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HANNIBAL, JACK, WILL, AND THE MONGOOSE UNDER THE HOUSE

"I think Uncle Jack sees you as a fragile little tea-cup, the finest china used for only special guests.”
"How do you see me?"
"The mongoose I want under the house when the snakes slither by.”

let’s talk about this conversation, because i’m not sure anything in it is true: a follow-up essay to hannibal, manipulation, and psychospatialities.

[cw gaslighting; emotional abuse and manipulation; rampant disregard for boundaries; manipulation of viewer.]

This is really fucking long, because I apparently don’t know when to stop, but I did do a tl;dr bullet point list at the end.

Let’s break this conversation down into bits, and examine how each of the three principals involved would view each of Hannibal’s assertions.

The first thing Hannibal does is refer to Jack as “Uncle Jack.” This has the effect of subtly putting Jack’s relationship with Will on a familial sort of
foundation, which it manifestly shouldn’t be in order to keep the working relationship healthy for both Will and Jack, and probably isn’t in the first
place. [[I’m not 510% on the rest of this paragraph]] Although we do have that brief moment of pushing the glasses up in the first scene where Will
and Jack interact, for the most part the relationship between Will and Jack seems to be entirely professional—perhaps excessively so, since Jack’s
desire for Will to get his job done sometimes causes him to overlook the strain that catching these serial killers is having on Will’s psyche in ways that
are damaging (and, depending on who you ask, abusive). In fact, most of the breaches in this wall of professionalism are made by Will, not Jack—
considering e5 particularly, when Will seeks Jack out intentionally after Jack learns about Bella’s diagnosis.

In fact, one of the things Hannibal does in this conversation—at the very beginning of it—is deny Will the possibility of keeping his relationship with Will
professional in the first place. The fact that he takes away the sort of professional framework around both his relationship with Will and Jack’s
relationship with Will is, I think, telling; I suspect it also has a negative impact on Will’s psyche. Especially since Will has trouble with mental
boundaries anyway (‘there were no effective partitions in his mind’ I mean goddamn).

[[Side note: Also, I’ve just read up on the boundaries that psychologists are supposed to keep between themselves and clients and holy wow Hannibal
is complete shit at keeping them at all for any of his clients—or even other people’s clients (see: Alana’s righteous wrath). HANNIBAL: LITERALLY
THE WORST AT BOUNDARIES. God. Even bringing up how Jack sees Will is, as far as I can tell, a violation of professional boundaries; agreeing to
feed Will’s dogs is even more so. Not to even mention that whole thing with Abigail. And can we talk about how he breaks down the boundaries
between Alana and Abigail by inducing an atypical mental state and encouraging Abigail to situationally see Alana as a mother figure? Hannibal is, as
has already been discussed, where boundaries go to die.]]

"Jack sees you as a fragile little teacup." Well. Jack does see Will as fragile, I think, but not in the way that a teacup is fragile. I think Jack thinks of
Will as…an old rubber band, maybe; he wants to know how far he can stretch before Will snaps. Because Will isn’t going to be dropped and broken;
he’s going to be stretched until he snaps. In Jack’s mind, Hannibal’s purpose is to increase Will’s ~elasticity~ so Jack can continue to use him. We’ve
already seen that Jack isn’t particularly concerned with Will’s immediate state of mind—literally yells at Will in the first episode; doesn’t fully take
Alana’s advice about not sending Will out in the field; guilts him into sticking around. Jack’s main concern re: Will is not so much his positive mental
health but that he doesn’t slip so far to the negative that he doesn’t become something that’s actively detrimental to Jack’s efforts (ex: the "I need my
beauty sleep!" line). "Fragile little teacup" doesn’t have much to do with it, I don’t think. "Rubber band that might snap on my fingers" is more like it.

