“What kind of crazy are you?” That’s the question that Will Graham is asking himself. It’s something a relief when he finally pushes himself so hard that he ends the episode in a hospital bed. At least there somebody might discover what Hannibal already knows but has chosen not to tell him.
The issue of relationships is one that has come up time and time again in this series but there’s an emphasis on the problem of identity here that is making the run-up to the finale wonderfully rich in an episode that doesn’t skimp on gruesome treats.
Serial killer Dr Abel Gideon (Eddie Izzard) has escaped and Will believes that he is going to take revenge on the psychiatrists and analysts who tried to convince him that he was the Chesapeake Ripper. Gideon had his brain scrambled and now he’s going to return the favour. Meanwhile, Will’s illness is causing even more intense hallucinations which drive him to a confrontation that he might not survive.
‘Rôti’ is one of the best episodes that Hannibal has given us so far. Eddie Izzard is superb as Doctor Gideon, making the most of his character without ever quite going over the top. It’s a character that, as many have noted, is more similar to Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter, which makes the scene when Gideon and Dr Lecter actually meet even more exciting. But Hannibal’s not interested in simple revenge. His plans are never simple. He reminds Gideon of how terrible it is to lose one’s identity but he’s aware that the lunatic in front of him has only taken the Chesapeke Ripper title because he isn’t sure who he is any more.
It’s an identity that Gideon holds onto eagerly, and he’s more than happy to do as the Ripper would. Having reminded Doctor Chilton that everything he’s done as the Ripper is his fault, he proceeds to murder and mutilate with glee. It’s the Columbian Necktie that provides the episode with its most grotesque moment, as the tongue gives a slight, deeply horrible twitch. His subsequent treatment of Chilton (with Freddie Lounds as an unwilling assistant) is similarly gruesome, providing Izzard with some excellent, none-more-dark comedy to play with as he shows his doctor what his insides look like. Much like Izzard’s performance is reminiscent of Hopkins, his scenes play like something out of Thomas Harris’ novel Hannibal. It’s pure grand guignol black comedy.
But the final act reels the excess back in and brings the focus back to Will. Having kidnapped Gideon, believing him to be the long-dead Garret Jacob Hobbs, Will brings him to Hannibal. Lecter takes stock of the situation, manages to induce a mild seizure in Will by telling him that he’s seeing things, and directs Gideon towards Alana Bloom, knowing that Will will go after him. Hannibal’s curiosity continues to override his friendship with Will. He doesn’t want Will hurt, after all, as his exchange with Gideon confirms. “He’s had a mild seizure.” “You don’t seem all that concerned.” “I said it was mild.” But he wants to know how long Will can keep functioning and what will happen when he breaks.
This is as close to breaking as we’ve seen Will. His hallucinations are even more vivid, he’s running a fever, and even Gideon can tell he’s not well. He’s adrift in his own fantasies and losing that sure knowledge that he could never be capable of doing these terrible things. The scene where he and Gideon stand outside Alana’s house, watching her prepare for dinner and discussing the tricky problem of identity is both bleakly funny and really quite touching.
Both men are looking at a life they can’t have. Gideon can’t have it because he killed his wife and family over Thanksgiving dinner. Will can’t have it because he’s unstable. After killing Gideon (or Hobbs, which is who he thinks he’s talking to) Will collapses. Jack’s confident that he’ll bounce back. Hannibal knows better. His final conversation with Bedelia Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson) confirms what we suspect: That he will let the fire in Will’s brain continue to burn.
This episode was an example of Hannibal at its best. ‘Rôti’ shows how far the show can push the gore and the dark humour, while never losing sight of the characters at its centre. With superb performances from Dancy, Mikkelsen and Izzard and beautiful direction from Guillermo Navarro, this episode is outstanding.