Peace in the Pieces Disassembled: Deconstructing Hannibal, Part V

 V. Someday, perhaps a teacup may come together

There is a passage in the novel Hannibal where Hannibal watches A brief history of time and listens to Stephen Hawking talking about the thermodynamic/cosmological arrow of time and entropy:
“You may see a cup of tea fall off of a table and break into pieces on the floor. But you will never see the cup gather itself back together and jump back on the table… The increase of disorder, or entropy, is what distinguishes the past from the future.”


The image of the shattered teacup that spontaneously reassembles, works as an homage to the series, specifically an homage to the cinematography of the pendulum scenes, where Will recreates the crimes in his fantasy. These pendulum scenes, apart from being beautifully shot and amazing to watch, have become the show’s most distinct visual trademark, so much that whenever I rewind a scene on my television I instantly think of Hannibal. As I was watching this shattered teacup reassembling scene I couldn’t help but think that although Hannibal is unaware of how Will’s imagination works, he is still envious of it. What Will does with such great ease in his mind, Hannibal can never truly achieve in real life. After all, “Rebirths can only ever be symbolic.”
In thermodynamics, entropy is a measure of the number of specific ways in which a thermodynamic system may be arranged, often taken to be a measure of disorder or a measure of progressing towards thermodynamic equilibrium. The arrow of time is the “one-way direction” or “asymmetry” of time. The thermodynamic arrow of time is provided by the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which says that in an isolated system, entropy tends to increase with time. As a system advances through time, it will statistically become more disordered. This asymmetry can be used empirically to distinguish between future and past. The cosmological arrow of time points in the direction of the universe’s expansion.
In the novel Hannibal, we learn that our cannibal is obsessed with entropy and wants to reverse time:
“Hawking had once believed the universe would stop expanding and would shrink again, and entropy might reverse itself. Later Hawking said he was mistaken. For years Lecter had teased the problem, wanting very much for Hawking to be right the first time, for the expanding universe to stop, for entropy to mend itself, for Mischa, eaten, to be whole again.”
He is so obsessed that he occasionally drops teacups to shatter on the floor and is not satisfied when they don’t gather themselves up.
In our discussion on how our three protagonists Hannibal, Jack, and Will are manifestations of the three Freudian psychic structures id, ego and superego we started a conversation on Hannibal being depicted as an agent of chaos and disorder:
“Hannibal adds an element of chaos in every situation; he increases the entropy in every system.” What we hadn’t yet figured out was that Hannibal is not always, an agent of disorder; he sometimes works as an agent of order, like he does when he tries to reverse entropy: he cannot bring shattered teacups together, but he sure can reassemble a shattered psyche.
Remember how Hannibal describes Will in the pilot episode of the series: “I think Uncle Jack sees you as a fragile little tea-cup, the finest china used for only special guests.”?
Will’s psyche is a fragile little tea-cup. I will again refer to the discussion on the Freudian psychic structures, where I posited that Hannibal’s psyche lacks superego and Will’s psyche lacks id:
“Both Will’s and Hannibal’s personalities are fractured. They lack important psychic structures, for which they compensate by exaggerating their opposite structures. The reason why Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter have such great rapport, is that their psyches are complementary.(…) It might be the case that just as [Hannibal] smashed his superego and used the pieces to assemble a morality of his own, he wants to smash Will, as a symbol for superego, only to reassemble him in a way that suits him.”
Which he does. He throws Will’s fragile psyche on the floor and smashes it, just like he throws these teacups of his. Will’s psyche is then painstakingly reassembled, recreated in Hannibal’s own image. One shudders at the thought of how many teacups never got to reassemble after Hannibal smashed them on the floor. “How many lives had to be sanctified? How many consciences devastated?”

Imagine our teacup, shattering on the floor. In the isolated system of the room and the teacup, disorder can only increase. The teacup can never come together. But what if a certain psychotherapist was determined to put the teacup back together himself? What if he picked up every single piece and glued it back with such precision that the cup appeared pristine? Would that decrease entropy? Has Hannibal symbolically reversed the arrow of time? No. The laws of nature are ruthless. Even as entropy decreases in one system, allowing us to recover our precious teacup, it increases in another, as our psychotherapist has spent great amounts of energy in putting the teacup back together (not to mention there’s now glue everywhere). Thus, the total of entropy in both systems still increases, despite (and because of) his best efforts. Every time Hannibal manages to reverse entropy (by reassembling a shattered psyche), there is an increase in the system’s (the whole universe of Hannibal) entropy. Consider for example how many innocent people have died in order for Will’s psyche to be reassembled.

Hannibal views psychotherapy as an act of destruction and creation, creation and destruction, endlessly alternating. To further illustrate that, the show identifies Hannibal with the God Shiva, a popular Hindu deity of a paradoxical nature, both benevolent and fierce.



Shiva is the destroyer of the world, responsible for change both in the form of death and destruction and in the positive sense of destroying the ego, the false identification with the form. This also includes the shedding of old habits and attachments. In fierce aspects, he is often depicted slaying demons and he shares several features with Rudra, a deity associated with wind, storm and the hunt. The name Rudra has been translated to “the roarer” (which reminds us instantly of the bull-roarer, the ancient ritual musical instrument we hear whenever we see the Wendigo form of Hannibal) and has been taken as a synonym for the god Shiva – the two names are used interchangeably.


Rudra, a storm god and embodiment of wildness and unpredictable danger.

In benevolent aspects, Shiva is also regarded as the patron god of yoga and arts and is depicted as the Cosmic Dancer Nataraja.
“Shiva is Kala, meaning time, but he is also Maha Kala, meaning “Great Time” or eternity. As Nataraja, King of dancers, his gestures, wild and full of grace, precipitate the cosmic illusion; his flying arms and legs and the swaying of his torso produce the continuous creation-destruction of the universe, death exactly balancing birth. The choreography is the whirligig of time.”

Destruction opens the path for a new creation of the universe, a new opportunity for the beauty and drama of universal illusion to unfold. The tongue of flames that Shiva Nataraja’s upper left hand bears, represents the final destruction of creation. Tandava, the violent and dangerous form of Shiva’s dance is associated with the destruction of weary worldviews, perspectives and lifestyles. But the dance of the Nataraja is also an act of creation, which arouses dormant energies and scatters the ashes of the universe in a pattern that will be the design of the ensuing creation, in the form of Lasya (the gentle form of dance). In essence, the Lasya and the Tandava are just two aspects of Shiva’s nature; for he destroys in order to create, tearing down to build again. Hannibal is, like Shiva, both a destroyer and a benefactor. As a therapist, he smashes Will’s psyche and then reassembles the shattered pieces and recreates it it so that it mirrors his own. But nowhere is his dual nature more evident than in his actions towards Abigail. He ends Abigail’s life, essentially destroying Will’s opportunity to become a father. But in Ko No Mono he says that he can give Abigail (or, a child) back to Will.
The teacup dropping on the floor immediately reminds us of the scene where Abigail, having eaten psychotropic mushrooms, drops a teacup on the floor. The teacup shatters all over Hannibal’s kitchen floor and then Hannibal picks up the pieces.



If we are to assume that the teacup that comes together is a symbol for Abigail then could it be that Abigail is not dead after all? Let’s take a look at the conversation Will and Hannibal have in Ko No Mono:
Will: Have you ever been a father?
Hannibal: I was to my sister. She was not my child, but she was my charge. She taught me so much about myself. Her name was Mischa.
Will: Was?
Hannibal: She’s dead. Abigail reminded me so much of her.
Will: Why did you kill her?
Hannibal: What happened to Abigail had to happen. There was no other way.
Will: There was. But there isn’t now.
Hannibal: Would you protect this child in the way you couldn’t protect Abigail?
Will: I still dream about Abigail. I dream that I’m teaching her how to fish.
Hannibal: I’m sorry. I took that from you. Wish I could give it back.
Will: So do I.
Hannibal: Occasionaly I drop a teacup to shatter on the floor. On purpose. I’ m not satisfied when it doesn’t gather itself up again.

In this scene Hannibal never really confesses to murdering Abigail. He only says that what happened to her had to happen. In my mind this translates as “I had to end her life as the Abigail she once was because I couldn’t protect her in that life.” Another interpretation could be that “Abigail had to “die” in order for me to get you where I needed you to be, and, eventually, for us to come closer.” Hannibal sees Abigail as Mischa, his sister. In the novel Hannibal, his obsession with reversing time stems from his inability to accept his sister’s death. So, it doesn’t make much sense that Hannibal would find a surrogate sister/daughter/charge in Abigail and then kill her with such ease.

