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One of the most amazing elements of Hannibal is also one that gets a great deal of press. Critics (myself included) are constantly discussing how the series makes the most horrific and goriest elements of the tale of Jack, Hannibal, and Will into beautiful works of art. From the murder tableaus, that amaze as much as disgust, to simply visual framing devices. While there is a lot to unpack with this second season finale (and we will get to that in a moment), I just wanted to take a few lines to commend director Davide Slade on some truly incredible work. From the continual shots of water droplets- Alana’s tears, to the torrents of rain later falling on her prone and damaged body- to the use of blood spatter to create another gorgeous and disturbing tableau with Will and Abigail in the kitchen, the episode is so visually rich it almost takes away the sting of so much pain and horror. Almost, but not quite.
Season two of Hannibal focused a great deal on follow through with the cat and mouse game between Will and Hannibal. The first half of the season had Will at Hannibal’s mercy, as he fought to free himself from prison. During that time, we were given a number of scenes of Hannibal away from Will, which gave us some insight (or so we thought) into Hannibal’s own psyche. But, as we see in “Mizumono,” we were as in the dark regarding Hannibal’s own manipulations and actions as Will, Jack, and the rest of the F.B.I. have been.
Something I’ve commented on throughout the season is how interesting it is that a series titled Hannibal spends so little time alone with its title character. The Hannibal we witness 95% of the time is the act Hannibal continually puts on for those in the world who see him as a brilliant doctor. The only time we get to see the monster within is when he is killing, and even then he is usually refined and calm. One of the reasons I enjoyed the scenes between Hannibal and his own psychologist Bedelia (aside from the excellent work by both Mads Mikkelsen and Gillian Anderson) was that those moments allowed us to see Hannibal a bit less on his guard and more open than he normally is. However, despite hinting that perhaps we were seeing the “real” Hannibal in those scenes, the finale makes it clear that everything we thought we knew about Hannibal has been a lie- he is a complete sociopath, and a brilliant one at that.
Early in the episode, while Will and Hannibal are discussing Hannibal’s plans to “discuss” things with Jack, Hannibal gets a whiff of Freddie Lounds on Will, and we know the jig is up. But what we don’t realize is the depth of manipulations that Hannibal has been using since season one, all (or, I assume nearly all) of which are revealed to both us and Will as the episode unfurls. First, remember when Hannibal smelled gunpowder on Alana’s hands? Well, turns out he put two and two together and correctly got four, and has removed the bullets from her gun while she was unaware. This means that when Alana inevitably comes rushing into Hannibal’s house, looking to be the hero, she is already at a distinct disadvantage. But I don’t think that anyone predicted the second surprise of Hannibal’s.
Seeing Abigail Hobbs alive and mostly alright is, by far, the biggest shock of the episode. Although, considering the amount of times she is mentioned throughout the episode, perhaps it is less surprising upon a second or third viewing. The reveal of Abigail (as orchestrated by Hannibal, who has brainwashed and manipulated her to such a degree that she immediately comes to him when commanded, much like a well trained dog) throws both Alana and Will for a loop- literally in Alana’s case, as poor Abigail shoves Alana out the second story window and possibly to her death. But for Will, this is the most damning of all Hannibal’s manipulations. The attempts to turn him into a killer, to turn him against Jack, and to manipulate him with regard to Margot all pale in comparison to Hannibal withholding Abigail’s existence, only to kill her in front of his former disciple. A frequent theme of the series has been Will’s belief that he failed in his role as a father figure, failing to protect Abigail from danger. It is a guilt that has driven Will on his quest to capture or kill Hannibal. To have that belief ripped away with the reveal that Abigail is alive, and has been the entire time, is hard to see. Even harder? Watching Hannibal coldly slit her throat, leaving her to presumably bleed out in the arms of her other quasi-father, Will.
Perhaps the most interesting long con orchestrated by Hannibal, and the one I’m having a bit of difficultly making sense of, is the situation regarding Bedelia. We know that Hannibal has been seeing her for some time, and that Bedelia has clearly become uneasy regarding their relationship. From what we can deduce, her fear is genuine, and she does indeed leave and run from Hannibal- and, it appears that Hannibal lets her go. The next time we see Bedelia, she is in an interrogation room having been “found” by Jack. I put found in quotes because if Jack can find Bedelia, I have a hard time believing that Hannibal didn’t find her first. Her confession, saying that she was the one who killed her patient, in light of “Mizumono”‘s final moments, now appears to be suspect. Her warning regarding Hannibal’s skills at manipulation? Perhaps a last ditch attempt to save Will and Jack from her fate: being pulled back into Hannibal’s web. While I certainly believe Bedelia and Hannibal aren’t headed for a happily ever after on that flight, something Hannibal has said or done has convinced Bedelia (who only weeks before was so frightened of Hannibal she ran) to lie for him and to stay by his side. I’m eager to find out the answer to that mystery.
Finally, we are left with quite the cliffhanger at the end of the episode. Jack, Will, Alana, and Abigail are all clinging to the last strings of life. Alana had the forethought to call the police, so hopefully help is on the way. The only question now is if it will arrive on time, or too late.
— While that fight scene between Hannibal and Jack remains a thing of beauty, the set-up for it is rather dull. I had hoped that the impetus for such a epic battle would have been something more than “it was inevitable this would happen.”
— After complaining a bit about the lack of female characters on the show, this episode gave us more female than male characters. While Alana remains a missed opportunity on the part of the writers, I’m eager to see what Freddie will be up to next year- especially since it appears she has some compassion.
— With Hannibal on the run, next season will clearly be about tracking him down. As Thomas Harris’s novel “Hannibal” opens with Hannibal Lecter living in Europe, perhaps we will see a blend of that novel and “Red Dragon” in the third season – after all, we have already met the Vergers, who serve as the central antagonists within “Hannibal.”