“I didn’t know what else to do, so I just did what he told me.” – Abigail Hobbs
In the beginning, Garrett Jacob Hobbs was insane. He was travelling across the country, murdering young women and eating them. Will Graham was taken from his FBI teaching position in Quantico in order to help profile and catch him. He has an empathy disorder that allows him to understand psychopaths.
The case was proving to be very difficult for Will, and he was assigned a psychiatrist to make sure he wouldn’t get too close. Unfortunately for Special Agent Graham, that psychiatrist was Hannibal Lecter.
Hannibal wanted to show Will something, to help him understand the act of taking life. He wrote Graham a love letter in the form of Casey Boyle: a woman fitting the description of the Hobbs victims, lungs removed while she was alive, impaled on a stag’s head and left for the ravens to pick at.
This was Hannibal’s first act in his relationship with Will. He wanted to push him. This contact manifested itself in Will’s mind as a black feathered stag, one that would gently guide him to conclusions, haunt him in his shallow sleep, and eventually give birth to his inner cannibal.
“Mizumono” is about that contact. The final episode of Hannibal’s incredibly dark second season brings the Ravenstag story arc to a conclusion in a brutal way, removing the still beating heart from its makeshift family of strays. It is tense, thematically fine tuned and charged with emotion. Hannibal is a show about the pain of empathy, and this episode hurts.
We begin with an immaculately written invitation to dinner. Hannibal is composing the final bit of music, and a clock is ticking. The envelope is addressed to Jack Crawford, who upon receipt of the letter tells Will.
This conversation is intercut with a corresponding dialogue between Will and Lecter. This one is reflective. They speak about the memories that the chair in Hannibal’s office would have. Graham listens at Hannibal’s command and the whispering melody of their relationship becomes tangible. The orchestrations of carbon, Hannibal names it.
Will tells Jack that Lecter will try to kill him in the kitchen, for convenience sake. This is played against Will’s assertion to Hannibal that Crawford won’t be easy to kill (leaving out the part about how this is mostly because Jack has an inside man).
Jack thinks that Will is his, and he voices concern. The only thing the Guru trusts is his underlying distrust of everyone. Hannibal is on the same page, but speaks more metaphorically:
“When the fox hears a rabbit screaming, he comes running, but not to help. When you hear Jack scream, why will you come running?”
The parallel scenes reach their conclusion as they synchronize, the screen splitting and presenting an ugly hybrid of Jack and Hannibal, asking if Will is truly going to be on their side when the moment comes. Will, given the split-screen treatment himself tells both of these predators what they want to hear:
After the titles roll, Will is walking toward his house in Wolf Trap, Virginia. It is night and, as he gets to the veranda, he’s confronted with the spectre of Garrett Jacob Hobbs, sitting in a chair. Things beginning to transform around Will, when he retrieves a sniper rifle.
The ghost of Graham’s first victim repeats his mantra (“See? See?”) and the camera pulls out to reveal that they are in a treehouse. Will sees the Ravenstag in the forest below and shoots it. This is his decision.
In daylight, Hannibal visits Bella Crawford in her bed at home. She is not looking any healthier, describing herself as between deaths. The sound of the clock returns for this scene, and the two speak about death as a punctuation mark that gives context to the words that precede it.
It is a touching conversation, and in true Hannibal form, self-reflexive. The final moments of both season finales change the meaning of preceding episodes, just as Bella’s death will change the meaning of her own narrative. Or, it would have if Hannibal hadn’t decided to interfere with her suicide.
Meanwhile, Will and Freddie Lounds are speaking about her inevitable resurrection. Once Hannibal is taken into custody, she will be allowed to get back to work, publishing the true crime book of the millennium and potentially getting her byline on some credible news outlets.
Graham pleads with her to leave Abigail out of her book, and it becomes apparent that he’s not sure he will survive Hannibal.
Later, Hannibal is tossing ledgers down from his shelves and Will is tossing them into the fire. They are preparing (at least Hannibal thinks) to leave. The books are case files that Lecter does not want to be used as evidence, some of them containing information on Will’s guided journey into the unknown depths of encephalitis.
