In Potage, we are formally introduced to Abigail Hobbs. She’s a marvellous character — a riddle inside an enigma, someone we want to identify with and sympathise, but can’t, not quite. She’s incredibly intelligent, and as innocent as she is capable of manipulation.
This is Hannibal pulling the strings to perfection. All of this will one day draw together to paint Will as the killer, but, until then, what we get is bodies stacking up in just the right places to draw Abigail and Will into his orbit, and keep them there. They are now both dependent on him entirely — now who’s going to blink first?
We know that Abigail acted as the bait for her father, but that she wasn’t an accessory. She was only helping him because she knew that he’d have killed her if she hadn’t. What she did, she didn’t want to do — that’s why she asks Will whether “killing someone, even though you have to,” feels so terrible. She had to, and in Will she sees the mirror image of that, and what else she sees in him scares her.
Abigail and Will are in exactly the same position the first time they are in Hannibal’s office: up on the gallery, looking down at him, a weary distance. Once they climb down those stairs, Hannibal has them where they want to be. Hannibal uses Abigail’s fear of people — the police — believing that she willingly helped killing those girls, which is, ultimately, her fear of herself. She’s scared of what might be lurking inside her head, same as Will Graham. This makes them both an excellent surrogate family.
Abigail wants to tell the truth, but is denied an outlet — by Alana, who doesn’t want her to talk to Will, much less to Freddie Lounds. By Jack Crawford, who doesn’t want her talking to anyone who isn’t FBI. By Will, who cannot give her answers she really needs for fear of disclosing his own state of mind and because he refuses to believe she had any part in what happened. And then, by Hannibal, who seeks to isolate her in order to control her.
Abigail Hobbs is scared right down to her socks, but not scared out of her wits. She is capable of manipulating those around her — nurses, Will, even Alana. Hannibal sees the truth simply because he is the only one holding all the right cards. Abigail has learnt to lie to protect herself, but the guilt is consuming her, and that’s where Hannibal is able to insert himself into her life. That’s why the two scenes at the lecture theatre and at the Hobbs’s house in Minnesota are so chilling. Hannibal is so proud because Will has made the connection — the one who killed Cassie Boyle and Marissa is the one who called the house; but Hannibal didn’t ingratiate himself with Garret Jacob Hobbs in order to do it. He’s going to ingratiate himself with his daughter. When Abigail, by accident, points to Hannibal as the voice on the phone when trying to persuade the others to recreate the events on the day her father was killed, he doesn’t yet know which it is — accident or intent. Abigail’s enthusiasm in proposing the idea of recreating the tableau is creepy off-putting because there’s that side to her as well: it excites her, somehow, and it’s the kind of enthusiasm that makes Will do what he does, and do it well.
Later, at Hannibal’s office, he circumvents the truth just enough by telling Abigail, “I am nothing like your father.” But he is still the serial killer and the voice on the phone. He tells her that he made a mistake easily misconstrued as something else — he manipulates her the same way he does Will. He blinds them to the truth by redirecting their gazes to the insides of their own heads. By pointing Abigail in the direction of her own guilt, he renders her unable to see him for what he is. By making Will see him through the veil of his own brand of mental instability, he renders Will equally incapable. For both of these people, perception is everything — and Hannibal distorts it so badly they’ll hardly be able to recognise themselves. They’ll all keep each others’ secrets, and it’s going to be Hannibal who decides when these secrets come out — and to whose detriment.
All images courtesy of NBC’s Hannibal Facebook page.