[This is a review of Hannibal season 2, episode 13. There will be SPOILERS.]
Aside from the incredible visual and auditory aesthetic – and the fantastic performances by Mads Mikkelsen, Hugh Dancy, and the rest of the cast – in season 2, Hannibal has become rather remarkable for the way it has stepped out of its own reliance on the use of convention within the larger Hannibal Lecter universe.
That is, under the guidance of Bryan Fuller, the series has practically reignited a legitimate interest in Thomas Harris’ characters by presenting them in a way that marries popular culture’s macabre fascination with serial killers with the idea of presenting a representation of the psyche and, to some degree, even the unconscious mind, in a viscerally engaging, boundary-testing (at least for network television) fashion.
This season saw the series focus far more on the interpersonal conflicts between its characters, specifically the conflict between Will and Hannibal and, perhaps even more pointedly, the conflict between Will and himself – or, if the events of the latter half of season 2, including the finale, ‘Mizumono’ might suggest, his true nature.
And considering where the season began – with Will incarcerated and under the omnipresent eye of Dr. Chilton, while Hannibal had ostensibly assumed his role in the BAU – to have the narrative climax with Will torn between the pursuit of justice and his relationship with the man who essentially obliterated his life out of curiosity is, if nothing else, a demonstration of just how well constructed the series and its story arcs actually are.
Moreover, that shift toward a deeper investigation of the Will Graham/Hannibal Lecter dynamic also helped the series gradually move further away from its initial reliance on the serial-killer-of-the-week formula (that it admittedly did very well), and push into more compelling, character-driven examinations. This also freed the series up to experiment with things like form, structure, and its own aesthetic.
In season 1, it became clear that Hannibal was dealing with a very particular form of heightened reality, and as that developed into the accepted standard of the series, the show was free to engage in gradually more extreme expressions such as the reality/fantasy-bending sex scene that made ‘Naka-Choko‘ as memorable as it was uncomfortable.
And so, by blending the levels of intimacy, the blurred lines of connection (and considering the hazy, dreamlike editing that dominated the episode) between characters would go on to pay off tremendously during ‘Mizumono.’
Here, director David Slade seamlessly interweaves incredibly close shots of Will Graham’s conversation between Hannibal and Jack in such a way that, when the two opposing discussions are fused into a single distorted image of Jack and Hannibal, and then of Will himself, the question, “When the moment comes, will you do what needs to be done?” brings about an enticing level of uncertainty. But the ambiguity only heightens the tension as Hannibal plays with crime fiction convention by having the supposed protagonist be as seemingly unsure of his intentions as the audience is.
“Hannibal thinks you are his man. I think you are mine,” Jack says to Will, meaning loyalty as it pertains to either the apprehension of the Chesapeake Ripper, or the death of Jack Crawford. But the layers of that line are myriad, as it also points once more to the particular closeness between Hannibal and Will that is reflected over and over again, as the events of the episode rapidly escalate to their blood-drenched conclusion.
In that sense, what makes ‘Mizumono’ memorable is the pervasive notion that, no matter what, the show has reached a turning point. That feeling of inevitability, the idea that all of these characters are past the point of no return becomes the narrative’s unifying thread, one that persists long after Cynthia Nixon’s Kade Prurnell pulls the plug on Jack and Will’s grand scheme.
But that idea also brings other characters like Bella Crawford and, more specifically Dr. Alana Bloom, back into the fold. Because of their interaction with Hannibal, they are each on the verge of irrevocable change. For her part, Bella has been the symbol of mortality over the course of the season, and the fact that she makes an appearance in the finale, lying in what will almost certainly be her deathbed, imbues the showdown at Hannibal’s house with an even greater sense of inevitability.
Will, Hannibal, Jack, and Alana have all crossed the Rubicon in one way or another, and their involvement in the carnage at Hannibal’s is therefore assured. In fact, the only outlier in that group is Freddie Lounds, who is supposed to be dead, but is preparing for “resurrection,” her figurative return to the land of the living.
That, of course, mirrors the brief, violent return of Abigail Hobbs, which, much like Freddie was one of the few things Will and Hannibal kept from one another. Knowing how important Abigail is to his protégé, then, Hannibal’s decision to slit her throat in front of Will ultimately made the bloody climax even more harrowing in its intimation of Hannibal’s all-powerfulness.
The culmination of ‘Mizumono,’ and the build-up of mortally wounded individuals, whom Hannibal simply walks away from, is a testament to the way the series sees its titular character and his relationship to them all. Their first mistake was going after Hannibal at all. Their second mistake was in believing Dr. Lecter didn’t still hold all the cards, let alone considerable sway over Will Graham.
More so than before, Hannibal demonstrates the seductive power and indomitable influence of the character, and in doing so, makes him all the more frightening a presence. He leaves those who would challenge him with the chance to continue clinging to life, when he could have just as easily ensured their deaths before disappearing and eventually winding up on a plane with Dr. Du Maurier.
The season successfully managed to deliver a compelling take on the merging of Hannibal and Will’s psyches, and as such, the deeply intimate valediction suggests a literal and figurative severing of that bond. And while it will obviously prove to be temporary, the separation, like everything else that transpired, leaves everyone with his or her own physical and psychological scars they must endure. Those wounds will hopefully lead to an even more compelling story as the series continues.
Hannibal will return for season 3 in 2015 on NBC.