The distorted clock that Will drew for his psychiatrist in the last third of season one burns as Hannibal muses on what he will do if apprehended. Evoking the Thomas Harris source material, he says that if he is put in a cage he will retreat to his mind palace.
Will, as a more emotional being, only needs a stream: the one he stood in as time flowed past him during his stay in the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. He tells Hannibal this, and the doctor catches a familiar scent while smelling Will (possibly to have a fresh memory of his friend in the case that they are separated). Instead of Will, though, Lecter smells a rat named Freddie Lounds, and suddenly the jig is up.
Coming back from commercial, we see Alana Bloom sleeping naked and alone in a black bed. A monologue plays over this image and she explains the feeling of being all consumed by darkness. Visually, this is beautiful, a nightmare image of Alana slowly sinking in to black liquid, not capable of fighting the encroaching darkness.
Pulling out to the offices of the FBI, it’s revealed that she is speaking to Will. She says that its clear that he’s set a trap, but expresses doubt that Graham isn’t the one being goaded into it. The scene ends with a tear falling from her eye: a drop of blood staining a clear drop from before. This image will change its meaning with the episode’s punctuation.
Will and Hannibal share their last private meal together and speak of ideals. The doctor begins by waxing on the idea of an imago: the final stage of an insect’s transformation. There is an ideal concept of each of these men, and they see it in each other. They are not their own ideals, though, Hannibal admits with a knowing amount of regret. They have too many desires to realize the forms of their metaphorical butterflies.
Hannibal suggests that the two of them should disappear tonight. It would almost be polite. Will can’t have that though, he says he needs Jack to know the true face of the Chesapeake Ripper. Hannibal plays against this lie, asking if Will would truly accept Jack’s forgiveness.
Crawford isn’t offering forgiveness, clarifies Will. Jack wants justice and truth.
The memory of the ticking clock from previous scenes is summoned with the knock of a wood block. The countdown is back on, and Will has refused Hannibal’s last offer. An incredibly brave closeup is held on Mads Mikkelsen’s face as he is made to process the final betrayal.
Juxtaposed with the reminder that time is running out in this last episode, the shot underlines the stakes: yes, there is a plot to catch Hannibal in the act, and yes he knows about it, but this isn’t about arresting a serial killer. This is about love. It’s about the core relationship between Will, Hannibal, and everyone that makes up their dysfunctional and lonely makeshift family.
It’s the point of no return, and though what remains between here and the falling action does a lot to build tension, Will has sealed everyone’s fate with a lie. Hannibal ironically and sorrowfully toasts to the truth and honest consequences.
On the other side of the equation, more hands are being forced. Kade Purnell is demanding an inquiry into Jack and Will’s harebrained scheme. She calls it what it actually is – entrapment – and Crawford has to hand over his badge and gun. He walks away in slow motion to kiss Bella goodbye.
Purnell’s next stop is Alana Bloom. After asserting that Will’s mutilation of Randall Tier (the beast man) was supremely fucked up, she drops a bomb on the plot: Graham and Crawford are being brought into custody. Immediately, Alana calls Will to warn about his impending arrest and he takes a page right out of Hannibal’s playbook.
Hannibal is in the kitchen, preparing food, when like Garrett Jacob Hobbs before him, he receives an ominous phone call:
Their relationship is ending just as it began.
Jack shows up a bit early for dinner and thanks Hannibal for their friendship. Lecter offers Crawford knives, asking if he would like to be the sous chef. It is a clever assertion of dominance, and a tragic reminder of how this is going to play out. The show is called Hannibal, not Jack.
“This is the clearest moment of our friendship,” says Jack, drawing his gun and initiating the fight we’ve been waiting for all season. This time, we get another perspective. As the famous enemies knife fight away their resentment, Alana approaches the house, calling in a report of gunshots before entering.
Jack locks himself in the pantry as a person-suitless Hannibal attempts to bash down the door. His nakedness is on full display when Alana confronts him.