[[There’s also a minor interesting class thing here—Will grew up in a household where there was almost certainly no fine china. I’m not sure how this
affects the conversation? It does something, anyway. Also interesting is the fact that it’s a food metaphor—“finest china for special guests”—well, that
has interesting reflections for how Hannibal serves his guests, doesn’t it? I’m really not sure what the reflections are, or what they mean in the context
of the show, but they’re there, and I need to think about them further.]]

The viewer is pretty aware that “fragile little teacup” also doesn’t have much to do with Will! But what’s a little less immediately obvious is that Hannibal
is manipulating the viewer’s perception of Jack in some pretty intense ways—because, as has been discussed, the viewer is in some ways a double for
Will, with the show itself as Hannibal. (It’s really fascinating on a meta level—I knew this show was doing something clever to the fourth wall. The
drama of the show is replicated in the viewer’s experience.) But yes, we’re seeing Jack through the lens that Hannibal is holding up to Will—which is
not an accurate one! I’m not denying that the way that Jack treats Will is borderline abusive at times, because he is using Will as a tool, and this
comes across in ways that tend to be detrimental to what we know of Will’s psyche. I just think that our view is perhaps skewed, and seen from a
perspective that doesn’t truly exist, or shouldn’t exist in the way that it does. We’ve been given a faulty paradigm with which to understand Jack.

Now, about the mongoose under the house. This, for those of you who don’t know, is almost certainly reference to Rudyard Kipling’s short story Rikki
Tikki Tavi (cw: Kipling has colonialist undertones even at the best of times, and this short story is no exception, although it is better than Kim).
What’s interesting about this story is that while ‘mongoose under the house while the snakes slither by’ sounds like it could apply to Will Graham, the
Rikki-Tikki-Tavi’s actual personality doesn’t apply to Will hardly at all. Rikki-Tikki actively seeks out the snakes, welcomes the battles, dares them to
fight. Pretty clear how this doesn’t really seem like Will at all. Whether or not this is intentional in the show is, I think, up for debate; it’s also ambiguous
whether or not Will knows the story, but.

What’s interesting here is that this interpretation of Will resonates really well with what Hannibal seems to want Will to become. I’m thinking particularly
of the scenes in the book Red Dragon, where Hannibal tells Will ‘you’re just like me’ and the letter he writes after the [SPOILERS] fiery demise of
Freddie Lounds, which basically says ‘See? I told you we were just alike.’ [END SPOILERS] Also judging by the arc of the show itself, it seems to be
in part of Hannibal’s long-range game plan, because Will is infinitely fascinating to him and he wants the chaos that would inevitably result from Will’s
actually becoming like him (more, I think, than out of any kind of loneliness—I got an ask about this earlier, and no, I’m not sure loneliness and/or
sadness is really one of Hannibal’s motivations).

But why would this have any effect on Will? Well, Hannibal has already incredibly accurately analyzed Will once before. In fact, in the script for
Episode 1, Will’s actual reaction after Hannibal’s analysis is to get defensive because, and I quote, “Hannibal has just described Will Graham to a
letter, but he is not going to give him the satisfaction of knowing it.” (Of course, the thing is that Hannibal knows that he’s just perfectly described Will;
he doesn’t need confirmation from Will to know he’s accurate.) Since Hannibal has been accurate once before, why wouldn’t he be accurate again?

tl;dr summary:

 Hannibal undermines the delineation between the personal and the professional
 Hannibal is overall terrible at boundaries
 The viewer is left with an inaccurate view of Jack
 Will isn’t really either teacup or mongoose
 Hannibal is using his devastatingly accurate insight into Will’s psychology earlier in the episode to plant ideas that are almost accurate, but
not quite, because there are certain things that it suits him to have Will believe and he knows he’s wormed his way into Will’s
consciousness a little bit.
 This show is really fucking intelligent
 I am really fucking done with myself oh my god whY

Yep. Yep yep yep.

Or, you know. Maybe the curtains are just fucking blue.*

*(The curtains are never just fucking blue.)

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house