Television is littered with failed romances. Relationships crumble as November or May Sweeps roll around, or as a show's writers struggle to make their happy couple seem interesting. Sometimes these break-ups land particularly hard; at other times they barely register, for whatever reason. But friendships on television—well, they rarely end. They sometimes grow strained, sure, but more often than not, the "warring" parties are reunited as companions once more, their bonds renewed, the friendship ultimately strengthened.
That will not be the case with Hannibal. Friendships were shattered in this finale, and irrevocably so. There can be no replacement for the losses these people have suffered, provided that some of them actually survive in any condition where they're able to reflect on those losses. For all the craziness that Season 2 has bestowed upon us—with a mural depicting an eye built of bodies, a guy in a hydraulic beast suit, and the Vergers—"Mizumono" was a powerfully intimate hour that tore away hearts and breaths.
The way that everything in this episode led to Hannibal slicing Will's stomach and slitting—surprise!—Abigail's throat was remarkable. Much like a suspicious lover, Hannibal caught a whiff of Freddie Lounds on Will, and the tumblers fell into the place in Hannibal's mind. At that point, the jig was up, and Hannibal should've just gotten the hell out of dodge. He stayed. He stayed because the teacup of entropy and time reversed itself with Will and Abigail, and he wanted them to remain a part of his life. In their last supper together, he even offered Will a chance to come clean, to tell him everything, and to receive forgiveness for the deception. But Will kept to his and Jack's plan—he remained committed to the lie, and Hannibal offered a toast to the truth "and all its consequences."
So the hurt is real. It's deeply real. Hannibal himself is a serial killer and a master of deceit—"In your defense, I worked very hard to blind you"—and that's why it cut so deep when Will didn't all-out confess. It was a rejection, even in those fleeting moments when Will, echoing Hannibal's own call to Garret Jacob Hobbs in the series premiere, warned Hannibal that "they know." It was as close to an apology as Will was going to get. The one person Hannibal had connected with, the one person he'd found in this crazy, mixed-up world who he thought could understand him, had played him: "I have let you know me. See me. I gave you a rare gift. But you didn't want it." It's not the risk of being caught as a serial killer that frustrated Hannibal; it's the fact that he let his guard down, that he shared himself with another person, and that this other person didn't reciprocate.
Mads Mikkelsen held nothing back, allowing pain, sadness, anger, and contempt to inflect his line readings, with director David Slade's blocking—particularly in the moment when Hannibal hugged Will—emphasizing the intimacy of it all, and focusing on the grave wounds that Will had inflicted. Hannibal was gutted emotionally in the same way that Will was physically. In fact, Hannibal's experience may've been even more painful, because it seemed that Hannibal not only wanted to believe that Will was his friend, but to spare Jack—if not for Jack's own sake, then for Bella's.
How much empathy did you have Hannibal leading up to his bloody departure from his home? Did you have any at all? He's a monster straining against a person suit, a monster who believed he had, at long last, found friends—a family, even—in Will and Abigail. While Hannibal mocked Will's idea that he could change the monster, Will was correct that he did have an effect on the doctor: He made Hannibal think there was someone who could understand him, something I doubt Hannibal could say about any of his other patients/wind-up toys, save for maybe Du Maurier.
Did it change us, though? If Hannibal's first season was about our relationship to serial-killer programming on television and the psychic toll that mediated violence takes on us all, Season 2 may be about our relationship with the TV anti-hero and the question of how various narratives entangle and seduce us with him. At the very least, many of us follow the stories of mobsters, drug kingpins, other serial killers, corrupt politicians, and political fixers, even if we're not encouraged by their respective shows to identify with them. It's an extension of the argument about horror films that I made in response to "Shiizakana,"; such films provide a release valve for our darker impulses, and anti-heroes provide us that same sort of release.
So Will once again played audience surrogate, coping with the conflicting impulses of wanting to see the charismatic anti-hero to get away with his machinations while understanding that such machinations have no place in the world. It was rather neatly visually summed up by that disturbing split-screen image of Hannibal and Jack asking the significantly-less-disturbing split-screen image of Will whether he was prepared to do what needed to be done. Will grappled all season with the desire to kill Hannibal, to succumb to his darker impulses, to take Hannibal's place in the narrative and become the wendigo of psyche. Certainly, killing and displaying Randall Tier took care of some of that, but killing Peter Bernadorne's social worker might've felt even better.
But what did he (we) get for falling under the spell of Hannibal and Hannibal's anti-hero? Lots of people people on the ground, bleeding to death—a reminder that the 'anti' is still a very important prefix in this formulation. Hannibal has never shied away from reminding us that its title character is a horrible person, but it's also never shied away from playing up the qualities that so many of us respond to. Is there an ideological takeaway to about our media consumption? Will's conflicted feelings resulted in serious injuries for four people—including himself—while the man responsible for the carnage jetted off to another country in first class, sipping on champagne and letting out a sigh of relief. Where do our clashing feelings about our anti-heroes leave us when the hour's up and the show's done?
– Freddie's going to get two or three books out of all this. She's going to make so much money. Also: I'm sure she's loved staying at what looks like the FBI trainee dorms that Miriam Lass lived in after she was found.
– "I found more bullets!" I am still sorting out my thoughts on Alana for this season.
– The only friend break-up in recent memory that gutted me—HA! No pun intended!—as much as this did was likely Alicia and Kalinda's on The Good Wife. Admittedly, that one yielded far, far, far less blood.
– So was Abigail what Beverly saw down in Hannibal's basement? I need Abigail to not die again so that she can answer some very pressing questions.
– This episode's notable piece of classical music was the return of—what else?—the aria from Bach's Goldberg Variations as we watched the plane whisking away Hannibal and Du Maurier. Though, really, the sound note for me was the unrelenting and dread-inducing tick-tock sound.
– Can you imagine if this had been the series finale? MOST DEPRESSING SERIES FINALE EVER.
Was "Mizumono" a satisfying final course? What about Season 2 as a whole? What do you think Hannibal will serve up in Season 3?
AIRED ON 5/23/2014
Season 2 : Episode 13