Just how broken is Will Graham? He’s lost time, and is seeing and hearing things. But could he actually kill somebody? Will’s determination to get to the bottom of his worsening instability is prompted by the fear of that final possibility, leading to an episode that shows just where Hannibal’s friendship ends and his curiosity begins.
While investigating a murder, Will’s empathy goes too far and he loses himself in the reconstruction. Hannibal wants Will to confront the fact that he may be facing mental illness, but Will believes something is physically wrong with him and visits an old colleague of Hannibal’s for tests. His concept of what’s real and what’s not is challenged further when the killer starts following him.
Bryan Fuller’s slow reveal of Hannibal has shown us him as a friend and as a killer, and this week we see him as a scientist. Hannibal knows that Will has encephalitis (by smelling him, naturally) and the tests prove it. But he’s not willing to “put out the fire” in Will’s brain by actually helping him; he wants to see how far he can push him. He’s able to convince his old friend Dr Sutcliffe (an excellent performance by veteran character actor John Benjamin Hickey) to play along. Sutcliffe is similar to Hannibal in some ways, but his view of mankind is even more cynical. He’s not above giving Hannibal a shocked look when he suggests that they not inform the patient that he’s ill, but he’ll play along with it. “What do you smell on me?” he asks. “Opportunity,” comes the reply.
Hugh Dancy’s performance as Will continues to impress. The confrontational attitude he uses to keep people at a distance is crumbling. Even Jack Crawford is worried. “Fear makes you rude, Will.” Will knows that something is wrong with him, and the scenes in which he tries to use Hannibal’s method of stating name, time and place to anchor himself are very effective indeed. He’s looking for a firm footing, and still believes Hannibal can provide that, despite Crawford’s assurances that he’s “bedrock.” It’s nice to see the character spend more time with Beverly Katz, as Hettienne Park has been putting in excellent work.
Will’s attempt to clear up his confusion leads him to the discovery of this week’s killer. After a chilling opening sequence (reminiscent of last week’s Luther), Will discovers that he’s dealing with someone who shares many of his symptons. Georgia Madchen (played by Dead Like Me star Ellen Muth) lost her grip on reality and believes that she is dead. Suffering from face blindness, her killings are an attempt to remove the blank mask that she sees (leading to some gruesome Glasgow smiles). While this week leaves her mystery unresolved (she will return), Georgia is an interesting counterpart to Will and provides at least one memorably revolting moment when the possibly-leperous skin of her arm peels off “like a glove.”
It’s also Georgia who witnesses – or rather doesn’t – Hannibal’s murder of Dr Sutcliffe. Clad in a clear raincoat, Hannibal is just another faceless figure to Georgia, a faceless killer. But she allows Will a moment of humanity and connection when he manages to convince her that not only is she alive, but that he sees her. It’s a potent reminder that what Jack believes about Will Graham might be true; that however far he goes, he can find his way back again. ‘Buffet Froid’ proved to be one of the more affecting – although perhaps not the most exciting – episodes of Hannibal so far.