Hannibal cold opens are rarely as self-contained or tightly executed as the introduction to last night’s finale. But true to the rest of the episode, one of the most streamlined in Hannibal‘s history, the first three minutes act as a funnel, narrowing Will’s entire trajectory—or at least what the audience has seen of it—since he left the hospital down to a single split-screen shot. Jack and Hannibal each believe Will is theirs; Jack and Hannibal each think Will is the swing vote in their upcoming confrontation. Technically, Will’s already sided with Jack, but the connection he shares with Hannibal is genuine, however duplicitous.
Jack and Will’s best-laid plan to lure in their big fish is blown to smithereens before Will has the chance to make his symbolic choice, however. As soon as Hannibal makes clear that revealing himself to Jack also means killing him, Cynthia Nixon and the FBI red tape come back in full force, making clear just how ridiculous their scheme looks from the POV of an actual government agency, or even just the FBI functionaries of a normal serial killer procedural like Criminal Minds. Will is technically an undercover informant; Hannibal is technically a murder suspect. All the mindfucks and pretensions of divinity in the world don’t make a difference in the paperwork.
So with the immaculately calligraphed dinner invitations sent and the goodbyes said on all sides, Hannibal, Will, and Jack head into their face-off not as investigators or even FBI employees, but as two men and the subject of their psychological tug o’ war. Those goodbye scenes deserve some recognition, not least because they’re all a variation on a woman sending a male loved one off to battle. Alana admits she was wrong all along, an exchange that reminded me once more how much her character had been reduced this season. Once a peer of Will’s and Hannibal’s, she’s become a dupe stumbling around in the dark while the men in her life pull the real dramatic weight. Freddie bears witness to Will’s dying wish: protecting the legacy of Abigail Hobbs. And Bella, the only person who’s ever wanted Hannibal to kill her, offers tentative forgiveness.
Even Will and Hannibal have their final goodbye, in which Hannibal offers Will one final way out. They don’t have to kill Jack to start a new life together; they can just elope, leaving those behind who, to Hannibal, have always been extraneous anyway. Ever since he met Will, Jack and Alana have only been pawns in the game between them. If Will wants, he could just hand Hannibal the victory early, and no one gets hurt. But Will insists, and thanks to his unnatural sense of smell, Hannibal already knows his victory’s a false one. Freddie Lounds is alive and well, and before I could remind myself that Dr. Lecter’s bummed out because he didn’t eat someone, the flash of disappointment on Mads Mikkelsen’s face is strangely affecting.
Then the FBI comes for Will, and we’re off to the races. The back half of “Mizumono” plays out like a haunted house , a genre of horror that a show happy to mess around with suspense and genre tropes largely hasn’t touched. All of the major players are congregated in Hannibal’s house of horrors: Jack comes first, and immediately launches into a fight that’s devoid of the slow-motion artistry that is Hannibal‘s bread and butter (see what I did there?). Then Alana arrives, then Will.
As we’ve known since the premiere, Jack is incapacitated, holed up in Hannibal’s wine cellar with a gash in his throat. Alana arrives, gun in hand, and is offered a choice by Hannibal: walk away and stay blind, or pull the trigger and sign her own death sentence. It’s unusually cruel because the decision’s only a symbolic one; Hannibal’s already stolen Alana’s bullets, so once she’s revealed where her loyalties lie, she’s more or less done for. Hannibal doesn’t even do the job himself, leaving it to his trump card: Abigail Hobbs, still alive. Just like Miriam Lass.
The heartbreaking part of Will’s betrayal, at least from Hannibal’s perspective, is just how much he’s done for his protegé. He’s let him in, more than can be said for Jack or Bedelia or Alana. He attempted to shape him in his image, a process he genuinely believed was for Will’s benefit. Most impressively, he’d undone one of the worst psychological traumas inflicted on Will, worse even than his imprisonment for murders he didn’t commit. He’d kept Abigail alive as a surprise, a reward for choosing him over Jack. And as punishment, he undoes that surprise, slicing open Abigail’s throat as Will lies helpless on the floor.
That’s the status quo at the end of the second season, one that would make me afraid for all our protagonists’ lives if Bryan Fuller didn’t have to produce another thirteen episodes next year. Alana’s been pushed out a window. Jack’s slowly bleeding out. Will’s been gutted. And in a perfect illustration of the FBI’s effectiveness in capturing Maryland’s most prolific murderer, two 911 calls aren’t enough to prevent Hannibal from walking out into the rain, relatively unscathed.
Cut to blue skies, Hannibal victorious. Until next year, everyone!