After an incredible string of episodes, Bryan Fuller’s astonishing ‘Hannibal’ drew its first season to a close last week with an absolutely delicious finale that left this fan squealing with glee. I’m once again awed that a show this good could ever air on NBC.
Episode ‘Savoureux’ ends with a brilliant twist that turns the whole concept of the series topsy-turvy and playfully toys with (yet doesn’t necessarily contradict) the established Hannibal Lecter mythology. In, ‘Red Dragon’, the first Lecter book by Thomas Harris, we’re given only small bits of the backstory between Will Graham and Lecter. We’re told that Graham visited Lecter twice to consult on the Garret Jacob Hobbs case and felt that there was something “off” about him almost immediately. At the second visit, realizing that he’d been found out, Lecter attacked Graham and left him seriously injured. Obviously, the series has chosen to greatly expand and complicate the relationship between these characters, but it will (presumably) end up in the same place. How it will get there, especially after this episode, is a mystery yet to be solved.
Over the last few episodes, Lecter has been framing Graham for the Hobbs copycat murders that Lecter himself committed, and has planted the same suggestion in Graham’s unstable mind, in much the same manner that Dr. Chilton did to Gideon (Eddie Izzard) earlier in the season. (See, it all ties together!) At this point, even Will doubts himself, especially after he finds a human ear in his sink. Lecter convinces Will to turn himself in.
The ear belongs to Abigail Hobbs, now presumed dead (though, pointedly, this is never actually confirmed in the episode). Further physical evidence, including blood under his fingernails, all points to Will having killed the girl.
Alana Bloom can’t bring herself to believe it. She suspects that Will’s fever may be tied to encephalitis (which we know is true) and gives him the same clock-drawing test that Lecter had. The results of course point to Will having distorted spacial perception. When he mentions that Lecter gave him the same test, this immediately raises a red flag for Alana about what Lecter really knows. She questions Lecter about this in the presence of Jack Crawford, but Lecter, prepared for any eventuality, presents her with a falsified clock drawing that looks perfectly normal, and claims that Will exhibited no signs of dementia as recently as two weeks ago. Crawford now believes that Will is a psychopath, and has been faking mental illness, including flubbing Bloom’s clock test. Even Bloom starts to come around to this conclusion.
Graham himself would believe that he might have killed Abigail during his last bout of lost time, if only Lecter hadn’t gone a step too far and planted evidence of human remains from the copycat’s other victims in Will’s collection of homemade fishing lures. Graham doesn’t know whether he did or didn’t kill Abigail, but he’s clear in his own head that he didn’t kill any of the other victims. Because of this, the pieces fall into place and he realizes that Lecter is a serial killer and has been messing with his head the whole time. The thing is, the clearer Will’s thinking gets, the crazier he looks to everyone else. After being arrested for Abigail’s murder, he escapes custody and confronts Lecter, pulling a gun on him and saying, “I can see you now.” Unfortunately for Will, Jack Crawford shows up and “saves” Lecter by shooting Graham (not fatally).
As we next see them, Lecter pays Graham a visit… at the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane! Will is locked up in the very cell where the character of Lecter was first introduced in ‘Red Dragon’ and ‘The Silence of the Lambs’. But the tables are completely turned. Graham, at the sanest he’s ever been, looks to all the world like a psychopath, and the more he claims that Hannibal Lecter is the serial killer, the less anyone believes him. Lecter, meanwhile, has completely assumed the façade of a caring friend and doctor.
This is an ingenious twist that, if anything, proves this Hannibal Lecter to be even more brilliant than the original Thomas Harris or movie incarnations. In those other versions of the story, we’re told that Lecter was a brilliant psychiatrist, but we only ever see him as an imprisoned psycho, and are constantly left in disbelief that anyone would have ever gone to see such an obvious nutcase for mental health care. This Lecter, on the other hand, shows us exactly how he got away with the ruse of sanity. He has perfectly manipulated events to his advantage. He’s a genius.
As if that weren’t enough, the finale also delivers a very interesting conversation between Lecter and his own therapist, Dr. Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson), that subtly hints that she may know more about him than we’ve been led to believe. I need to know more about this storyline. Thank heavens the show was renewed for a second season!
‘Hannibal’ will return to NBC next spring as a mid-season series. I may have to count every day until it comes back.