It’s do-or-die time for Will Graham, literally: our hero’s haunting dream of flipping the switch on his own electric chair shows he understands the stakes of his trial full well. So does Hannibal, leading to the conflict of interests I’m hoping will continue to define this season. Dr. Lecter doesn’t want to get caught; it’s why he set Will up in the first place. But in his own way, he seriously considers Will a friend, and that concern might well be what lands this series’ namesake cannibal behind bars. Hannibal can’t tear himself away from Will, even when it endangers his own freedom.
So, this is the week when Will finally goes on trial. There’s a bossy prosecutor, a judge whose main job seems to be making decidedly not impartial facial expressions, and a defense lawyer who’s admirable in the extent to which he wears his skeeviness on his sleeve. This isn’t a trial, it’s an advertisement!, he says. Advertising is vulgar!, Will replies. So’s the law!, lawyer-man points out. He’ll probably be dead in a few episodes, but pitch-black Hannibal could always use more comic relief.
Initially, Will’s legal team is running with the unconsciousness defense. As Kade Purnell points out, that’s a de facto admission of guilt—the question isn’t whether or not Will did it, but how aware of himself he was while doing it. Which makes sense, considering the mountain of physical evidence against him, including Abigail Hobbs’s ear in his stomach. Speaking of ears: Will’s got an admirer, and his idea of a Valentine is shipping an ear to the courtroom.
The big question hanging over the trial, then, is whether Hannibal is the killer he terms Will’s “admirer.” He almost definitely isn’t, but Dr. Lecter desperately wants the prosecution to believe so. It’s a win-win situation for him; Will goes free, and whoever the copycat is takes the fall for Hannibal’s ritual mutilation. But as ever, Will’s intelligence and moral compass are wild cards. The Admirer’s M.O. isn’t the same, opting for bullets through the heart over vivisection, and Will doesn’t hesitate to say so. Although he does allow his lawyer to argue a case he knows isn’t true, probably because he finds the unconsciousness defense so revolting on account of being innocent.
Between the bailiff’s charred corpse and the judge’s more elaborate display, though, we’ve got more than our fair share of the murders-as-art-installations that Hannibal makes its name on. And Will gets his mistrial, which the defense attorney describes early on as a win.
That’s more or less it for plot, but the main point of the trial is, in retrospect, to get lots of characters’ feelings towards Will Graham on the record. There are the minor players: Freddie is still an attention-hounding sociopath, and Dr. Chilton’s description of Will’s supposed vanity is an amusing case of projection. The main set pieces, as ever, are Jack, Alana, and Hannibal.
Jack’s main story this season has been his crushing guilt at pushing Will into insanity. Here, he goes to confessional, putting his belief in Will’s innocence on the record as an attempt to do the right thing. It’s touching, and I’ve always felt for Jack as the most tragic victim of Hannibal’s manipulation. He’s well-intentioned and smart, but he has no idea what he’s dealing with. And on top of all that, his wife is slowly dying. No wonder he’s fixated on exonerating Will as a way of purging his psychological hangups.
Hannibal’s desperate need for the jury to believe that Someone Else Did It drives him to take the stand and lay out a defense that the judge rules incredible and therefore inadmissible. (Side note: isn’t that for the jury to decide?) Which leaves us with Alana, who’s deepened into a more interesting character as she urges Will to accept what she’s done. While she never actually takes the stand in “Hassun,” we see her try to fake impartiality and describe Will as a “professional curiosity.”
In reality, she’s trying to “save” him, an even more desperately misguided quest than Jack’s. Will doesn’t need saving, though: he needs help from someone who considers him an equal, not a basket case who’s lost control of himself. Which makes the episode’s final visual reversal so touching; as Will has come to grips with his situation, Alana has grown increasingly panicked. So he reaches out to comfort her, even as he’s bound in chains.