Our countdown to Hannibal‘s series finale continues as we examine the best episodes of S2.
Let’s bitch it out…
Seven months after shocking viewers with an unexpected twist, Hannibal returns to its Thursday at 10pm timeslot in February 2014. The second season delves deeper into the Hannibal/Will relationship, but unlike S1, the second season is effectively broken in two halves: the first documents Will’s incarceration up until 2×07 ‘Yakimono’ while the second sees Will and Jack instigate a cat & mouse game to trap Hannibal. The season is bracketed by a stunning fight scene between Mikkelsen and Fishburne (both seasoned fighters as a result of other projects) that casts a large shadow over some of the sluggish mid-season episodes. By the time the finale airs, nearly every character is fatally injured while Hannibal escapes in Keyser Soze-like fashion. The sudden appearance of traveling companion Bedelia DuMaurier (Gillian Anderson) is an unexpected delight as fans once again wait with bated breath to discover if the series will be renewed again. It is…barely.
In 2014, Hannibal slipped a few notches on our ‘Best Of TV’ Bitch Awards and placed #5.
Best of S2
Acting as the second half of a two part opener, ‘Sakizuke’ expertly lays out the roadmap for S2. Not only does the episode highlight Will’s (Hugh Dancy) plans to execute a long con on Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen), ‘Sakizuke’ broaches the uneasy symmetry between Will and Bedelia DuMaurier. Both of them are victims of Hannibal’s manipulations and while this episode finds Will desperate to sway his former friends and colleagues to consider his point of view, only Bedelia voices her support (albeit in a whisper on her way out the door). In the end Bedelia escapes before she can help Will, a responsibility that falls onto Beverly (Hetienne Park), whose increased prominence would come to a shocking end only a few episodes later when Hannibal kills her (the first significant death of note on the series).
In addition to the meaty character work, ‘Sakizuke’ features some of the series most striking visuals. The narrative theme is prominently “eye” focused – from Will’s attempts to make the others “see” Hannibal for what he is to the murder of the week: a human colour palette. The circle of glued corpses dominates the first two episodes, creating a grotesque wax menagerie on the ground and a beautiful iris when seen from above. It’s just another memorable example of the series’ visuals complementing the narrative – a balance that Hannibal struck nearly perfectly in S2.
I’m sure many fans will dismiss this choice because no Mason Verger (Michael Pitt) episodes made this best of S2 list, but in truth, the Verger family storyline never worked as well for me as the first half of S2. While I deeply respect Pitt’s dedication to the character, the second season shone brightest when Hannibal and Will were still figuring out how to work with each other in the new status quo.
‘Yakimono’ is a standout episode for me because it really solidifies the ongoing themes as the series transitions into Hannibal (the book) territory with the Vergers. This is the episode immediately after Miriam Lass (Anna Chlumsky) is discovered alive, which fully exonerates Will and nearly spells the end of Dr. Chilton (Raúl Esparza). As I proposed in yesterday’s piece on S1 episodes, Lass is symbolic of both Jack’s (Laurence Fishburne) guilt and responsibility, which is exacerbated after she is discovered, tortured and maimed, after so many years. Lass also performs another function: she foreshadows the manipulative powers that Hannibal possesses. By this point we’ve seen both Will and Abigail (Kacey Rohl) fall under a similar spell, but the moment that Miriam identifies Chilton as the man who abducted and tortured her, it’s something altogether different. Visually it’s a simple switch: Chilton’s face replaces Hannibal’s in Miriam’s mind and in no time she’s putting a bullet through the smarmy doctor in beautiful slow-motion.
In reality Chilton is a pathetic figure on the series. In the films, he’s more of a buffoon, but Esparza plays him as both a cad and a moron; a figure desperate to prove his intellect and earn the accolades of his peers and, in particular, Hannibal. Chilton’s a great character to mock and jeer, so there is something rather enjoyable about seeing him framed for Abel Gideon’s (Eddie Izzard) murder, particularly when Hannibal executes it with such ease. Considering the events of S3, it’s hard not to feel slightly more sympathetic to Chilton’s plight, but at this moment in the series, watching him lose everything – just as Will did – feels like karmic redemption.
There is literally no other choice for top spot of S2 than the finale ‘Mizumono’. I’ll admit that I frequently forget most of what occurs throughout because the final act is fixed in my mind. And what a final act! In the space of 20 breathtaking minutes, each of our protagonists arrive at Lecter’s house and meet a grisly, potentially fatal fate: Jack is stabbed in the neck and left to bleed out in the pantry, Abigail pushes Alana (Caroline Dhavernas) out a second story window and then both the young woman and Will are stabbed by Hannibal in the kitchen. It’s an all-around orgy of violence, beautifully orchestrated and a grisly confirmation of Bedelia’s warning that Hannibal is always in control. As the cannibal walks out into the black rain to wash the blood off his face, Hannibal and Bryan Fuller reinforce with symbolic imagery just how easily he played the group. Even when they knew he was a killer, Hannibal still bested them with ease.
Much like the first season finale, a large part of what makes ‘Mizumono’ work is the relationship between Will and Hannibal. I was never in doubt of Will’s allegiance to Jack, regardless of what we saw him doing through the previous few episodes, but I also never doubted that Will is also genuinely enthralled by Hannibal. Early in the episode the dialogue and faces of Will and Hannibal overlap, suggesting a merging of their psyches. When the final confrontation happens, it’s the most violent of break-ups: an intimate stabbing that resembles nothing less than a hug goodbye after a near kiss. It’s the closest Hannibal has ever gone to acting on its homoerotic undertones. Regardless of whether you ship Hannigram or not it’s hard to deny that this was one violent break-up.
Once again the wait between seasons would prove long and arduous, made even more difficult by the knowledge that everyone was at risk except surprise travel companions Hannibal and Bedelia, who pops up unexpectedly in the coda.
Worst of S2
Or as I call it: Hannibal does Law&Order (badly). Zzzzzz
Most memorable/disturbing scenes of S2:
- 2×12 ‘Tome-Wan’: Hannibal drugs Mason into eating his nose
- 2×05 ‘Mukozuke’: Beverly’s sectioned corpse
- 2×08 ‘Su-zakana’: Bodies are discovered inside of a horse
- 2×10 ‘Naka-Choko’: Surreal five way sex scene
- 2×11 ‘Kō No Mono’: Mason removes Margot’s reproductive organs dressed in Dead Ringer scrubs
Your turn: what were your favourite episodes and moments from S2? Do you disagree that one of Mason’s episodes should have made the top 3? Sound off below.
Check back tomorrow when we count down the best episodes from the third and final season.