“Where’s Jack?” she asks.
“In the pantry,” he mocks, mimicking her needless whisper.
She chastises herself for being so blind, and Hannibal offers her some condolences.
“In your defense, I worked very hard to blind you.”
He pleads with her to be blind, not brave, but she pulls the trigger, soliciting an empty click. He took the bullets.
She runs upstairs to where her purse is waiting with an actual magazine that she loads into her gun, and after firing warning shots through the bedroom door, things start to make a lot more sense.
Abigail Hobbs, earless and crying, emerges from the shadows, apologizes and ejects Alana through the window.
Glass, blood, and rain are falling on to Bloom when Will arrives by taxi. She is still alive and he makes the second emergency call of the night, this time for EMT. Meanwhile in the pantry, Jack makes a third call.
In the kitchen, Will find his surrogate daughter, alive and crying.
“I didn’t know what else to do, so I just did what he told me,” she sobs, succinctly describing the entire show in a single sentence.
He turns to find Hannibal, who caresses Will’s face, framed as if the two are about to kiss. The tension is so high that it wouldn’t be surprising if that actually happened, and metaphorically it does.
Hannibal stabs Will in the belly, embracing him. This is their final goodbye. If it can be said that the ideals of these characters do exist, this is the state in which that is true. The origin of Will Graham in all of the source material is traced back to this disfiguring embrace, one that will leave a scar as a reminder that he will never be whole again.
Mads Mikkelsen hits a series highpoint in performance. The intimacy from “Ko No Mono” is achieved with ease as he describes a place where teacups come together: a place that was made for all of us.
There is true betrayal here born of real love, something that Mikkelsen has been forced to underplay for the entire series. He enters into a monologue that will inevitably define the ideal of Hannibal Lecter from now on in the canon of important representations of the Devil.
“I let you know me. See me. I gave you a rare gift. But you didn’t want it.”
Asking if he will be forgiven, he reopens Abigail’s throat in front of Will, showing his friend a world without Hannibal Lecter: one where she drowns in her own blood, killed by her father.
Hannibal walks away, washing the blood from his face in the rain. Jack hears the voice of his wife one last time. Alana motionlessly struggles against her encroaching darkness.
After the credits roll, we get a stinger: Hannibal on a French airline sitting next to Bedelia Du Maurier, drinking champagne. He has escaped the fate of a cell and is off to have a delicious experience in Europe.
Before this though is the real closure we need. Will Graham lies on the floor, no longer able to keep his hand on his daughter’s throat. He sees the Ravenstag, prone like him, breathing its last breath. He might die, he might live. It doesn’t matter. The love letter from Hannibal Lecter is no longer of any use. The contact is broken. They have changed each other.
This has been his becoming.
- It is conceivable that everyone died in what is being dubbed as “The Red Dinner.” If this is the case (a big if), it looks like all of the pieces are here to further explore the content of Thomas Harris’ Hannibal. This means that we get Dr. Lecter as an art historian, an opportunity to introduce down on his luck cop Rinaldo Pazzi and much more Mason Verger (yay!)
- If some characters survive the massacre at Hannibal’s house, of the four potential corpses left behind on the Lecter property, the likelihood of them surviving is as follows (from most likely to least):
1. Will – main character, integral to the season four Francis Dollarhyde plot
2. Alana – combined with Miriam Lass, she is the closest thing to Clarice Starling that Bryan Fuller can get until he secures the rights to Silence of the Lambs from MGM
3. Jack – probably dead, to be replaced by Kade Purnell (an anagram of Paul Krendler, major character in Thomas Harris’ Hannibal)
4. Abigail – who I’m sure is dead before we fade to black
- I am incredibly happy that we won’t be spending a good portion of season three in a dark mental hospital cell. Though I’m sure Bryan Fuller would pull off Lecter’s mind palace very well, I don’t think I’m ready to see Hannibal in a blue onesie. From now on it’s cool suits, handsome sweaters or GTFO.
-That’s it for season two coverage of Hannibal. Thanks for reading, avid fans.
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