Tell me… about your mother. And your childhood. And your version of family, everyone from the world of Hannibal. But go ahead and start with your mother. Makes sense for a show corded to psychology that an episode dedicated to motherhood and by extension family was on deck. 'Oeuf' (French for egg) reasons that feelings about family can get very very perverse.
Anything that comes out of an egg has the good fortune of being twice born. Hannibal the television series did it, going from beloved universe created by Thomas Harris to a rich body of work of its own accord. This idea that someone is born into one set of circumstances then can choose a life that fits them better runs through every storyline in 'Oeuf'.
Behold two separate tableaus of family dynamics gone insanely wrong in what could jointly be named A Massacre by The Middle Child. Pause for a moment to say that this episode was pulled from airing hours before it was set to go last spring. Afterward, Fuller voiced a real conundrum re: our nation’s current crisis on kids killing kids. (It did play in Europe as scheduled.) Not sure why they didn’t, then, scrap the idea in the show’s pre-production if at all wobbly on the subject matter but whatever it’s a mad, mad world we live in. So there’s that.
The first crime scene is juxtaposed with Hannibal feeding Will’s dogs some people sausage. Initially it’s unremarkable yet watching Hannibal walk around Will’s house, tickling his out of tune piano, opening up his t-shirt drawer is wholly unnerving. But it’s the scene’s climax that packs a symbolic punch. Hannibal sits down to a small station set up to make fly fishing lures and he completes the current lure Will was working on. He’s got him on the line to be sure. Tests out the hook for good pin pricking measure. Hard to say if it was in his house that his plans for Will are solidified but it’s surely possible.
Oh and people are doing all kinds of family stuff for and with each other here. Alana drops by unannounced to shoot the breeze and relax with Hannibal over drinks in his office, Jack joins Hannibal once again for a meal that’s decidedly less professional than last time and Beverly even comes to Will in a quiet moment in an effort to connect to him personally and not just as a member of the team. Also, Abigail gets treated to mushroom tea and sympathy when Hannibal checks her out of the psych home for the day. So fatherly. Even the forensic team discloses details about their own upbringings. More scenes than usual revolve around their fastidious communal police work determining the exact nature of the story these massacres tell.
Something extra that’s cool and subversive in 'Oeuf': Will and Hannibal really converse in a therapeutic setting and at times are actually getting somewhere. That is when Hannibal isn’t f*cking with him. Which he is, a lot, because one thing that can be intuited insofar as Hannibal’s psychopathy is the drive for manipulation may well be commensurate with the utter volume of his taedium vitae. Will gives away completely unselfconsciously details about his upbringing, his confusion of his place in the world and that the Hobbs case took his otherworldly profiling skills to a scary place… in fact, he says, he is still very much there.
A few thoughts about Molly Shannon the insane mother hen who coaxes lonely boys out of their homes so she can make the perfect family for her own. I couldn’t figure out if she was miscast or the most perfect person on the planet to play this role. Her character had some heavy baggage to carry plus be convincing as someone cunning enough to manipulate the confused minds of misunderstood children. Which leads me to a few issues.
The crime-of-the-week aspect felt rushed or not fully fleshed out (sorry!) in the end. But did a nice job driving the theme home (sorry again!) while spinning it so close to the edge of what’s palatable (I can’t stop!) in the way perhaps only Hannibal can do. In the second of the two massacres, (the scene only lasts 40 seconds because I suspect standards and practices stepped way in) there is some of the fastest editing to convey in quick bursts a Christmas morning like no other portrayed on television. But the moments between the main characters, who really are becoming our Hannibal family, are priceless and touching and really lovely.
Odds and Ends
* When Hannibal’s alone in Will’s house, there’s a cool callback/perversion to Will lamenting earlier in therapy that he’d begun to wonder if he was eating or bathing at the same times as Garret Jacob Hobbs.
* Will puts the pieces of the murder mystery together initially, but it’s Alana who fills in the missing piece that allows the FBI to intervene before a third gruesome family massacre.
* There’s some energy between Alana and Hannibal that can only be described as flirtation.
* Each time there are more than two people in a scene with Will, he places himself physically outside of the huddle. It's really sad.
* Beverly is a skilled markswoman. Hardcore!
* Hannibal displays his belief in the unorthodox (and controversial!) use of psychedelics in therapy. I'm pretty sure the Art department was like, "Let's do this."
* Brian Reitzell scores the show and does a fantastic job at it. There is a piece that plays over a moment of a glimmer of hope or maybe just peace for Will in this episode that is so pretty and heartbreaking.
* As part of the investigation Jack has a conversation with one of “Lost Boys” in his car and he admits he’s not a father. This and the scene following with his wife uncovers that this was not necessarily his choice.
* Gina Torres, (Laurence Fishburne’s real wife!) plays Jack Crawford’s wife, Bella. She graces the scene in the last moments of 'Oeuf'.
* The controversy of the episode not airing here in the US wasn’t the only one that followed it. The title also often got interpreted as 'Ceuf' instead of 'Oeuf' because 'Oeuf' looks like it’s spelled with a C since the “OE” is a ligature.
* In lieu of the full episode being aired, Bryan Fuller cut the show into a series of 5 webisodes that consisted of the long story arc so people could understand the rest of the season.
Jack: “What do you see?”
Will: “Family values.”
Will (looking at photos): “False faces in family portraits. Layers and layers of lies betrayed by the sad glint in a child’s eye.”
Hannibal: “Do you have an appointment?”
Alana: “Do you have a beer?”
Brian: “Let me guess—only child…”
Will: “Why do you say that?”
Brian: “’Cause family friction is usually a catalyst for personality development.”
Will: “There’s forgiveness.”
Jack: “What kind of victim forgives the killer at the moment of death?”
Will: “A mother.”
Hannibal: “Children transport us to our childhood. Will may feel the tug of life before the FBI. Before you. Simpler times in boatyards with Dad. That life is an anchor stringed behind him in heavy weather. He needs an anchor, Jack.”
Jack: “Okay, class dismissed. [One second later] EVERYONE OUT. WHAT DID I JUST SAY. LET’S GO.”
Jack (to Will): “We’re ready to go when you are and you’re ready to go now, so let’s go.”
Abigail: “When I’m awake I know I can live with myself. And I know I’ll just get used to what I did. Does that make me a psychopath?”
Hannibal: “No. It makes you a survivor.”
Hannibal: “Taste is not only biochemical, it’s psychological.”
Hannibal: “And, Alana, you were right.”
Alana: “Often am. You’ll have to be more specific.”
Hannibal: “Abigail, what do you see?”
Abigail: “I see family.”