‘Hannibal’ Mood Map: The Trial of the Century

Last night, Hannibal faced its greatest challenge yet: could it even turn a courtroom drama episode into the usual a visual feast, replete with painterly images of gore and viscera? Of course it could!

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Last night, Hannibal faced its greatest challenge yet: could it even turn a courtroom drama episode into the usual a visual feast, replete with painterly images of gore and viscera? Of course it could! This is Hannibal, so even Will Graham’s trial is no ordinary trial. Perhaps I’ve just watched too many episodes of The Good Wife recently, but I think it’s generally considered unusual for the judge to be murdered, strung up with the top of his skull removed, and have his brain and heart put on the scales of justice, right?

“Hassun” (named after the second course of a traditional Japanese meal) is generally concerned with getting Will out of the corner they wrote him into for the season finale. Bryan Fuller and his writers gave themselves quite the challenge—Will coughed up a victim’s ear, ranted about Hannibal’s guilt despite the overwhelming evidence, and worst of all, the audience knows he’s been framed by Hannibal himself. That will make it incredibly hard for us to believe he can get out of it, because the whole premise of the show rests on Hannibal’s incredible ability to dodge any suspicion.

Current mood: Thoughtful

The other problem is that Will is now convinced of Hannibal’s guilt. This episode initially seems to be pulling a trick that many a TV show would go for to try and reset to the status quo. While Will is in prison, a man is murdered and mounted on antlers, following the modus operandi of whoever committed the crimes Will is accused of. So if these murders are ongoing, and Will’s in jail, surely someone else is responsible, right? Will can get back to working for the FBI, season two can continue apace, with all the crimes for season one placed on whatever patsy Hannibal finds for the crimes.

Because, one first assumes, Hannibal is the one doing these copycat kills, yes? What easier way is there for him to get Will off than continuing the crimes while he’s in jail? Even though it contradicts his actions in framing Will in the first season, Hannibal has definitely shown real empathy to his counterpart in these first three episodes. It’s a psychopath’s empathy, but it exists nonetheless, based on Hannibal realizing just how fascinating a counterpart Will is and just how terrible it would be to lose him.

Current mood: Touched

But the show is too smart to neatly clean up its first season mess. Will, of course, is on Hannibal’s level, and they both immediately know that whoever is committing these crimes is indeed a copycat. We take a lovely trip into Will’s mind for a truly, horrifically graphic murder scene, including a moment of violence I literally could not watch—the carving of the Glasgow smile—and am amazed made its way onto network TV. I’m no prude about violence, but it’s crazy what Hannibal gets away with. I think the studied, emotionally removed nature of the killing (usually witnessed by a dead-faced Will) is why such material can slip by censors.

The copycat murders may well fool the rest of the FBI, including Jack Crawford, which is most important—he can now think that both Will and Hannibal are innocent, which is exactly what he wants to think. With the death of the judge, Will’s trial is over and done, and there may not be another one if the copycat killer is found and all of the first season’s crimes pinned on him. While the evidence against Will is overwhelming, its packaged, comprehensive nature is already arousing suspicion.

Current mood: Busy

But Will, it seems, still knows that Hannibal is a murderer who framed him. He still sees him as the black, antlered figure when he sits down to testify in the courtroom. What he understands in this episode is that Hannibal really loves him—that Hannibal wants Will to think he’s innocent, and wants Will to be out of prison. Essentially, that he framed him because he had to, to escape justice, but otherwise truly admires him. Will’s attempts to convince others of Hannibal’s guilt failed, so he’s wisely setting that aside, publicly. But that final vision he has, of Hannibal in the prison, seems to suggest this larger understanding about their relationship.

Once again, Hannibal is moving away from being a case-per-week show. There’s so many unanswered questions in this episode that will be resolved later. Bryan Fuller is getting more and more ambitious with how he structures plot on this show, and he’s not falling into any easy traps. I’m hopeful that he can continue with this deftness. And I’m pretty intrigued to see who or what is unveiled as the copycat killer in future weeks.

Current mood: Anxious

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