(S P O I L E R S)
In which in the few jerky seconds of sleep I do get, all I see is dark, swarming behind my eyelids.
I dream darkness comes into me.
I dream darkness comes into me.
“But this is your hour, when darkness reigns.” (Luke 22:53)
“What you did to me is in my head. And I will find it. I’m going to remember, Dr. Lecter, and when I do, there will be a reckoning.” –Will/“Kaiseki”
And what a reckoning it is. After 25 episodes of epic cat and mouse machinations and psychological subterfuge, the slow burn construction of an intricately constructed house of lies, “Mizumono” brings everything crashing down in an apocalypse of blood and carnage seldom seen on network television. Throughout these past few months, I’ve written quite a bit about Bryan Fuller’s willingness to gleefully manipulate the classic Lecterverse canon, often to genuinely subversive effect. This manipulation also subtly establishes a tone of creeping unease; if our preconceived notions of the linear plot mechanics of Will and Hannibal’s story are being rearranged or changed completely, then what remains at the end that we previously knew?
This creeping unease blossoms into full-blown hysteria in “Mizumono”. And the effect is absolutely thrilling. If, as Hannibal noted in “Tome-Wan”, the characters were maintaining their position on the event horizon of chaos, it’s here where they finally plunge into the void. Despite the relative security that foreign financing has bestowed on it, Hannibal’s real life ratings struggles have always called its long term survival into question. So a plunge into the void on a show like this promises the potential of no return for any of the characters. Or for the show.
And so the final showdown between Jack, Will, Hannibal, and Alana takes on the feel of their lives going completely off the tracks. Or perhaps reality going off the tracks. The season-long buildup to the Lecter House slaughter has gradually allowed strict definitions of reality to disintegrate. In “Mizumono” this disintegration eats away at everything we see, often in the most gorgeous manner. There are so many moments of aching beauty throughout. The slo-mo close up of Alana’s tear descending to the table and mingling with a scintilla of blood as she begs Will not to go through with his and Jack’s plan (a scene that parallels their same tearful conversation in the Season 1 finale.) Hannibal’s papers floating through the air as he and Will burn his records in preparation for their potential escape (a sort of amazing scene for a man who takes such pride in the formal signifiers of his life.) Alana’s mental image of her drowning in a pool of darkness, a reversal of Will’s dream image of her as black liquid succubus in “Kaiseki.” All of these combine to form not the building blocks of a television show’s plot, but a psychotropic fugue state. By this point, we the audience have joined these characters, plunging into our own void of experiential armageddon.
That plunge began, and ends, with Will Graham himself, the audience surrogate and wronged man in search of redemption. His voyage into Hannibal’s underworld during Season 2 has often been a disturbing one, as Bryan Fuller has left so much of his true motivation and intent mostly ambiguous. That gambit carries through the entirety of this episode, as it’s never clear where Will’s loyalties lie (see the memorable split screen shot that headlines this essay.) Classic dramatic structure would dictate that he finally reveal himself as the undercover presence he was all along, but that expectation is exploded in heart-rending fashion. And we’ve seen it all before.
Because in a show that has traded so heavily in the cycles of violence, and of a dread-filled sense of déjà vu (see my essay for Season 1’s “Releves”), it’s only fitting that this finale circles back to where it all began. Early on, Will seems to be entering his home in Wolf Trap, VA, but once he sees the ghostly image of Garret Jacob Hobbs, it’s obvious that he’s still trying to exorcise the primal trauma of the Hobbs House massacre. Later, when Kade Purnell eviscerates the FBI sanctioning of Jack’s plan to capture Hannibal, Will (who’s staring down an arrest warrant and the impending arrival of the feds) calls to warn Hannibal. His simple words (“They know”) are a direct echo and reversal of the doctor’s phone warning to Garret Hobbs in the pilot episode, the two words that set in motion so much of the burgeoning chaos that explodes here.
But the biggest cyclical shock of all, and the moment that more than any other annihilates Will’s soul, is the reappearance of Abigail Hobbs, long thought dead at Hannibal’s hands. Hannibal has gone to great lengths to portray the twisted symbiotic relationship between Will and Hannibal; they gradually begin to occupy what seems like the same headspace. And so the Lecter House can now almost be seen as a physical manifestation of that cohabited psyche, these two men lost in the vast and twisting corridors of what they have formed, as the three people dearest to them become trapped in what they have built together. Per his conversation with Freddie Lounds, Will still deeply cares about his long lost surrogate daughter. So to see her alive, but seemingly a pawn of Hannibal’s all this time (“I didn’t know what to do. So I just did what he told me” as she tells him) devastates him. She’s been running around inside his head since her supposed death, but now that she’s back it’s as if he’s arranged for her to roam in the space that he and Hannibal created. And she’s been even more trapped than she was before.
It’s the final realization of Will’s greatest fear, that the world of his visions will invade the waking world. And in that realization, he’s forced to relive the greatest trauma of his life onc again. Back in a kitchen. Wounded. Forced to witness Hannibal slashing Abigail’s throat, in a perfect reenactment of what her father attempted to do so long before. Absolutely paralyzed once again. His long-promised reckoning has come. But that reckoning is as much with himself as it is with Hannibal. For as Lecter slashes her throat, it’s as the co-dependent organism that he and Will have formed is doing it. Will is left to be both witness and perpetrator, the awful power of his empathic visions ruling his life once again.
Even Abigail’s seeming death is trumped, though, by what passes between Will and Hannibal in the episode’s final moments. Because as Will makes clear, he’s shocked that Hannibal didn’t leave when he called to warn him. The obsessive FBI agent, who’s devoted so much of his time to stopping his nemesis, has in many ways truly aligned himself with the only person who really understands him. And it’s in the moments after Hannibal guts him with a knife that the most emotionally wrenching bits take place. Mads Mikkelsen really excels here, selling the genuine hurt that this empathy vacuum feels at his betrayal by the only person who seems to understand him. As he bitterly says to Will “I gave you a rare gift. But you didn’t want it.” Even to the end, Bryan Fuller refuses to give the audience easy resolutions to what’s been building. These two lost souls have both shared something deeper than most humans do and engaged in a diabolical game of Catch Me if You Can.
And now it’s all irrevocably shattered. As are the lives of Alana and Jack. And the fabric of reality that the show has tentatively clung to all along. Hence that most evocative image of the rain outside Hannibal’s house turning into blood (which crossfades into Jack’s blood.) As Hannibal walks away from the slaughter he has wrought, baptized anew in the rain as his victims drown in gore, headed toward boarding a plane to Europe with Bedelia (in a great stinger at episode’s end), the world has been turned upside down. In the episode’s final shots, a bloodied Will sees the nightmare stag that’s been chasing him for two seasons on the floor beside him, dying. But whether that death is what he really wants or not…………