Hannibal: 112 “Releves” Review
Reviewed by Gabriel Bergmoser.
A couple of weeks ago, I complained that Hannibal was spending too much time on various cases and not enough on its overall narrative. Well, this week rectified that and then some. Releves was a near-perfect penultimate episode, sliding into place the many pieces of the jigsaw puzzle this show has provided us with over the last few weeks and beginning to race head-on toward what appears to be the kind of game changer the show won’t soon recover from.
The pace and tone was set in the opening scenes. Still hospitalised after his nightmarish showdown with Abel Gideon last week, Will visits the slowly recovering Georgia Madchen; now almost entirely free of her disfigurements and confined to a tank of oxygen. It’s a touching scene, as Georgia admits that she does not want to know what she did in her previous state, underlining a theme the show has been returning to more and more in recent weeks; can you separate the person from the affliction that makes them a monster? Thomas Harris’ novel series were always preoccupied with finding the human behind the killer, and Hannibal the TV series has built on this legacy admirably, and deepened it by questioning the degree to which this question applies to Will Graham.
But as fascinating as the philosophies of this series are, it is easy to forget them in the face of the sheer visceral horror that is offered up. Insecure Georgia Madchen represented a threat to Hannibal, so he dealt with that by (somehow) providing her with a comb for her hair. At this point you were either covering your eyes, screaming at your TV or staring in open mouthed horror as the poor woman set off a spark in her oxygen rich environment and was immolated before the opening credits rolled. It was a stunning moment; awful, uncompromising and further hammering home just how dangerous Hannibal can be.
With increasing momentum, things have begun spiralling out of control for both Hannibal and Will; the difference here is that Hannibal has the foresight to plan around what he knows is coming. Jack now has cause to be suspicious of both men, and the scene where he visits Bedelia DuMaurier looking for answers about Hannibal was a masterclass in tension. Gillian Anderson is phenomenal in this role, and occasionally threatens to even steal the show from the brilliant Mads Mikkelson. Seeing more of her in Season two would be very welcome.
When Will realises that his biggest threat is closer to him than he realises, Hannibal has to begin covering his tracks, and the biggest loose end lingering over all of this is Abigail Hobbs. Abigail heard Hannibal’s voice on the phone in the first episode, and she has confided to him about her role in her father’s crimes. Either piece of information would be enough to seriously endanger Hannibal, and past episodes demonstrate that Dr Lecter is not a man to accept threats to his own safety. After an eerie showdown between Will and Abigail at Garret Jacob Hobbs’ cabin, the terrified girl runs home to find Hannibal waiting for her. And so we say goodbye to Abigail.
It really is sad to see her go. Abigail was one of the strongest elements of this first season; a well-rounded and intriguing character in her own right who served as a powerful representation of the legacy of a killer. No matter what Abigail might have done, it is hard to see her as anything other than a victim, first of her father’s madness, then of Hannibal’s manipulations. The final scene is gutting, as Abigail comes to realise that the man she relied so strongly on is about to murder her. Her terror, juxtaposed with Hannibal’s calm regret makes for an immensely powerful moment. That fact that we don’t see Abigail die just makes it even worse; we don’t know what Hannibal did to her, but we have no doubt that he did do it. Hannibal is capable of human emotions, even remorse, but that will never stop him doing what is necessary to keep his freedom. In this episode he removed two threats, leaving only Will and Jack as potential dangers. These two men remain unaware of how close they are to uncovering the Chesapeake Ripper, yet Hannibal is completely aware of what could happen if they keep digging, and that makes him all the more dangerous. The stage is set for an explosive finale.