Rewatching “Oeuf”–the spelling I choose to use given it’s the closest to how you’d pronounce this word in French; absolutely no C in sight–I knew I wanted to talk about Will Graham and water. Katharine and I have spent a significant amount of time off-blog discussing the gendered energies and archetypes put off by and reflected in Will and Hannibal, the contradicting as well as the complimentary, and this episode seemed like as good an entry point as any to begin looking at what energy is projected by Will, particularly given the repeated associations between Will and water made in “Oeuf.”
The episode opens with a time-lapse of the harbor in Baltimore, the city where Hannibal’s psychiatric practice is located. It’s a unique start–we don’t often get cityscapes in the show. And interestingly enough, it’s a cityscape tempered by water.
A moment later, we hear Will say, “Sometimes I leave the lights on in my little house and walk across the flat fields. And when I look back from the distance, the house is like a boat on the sea. It’s really the only time I feel safe.” As will speaks, we’re presented with this image of said “boat on the sea”:
Will’s statement is telling. It reveals to viewers (and Hannibal) that he finds comfort in isolation, and comfort when surrounded by water. This idea of comfort when surrounded by water is further emphasized later on in the series when it becomes established while Will is hospitalized that his mind palace location is him fly fishing in a stream, water up to his knees.
I mentioned just above that gender comes into play when considering Will and water. But first I want to take a moment to disclaim that when I talk about gender here, I’m thinking more in terms of binary archetypes rather than embodied identities, which can exist well beyond the limits of feminine and masculine. Psychoanalyst Carl Jung, famous for his work in dream analysis and his idea of the collective unconscious (and an undoubted influence in the show) had an idea that within every woman there was an inherent masculine energy known as animus, and within every man there was an inherent feminine energy known as anima. Of the anima, psychologist von Franz said,
The anima is a personification of all feminine psychological tendencies in a man’s psyche, such as vague feelings and moods, prophetic hunches, receptiveness to the irrational, capacity for personal love, feeling for nature, and last but not least–his relation to the unconscious.
Sound familiar? I think the comment about “feeling for nature” here is particularly interesting. Production designer for the show, Patti Podesta, explained in a blog post once that Will’s world is one of “actual nature” compared to Hannibal’s constructed sense of nature. According to her, “Will Graham, by comparison, dwells in a world described by association, meaning that similar colors and shapes create a continuous flow through his space, with many windows connecting to a natural setting. It’s a sensual fish tank in which everything is held in a kind of ether.” I love that the literary definition of ether is “the clear sky; the upper regions of air beyond the clouds.” So we know there is an intentional connection between Will Graham and his natural environment.
So where does water come into all this? Water traditionally has been used to symbolize the unconscious, the intuitive, the emotional. In tarot, when water is present in a card’s imagery it is always there to suggest some form of emotion, whether it’s conscious or unconscious, controlled or out of control. Not to mention the importance of water to human life’s beginning in the womb.
I mention wombs because this episode draws lines between comfort and water. That makes me think of how wombs on a wider level can represent safety as well creation, and rebirth. And when I think about wombs, I also think about eggs. Biologically, I know chicken and human reproduction differs wildly, but eggs still serve a similar purpose to wombs as a watery place of creation that symbolizes similar notions of manifestation and birth. And what, pray tell, does oeuf mean in French? So glad you asked–it means egg.
- Man and His Symbols – ed. Carl Jung
- Dictionary of Symbols – Jean Chevalier & Alain Gheerbrant
- “The Attraction of Opposites”
- “#HANNIBAL’s LETTERHEAD IS INSPIRED BY DR. CARL JUNG’s AND DR. SIGMUND FREUD’s LETTERHEAD”