A review of the “Hannibal” season 2 finale coming up just as soon as I move your punctuation mark…
“I forgive you, Will. Will you forgive me?” -Hannibal
If you went into “Mizumono” expecting concrete answers about how exactly Will's game has worked, how he finally convinced Jack of Hannibal's guilt, and how the two of them in turn convinced Freddie, Alana and Cynthia Nixon's character, then you may have come out of it feeling disappointed. None of that is explained, or even really hinted at; we went from the world believing Will to be the Chesapeake Ripper due to the mountain of evidence Hannibal provided, to the world believing Frederick Chilton(*) to be the Ripper for the same reason, to the entire resources of the FBI being brought to bear against Hannibal Lecter, even though as recently as last week, Will was admitting to Jack that he had yet to gather a single concrete piece of evidence against the good doctor.
(*) Chilton has barely been discussed since his last appearance. When Todd Van Der Werff asked Bryan Fuller about the idea of killing off Chilton – who is very much alive in the Hannibal Lecter books and films that take place after these events – Fuller just said that “Serpico survived a bullet to the face.” He could be goofing around, or we could return in season 3 to find Chilton alive but disfigured in some very “Hannibal” way.
And to a degree, that plot hole is also a hole in the emotional side of things. We come full circle on the Jack/Hannibal brawl with which we opened the season, and see that Jack's rage is driven not by the abrupt discovery of Hannibal's true identity, nor by Hannibal having just done something terrible to Bella, Alana, Will or anyone else Jack cares about, but simply by the realization that Nixon is about to take him out of action and ruin the whole plan, and that therefore this is his last and only chance to do something to stop this monster. I buy this as a thing Jack Crawford would feel if he actually believes that Lecter is the Ripper, but given how much time was spent at the end of last year and the start of this one on Jack believing other people to be the Ripper, and refusing to even consider that it might be Hannibal, I don't think we can just take on faith that Will convinced him off-camera. We don't need a flashback to the moment where it happened, but we need some kind of detail that explains why Jack flipped, and in turn why all the other people did, and how that led to the massacre at Lecter's home.
But I don't think the second half of season 2 was especially interested in concrete answers, facts or anything of the sort. It was deliberately shot and edited in a markedly different style from what the show had used before, all loose and smokey and elliptical, making these post-Chilton episodes feel less like a criminal investigation than like a dream – or, more accurately, a nightmare. And though I haven't had time to speak with Fuller about his intentions for the back half of the season, I imagine that the goal was to plunge the viewer into the nightmare right along with Will Graham – to make us understand what it feels like to get this close to Hannibal Lecter, and how you begin to lose a sense of time, and space, and morality, even if you are, like Will, going into this project with eyes wide open and objective in sight.
And on a nightmare, reality-questioning level, “Mizumono” was an incredible end to season 2. It made me genuinely wonder about Will's loyalties – in part because it was clear after a while that even he didn't know. He started out as a fisherman trying to lure Hannibal Lecter, and at a certain point he became the bait, and then the fish wriggling on the end of the hook. He spends the finale intellectually wanting to bring in Hannibal, but emotionally he's lost, possibly up until he sees Alana lying on the sidewalk, clinging to life, and definitely by the time he sees Abigail is alive and (somewhat) well, Hannibal having given her the Miriam Lass treatment (cutting off a body part, followed by confinement and emotional manipulation). Through all of this – the confinement in the mental hospital, and then the mutual seduction between himself and Hannibal – the one constant that Will had was his memory(**) of and love for Abigail. Seeing her both alive and in imminent danger from Hannibal jolts Will out of his mental stupor, but it's too late because he's been physically gutted by Hannibal, unable to do anything but sob as he watches her bleeding out.
(**) At first, I was amused at the talk of memory palaces, given how similar it sounds to Holmes' mind palace on “Sherlock,” but I believe the concept (if not that exact name) was introduced back in the “Red Dragon” book.
Even if you know some of the details of Will's injury from the books/films, it still doesn't feel like ample warning for the savagery of the closing acts – and for the way that David Slade manages to combine that brutality with the same sense of dark beauty he brought to the series from the first episode. Just look at that shot of Alana lying on the sidewalk, shattered glass and rain drops falling on her in seemingly equal measure, making her look like a figure in a fairy tale – but perhaps one of the original Brothers Grimm editions rather than a Disney translation. That's horrifying and wonderful at once.
We close with the world of the good guys in tatters. Any or all of Will, Jack, Alana and Abigail could be dead by the time we return for season 3 – and news of Laurence Fishburne's new ABC sitcom “Black-ish” will no doubt have all the Jack fans freaking out, even though he's only a recurring guest star (and producer) there, and has his first contractual obligation to “Hannibal” – while Hannibal flies off for Europe with a seemingly friendly and conspiratorial Dr. Du Maurier as his traveling companion. (Though her motives could be revealed to be more complicated next season – give or take Gillian Anderson's availability – her presence on Team Hannibal was the final magic trick in a night full of them.)
Gun to my head – or knife to my belly – I probably prefer the first half of season 2, which was more interested in balancing the psychological drama and macabre horror with some relatively straightforward plotting. But I think I may also prefer it for a more selfish reason: watching Will get so deep into Dr. Lecter's head, and slipping right in there with him, was more unsettling an experience than I might want to revisit, whereas I can imagine gleefully binging the Chilton arc on a long, rainy Sunday. And the fact that it disturbed me so means, I suspect, that Fuller did exactly what he set out to do.
Great show. Great season. So glad NBC's deal with Gaumont is keeping it around for more, and damn curious what the structure of the show will be with Hannibal as a fugitive, regardless of which FBI-adjacent characters make it out of his house alive.
What did everybody else think?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org