If anything, ‘Relevés’ is a perfect example of how Hannibal can really get cooking (sorry) when the show wants to, and how the various elements that have been laid out over course of this first season can come together so well, to help make this penultimate episode escalate from creepy thriller to white-knuckled tension.
Over the last few episodes, it’s been clear that as much as Hannibal’s killings have served to fuel the proceedings of the season’s plot, Will’s ongoing and tragically misdiagnosed (except for the good doctor, of course) case of encephalitis has become the real thrust of the narrative – especially now, since Will appears to be a very convenient and convincing scapegoat for the crimes committed by the copycat. And while Hugh Dancy has been stellar all season long, ‘Relevés’ may be the actor’s most engaging work since the series premiere. Dancy balances Will’s sense of urgency and panic to discover the identity of the copycat and prove he is still in control of his faculties by making as much of the moments requiring a display of real anxiety and revelation as he does the ones requiring quiet, stillness and overwhelming self-doubt.
With the exception of Hettienne Park’s Beverly Katz (who was apparently away on jury duty) and Caroline Dhavernas’ Alana Bloom, ‘Relevés’ practically calls in all the Hannibal reinforcements to help set up the finale, and unwittingly help pin Will Graham in a precarious corner. I don’t know if Bryan Fuller and Chris Brancato (the writers credited with this episode) intended some sort of suggestion that without the presence of either woman, the rest of the BAU would more easily be led down the wrong path, but it’s kind of fun to imagine that to be true.
While the show has had a slight problem fitting Alana into the proceedings (like they have with Freddie Lounds – though not in this episode), Katz has always been a strong and enticing character to watch, thanks to her role in BAU and the confidence she displays in her profession, even while in the presence of Will Graham. More than anything, though, the lack of Beverly affords the episode some great banter between Scott Thompson’s Jimmy Price and Aaron Abrams’ Brian Zeller (or Z). In fact, Thompson’s enthusiasm at playing Jeopardy with Jack Crawford suggests some untapped hilarity in the character, which could really be developed more as the series progresses.
In addition to giving the supporting players a moment in the sun, the episode also brings back (however briefly) Fuller favorite Ellen Muth (Dead Like Me) as Cotard’s syndrome sufferer, Georgia Madchen. After spending some time in an oxygen-rich environment, Georgia looks significantly less like the walking dead and even manages to have a rather telling conversation with Will about inadequacies in medical diagnoses – both mental and physical – and how treatment never seems to approach the root of the problem; it only attacks the symptoms and rarely manages to completely alleviate the affliction, thereby keeping the sufferer isolated from the rest of the world. In the case of Hannibal in particular, Georgia’s comments show how such isolation can quickly turn to suspicion and victimization, and yet there’s little to no discussion of treatment – just a discussion of how to prove conclusively (or conclusively enough) that the individual in question is guilty of the crime at hand. And in the case of Will Graham, all the signs seem to be pointing directly to him.
Setting up these movements within a larger, overarching plot usually runs the risk of appearing too convenient for its own good, or the shadow of doubt that’s cast on the protagonist by his or her peers suddenly feels like too much of a reversal from where the series began. But Hannibal manages to make Will unwittingly becoming the victim of Dr. Lecter’s machinations feel both spontaneous and organic from a storytelling point of view, while appearing to be a propitious by-product of the doctor’s curiosity in Will’s conditions (both his uncanny empathy and his onset encephalitis). As a bonus, getting there requires some sacrifice on Hannibal’s behalf. In order to remain off the BAU’s radar, he has to forfeit the two relationships that might mean the most to him – i.e., the interactions he enjoys with Will and Abigail Hobbs.
But the episode also manages to execute the revival of Will’s lost time in an agonizing fashion that not only plays up how successfully those jumps have been used in the latter half of the season, but also how effective Fuller and Brancato were in playfully pumping the breaks on that element, only to ease up and let the device careen out of control at the worst possible moment.
Ultimately, ‘Relevés’ manages to be a great late episode capable of informing on a multitude of characters, while still setting up the season finale in thrilling fashion.
Hannibal season 1 will conclude with ‘Savoureux’ next Thursday @10pm on NBC. Check out a preview below: