Hannibal: 104 “Ceuf” Review
Reviewed by Gabriel Bergmoser.
Ceuf has generated a lot of controversy over the past few weeks. In the wake of the Newtown Massacre and Boston Bombings it was pulled from airing in the U.S. and hastily replaced with a web series made up of the parts that were important. Taken out of context, those ‘webisodes’ are unsurprisingly pretty disjointed. Watching the full episode however, it becomes immediately apparent why it was pulled. Ceuf is a chilling, disturbing hour of television that is at times difficult to watch. It’s also by far the best episode of Hannibal yet.
I want to get the negatives out of the way first. Once again, Ceuf suffers from the same problem as the rest of the series, in that the criminal cases just feel too easily solved. If Hannibal were to, say, do three of four crimes per season rather than one almost every episode, there would be a lot more room to breathe. Develop a case over a few weeks and bring it to a satisfying conclusion, rather than the rushed wrap ups we’ve had so far. For a show that is so high quality in terms of its acting and writing, it feels out of place to see the characters deal with a horrible crime, and then simply not mention it the next week. Why, for example, has Garret Jacob Hobbs warranted a name drop or ghostly appearance in every episode, when a much more disturbing villain like Molly Shannon’s child psychiatrist will simply never be referred to again? It wouldn’t be such a big problem if it didn’t stand out amongst the impeccable quality of the rest of the show.
But that aside, this family centric story is a horrifyingly brilliant one. At times, I found myself feeling sick at the very thought of what these cute kids are made to do, before we see them sitting happily in a diner eating junk food afterwards, acting just like perfectly normal children. Shannon’s character here is one of the most twisted villains I’ve ever seen on TV, and she comfortably outshines every other killer who has thus far appeared on Hannibal. If she was simply killing children that would be bad enough, but brainwashing them into murdering their own families? That’s a whole new level of awful. The scene where Will and the FBI enter the crime scene to find the corpses surrounded by Christmas presents with carols still playing was something I’m going to have trouble forgetting. It’s the kind of stuff that makes me wonder how this show ever made it on to network TV, and a reminder that if NBC does cancel it, there might just be a more comfortable home for it on cable.
In other news, Hannibal’s relationship with Abigail is further developed, as he takes her out of the treatment centre to cook for her, and ends up giving her a tea made out of hallucinogenic mushrooms in an attempt to help her face her demons. Whether it works or not is left ambiguous at the end of the episode, but it does consolidate the developing notion that Will, Hannibal and Alana are forming a makeshift family around Abigail. It’s a strangely sweet idea, but I strongly suspect it isn’t going to end well.
Most of this material was quite strong, but it did at times feel a little like treading water, especially as, apart from being thematically about family, the subplot had nothing to do with Will and Jack’s pursuit of the murderous children. When you have a story as disturbing and compelling as that, pretty much anything else is going to seem a bit feeble in comparison. Still, an episode this heavy probably needed the relief of the (ironically) more gentle Hannibal scenes. Mads Mikkelson continues to own this role and honestly, I sometimes forget that there was any another version of this character. And I say that as someone who counts The Silence of the Lambs among his all-time favourite films.
The benefit of TV over film is that it gives an actor a chance to develop a character over a longer period of time. Hannibal is now up to its ninth episode in the U.S.; if you stop and do the maths you realise that in terms of screen time alone, Mads Mikkelson has played Hannibal Lecter almost twice as much as Anthony Hopkins. It’s a weird thought, but, considering how great his performance is, a very welcome one.
On the evidence of this episode, Hannibal is really starting to find its feet. Now it’s just a matter of time to see what the future of this series brings. I sincerely hope it gets the second season it thoroughly deserves.