Back when the Boston Marathon bombings occurred, NBC and Hannibal decided to pull “Oeuf” from its premiere because of sensitivity to the event. While that may or may not have been the right decision, regular viewers who didn’t venture to the Internet never got to experience the depravity of the episode, which featured kids killing their families under the influence of a woman (Molly Shannon) who wanted to mold her own family.
How closely the episode resembled a terrorist event is debatable; it’s even more questionable whether Hannibal aired a more disturbing episode, “Coquilles,” in its place. Hannibal isn’t known for handling delicate situations lightly, or portraying crimes that don’t involve terribly violent murders – it’s pretty hard, in general, to find an episode of the show that might not offend someone even when there isn’t a national emergency.
“Oeuf” isn’t the best episode of Hannibal, but it does seem pretty important to the overall plot. Abigail Hobbs is still recovering from her traumatic experiences, first being sliced by her father and then killing a man, but she has both Hannibal and Dr. Alana Bloom on her side; Will is also obsessed with thinking about the situation, but for different reasons. “Oeuf” covers a lot of psychology about both Abigail, Will, and Hannibal, and it’s good that showrunner Bryan Fuller decided to air some condensed webisodes of “Oeuf” so that fans could catch up on Hannibal’s analyses.
It’s not Will that he’s focused on so much as what Abigail knows, and he drugs her with some hallucinogenic mushrooms to break her of her bad memories about family. Yet his plan seems sort of fishy, and, like we always feel about Hannibal, it’s unclear whether he means good or ill when he causes her to “see” her family at the dinner table.
Will does his own soul-searching in these episodes; he’s having a rough time dealing with the murders, especially in “Coquilles” with disturbing serial killer Angel Maker. Will is a protagonist we’re never sure about, if only because he flip-flops so undecidedly between being involved in the cases and not wanting to see the murders. This sometimes makes for a frustrating main character, but it also allows Hannibal to manipulate him easily.
“Oeuf”‘s A-story involving a woman who’s so obsessed with crafting a family that she kidnaps children and forces them to kill their parents is eerie but ultimately falls flat when Hannibal fails to analyze the woman’s character. Most of the time, the show is so focused on covering the psychological profiling of the killer that it spends little time with its main characters; “Oeuf” does the opposite, though, and can’t strike a balance.
“Coquilles” is the better of the two episodes, because it has a more striking story about a killer with a brain tumor who makes angels out of the wicked. Its B-plot deals with Jack Crawford’s wife Bella (Gina Torres), who has been hiding something from her husband while going to Hannibal for solace. Unfortunately, we’ve just met Bella, and so the reveal that she’s also suffering from cancer – lung, rather than brain – is both emotionally ineffective and a little bit silly because of the coincidences between Jack’s life and his career.
Still, the Angel Maker is a creepy killer, and it’s disappointing that Hannibal doesn’t spend more time with him. If I was to ask for anything from the show, it would be that it extend its search for serial killers over multiple episodes. That way the show could hit that balance between analyzing the killer and spending time with the main characters’ psyches.
Hannibal is so strange and creepy, though, that I can totally dismiss most of these criticisms as being unfortunate consequences of crafting atmosphere. The show is working with lots of subtext, and character motivations are all over the map thanks to the mysteries of human psychology. Hannibal is so often a culinary delight that it’s okay if some of the episodes come out tasting a little dry.