I’m going to start this recap of Hannibal the same way I started the last one: with a quick lesson in French cuisine. Episode 1.3, titled “Potage”, indeed tastes like its name-sake: a dense, thick stew, consisting of meat and vegetables, boiled into a singular mush. In this episode, the relatively simple story-arc’s we’ve been following thus far double-back on them-selves and revealed new folds. New plot-lines were introduced, briefly, without explanation, leaving more flavour than body.
. . .
An Analysis of Hannibal, Episode 1.3: “Potage”
Written by P. Desmond Schumann
. . .
This episode opens on Garret and Abigail hunting together in the woods. I’m going to talk about this sequence in more detail than any other in this episode, because I believe it carries an immense thematic weight. Not only for Abigail Hobbs, who will grow to become one of the most satisfying characters in this season, but for Will and Hannibal, too, by way of association.
Abigail is looking down her sights at a deer, her father providing silent reassurance from behind her. I know I harp on this in every single recap so far, but God damn the colour saturation is off-the-charts. The yellow leaves in these shots are fierce; they pop out of the screen with no regard for the other colours. Abigail shots at the deer, misses (distracted by the yellow, no doubt), takes a deep breath and collects herself, then shots the deer as it flees through the woods. Her father is proud.
They bring the deer home to cut and clean it. “She was so pretty”, Abigail says, stroking the deer’s fur. “She is so pretty”, her father corrects her, stroking the deer himself (though, it’s symbolically of note, with a gloved hand). “Aren’t deer supposed to be complex, emotional creatures?”, Abigail asks. “Yeah”, her father replies. “I’ve read they’re like the equivalent of a four year-old human-being”, Abigail continues. “They’re smarter than a four year-old.” “They care about each other. They care about their environment. They treed lightly through the under-brush, because they don’t want to hurt the plants.” “They are a lot like us. We are going to honour every part of her.”
Garret explains to his daughter the ways in which they’ll use every part of the deer’s body, then hands her a knife and instructs her to not “damage the organs”, or she’ll spoil the meat. “I’m not sure how I’m going to feel about eating him after all this”, Abigail says, getting ready to cut into the deer’s stomach. Her father grabs her wrist, stopping her. He takes a deep breath. “Eating her is honouring her. Otherwise, it’s just– It’s just murder.”
I know I covered that sequence in a lot more detail than I usually do, but it is because there is a great value to reading this dialogue after hearing it spoken. The layers of contradiction and the subtle foreshadowing to both Garret and Abigail’s subtly different world-view’s become more obvious through text. If watched by somebody who hadn’t seen the previous two episodes, and if the menacing score could be removed, I’d imagine this sequence would play like a pretty typical father daughter bonding scene, complete with hack “use the whole Buffalo” phrasing. Only in context does it become sinister and disturbing. And upon viewing season one of Hannibal in its entirety, this sequence reveals deeper, until now hidden layers.
We are abruptly cast out of this sequence into the opening credits using a gut-wrenching transition. We see a close-up of Abigail’s hand caressing the deer, then the hair seems to become less course. Abigail grabs hold up the hair and pulls upward, revealing the face of one of Garret Hobbs’s victims, a young girl. Smash-cut to Abigail waking up from her coma, grasping at her IV tubes and kicking her feet.
Oh, since I’m not going to talk about a lot of this episode (it’s pretty self-explanatory), lets take some time now to talk about that opening credits. I didn’t like it when I saw it during the pilot episode (looked cheap to me and not in a budget-sense). But after becoming more intimate with the show’s themes, I realize how appropriate it is. Hannibal is about what’s beneath the skin; seeing through the surface. In that light, I appreciated the opening sequence much more.
Lets talk about Hannibal this episode before I wrap-up my recap. This is the first episode that gives us, as the audience, a clear-view beneath Hannibal’s skin. We watch him twist and manipulate Abigail and the people caring for her into a situation of his design. After disposing of the body for her and lying on her behalf, Abigail is now is Hannibal’s debt. You don’t want to be in debt to Hannibal.
The moment that most chillingly show-cased his manipulation was in the woods, shortly after Abigail is confronted by the brother of one of her father’s victims. Abigail’s friend tosses a rock at the brother and cracks him in the head. He shrieks, then disappears into the trees. When Hannibal and Will show up on the scene, Hannibal quickly pronounces that they “must report this”, while at the same time using the tip of his dress-shoe to cover the bloody rock with leaves. From that moment on, we are invited to question every one of Hannibal’s motives. It’s part of what gives this first season a sense of electricity, even when Will and Hannibal seem to be bonding.
Oh, actually, one more tid-bit. When Abigail returns to her home and sees “Cannibals” written across her garage-door in spray-paint, the frame is border by yellow-leaves; the colour is identical. Beautiful way to evoke the opening scene in our minds.
Will: “Are you trying to savage this joke from the mouth of madness?”
Abigail: “Are we going to re-enact the crime?” (Pointing at Will). You be my Dad. (Pointing at Bloom) You be my mom. (Pointing at Hannibal) And you be the man on the phone. [Brilliant foreshadowing going on right there. That line sent shivers up my spine.]
Will: “It’s like I’m taking to [Garret’s] shadow, suspended on dust.” Abigail: “No wonder you have nightmares.”