Hannibal "Releves" Review: The Talking Cure

Hannibal S01E12 "Relevés"

Last week, I tweeted the following just as Hannibal ended:

This week, I was able to watch the episode in advance, and instead of being stressed before I go to bed, I'm stressed out as I'm writing this, the day before it airs, at 6:45pm in the evening. I'm honestly not sure which is worse.

It's a stress that comes from dread, just pure dread. Many shows don't really elicit raw emotion from me. Apart from Hannibal, in fact, only the anime Chihayafuru seems to stir up unbridled feelings—though with Chihayafuru those feelings are thankfully ones of cheer and happy sadness. I don't know that I'd be able to watch two shows that tear me apart in the ways Hannibal is able to.

For much of "Relevés," I thought it wasn't going to cause me a great deal of turmoil, and there was a degree of relief in that. 

I really should've known better.

On the surface, "Relevés" may be the Hannibal's least exciting installment yet. Apart from poor Georgia's death—I am never combing my hair in an oxygen rich environment—the episode was light on gruesome deaths and corpses, and there wasn't much in the way of action that involved chasing down the serial killer of the week. Instead, it was mostly a lot of people talking to one another, often in the most cryptic ways they could manage. Compared to what the show has done in its preceding eleven episodes, this one could be perceived as sort of dull.

However, like your literature teacher who, upon hearing you utter such a statement about the book you were assigned to read, I would have to say that if you thought "Relevés" was boring, you weren't looking closely enough at the text. Through its dialogue, the episode actually accomplished a great deal. Yes, Georgia's death was the catalyst for all the gabbing, but through it, Will was able to hypothesize a link between the Garrett Jacob Hobbs copycat murders and the murder of Sutcliffe, which would mean that the copycat is someone very close to the Minnesota Shrike case.

From there on, actually, "Relevés" did what episodes of Hannibal typically do, albeit throughout more of the hour. Part of what makes Dr. Lecter such a delightful antagonist is that he rarely makes direct physical moves to protect his identity as a serial killer from Will and Jack. His psychological expertise and honey-dipped words are his weapons, crafting misdirections and lies at every turn. Here, he made the final turn of the screw, as it were, by attributing a dissociative identity disorder to Will. Lecter's been building to this for much of the season—especially in the last few episodes—and I love that "Relevés" allowed him to subtly plant, or perhaps reinforce, the idea in Jack's mind that Will is not only capable of the copycat murders, but is actually carrying them out.

There was no dramatic music as he did this, no tighter closeup on either man to emphasize the moment as Lecter nudged Jack to fill in the blanks he'd graciously already provided by continuing to steer Will toward instability. Instead, it was shot as any "normal" conversation would be, and you could almost be forgiven for mistaking this major plot development as just a boring chat between the two. 

This is one of the many reasons why Hannibal works as well as it does: . The show doesn't overplay its hand with these moments. However, it does offer plenty of gruesome death and some occasionally cheeky cannibalism jokes—though even those tend to be delightfully underplayed by Mikkelsen—so that when it's time for these sorts of conversations, it can pull back on the physical violence and visual horror in favor of mental violence and psychology horror, which should be much more subtle.

And yet, "Relevés" made me feel an immense amount of dread. Indeed, all the talking throughout the episode was a great way to build tension. It was the episode's way of making Abigail's realization that she was trapped in the single worst remake of My Two Dads of all time all the more gut wrenching. She experienced Will having an unmotivated shift in consciousness as he "interrogated" her in his mind and fled, only to have Lecter confirm—AFTER HUGGING HER—that he was going to have to kill her. By that point, the horribly burnt corpse of Georgia had been long forgotten, lost in a sea of lies posing as psychological insight, and we were left with the very real fear for Abigail Hobbs' life, not to mention whatever Jack will feel compelled to do to Will. 

Please excuse me while I consume bottle after bottle of Tums between now and next week.


– "They'll just know that you're wrong. … I hope you have good insurance."

– "You made me chicken soup." Yes, Will, he did, and it sounded ridiculously delicious. DESPITE THE FACT THAT IT PROBABLY SOMEHOW HAD PEOPLE IN IT.

– "I've interviewed enough killers to know one when I see one." Oh, Freddie.

– I chuckled when Jimmy perked up at the very mention of Jeopardy!.

– Did you all love the aural match between the soundtrack and the vacuum cleaner on the plane as much as I did? It was the perfect tension reliever in that it made me laugh more than it probably should have due to the intensity of the previous scene... though it still didn't relieve the tention that much.

What'd you think of "Relevés"?

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