(S P O I L E R S)
In which it’s like remembering something from your childhood. And you’re not sure if it’s your memory or your friend’s memory. Then you realize, sadly, it’s just some photo in an old book.
“One come a day, the water will run, No man will stand for things that he had done...”
It’s always been about the parents, hasn’t it, this first season of Hannibal? Sure, we’ve been entertained by the bone dry wit. We’ve been perversely titillated by the grand-guignol grostesqueries on display in the murder scenes. We’ve dove deep with Will into the Hannibal Lecter rabbit hole, plunged into that abyss just…a…bit…further…always to see how deep it goes (as deep as you want it to go says the abyss to the seeker.)
But the great through line of Bryan Fuller’s first pass through the inky recesses of the Lecterverse? It’s always been the parental figures, the beacons of authority upon who have been placed the trust of so many other characters. And how they have violated that trust, failed in their duties, and then abdicated responsibility for their deeds.
“I have no interest in understanding sheep. Only eating them.” -Hannibal
Hannibal isn’t explicitly driven by any political or sociological imperative. Yet just as Anthony Hopkins’s portrayal of Lecter in The Silence of The Lambs captured the cultural zeitgeist at just the right time, gifting that specific culture its very own boogeyman, so too does this version of der cannibal arrive in a time when the full impact of authoritative betrayal seems to be reaching new crescendos. It’s the post-post-post-Nixon era, the bloody aftermath of stock market crashes and financial collapses (wrought by those we trusted to hold onto our money, most of them still running free in the wild blue yonder). It’s the post-9/11 fantasia in which, dream as we may, there’s still no escaping that day’s, that era’s cataclysmic failure of leadership. It’s a time and a place where we’re advised to make our own way, to be our own bosses, because institutions not only will fail you, but are in actuality a concept built for suckers.
Sorry kid. Your parents burned down the house and spent your savings. They’d apologize, but they’re in Aspen right now.
“The subject musn’t be aware of any influence.” -Hannibal
And so we have Garret Jacob Hobbs, the father who cares so much about his daughter that he kills eight other girls rather than slice and dice her. Who cares so much that, like God before him, he fashions her in his own image, a twisted funhouse mirror of a young girl, a lure designed to perpetuate her own existence. Whose last stab at fatherhood involves attempting to finally murder her, a blood sacrifice to the god of carnage he so diligently worships. Who, even in death, invades Will’s mind, filling the gap left by his own absent father while slowly refashioning him in his own image as well.
“What kind of crazy are you?” -Jack
And so we have Jack Crawford, the big daddy of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit. Who allows his intrepid young trainee to enter the belly of the beast, to be ripped by the Ripper. Whose guilt over that abdication of responsibility is tempered by the fact that he washed his hands of that responsibility when he sent her off to her doom. Who is so guilt ridden that, like the serial killers he pursues, he repeats his pattern and pushes his hyper-empathic associate to the brink of madness. Who greases the skids by unwittingly sending him into that same belly of the beast to gain enough off the record psychotherapy to officially keep him on the road to madness.
“He’s having a difference of opinion with who he is.” -Abel Gideon
And so we have Frederick Chilton, the king of psychiatric smarm, whose plush gig at the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane allows him free reign to indulge his narcissistic fantasies at the expense of his own flock of charges. Who decides to further warp Abel Gideon’s mind by psychically driving him to believe himself to be the Chesapeake Ripper. Who is shocked shocked shocked at Gideon’s lawsuit against him, for isn’t the inherent role of the caged that of the test subject? The guinea pig?
“Poke around a psychiatrist’s mind, you’re bound to get poked back” -Hannibal
And so we have Hannibal the Cannibal himself, the dark prince of parents in this corner of the Lecterverse. Even worse: the unfit parent, the one who decides that having children would be interesting, would be fun, would be an experiment and a way to fill the emptiness of their life. Whose exploitation of the man he fancies as his first true friend is as cold and calculating and self-justifying as can be. Who’s perfectly comfortable with the collateral damage of his human experiments because after all, the path to enlightenment must be strewn with some amount of pain, right? And whose own psychiatrist advises him not to interfere with the steady creep of the madness that comes with that collateral damage.
“All I heard was my heart, dim but fast, like footsteps fleeing into silence.” -Will
And so we have Will and Abel, twin brothers in trauma, prodigal sons of two psychiatrist father figures. Two men who have come to view themselves unfit for normal human relationships, stuck outside Alana’s house, watching the normalcy she represents with resigned despair. Abel’s Colombian Necktie displays of his victims the ultimate refutation of the talking cure, of the authority of those medical professionals. Will’s identification with Abel’s murder of the transfer van orderly and guard a cathartic unleashing of his own submerged, subconscious rage at the authority figures that have batted him around. Abel’s precise dissection of Chilton (aided by Freddie Lounds, another abuser/abdicator of authority) a final means to make the not so good doctor literally hold the guts he’s never shown before, and another tribute to the Chesapeake Ripper’s public shaming of his victims.
“I feel fluid. Like I’m spilling.” -Will
Collapse and dissipation and the drowning the drowning a river of your own making avalanche landslide from great ice edifices the solid matter of reality melting away and the water from within and the waters of time enveloping grasping for air and hope but reaching only polite embraces and betrayal and the stag that is everywhere there it is behind you in Chilton’s office that there it is running through the snow toward Gideon toward Hobbs toward solutionoblivion because who at last are you who have they made you where when jump cut to seizure to the antlers of the kill room the antlers that protrude from all walls from the walls of your mind the maze in the forest lost as you may be but there must be a light or an exit or a reason or someone to guide you beyond all this only to once again leave you deep inside the maze abandoned like a childlefttofightthecancertheparentleftbehindwithoutanyexplanationandnowthewolfisatthedoorbayingtogetinbutwholeftthedoorunlockedIfearnotknowingwhoIamthat’llgiveyousomethingbettertodowithyourtonguethanwagitmyselfisalittlehazyatthemoment…………
“I don’t care who I am. Just tell me this is real!” -Will