Will Graham has killed again in the line of duty…more or less. Technically, it is his job to help the FBI track down deranged killers and bring them to justice, or, if circumstances dictate, ensure the killer in question never harms another person. But in this particular instance, Hannibal implies that while not being of sound mind (or sound body, for that matter), Will is subject to manipulation and suggestion, and there's no one better suited to handing out non-verbal orders than Dr. Hannibal Lecter.
In that regard, 'Rôti' manages to take a single throughline – the idea of manipulation and the effect it can have on the psyche of the manipulated and the manipulator – and carry it across a multitude of different character arcs that begin to show just where the storyline may end up as the season creeps closer to the finale.
For starters, the episode brings back two of the series' more enjoyable guest stars in Eddie Izzard as Dr. Abel Gideon and Raúl Esparza as Dr. Frederick Chilton. Both actors have a similar ability to play their character with aspects at odds with one another, which makes it seem as though they shouldn't work but actually grants them a more interesting grasp on their emotions. Izzard's Gideon is a tangled mess of scrambled and possibly half-baked psychological contributions, but on the surface at least, he maintains a sardonic level of humor that makes his propensity to cut people apart all the more terrifying. Meanwhile, Esparza continues to imbue Chilton with a potent (and equally dangerous) combination of fantastic incompetence and unbelievable arrogance.
Naturally, because of the characters on hand, 'Rôti' calls to mind the events of 'Entrée.' And yet what stands out in both episodes is the depiction of Will envisioning Dr. Gideon's kills. Previously, the horrific murder of the nurse was one of the more visually disturbing bits of a series that pretty much runs on fairly disturbing imagery. The thing that stood out in the moment was in direct contrast to the ghastly things we've seen all season long. Unlike the other killers' tableaus, Gideon's crimes seem to have a sort of frenzied drive to them; they seem dictated by the moment and the killer (Gideon or Will, depending on the point of view at the time) engages in a brutality the show normally depicts through an examination of the crime's aftermath. Seeing Will commit these slayings works in a nice but disturbing way that highlights the infection frying his brain and his fear of losing control, while also informing just how far Hannibal's manipulation of the situation has gone.
Watching the successful exploitation of a character (or, in this case, characters) is a lot like watching a heist movie unfold; there are plenty of details that are intentionally left out – not unlike Will's sidearm and car keys – until they all seem to come together at the end (in reality, they may not, but the end result is usually satisfying enough that it might not completely matter). In fact, Hannibal's rather clever signaling to the BAU of Gideon's location was just another element of his manipulation that deftly disguised his connection and relationship with certain members of the team, while highlighting a specific disdain for a man foolish enough to think himself capable of being the Chesapeake Ripper.
Which brings us to the most appalling portion of the episode: the live disembowelment of Dr. Chilton. I guess this is the sort of horrifying thing a show can do when it fills its character roster with highly skilled medical professionals who make up for their lack of morality with a macabre sense of artistry and showmanship.
Gideon's flair for the dramatic certainly made for a memorable moment, but it also helped to distract from the fact that the series has had a difficult time pinning down a proper use for Freddie Lounds. Aside from 'Amuse-Bouche,' Freddie's appearances haven't felt like they've entirely justified the use of the character. So far, she's been little more than the connective tissue between the killer of the week and the BAU. Her dealings with Abigail Hobbs do a nice job of illustrating the public's fascination with sensationalistic crimes, but Hannibal is an incredibly isolated program, the world at large only exists in snippets of newspaper columns or Freddie's Tattlecrime.com website, so while there's been glimpses of public interest, that's pretty much as far as it goes. It feels like that's an element the series could exploit more in order to strengthen Freddie's participation – until, of course, Hannibal is forced to dispose of her.
In a sense of the season's overall arc, it seems each character fulfills a particular need for Hannibal in one precise moment or another, but for whatever reason, Will has truly captured the attention of Dr. Lecter. And it looks as if as though Hannibal isn't merely trying to turn Will into his friend, but his peer as well.
Hannibal continues next Thursday with 'Relevés' @10pm on NBC. Check out a preview below: