Can you catch somebody else’s crazy? There’s always a limit to what the mind can stave off, isn’t there? A point of no return, a tipping from one side to another. And the line between good and evil never looks as thin as in the mind of a potential serial killer. Especially one that has too many cooks in the kitchen.
Thursday night’s new episode of Hannibal was all about that madness shared by two — folie à deux, for all you francophiles — and how they handle it. (In a word: differently.) It doesn’t take much to teeter from one extreme to another, nor is it all that easy to deduce fact from fiction when you’re unsure what’s real and what isn’t (a mind is a confusing place to be, eh?). Just look at poor Abigail Hobbs.
The daughter of serial killer Garret Jacob Hobbs and her subsequent story is quite a metaphorical potage (the episode’s title): a thick soup. Good, bad, the truth, emotions, and rationale are jumbled together in a way that makes them entirely cloudy, complicated, and not at all easy to discern. Everything within Abigail seems muddled by her own experiences coupled with her extreme sense of empathy. She has many of the indicators of a psychopathic personality: she’s incredibly logical (even during extremely emotional situations, like say, hearing your parents are dead and that you nearly died yourself thanks to your serial killer dad), withholds information in order to gain information, demonstrates emotions long enough just to prove that she has them, and is surprisingly, uncomfortably practical. “I think she’s hiding something,” said Dr. Bloom at one point. Which, duh, yes. Doesn’t it drive you crazy that she’s so ambiguous? That’s why Abigail is largely both Hannibal and Will at once. It’s a tangled web of perceptions that are incredibly complicated and pulling her in multiple directions. It’s exhausting just writing about such mental horrors — imagine living it!
Of course this all centers back on her relationship between both Hannibal and Will. Both see Abigail for what she is — teetering on the edge of becoming one or the other — and also see her capacity to swing in either direction. The duo ultimately see themselves within her and are forcing their own perceptions upon her: a killer with a need for acceptance, understanding, and release, or an overly-empathetic linked to the dark side by impulse, but wholly (and logically) on the side of good. But Abigail’s story is not so simple, as the whole town crushes down on her with the belief (shared by Agent Crawford) that she committed or was an accomplice to her father’s crimes. Let us never forget that the girl’s father attempted to murder her. But there are clues scattered throughout the episode to point you in one direction or the other. Bryan Fuller is essentially asking his audience: are you a Hannibal or a Will?
When talking to Abigail, Will is quick to remind the poor girl that she brought out a lot of love and happiness in her father, as “he was loving right up until the second he wasn’t.” But, as she notes, that’s “not all I brought out of him.” Two sides of Garret Jacob Hobbs, meet the two sides of Abigail Hobbs: Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham.
We also learned the method to Hobbs The Father’s madness: he never considered a kill murder (person or otherwise), as long as no part of them went to waste. Cue the stomach-churning realization that Abigail and her mother probably were fed the bodies of these young women. (This show might seriously make me go vegetarian.) Could Abigail really be the monster the public believes her to be? By ingesting these women, is she just as terrible as her father, or merely an unknowing bystander to the madness that lurked just out of view?
But Abigail is both analytical and unsure of who and what she might really be. So she, logically, keeps her thought process tempered throughout the episode. “So killing, even if you have to do it, it feels that bad?”
“It’s the ugliest thing in the world.” Will never directly agrees with Abigail’s statement because we know he didn’t feel bad about killing Daddy Hobbs. In fact, he liked it — but Will still has his empathy disorder, so we know he’s acutely aware of all the ways it is terrible, regardless of how it made him feel. It’s all about control — making sure the good always outweighs the bad.
Ultimately, it’s hard to say whether or not Abigail helped her father murder these women — a point the episode makes quite purposefully to lull the audience into ambiguous moral ground. Is Abigail a serial killer? Was her father covering for her? We’re not really sure. Personally, I think Abigail was a girl much in line with our hero Will: acutely aware of her feelings, but able to control it — unless she’s pushed too far. But I know others will believe the opposite.
