The season finale of Hannibal, Bryan Fuller’s sensational reformulation of the Hannibal Lecter fantasy, gave us much to chew on, and I’m not just talking about the suspiciously delicious meal Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen) prepared for his shrink, Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson). ”Controversial dish, veal,” said the psychiatrist as she feasted on her patient’s home cooking, a young piece of meat that was most likely the fileted and finely prepared remains of the cannibal chef’s latest victim, Abigail Hobbs (Kacey Rohl). So deliciously twisted. But just as savory — and ironic — were Hannibal’s tears when he grieved the loss of the girl he killed, as the villain had become quite attached to her. ”I never considered having a child,” Lecter told Du Maurier during a session earlier in the episode. ”But after meeting Abigail, I understood the appeal.” But apparently not as appealing as the benefit he derives from violent exercise: I was shocked by the savagery suggested by Abigail’s crime scene. Hannibal couldn’t have gone easier on the de facto daughter he shared with his de facto better half, Will Graham (Hugh Dancy)? Monster! Remind me to scratch him from my babysitting list.
I am most haunted by the finale’s final scene: Hannibal’s visit to the place he will inevitably call home (at least for awhile), the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. (I imagined Hannibal had some kind of precognitive flash of his fate in that brief moment, when he paused for reflection after passing through the dungeon gates.) Lecter had successfully framed the aforementioned Graham for many of the murders he had committed over the first season — the Garrett Jacob Hobbes copycat killings; Dr. Sutcliffe; Georgia Madchen; Abigail — by both planting evidence (those trophy fishing lures — genius) and by taking advantage of the hypnotic rapport he had established with Will to convince the veritable psychic profiler that he had gone psycho. The last bit didn’t stick — Will fought through the fog and finally saw Hannibal for the devil-stag he was — but the fix worked, anyway. And so Will was sent away to The Asylum and thrown in a dark, quiet hole that evoked Hannibal’s subterranean quarters in Silence. Rising from the cot in his cell, Graham bravely squared up to Hannibal and returned his greeting. ”Hello, Dr. Lecter,” he said with creepy calm. It wasn’t the serenity of a sociopath. It was the furious cool of an activated hero; in his eyes, I could have sworn I saw escape plans and vengeance schemes taking shape.
How about that smirk that rippled across Hannibal’s lips? I would like to think that Lecter’s show of delight meant something more than just relished triumph, as I also would like to think that the ubermenchy mastermind sincerely wanted to help Will gain mastery over his chaotic internal world and transform his guilt-wracked pathology into the same kind of liberating, Nietzschian beyond-good-and-evil moral code he has for himself. Or maybe I’m just suffering from dementia. Will would certainly think so: His theory was that Hannibal was just conducting a mad scientist psych experiment in the wild, that Hannibal merely wanted to wind him up and see what would happen. Maybe: In the previous episode, Hannibal told Abigail that rank curiosity was his motivation for meddling with the lives and minds of her father and family.
NEXT: ”Are you a killer?”