Family is a tricky subject in the Hannibal Lecter universe. Clarice Starling is haunted by the memory of her father, killed in the line of duty. Hannibal himself has some fairly deep-rooted issues that we won’t discuss in too much detail in case you haven’t read the books, but suffice it to say that there is a story behind his dining habits. It’s a generally accepted, positive notion that we end up creating our own families (and writers like Joss Whedon can’t stop returning to the subject). Episode Four of Hannibal, ‘Oeuf’, explores how the need for a familial structure can be perverted into something harmful.
Abigail Hobbs (Kacey Rohl) is yearning to get out of the rehabilitation clinic, but Alana (Caroline Dhavernas) thinks she needs more time in a structured environment before she can return to the world. Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen) thinks otherwise, and uses the confidence Abigail has in him (following his generous offer to dispose of the boy she killed) to offer his home as a temporary safe haven to explore her feelings towards her father. Meanwhile, Will (Hugh Dancy) and Jack (Laurence Fishburne) are hunting a group of killers who kill entire families at their homes. They soon find a troubling link between the victims and the killers.
‘Ouef’ is the episode which Bryan Fuller decided to pull in the US; offering up the scenes between Hannibal and Abigail as webisodes. The reasoning for this can be found in our interview with him, but it’s interesting that this episode has the most rushed serial killer sub-plots so far. It’s a troubling subject matter that is treated with the lavish dark humour you’d expect, but there’s not very much exploration of the killers at all.
The ‘Lost Boys’ (another reference to children’s literature following Apéritif’s ‘golden ticket’) are children who were reported missing, having been abducted by a maternal killer. The character is played very nicely by Saturday Night Live alum and veteran comedienne Molly Shannon, who mines great creepiness out of quiet concern. The problem is that we know as little about her as Jack or Will do, and they spend almost the entire episode unaware that she exists. Finally, she’s just another monster for Will to stare down.
But while the killer sub-plot does feel rushed, the time is being spent very well elsewhere. The scenes between Hannibal and Abigail continue to impress – he’s very much on his home turf in this episode, giving Abigail hallucinogenic tea in his kitchen to help her towards positive feelings about her past. What he’s really doing, of course, is positioning himself as a paternal figure.
There’s something of a romantic comedy to the way in which Will is unwittingly competing with Hannibal for Abigail’s attentions. Will buys her a present, but frets about the fact that he can’t give it to her, having realised that it would remind her of her father. Conversely, Hannibal wants to do exactly, that and has no qualms about using underhand tactics to gain her trust. But it’s not romantic; it’s much more complicated. When Alana arrives to scold Hannibal for taking Abigail away without her knowledge (“Rude!”), she ends up joining them for dinner. Abigail’s hallucination shows that Hannibal’s plan has worked: she sees her old family. It’s a winningly twisted moment, and it does not bode well for Alana.
But family doesn’t just mean togetherness. ‘Oeuf’ hints at Will’s difficult childhood, although he does’t give Hannibal too much information about his mother (“Low hanging fruit, Doctor”). We get several indications that Will is not getting any more stable; even Jack has noticed. Will is starting to address his violent dreams and seems to be confident enough to handle them, telling Hannibal “I know who I am.” But the episode highlights his isolation, and it can only be so long before something breaks. We also get another lively dinner scene between Hannibal and Jack (that brief moment of ‘rabbit’ hunting was excellent) before the episode closes with a quiet, sombre scene between Jack and his wife (Gina Torres). There is no place for happy families here.
‘Ouef’ is probably the most inconsistent episode so far, but it boasts some tremendous acting, some excellent visuals from Peter Medak (director of classic ghost story The Changeling), a rich sense of dark humour and the continued exploration of some of the most interesting characters currently on television.