion with Abigail, and the girl’s reaction to her. Lounds definitely has ulterior motives, but it was clear she did understand the problems that the girl was going to face and was probably, in some twisted way, trying to help.

It’s help that Abigail sorely needs. Dr Bloom, with all her supportive offers of clothes and gift cards, has suspicions that undermine her kind overtures. Crawford’s manipulative side is coming on in leaps and bounds and Graham, while genuinely meaning well, is rather ineffectual – hardly surprising, when he’s having nightmares of slitting her throat. When, at her request, he opens up to her about the images in the dreams he’s been having, her reaction is almost dismissive: “No wonder you have nightmares.” Perhaps not the reaction he was hoping for.

Irony once again rears its’ ugly head; of all people, it’s Lecter who Abigail connects with most strongly over the course of the episode, while at the same time being repelled by him. Hannibal, after all, is ‘nothing like your dad’ – he doesn’t honor his kills, he treats his victims like pigs.

These parallels were fascinating. From the very beginning there’s a running theme of honoring the victim; when Abigail expresses regret over the death of the deer she shot, Hobbs earnestly reassures her that none of the animal will go to waste, and if they didn’t use even a part of it that would be murder. This theme of using every last part of the body – as Abigail remarks, darkly noting that the remaining girls the FBI are searching for have most likely been turned into paste – is in stark contrast to Lecter’s canon methods of killing. He eats the rude and occasionally makes them into art, as evidenced by Graham’s analysis of the ‘copycat Shrike’ to his class, but other than that he treats them as shells. The way he poses them is even insulting, to a degree. There’s obviously no right here, but which killer is the more palatable?

There’s also the contrast between the assurances of her father and of Lecter, when she says: ‘I didn’t honor any part of him, so it’s just…murder, isn’t it?’ Her father might well have condemned her; Lecter calmly states that it was self defense, even if others might no think so. At first I thought this final scene between the two of them would be rather in the manner of a seduction, like Lecter’s sessions with Will – but instead it’s more a sizing up of each other, Abigail confirming that Lecter called her father and Lecter promising to keep her secret if she keeps his. Not a seduction then; more of a recognition.

I’m very curious about where this connection between the two of them will go, and what part Abigail might play in the story to come. Hannibal does, after all, seem to be protective of her, in some strange way; when she’s staring in shock at what she’s done to her attacker, there are flickers of emotion in his face – although don’t ask me to guess at what they are. Did he help Abigail to hide the body in this same protective vein? Or did he do it to gain some small control over her? Or to cover his tracks once and for all and provide an ‘on the run’ culprit that the FBI will never find? I’m going for a mix of all three.

I’ll confess that I’m also curious about whether some part of Nicholas will end up on Lecter’s dinner table – not that they’d make it that obvious, but I’m going to be watching what Lecter eats very carefully in the next few episodes.

As for the body, once again there are some suspensions of disbelief. How did Hannibal and Abigail have the time and the ability to get the body out of the house, and clean up that rather conspicuous pool of blood on the rug, without anyone outside noticing? For that matter, why was Nicholas hanging around the Hobbs’ backyard in the first place? Did he know that Abigail was going back to her home, and if so, how? Was he just waiting around for days on end on the off chance that she’d return? What on earth was Lounds hoping for when she told him about Abigail waking up, exactly? Did Abigail actually butcher Nicholas? From our view she just stabbed him in the stomach, but the aftermath is rather more messy than that one stab would suggest. Does Hannibal know exactly where to smash someone in the head to as to knock them out for a space of time, or did he just risk giving Dr Bloom brain damage? How was Abigail able to get inside Lecter’s office/home/abode, aside from climbing the walls?

Is it redundant by now to comment on how beautiful and striking this series is? Probably, but I’ll say it again anyway. The opening image as Abigail dresses the deer, stroking her fur as she disembowlled, and then cutting all at once to the hair of a grey and lifeless girl, made me jump and go ‘Oh no aaaaaa.’ Graham’s dreams are harrowing, Larissa’s impalement upon the antlers is hauntingly gorgeous  the stag with raven’s feathers is terrifying. A tableaux I really like was Abigail returning to the family home, seeing her father’s life gathered up in evidence boxes, the pictures turned around on the fridge and the spot where she nearly died now free of blood – as if she and her family have been wiped from this place altogether.

Better almost than the imagery this time, though, is the dramatic irony. We get so many delicious helpings. Lecter enters Graham’s lecture just in time to hear discussion and analysis of the ‘copycat Shrike’ and listens avidly – again with a smile on his face! Later, when Graham is re-evaluating his analysis of the copycat in the face of their latest murder, Lecter’s once more listening to Graham describing him – or what, at this stage, we can still presume is him – while wearing a tweed suit, rather reminiscent of shooting or hunting jackets. Appropriate, for someone who’s just been on the hunt and is, in a sense, being hunted, although he’s put his followers off the scent for now.

‘Potage’ is in some ways a quieter course than its predecessors – if you can call an episode where a girl is hung on antlers and a man is stabbed in the gut quiet – and more reflective. There was much less between Will and Hannibal, and yet they’re much more of a team in this one, working together to help Abigail and to solve crimes out in the field. It’s intriguing and immensely satisfying. Still, I’m looking forward to something new in the next episode, where it appears someone has a thing for angels and there are many, many ribs on display. Yum.

Although no lungs pulled out through holes in the back, as of yet.

Well, you can’t have everything in life.

Edit: Due to the aftermath of the Boston Bombings, NBC and Bryan Fuller have chosen to pull episode 4 of Hannibal, and go straight to episode 5, an episode with an as yet unreleased title.

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