[This is a review of Hannibal season 3, episode 12. There will be SPOILERS.]

There is something wickedly delightful about the idea of Hannibal making room for entire scenes featuring Will in the offices of Bedelia DuMaurier, for the purpose of getting a little psychotherapy and some much-needed perspective with regard to his ongoing love affair with Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Will has made it clear he’s not her biggest fan; he considers her a liar and knows she was likely complicit in several of Hannibal’s misdeeds while the pair were gallivanting around Europe, scarfing oysters and drinking sweet wines. But as far as therapy goes, for an individual who has come so close to the devil – close enough to question whether or not the beast has loved him – there is simply no one else Will can possibly hope to turn.

During what will likely be the penultimate episode of the series (at least as it exists in its current form), Will and Bedelia chat about a great many things, the affection of an alluring serial killer and a comparison between her and Bluebeard’s wife being chief among them. And while there are many different avenues to explore with that dramatic correlation, and Bedelia’s claim that she intends to be Bluebeard’s last wife, the knotty questions of love and fear that Hannibal instills in those closest to him burn brightest when those two are in the room.

Will asks Bedelia directly whether or not Hannibal loves him, though it’s likely that he already knows the answer to this. For both Will and Bedelia, to comprehend Hannibal’s affection is to know the position it puts them in. Bedelia knows she is safe, so long as Hannibal remains cut off from the rest of the world by a wall of plexiglass. Her unnatural death will not come to pass unless Hannibal also has the opportunity to eat her. There’s a certain amount of security in understanding precisely what kind of threat Hannibal poses. For Will, it’s a little trickier, as Hannibal has demonstrated just how far outside the four walls of his cell his reach can extend. Hannibal may love Will, but that doesn’t mean he or his family are “safe” in the same sense that Bedelia is.

Mads Mikkelsen in Hannibal Season 3 Episode 12 Hannibal: Love & Fear

What’s more difficult, however, is the less directly discussed notion of whether or not those feelings are reciprocated. After all, in this particularly dark, dreamlike world that Bryan Fuller has created, to love Hannibal is to be like him. And to be like him requires an epic transformation – one wherein the last step is for the individual in question to shrug off the last vestige of his or her humanity.

This has been Hannibal’s design time and again with Will, and it is arguably part of what he’s been doing with Bedelia as well. The two have opted to retain their humanity, to reject the final stage of the transformation, even though they are aware how easy it would be to just give in. The scene where Will a tape of Chilton’s de-lipping, courtesy of the Red Dragon, is evidence of that. Dancy delivers a terrific performance that can be read several different ways, the most prominent being a robust mixture of guilt and revulsion – though not entirely because of what is being done to the seemingly unkillable Dr. Chilton, but for his feelings about those actions. After all, with the help of Freddie Lounds, Will knowingly set Chilton up to be the “pet” that Francis would go after, taking him one step further in his transformation.

What is interesting about transformations is how they have happened on the character level throughout the series’ run. Look at where Will, Jack, and Alana were when Hannibal began, and where they are now. Will is no longer a pure “lamb,” but someone capable of delivering judgment unto others on levels that go far beyond shooting Garret Jacob Hobbs or hiring an orderly to kill Hannibal while he was locked away. Meanwhile, Jack manipulates Will to get what he needs, while Alana’s ostensibly slid into the role Chilton once occupied.

Laurence Fishburne and Raul Esparza in Hannibal Season 3 Episode 12 Hannibal: Love & Fear

That frees Chilton up to become the one character whose transformation is never internal, but external. He’s had his guts ripped out, a bullet shot through his face, Francis has removed his lips (in what is one of the most gruesome images this series has gotten away with), and now he’s been horribly burned. And yet he survives, in agony. But Chilton doesn’t survive solely to be a punch line (though, given his unrepentant fame-chasing, there’s probably something to that); he’s an example that those who refuse to change who they are on the inside will be forced to endure that transformation on a more cosmetic level.

Transformation has been the running theme with these final episodes, which has given Fuller & Co. a tremendous opportunity to examine their characters in an intimate way. It’s also provided them the chance to turn Richard Armitage’s fantastically bugged-out Francis Dolarhyde into a full-blown character, not just a threat lurking in the periphery of a police procedural. And so, it seems that as the series has progressed, it too, has undergone a transformation, one that has eschewed its profile-and-hunt structure for something far more eccentric and, in most cases, entertaining. And this strong run of episodes leading up to the finale is the payoff for those who have been watching from the beginning.

Hannibal season 3 will conclude next Saturday with ‘The Wrath of the Lamb’ @10pm on NBC.

Photos: Brooke Palmer/NBC.

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