Obviously, the big news surrounding Hannibal this week was the announcement that NBC and Bryan Fuller had made the decision to pull the fourth episode 'Ceuf' due to sensitivity regarding some of the serial killer content involving Molly Shannon, which, from what has been revealed of the episode, concerns the killing of children by children.
Whatever your thoughts on the decision to pull the episode may be, what is done is done, and while parts are missing, it doesn't appear to have derailed the series. Thankfully, if you are a fan of the series and you've been following it, hopefully you've either managed to scrounge up a copy of the episode online, or you've gone over to NBC's website and taken a look at the six-episode webseries they've made with "cannibalized" segments from the episode.
What's telling about the elements in the webseries is how well the character elements – or the bits that are actually necessary to the overall plot and continuation of Hannibal, as it pertains to the characters – manage to separate themselves from the particular plot of 'Ceuf' that led to its being ostensibly booted out of the season's rotation. Without eating up too much space to talk about 'Coquilles,' what the previous episode managed to do so well was lay the groundwork for Hannibal's manipulation of Abigail Hobbs, as well establish just how affected Will Graham has been by the images he's confronted with while hunting the grisly serial killers from week-to-week.
Of course, Abigail Hobbs is nowhere to be found in 'Coquilles'; a nice fact that allows for a more undivided examination of Will and, in this particular case, Jack Crawford and his wife Phyllis (played by the excellent Gina Torres of 'Firefly' and 'Suits' fame), and grants the Hobbs/Lecter dynamic some time to breathe and not feel so rushed. Furthermore, in the absence of Hannibal's machinations with the young woman, 'Coquilles' brings the focus back to Will and, more pointedly, the efforts that Hannibal is seemingly undertaking to "alienate" Will from Jack.
From the beginning, Hannibal has shown an incredible ability to portray the grisly details of serial killers and, more importantly, the ramifications of their crimes, both in terms of their victims and the people who've devoted their lives to investigating and stopping these killers. One of, if not the clearest example of this was established early on as the battle for Will's mind – both his unique ability and his sanity – kicked the series off, and ever since the violent conclusion to the Minnesota Shrike case, Will's already fragile psyche has begun to collapse under the strain.
"I don't know how much longer I can be all that useful to you, Jack," Will tells Crawford after they find, but fail to apprehend the Angelmaker, a man suffering from a brain tumor that has him killing and arranging his victims like angels by transforming the skin on their backs into figurative wings. It's gruesome stuff to be sure, but rather than simply focus on the ghastly state of the Angelmaker's victims, the episode bluntly points out how damaging looking at this stuff can actually be. "This is bad for me," Will says, as he's caught between doing what's right and doing what's right for him.
And in an obvious, but still emotionally satisfying way, that's the crux of 'Coquilles.' The weight that is placed upon those investigating these crimes, whether that person is Will Graham, Beverly Katz (Hettienne Park) or Jack Crawford and, in this case, his wife, there is a sentiment that a person can choose to suffer alone and isolate themselves in death (there own or the deaths of others), or they can lean on others in and around the situation to assuage some of the burden that comes with the territory.
The circumstances involving the Angelmaker – his illness and the withdrawal from his personal life following the diagnosis – mirror Phyllis' own battle with cancer and the battle of whether or not to reveal it to her husband, adding to Jack's laundry list of concerns. The moment Jack realizes what's going on is what you might call a "light bulb" moment, which many shows incorporate so as to allow the main protagonist the opportunity to suddenly realize the solution to a problem or question they've been vexed by. Coincidentally, it's a device utilized frequently by Torres' other series 'Suits' in nearly every episode. But it's typically used to signify the conclusion to the episode's main concern, not necessarily to reveal the truth behind a deeply personal problem for a member of the supporting cast, and for whatever reason, those circumstances make Jack's "light bulb" moment feel more authentic and resonant.
Despite missing the previous episode, 'Coquilles' stands out as a fantastic entry in the series, as it pertains to the characters and their interactions with the rather unpleasant world they choose to live in. But the episode also sets up some intrigue regarding Hannibal's relationship with Will ("did you just smell me?") and how that association has already begun to alter the dynamic between Will and Jack.
Hannibal continues next Thursday with 'Entrée' @10pm on NBC. Check out a preview below: