You Don’t Know Jack

After watching only “Aperitif,” one might reasonably assume that Jack is a supporting—not principal—character. That this will ultimately be a story about Will and Hannibal. The debut of the opening title sequence in “Amuse-Bouche,” however, complicates that idea. We not only see specters of Will and Hannibal. First, we see Jack. The Hannibal trinity, if you will. 

Hannibal and Jack will arguably become the two dominating forces in Will’s life. But just because Hannibal plays the proverbial devil on Will’s shoulder, does not make Jack the angel.

On the contrary, he arguably bears equal responsibility for Will’s dark becoming. Not so much for inviting Hannibal to the metaphorical table—Jack is as ignorant as everyone else of the doctor’s appetite. But he is fully aware of how field work threatens Will’s well being. “I wouldn’t put him [Will] out there if I didn’t think I could cover him,” he assures Alana in “Aperitif.” “He won’t get too close.” We can debate whether Jack really believes what he says at this moment, but he nevertheless breaks this promise by episode’s end. Will kills Garret Jacob Hobbs, triggering a series-long existential dilemma. 

Having failed to shield Will on the Hobbs case, Jack could remove him from the field. At least until he establishes a better support system. But he doesn’t. Instead Jack continues to involve Will on case after case, consciously or unconsciously enlisting his supposed friend and colleague as an unavoidable casualty in the pursuit of justice. “Aperitif” may give Jack the benefit of the doubt, but “Amuse-Bouche” introduces a pattern of exploitation that we will see time and again.

We first find Will back in his FBI classroom. Alana enters as recruits exit.

A: How are you, Will?

W: I have no idea.

A: I didn’t want you to be ambushed.

W: This is an ambush?

A: Ambush is later. Immediately later. Soon to now. When Jack arrives, consider yourself ambushed.

Before Jack says a word, he is cast as an aggressor towards a vulnerable Will. He quickly reveals the purpose of his visit. The FBI review board “OKed active return to the field,” Jack informs Will. The statement seems to carry an implicit directive: Return to the field. The subsequent exchange removes any doubt. “Question is,” Alana says, “do you want to go back to the field?” “I want him back in the field,” Jack interjects, preventing Will from answering for himself. Perhaps because a possible answer—that Will is reluctant to put himself in that perilous position again—does not jive with Jack’s crime-fighting agenda. 

To demonstrate his supposed concern, Jack proceeds to tell Will that he recommended a psychological evaluation. He rejects the assumption that the assessment is a mere bureaucratic “formality,” suggesting that should Hannibal determine Will incapable of direct involvement on cases, Jack will release him from the obligation. “It’s so I can get some sleep at night,” he says. “I asked you to get close to the Hobbs thing. I need to know you didn’t get too close.” 

Jack chooses Hannibal to conduct the evaluation for a reason, however; and it is perhaps not only because he and Will do not share a personal relationship. Before asking Will a single question, Hannibal signs off on his field readiness. 

W: What’s that?

H: You’re psychological evaluation. You are totally functional and more or less sane. Well done.

W: Did you just rubber stamp me?

H: Yes. Jack Crawford may lay his weary head to rest knowing he did not break you and our conversation can proceed unobstructed by paperwork.

Did Jack hope Hannibal would “rubber stamp” Will? I cannot say for sure. If we assume the worst of Jack’s motives, recommending an elective psychological evaluation acquits him of any professional blowback should Will “break.” Jack can claim that he took precautions beyond what was required, and only followed Hannibal’s professional opinion. (An approach otherwise known as covering your ass.) At the very least, everyone recognizes that what Jack really wants is Will back on the case. Even Will. Back at the crime scene of another serial murderer, Jack commends Will for passing review. “Therapy is an acquired taste which I have yet to acquire,” he replies. “But it served your purpose. I’m back in the field.” Will intuits that whether Hannibal helped him find “a way out of dark places” is ultimately irrelevant. Jack affirms this conclusion by immediately getting down to crime business. 

In all fairness, Jack does find himself in an unenviable position. In the face of such evil, should we not take advantage of every tool at our disposal? (And of course, the show would not progress if Jack did not continue assigning Will to cases.) I think what ultimately turns me against him, however, is his performance of sympathy for Will and what Will puts himself through at Jack’s insistence. The more times I watch Hannibal, the more false and manipulative it feels.

Hannibal raises his own doubts about Jack ‘s motives with him over dinner, after Will voluntarily returns to therapy later in the episode. 

J: So why do you think Will Graham came back to see you? 

H: I’m sure he recognizes the necessity of his own support structure if he is to go on supporting you in the field.

J: Well I believe a guy like Will Graham knows exactly what’s going on inside of his head which is why he doesn’t want anyone else up there.

H: Are you not accustomed to broken ponies in your stable?

J: You think Will Graham’s a broken pony?

H: I think you think Will is a broken pony. Have you ever lost a pony, Jack?

J: If you’re asking me whether or not I’ve ever lost someone in the field, the answer is yes. Why? 

H: I want to understand why you’re so delicate with Will. Because you don’t trust him or because you’re worried of losing another pony.

In “Aperitif,” Hannibal described Jack’s impression of Will as a “fragile, little teacup” and “the finest china.” “Delicate” in this conversation evokes a similar tone—Jack handles Will with care. But the term “broken pony” betrays a much crueler attitude. Will is not breakable but rather irrevocably damaged. Broken ponies cannot race. Broken ponies have little chance of recovery. So we most often euthanize them. As a mercy. 

“Amuse-Bouche” reveals what potentially awaits Will as “Jack Crawford’s crime gimp,” but it also introduces two alternatives through the characters of Alana and Beverly. In contrast to Jack, Alana shows genuine concern for Will. In these early episodes, she alone stands up to Jack on Will’s behalf.  In “Potage,” she will explicitly describe her role as a “buffer” between them. Beverly, on the other hand, demonstrates that she already understands Will better than most. Their conversation in the FBI firing range almost takes on the effortless back-and-forth of a romantic comedy duo. 

B: I’m pretty sure firearm accuracy isn’t a prerequisite for teaching.

W: Well, I’ve been in the field before. 

B: Now you’re back in the saddle. Ish.

W: Ish indeed. Took me ten shots to drop Hobbs.

B: Zeller wanted to give you the bullets he pulled out of Hobbs in an acrylic case, but I told him you wouldn’t think it was funny.

W: Probably not.

B: I suggested one of those clacking, swinging ball things. 

W: That would’ve been funny. 

Beverly also displays a growing compassion for Will. When she discovers a Tattle Crime article calling him a “demented mind,” she chooses to stop reading aloud, and throws concerned glances in Will’s direction. Perhaps because she does not wish to cause Will unnecessary harm. Jack, meanwhile, insists she finishes reading. 

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