NBC has decided not to air the fourth episode of "Hannibal" because it features the murders of children (by other children, no less) and would air not long after the tragedy at the Boston Marathon.

The decision, first reported by Variety, fits a familiar pattern of networks being cautious about violent content in the aftermath of tragedy. (ABC is also delaying the airing of a "Castle" episode featuring a bombing plot.) The WB temporarily shelved two different "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" episodes they felt too closely evoked the recent Columbine massacre. More recently, Syfy delayed the airing of a "Haven" episode featuring school violence that was set to air not long after the Newtown massacre.

So it's understandable why NBC might want to be careful, even if there's not as overt a connection between the plot of this "Hannibal" episode and what happened in Boston. (NOTE: As the Variety story points out, it was actually Bryan Fuller who first approached NBC with the idea of pulling the episode, rather than the network proposing it.) 

But it will create at least some narrative confusion.

NBC sent five episodes to critics for advance review, but they weren't the first five. Instead, we got episodes 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6, with 4 skipped. And it was clear in watching the fifth episode (and the "Previously, on 'Hannibal'" clips before it) that some notable character and plot arc things had happened in between the hours I'd seen. It's not enough that you'll feel lost in what happens — particularly since the fifth episode is one of the strongest NBC sent — but you'll definitely feel like you're missing out on a few notable beats, particularly in the relationship between Will Graham and Jack Crawford.

I've reached out to NBC and Bryan Fuller for details on exactly what will be missed, and will update this post if/when I hear something. The good news is that the network plans on posting a number of relevant arc scenes from episode 4 online (either Monday or Tuesday, most likely), with Fuller introducing them, to fill in the gaps.

Story-wise, it's far from the most baffling continuity gap NBC's ever presented — that would still be "Homicide," where they aired an episode that casually mentioned the death of a main character that aired weeks before the episode where he actually died — but just wanted to make sure anyone who tuned into the next "Hannibal" wouldn't wonder why they seemed to have missed things.