And suddenly the trees are lost within the forest. Ambushed yet again by brother Nicholas Boyle of copycat victim Cassie (the copycat, most in town believe, has to be Abigail), Abigail is thrown against the wall — an animal backed into a corner, afraid and already broken. Only seconds earlier, she was bowled over by the realization that the stuffing in her family’s throw pillows was actually human hair — and so her fight or flight instincts kick in. Abigail stabs Nicholas Boyle, watching his blood pool around his body. She’s in a daze as she walks up the stairs, hands sullied by the blood of her victim. It visually and emotionally felt identical to the moment Will shot her father — something I doubt was done by accident.
More shocking, though, were the moments that followed: Hannibal has found a new plaything, and finally it is ready for use. After knocking Dr. Bloom out against a wall (quite expertly, I might add), Hannibal rushes to Abigail’s side to “fix” what has happened. He tells Abigail that she “butchered” and “gutted” Nicholas. (Something tells us that’s what Hannibal plans on doing. Hannibal hates a rude boy almost as much as Rihanna.) But we all know that isn’t true: she merely stabbed him. Still, Hannibal gives her a choice: go to the authorities and assume they’ll use this as a reason to jail you as an accomplice to her father’s crimes, or bury the body. She chooses the latter, and Hannibal knows — he has her right where he wants her. Ripe and ready: a serial killer is born.
But that’s not all that’s at play here. Hannibal is having quite a lot of fun toying with Will’s oh-so-incredibly-accurate interpretations of the Minnesota Shrike copycat. He framed Nicholas for the murders (the bloody rock!), saying he “got away” when we all know he didn’t. But Will was getting too close: he was so clearly on the nose that it both scared and excited Hannibal, who we saw watching from the corners of Will’s classroom discussion. So Hannibal set out to prove (to himself? To Will?) that he is actually a killer above categorization. He truly believes he is a man above and beyond any mortal’s capacity of understanding. His killing is a higher calling.
But of course we need to talk about the final scene of the evening: Abigail and Hannibal’s office encounter. Ever think you’ve willed something into existence? Hannibal sure seems to have done just that with Abigail, who seems to be quietly relishing both her freedom and this newfound understanding of herself. She enters Hannibal’s office not by utilizing stairs, doors, and hallways: but rather climbing over walls, attempting to be undetected. They’ll keep each other’s secrets (since she knows Hannibal was the one who called her father. She’s perceptive and definitely not an idiot), but there will be no more climbing of the walls.
No wonder Will has nightmares.
A Few More Things…
– When am I going to get the Homeland/Hannibal crossover episode of my dreams?
– Dr. Bloom sums up dog lovers perfectly: “Dogs keep promises a person can’t.” And yes, you most certainly were trying to collect another stray, Will.
– Kudos to actress Kacey Rohl on her handling of such an emotionally fraught, complex
– Can we have a moment, too, for how batshittingly terrifying Mad Mikkelsen’s depiction of Hannibal Lecter is, quickly? Never has an interpretation (sorry, Sir Anthony Hopkins) of the serial killer unsettled me more. You do creepy real well, Mr. Mikkelsen — now please don’t eat
– The Toyota Prius really is a great car for stalking. So silent, so unsettling!
– Dr. Bloom has shown — yet again! — that she is the only sound mind and solitary person with Will’s best interest in mind. Can someone please listen to her? Jeez.
– The raven/stag specter has returned to haunt Will’s nightmares. What are you, creepy thing?!
– Also, Jack is the worst. What a selfish jerk, eh? “I am going to choose the opinion that best suits my agenda.” Way to spell it out, sir. Jeez. Nary a remorse or worry about anyone’s mental well-being, this one.
What did you think of this week’s episode of Hannibal? Feed us your thoughts (ew) in the comments.
Follow @AliciaLutes on Twitter