written by Steve Lightfoot & Bryan Fuller | directed by David Slade
The finale of Hannibal's second season is tough to review, because the ending's so utterly devastating and appears to herald a significantly different future than many fans envisaged. It may be easier, this week, to simply tackle how the writers have chosen to create a new beginning from an apparent ending. The "punctuation mark at the end of the sentence", as Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) himself mentions at one point. Needless to say, huge spoilers to follow if you're behind the NBC broadcast...
We knew "Mizumono" would return to the premiere's cold open, with Lecter fending off a brutal attack from Jack (Laurence Fishburne), but I never for one moment predicted it would be complicated so much, and with such a resoundingly downbeat resolution.
Will (Hugh Dancy) and Jack's plan to catch Lecter was outrageous and perhaps a little foolhardy, but two things assured it didn't have the desired outcome. First there was the unforeseen issue with Lecter catching the scent of Freddie's (Lara Jean Chorostecki) hair on Will after he secretly met with her, which let him know she wasn't dead and he was thus being played in some way; the second was meddling Prurnell (Cynthia Nixon) stepping in to shut down Jack's operation, and force him to accept Lecter's dinner invite without any backup. How handy some of those FBI snipers might have been during the prolonged, sickening final act.
Watching this finale through to the end offered four huge gut punches and two very surprising twists. While it's not entirely implausibly for some of the characters to have survived Lecter's house attacks, my guess is the show won't return for a third season without at least two definite fatalities. It's most likely that Dr Alan Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas) has reached the end of her time on the show, more for reasons of usefulness as a character tethered to Will and Lecter as love-interest. Jack might survive having a shard of glass stabbed into his neck, despite having lost a lot of blood, if the paramedics arrive post-hate, but it's not a given. Fishburne strikes me as the kind of actor who may want to move onto something else after two years, and "Mizumono" did offer a good exit for his character. I just wouldn't want to tell his terminally ill wife about his loss.
The real shock was when Lecter ripped Will's stomach open, then let him bleed out on the floor—making the entire situation worse by then slashing "daughter" Abigail (Kacey Rohl) across the neck, to lie dying beside him. A character we'd been led to believe Lecter had killed at the end of season 1, but who had apparently been hiding out upstairs under Lecter's crazy spell. A slightly weird surprise, but foreshadowed earlier this season when it was revealed Lecter had kept Miriam Lass alive, too.
It seemed clear that Will Graham died, as he saw a vision of the feathered stag likewise fallen and breathing its last breath, but is that really where the show is headed? Will has been the show's tortured hero, and Hannibal doesn't have the rights to use his more famous cinematic successor (Clarice Starling), so what's the thinking here? If we get a new FBI profiler for season 3, it would rob the show of Will's signature ability to enter the mind's of killers (which couldn't be returned to), but also the rich history that's been built up between them. For that reason alone, I believe Will's going to survive this ugly knife attack—no matter how much the finale wanted us to assume he's a goner.
Maybe this episode just did a stupendous job making us believe the unbelievable, and both Will and Jack will be back next season (with some awful scarring) and more determined than ever to catch Lecter. And what of the doctor himself? He's removed incriminating evidence from his home, but it's now clear he's a serial killer to anyone with half a brain cell. The post-credits scene (I hope you stuck around for that) showed Lecter aboard a passenger jet bound for France, with Dr Bedelia Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson) as a companion.
Bedelia's return was another mind-spinner; as we'd been led to believe she was on the FBI's side and wanted Lecter caught, but apparently all that was a ruse? Are we to assume season 3 will therefore involve Lecter and Du Maurier starting again in France, using aliases, while whomever survives this episode (Jack, Will?) begins an international manhunt for him? In a sense, the show would be taking things down a path similar to the novel Hannibal, only with France replacing Italy. (And given how the show is heavily financed by a production company of French origin, the idea of Hannibal filming overseas perhaps isn't so ludicrous now. Or could Toronto also double for some French cities?)
Overall, this was a fantastic ending to what's been a highly enjoyable season. The second half was perhaps a little too crazy at times (the Mason Verger sub-plot did feel like padding), but this finale offered a real feeling of closure on key aspects of the ongoing storyline. It felt like the end of a first volume now Dr Lecter's secret life has been exposed to the world, and I felt genuine emotion during the scene where Lecter lamented the fact Will wasn't being honest with him and their friendship is suddenly over (although he forgives him). They could have been friends who kill, and fathers to Abigal (if Lecter was genuinely going to reintroduce her back to Will), but from Lecter's perspective this dream fell apart and he was forced to burn his bridges and make his escape.
What did you make of this season as a whole, and this episode in particular? Will you be pessimistic about the show's future if Jack and/or Will are genuinely dead, or could the show survive a huge third season shake-up by only keeping Mikkelsen and Anderson involved as a regulars? I saw a BAFTA video interview with Dancy recently, and he said a few things that made it appear likely he's sticking around for awhile longer, but was he lying to protect this finale's shock? I'd love to hear your thoughts below.