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Hannibal: “Rôti”

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Identity is one of Hannibal’s great themes. It’s acceptance is not innate, and it can be changed and modified based on outside sources and events. The past few episodes have zeroed in on Dr. Lecter’s psychic driving of Will, further blurring Will’s identity. In the pilot, Will knew he wasn’t normal, but he knew who he was. Hannibal, coupled with encephalitis, has robbed Will of that assurance. Will  is at the edge that Hannibal described to Dr. Sutcliffe in “Buffet Froid.” Rather than pull Will back onto the side of sanity, Hannibal pushes him just a bit further. Will may have lost a grip on his own identity, but Hannibal is right there to be Will’s anchor, to remind Will of who he is, or at least who Hannibal wants Will to be.


Having a clear sense of identity guarantees sanity in no one, but it certainly guarantees stability. “Psychopaths and narcissists rarely doubt who they are,” Hannibal tells Dr. Chilton. Will doubts himself, as does Gideon. That doubt is why Chilton was able to convince him that he was the Chesapeake Ripper in the first place and how Hannibal is able to manipulate both Gideon and Will into the showdown outside of Alana’s house that eventually kills Gideon. The parallels between Gideon and Will are writ large. “I don’t feel like myself. I feel like I’ve been gradually becoming someone else … I feel like I’m crazy … I fear not knowing who I am. That’s what Abel Gideon is afraid of, isn’t it?” Will says. Unlike Gideon, it’s Will’s encephalitis that is causing his loss of self.

The physical root of Will's ailments are causing his dreams and hallucinations to become more vivid and intense. The specter of Garrett Jacob Hobbs continues to haunt him. Hobbs was a man who did not doubt who he was, but caused Will to doubt his own goodness, and I am certainly interested in how “killing” Hobbs again will affect Will. Most of the episodes I’ve reviewed, I’ve had the benefit of screeners, so I rarely watch the show in real time and miss out on creator Bryan Fuller’s delightful live-tweetings of each episode. After this episode was finished, I caught up on what he had to say and was especially struck by the notion that Will’s nightmares of a crashing waves was inspired by Peter Weir’s film The Last Wave, (Warning: It’s been awhile since I’ve seen the movie, so I can’t remember if this is a true spoiler or not, but better safe than sorry) in which the titular aquatic occurrence is a sign of a cyclical cleansing. It destroys to create anew. The wave crashes down on Lawrence Well's totem, which was established as a life story. I’m interested to see in the final two episodes of the season whether Will will be cleansed, and what that cleansing will mean for him. In a perfect world for Hannibal, Will's cleansed story would mean that could finally get those Best Friend Forever necklaces he's been eyeing, but, alas, that is likely not the case.


Will's other major hallucination featured Jack calling him crazy while surrounded by antlers. (If there was any doubt that the stag is a symbol for Hannibal, this episode cleared that right up.) There is a fight going on for Will’s soul, articulated in Hannibal and Jack's discussion of Will in their episodic post mortem. Jack literally spells it out: “You and I are just going to have to have a difference of opinion about who Will is, Doctor.” It’s an epic battle of good versus evil, except good doesn’t even know he’s in the game. “Our own experiences shape us. How is this experience going to shape Will?” Hannibal tells Jack, circling back to Will's first hallucination.

Hannibal’s strengths have always come from the smaller scenes, between two or three actors (such as the aforementioned scene between Hannibal and Jack). “Rôti” showed that quality off masterfully, but two scenes stood out for me. First, the scene between Mads Mikkelsen and Gillian Anderson. Watching these two play emotionally distant with each other is always a highlight, but their conversation revealed everything there is to know about Hannibal. “Madness can be a medicine for the modern world,” Hannibal says, adding later that it’s “a boost to the psychological immune system to help fight the existential crisis of modern life.” When, or if, Dr. du Maurier finds out that Hannibal is actually a murderous people-eater, she’s going to think back to this conversation and give a herself a major forehead slap for not figuring it out sooner.

Second, I particularly enjoyed the showdown between Gideon and Hannibal. Hannibal is so intensely secure in who and what he is, that he can play with Gideon, who acts as if knows what he is but truly has no idea. Gideon’s puppetmaster (or masters, of all the unfortunates who received the Columbian necktie can attest) has not been as subtle as Hannibal’s manipulation of Will. If I was let down by Eddie Izzard’s first showing, I was elated by his work in “Rôti.” He was so charmingly evil in all of the right ways. There is no shortage of chilling scenes throughout the run of the series so far, but watching Gideon dismember Chilton–an intestine here, a kidney there–was perfectly disgusting and terrifying. What must it be like to have see your own intestine taken out in front of you. I wonder if it was worse for those familiar with Chilton’s mythology. I cringed knowing that Chilton was going to live through watching his own dismemberment, that he wouldn’t have the benefit of death.  “Rôti” was everything I wanted from both Izzard as an actor and from Gideon as a character. He was no longer a shade of Anthony Hopkins in “Silence of the Lambs.” Instead, Gideon is conflicted and wounded, even though his demeanor belies that vulnerability. That vulnerability is why Gideon goes in search of the Chesapeake Ripper. In order to figure out who he is, he needs to confront who he isn’t. Unfortunately, that leads to his death.

Stray observations:

  • Recipe of the week: Aatu Kudal Kulambu / Lamb Intestine Curry
  • Guillermo Navarro, who directed this episode, is so perfectly attuned to Hannibal’s visual style. I get gleeful when I see his name in the credits. This episode’s glorious visual was the nurse’s whites becoming saturated with blood, even before we know the nurse is going to die.
  • “I have no interest in understanding sheep, only eating them.”
  • “The Chesapeake Ripper would kill him. He took credit for his work. The Chesapeake Ripper would consider that rude.”