And so, the end of season 2 is upon us. Put in your orders for the boxset! This is a series that continues to develop with rewatching.
I say “purports” because Fuller is explicit about that being the primary question the show is presenting to the audience over the final few episodes, although in watching the finale (and the previous episode), I actually feel very little doubt over Will’s intention to stay on the side of good. There was far more suspense earlier on in the season, but I feel as though we are not supposed to be taken in by the literal parallelism between Will’s conversations with Jack and Hannibal about whose side he’s on. Rather, I feel that we are just supposed to marvel at Will’s apparent capacity to dupe Hannibal, at least for a time. There are no false notes in Will’s ‘deep cover’.
The tension, really, then, lies in how Hannibal will respond once confronted with the certainty that Will is against him, rather than his mere suspicion. This makes the episode a masterclass in creating sympathy for a monstrous character. There is a wonderful pathos in Hannibal’s expression when he realises — from his acute sense of smell — that Will has been with Freddie Lounds, and therefore lied about having killed (and eaten…) her, and their conversation about forgiveness is a final olive branch from Hannibal, a final invitation to confess all and be forgiven. This olive branch rejected, there is something both terrible and pathetic in the way that Hannibal stabs Will, holding him in an embrace whilst twisting the knife, as well as in his explanation that he has kept Abigail in hiding in the hope that he would be able to restore her to Will’s life and reinstate the relationship between the three of them that existed early in season 1. The (metaphorical) twist of the knife for Will is that his betrayal smashes this elaborate reconstruction of Hannibal’s, and leads to Hannibal attempted murder of Abigail in a parallel of the scene in which Will confronts Garrett Jacob Hobbs. There is something vengeful and pitiless in this attack, unlike Hannibal’s attempted murder of Jack, Alana or Will, who he attacks out of regretful necessity. (I say ‘attempted murdering’, as of course at least some of the characters will live for season 3!)
I liked Abigail’s reappearance, and I hope that the next season plays with flashbacks so that we can see some of her time as Hannibal’s captive, which must have been very different to Miriam’s time being held by him. There would certainly be scope for those sorts of conversations between Hannibal and Bedelia, as part of them growing into a new relationship. It will be interesting to see how that pairing plays out, because their earlier relationship was almost a pilot version of Hannibal’s relationship with Will: she is another character whom he has led across the boundary between violence as self-defence and murderous pleasure, and it was fitting that Cynthia Nixon’s character repeated, in her analysis of Will’s killing of Randall, almost word-for-word Bedelia’s analysis of her killing of her patient (“beyond the point of self-defence”). Hopefully Nixon, too, will get some more screentime in the next season, as the FBI tries to put back together whatever pieces are left from this final episode!