Previously on Hannibal: *ugly crying*
S2 E12: Tome-Wan
The FBI yanks Bedelia du Maurier from her foxhole in exchange for a legal bolt hole. If she talks about her relationship with Hannibal, they’ll give her immunity to all Hannibal-related charges, so, of course, she talks. (Her real reasons for doing so won’t become clear-ish until the finale tag…) Hannibal manipulated her into killing her patient—cutting out his tongue then choking him with it—just as he coerced Will into slaughtering Randall Tear, bait or no bait. The only way to bring him down, she tells Will, is for Hannibal to do it himself. His downfall will be his own ego, not an elaborate plan for entrapment. Back on the Verger ranch, Mason decides he’s had enough of Hannibal’s interference. His goons kidnap and truss him up in a straight jacket to feed him to Mason’s prize pigs. Will frees Hannibal and is knocked out in the aftermath (which means he fails to witness more of Hannibal’s ill deeds). When Will finds Mason in his house drugged up and feeding parts of his face the dogs, he and Hannibal debate what to do with him. Will talks Hannibal into sparing his life, though what misery Mason is left with is little comfort to him and a great pleasure to Margot.
S2 E13: Mizumono
Holy mother of Themyscira. I mean…I can’t…damn. Just damn. Deep breaths…deep breaths…
Will and Jack’s ploy to lure Hannibal into catching himself dies on the vine as Prurnell reminds them that they are employed by the FBI, an agency dedicated to upholding the law and enforcing justice. They’ve committed a variety of crimes, and when it comes to the government, the ends cannot justify the means. This brings a whole new meaning to Jack’s attack on Hannibal. In the beginning, we assumed the fight was an act of impulsive anger or retaliation. In truth it was all of those things, but mostly a last stand. Alana turns up right at the worst possible moment, and gets shoved out of a window by Abigail Hobbs, who had apparently been undergoing the Miriam Lass treatment in Hannibal’s guest room. Will shows up too late to do anything about Alana or Jack. Abigail distracts him long enough for Hannibal to gut him (with a fish knife?). After scorching the earth that was his relationship with Will, Hannibal salts the remains by cutting Abigail’s throat. Hannibal washes away all the unpleasantries with expensive champagne and a flight to Europe with Bedelia at his monstrous side.
The penultimate episode is all about revealing one’s true nature, while the finale is about the consequences when those secrets are revealed. Mason Verger literally removes the charming mask he presents to the world, slice by disgusting slice. Once her brother is trapped in a hospital bed, faceless and with a broken back (courtesy of a temporarily “merciful” Hannibal), Margot drops her veneer of the helpless sister and gets down to vengeance and retribution. Jack Crawford is revealed to be less of Hannibal’s friend and more his distraction.
Will, on the other hand, has more masks than he knows what to do with. He has the fledgling psychopath face he shows to Dr. Lecter and Mason, the determined champion of justice mask he wears for Jack, the betrayed comrade mask he shames Alana with, the put upon good guy mask he trots out for Freddie and Margot, and the clever bastard mask he fails to impress Bedelia with. Trouble is, he’s lost the ability to distinguish between which face is a disguise and which is his real one. He’s followed Hannibal too far down the rabbit hole to come out unscathed. His soul is as stained. I’m half convinced the evil black liquid that drowned Alana in her dreams is made from the blood of both Hannibal and Will.
When Hannibal inadvertently discovers Freddie’s death mask was a fake, Will’s carefully and painfully constructed Apprentice Hannibal mask shatters before his mentor’s eyes. If Hannibal had fleeting doubts about Will’s sincerity for killing before, Freddie’s survival made them concrete. Moreover, by asking Hannibal to reveal himself to Jack, Will makes a grave calculation error. The whole second half of season 2 has been Will bluffing Hannibal while Hannibal bluffs right back, only Will doesn’t realize Hannibal’s also stacked the deck, and no matter how many cards Will counts, Hannibal has set up the game so he will always win. Will places his bet based on faulty intelligence by positioning Jack in his sights—a mistake that will cost Jack everything.
While it wasn’t as well integrated as it could’ve been, the mini-arc with the Verger siblings was fascinating as a study in contrasts and comparisons to Hannibal and his sundry protégés. Mason and Margot need each other—she his money, he an object to control and coerce—but don’t want each other. Hannibal needs and wants his protégés, whether they be Abigail, Bedelia, or Will, but especially the latter. Even more complicated is the murder husbands’ relation with Margot, one that looks a lot like Abigail 2.0. Abigail was young and relatively naive, which incited in them the need to protect and nurture. Margot is much older, wiser, and angrier, but she still needs support and guidance.
But where Will was trying to save Abigail from her darker instincts, with Margot he’s using her as a tool against Hannibal. Yes, he cares about her (not love, but with empathy for a person who doesn’t deserve the life she has) and is furious at Mason for killing their unborn child—see his glaring omission to Jack about precisely why Hannibal wants to feed Mason to the pigs—but his desire to save her and his desire to punish Hannibal carry equal weight when it comes to his intentions with her. Will places Margot as the fulcrum around which rotates his and Hannibal’s mutual manipulations to get each other to kill her brother, just as he’s pushed Jack in between him and Hannibal as bait. Without Margot or Jack, Will has little to incite/entangle his shrink.
Hannibal seasons are already awfully short, but this one felt like two distinct mini-seasons. Mad Men is breaking up their final season into “The Beginning” and “The End,” and damn if Hannibal didn’t do something similar: “The Bait” and “The Switch.” The first half was all lead-in. It was structured much like season 1, all case-of-the-week and over-arching main plot, but after Chilton’s “death” it shifted. The dark humor, blistering sass, and elaborate killers were axed and replaced with a bottomless pit of despair.
In the back half the way the scenes were structured, the shots composed, the astonishing editing, it all evoked a sense of an endless nightmare world. We spent more time with Will’s fantasies than ever before, and it became harder and harder to distinguish between them and Fuller’s artistic license. Which was kinda the point, I think. Hannibal revels in the beauty found in unfettered violence, while Will uses his imagination to process and vent his overwhelming emotions. The back half of season 2 was a disconcerting marriage of the two styles. Yet it worked. Frankly, I’m surprised NBC let Bryan Fuller and David Slade go as far as they did. For a network show, Hannibal is very basic cable: gorgeous, heartbreaking, terrifying, grotesque, and visceral. Even with the books leaving clues as to where season 3 may take us, Fuller’s path is going to be excruciating and glorious. Is it 2015 yet?
- “I’m not deceiving you, Dr. Lecter. I’m…just point out the snare around your neck. What you do about it is entirely up to you.” “You put the snare around my neck.”
- “You don’t want me to have anything in my life that isn’t you.” “I only want what’s best for you.”
- “If you can’t rely on others, you have to rely on God.” Speaking of self-confidence and whimsy…
- “Now that you know me, see me. I gave you a rare gift, but you didn’t want it.”
- “I forgive you, Will. Will you forgive me?”
- Hannibal looked genuinely heartbroken when he smelled Freddie Lounds on Will. It was the same look Medea gave Jason when he betrayed her.
- David Slade and whoever does the music deserve all the Emmys. Don’t even vote, just hand ‘em over.
- This guy. This frakking guy.
- The finale was shot before they even knew if the show would be picked up. Just imagine, if you will, hearing a few weeks ago that the show wouldn’t be renewed, then spending the final hour of its existence watching Hannibal maybe-maybe not killing everyone and everything you’ve ever loved THEN DRINKING CHAMPAGNE WITH FRAKKING SCULLY ON A FRAKKING PLANE and then done. No more. That’s it. I have never been more grateful for a renewal in my life. They could bring back Pushing Daisies and I still wouldn’t be as amped.
- Season 2 was a remarkable feat of television. Save a few minor missteps (like the tonally out of the blue legal drama episode), the season was easily some of the best television of 2013-2014. Verily, it is the Breaking Bad of NBC.
- Thanks for playing along, everyone. Hope to see you next season…
Alex Brown is an archivist, research librarian, writer, geeknerdloserweirdo, and all-around pop culture obsessive who watches entirely too much TV. Keep up with her every move on Twitter, or get lost in the rabbit warren of ships and fandoms on her Tumblr.