Let’s take a look at their next session:
Hannibal: Every creative act has its destructive consequence, Will. The Hindu God Shiva is simultaneously destroyer and creator. Who you were yesterday
is laid waste to give rise to who you are today.
Will: How many lives had to be sanctified? How many consciences devastated?
Hannibal: As many as were necessary.
Will: You sacrificed Abigail. You cared about her. As much as I did.
Hannibal: Maybe more. But then, how much has God sacrificed?
Will: What God do you pray to?
Hannibal: I don’t pray. I have not been bothered by any considerations of deity, other than to recognize how my own modest actions pale beside those of God.
Will: I prayed… I would see Abigail again.
Hannibal: Well, your prayer did not go entirely unanswered. You saw part of her.
Hannibal: Will, should the universe contract, should time reverse and the teacup come together, a place could be made for Abigail in your world.
Will: What place would that be?
Hannibal: You ‘ve lost a child, Will. It seems you’re likely to gain one.
Let’s deconstruct the meaning of this last quote. What both Will and the Viewer are supposed to hear is “You’ve lost a child (Abigail). It seem you’re likely to gain one (your unborn child)”. But, in closer examination this quote is a lie. Hannibal knows that sooner or later Margot’s child is going to die. He knows, because he is the one who alerted Mason Verger to the fact that Margot might be pregnant, and he did so in order to manipulate Verger into murdering Will’s unborn child, which he believed would then make Will want to murder Mason. If Hannibal already knows that Will’s unborn child is going to die, this quote makes no sense. But what if Abigail is still alive? What if the first child that Hannibal refers to is not Abigail, but Will’s unborn child? The quote would then mean: “You will soon lose your unborn child, Will. But it seems you ‘re likely to gain your first one back”.
I believe that Hannibal has kept Abigail alive, most probably hidden in his basement, on a daily regimen of psychotropic substances, just like he kept Myriam Lass alive for all these years. He kept Myriam Lass alive because she was the first one to see him, and he kept Abigail alive because he sees her as Mischa, his sister. It might be that Beverly’s shocked reaction to Hannibal’s cellar wasn’t because of the gruesome dismembered bodies she is presumed to have seen (let’s not forget that Beverly saw grotesque murder tableaus every day, there are not many things that could shock the lady), but because of the shock of seeing a ghost: Abigail.
In this way Hannibal, Shiva, Both Creator and Benefactor, will manage to -at least symbolically- reverse time. He will give life to something that is -presumed to be – dead.


(This one is so heavily edited by @weirdymcweirder that she should be credited as co-writer. Thank you, Weirdy!)


6 thoughts on “Peace in the Pieces Disassembled: Deconstructing Hannibal, Part V

  1. This is absolutely marvelous. Thank you so much for the insight into the characters and the crash course on physics. It’s actually the first time anything physics-related has made even a little bit of sense to me. Excited to read more of your Hannibal analyses!

  2. yes this is what most people, or what positive norms wants to believe. Personally, I’ve been very interested in psychology and philosophy as well, recently i’ve finished learning about Freudian psychology. When i finished watching the finale, where Hannibal kills everyone and finally reclaimed his freedom and went on a new journey, I felt a strange, strong relief for hannibal, despite the fact that i feel bad for the others, especially bella and will.
    Then come to think about it, I realized that the finale probably symbolizes that the id represented by Hannibal is finally free through all the conflicts, disguises and hostility, like Hannibal relishing in the rain, the id is no longer repressed.
    i think that the whole 2 season depicts with dark elegance a profound psychological debate: to be or not to be? which god do you serve? to be will or to be hannibal?
    personally i think this new show is not like the movie Red Dragon where justice prevails, it show an alternative point of view that Will is defeated because he repress to much and is constantly tormented by dualism struggles, but Hannibal represses nothing, he doesn’t hide from god, he has no remorse, no fear, he’s at peace.and that makes him more than human. and through his freedom i learned that maybe the id is not supposed to be repressed, unlike what society’s norms which represses so much and trys so hard to be “good”. ii think that’s what Hannibal advocates: free the id.
    of course i too believe in better good and that the id, ego, superego needs to be in harmony instead of killing eachother, so lets hope for another season!
    sorry this is just some of my opinion, i need to take the time to read through your analysis 😀

  3. Fantastic Analysis of a scene I share with students to discuss analytical nature of literature through a visual medium. Thank you for further insights! I do look forward to looking at other posts about the best show that WAS on television.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s