The A.V. Club gave both this episode and the previous one an A-. Whilst E11 disgruntled me mightily (my review), I rather enjoyed this episode, which had a far clearer narrative path running through it as we edge up to the finale, as well as being funny and horrible in pretty equal measures like some of the best episodes up until now.
I really liked how the episode took the scenes from Hannibal — his capture by the Sardinians, the removal of Mason’s face, etc. — and reordered them in a way that was both faithful and novel. This is what Fuller claims was the aim of several scenes in S2E11, but it felt far more successful here. There is a lovely set-up for Mason and Margot to continue their fight in series 3 (as Fuller suggests), perhaps on more even ground, now that Mason is paralysed, and that can just simmer away behind the finale’s conflict between Hannibal and the FBI.
This episode brought clarity regarding Will’s position between those two. His meeting with Jack shows that he is straining the leeway he’s been given almost to breaking point, but he is more of a law enforcement officer now than he has been previously. Whilst willing to have Hannibal murdered earlier on in the series, Will is now unwilling to let him go to his death with the pigs. It was only a shame that the episode didn’t play further on the novel and have Hannibal carry an unconscious Will to safety. Although the plot required Hannibal to run off with Mason instead (in order to exact his revenge), a mirroring of that moment from the novel would have been a useful insight into Hannibal’s perspective on his relationship with Will, which has been lacking recently, in large part because of the loss of screen-time for characters like Jack, who have previously provided a sounding board.
At least this episode casts a chink of light on what Jack has been up to during the previous few episodes where he has been all but absent: tracking down Bedelia. It was nice to have Gillian Anderson back, albeit briefly. There are no big surprises from her: Hannibal influenced and manipulated her as he does everyone; she killed the patient who attacked her in an act midway between self-defence and murder (although it doesn’t feel like we’ve quite got the full story on this yet…); the FBI’s snare for Hannibal may yet fail. Still, her return was welcome, as she’s always a delight to watch (although one disappointment is that we do not get to see how she has been living since she ‘withdrew from social ties’, which I think would have been fascinating).
Will’s interactions with Hannibal have returned to being at once starkly open and deeply ambiguous. That Hannibal takes Mason to Will’s home in order to savage him (vicariously) is indicative, I think, of Hannibal’s impulse both to share and to incriminate those with whom he shares. Earlier in the episode, we hear from both Will and Bedelia about how they have no proof with which to demonstrate Hannibal’s criminality. When Will essentially invites Hannibal to murder Mason in front of him, it is interesting that Hannibal chooses not to, instead only (!) paralysing him. Whilst, of course, criminal, it is not of the right degree for Will, and so the fight to prove Hannibal a killer beyond reasonable doubt (and in a courtroom) continues. Will manages to “nudge” Hannibal in the right direction with a helpful suggestion from Bedelia: appeal to Hannibal’s whimsy. In the final scene, by establishing himself — and perhaps also previous patsies — as a Patroclus to the Chesapeake Ripper’s Achilles, Will opens the door to Hannibal “revealing” himself to Jack in a way that Will hopes will be a snare, although that we know will end bloodily for Jack!