'Hannibal' Mood Map: A Declaration of War

At this point, Hannibal season two is just coming off as trolling. Showing off might be a better word, but either way, there’s something offensively good about Bryan Fuller’s plotting this season.

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At this point, Hannibal season two is just coming off as trolling. Showing off might be a better word, but either way, there’s something offensively good about Bryan Fuller’s plotting this season. He’s breaking so many rules—the internal rules of the Thomas Harris books he’s supposedly building towards, and the general approach to plotting a serial (no pun intended) drama like this one. A staggering amount of big twists happened this week. There was enough material in this episode to fill a season for some shows. Killing off Beverly, revealing Jonathan Tucker as the copycat killer from the courtroom, putting Hannibal in mortal danger as a result of Will’s machinations—boy oh boy.

Current mood: Intimidated

Fuller and his writers are not messing around. This show was originally constructed with a procedural style—yes, you’d have the long-running thread of Hannibal and Will Graham’s partnership disintegrating, but it’d mostly be a “mind of the serial killer” thing with grand guignol set-pieces of death and dismemberment. That’s still going on…sort of. But Fuller is also painstakingly paying homage and twisting the original work he’s adapting, having Will attempt to kill his enemy Hannibal from within his prison cell, using gossip columnist Freddie Lounds as a go-between, just as Hannibal will one day do in Red Dragon.

My fear is that Fuller is doing this, trying to get everything done that he can, because he doesn’t think the show will survive to a third season. But happily it is having no detrimental impact on the show. In fact, it’s perhaps strengthening things even more, because watching the plot barrel ahead so shamelessly and never miss a step is the kind of high-wire act you see on television once in a generation. Hannibal will never be the show for everyone, because of its visceral content. But anyone who really cares about television should be watching.

Current mood: Impressed

So, first we have to deal with the fallout of Beverly’s death. Unsurprisingly, she is presented to the FBI with all the care and precision they would expect of the Chesapeake Ripper. Will immediately identifies Hannibal’s work, but even he’s smart enough to stop ceaselessly pointing the finger at his former psychiatrist. Instead, he merely confirms Jack’s suspicion and grieves silently with him. Beverly is sliced into sections and presented in glass cases, like a twisted Damien Hirst installation (Fuller also says they were inspired by the “Body Worlds” exhibitions around the world).

The great thing about Beverly’s death is it really heightens the search for the Ripper and makes it more personal for Jack and Will, and it shows us that no one, outside of the characters surviving into the film series, is safe. The sad thing, outside of the loss of Beverly, is that there’s really nothing more that can be done for now. The evidence will continue to build slowly against Hannibal, but we know he’s not getting caught just yet. The tension of his potential incarceration has, in fact, been dissipated. Beverly was the most sympathetic to Will’s claims, and the minute she investigated them, she was murdered.

Current mood: Sad

Will knows this too. So the rest of the episode sees him finally taking matters into his own hands. If the FBI won’t be convinced, perhaps some of the softer-minded people in his life will. He begins manipulating Abel Gideon (Eddie Izzard), the copycat Ripper who I suppose was hypnotized into forgetting he ever met Hannibal. He works on the infuriating Frederick Chilton, who he knows can needle Hannibal without being in too much danger (killing a fellow psychiatrist directly, especially one with a penchant for recording things, might be difficult to pull off).

But the real stroke of luck for Will comes with the reveal that hospital orderly Matthew Brown (Jonathan Tucker, who I know best from Parenthood and The Black Donnellys) is the copycat killer who murdered the judge and the bailiff to try and get Will off. This reveal is done somewhat suddenly, and a little ineptly (for this show), but it is forgivable, since there is just so much plot to get through. Tucker actually appeared in the first episode of the season, although I have no memory of it. His motivations are somewhat unclear, but he presents himself as an acolyte of Will’s, and is happy when he’s given the order to kill Hannibal.

Current mood: Shocked

The scene that follows is shocking mostly because it’s crazy how easy it is for this guy to get to Hannibal. But of course, why would the good doctor see it coming? Hannibal’s suit of armor is the respectable face and life he presents to society—he’s protected by the presumption of innocence. In these two seasons, he’s waded deeper and deeper into the world of mass murder and the FBI, and it’s finally catching up to him. Hannibal is near death as Matthew interrogates him and realizes he’s the Ripper, but of course, Hannibal’s not going to die yet. The question now is whether he managed to kill off Matthew. Jack certainly did shoot him (on Hannibal’s orders) but I want to know more about this kid. More importantly, I want to know how Hannibal will react to Will’s act of aggression. The first half of the season is wrapping up; let’s see how much longer Will stays in prison fighting this war of attrition.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.