This episode is the intended volta of the series, and it certainly feels that way. I shan’t say anything more, except spoilers below!
After last week’s ‘reveal’ of Hannibal and Will at Muskrat Farm, with Mason’s quest to be the “apex predator” reaching its crescendo, I have to admit that the first thought I had when settling down to watch this episode was: I wonder what’s happened to Bedelia? I’m afraid the episode offers no answers, but I’m sure we’ll find out later in the series, which is now turning its attention to the plot of Red Dragon.
In order to do that, we know that Hannibal must end the episode in police custody, and not at large or in Mason Verger’s stomach. And so the question is how we get there.
Chiyoh provides a variety of sideline support in this episode, rescuing Jack after Hannibal and Will are abducted by corrupt Questure officials, and carefully tracking Hannibal and Will in order to help them out in their stickiest moments.
Mason’s dastardly plan is thwarted in much the same way as in the novels, except the plan is far more dastardly than before. Aside from the delusional ‘face-off’ whereby he plans to have Will’s face transplanted onto his, his torture of Margot is rather more profound than in the novel. In the novel, the suggestion is that Margot’s steroid use has rendered her infertile, but here Margot is infertile because Mason willed it, forcing a hysterectomy upon her. Now, it is revealed that he did not destroy her ovaries, but kept the eggs, and has fertilised them himself. As if the additional incestuous twist on the ‘Verger baby’ of the novel is not enough, he has had the eggs implanted into a surrogate: one of his sows. The violent misogyny of Mason’s attacks on Margot is palpable, and Joe Anderson displays it at its finest/worst in the moment when he spits out at Margot that it was her surrogate, a surrogate replacing her, and never his.
I do wonder what the implication is of having Margot and Alana plot and carry out the murder together. There is clearly emotional resonance in having Alana free Hannibal, and snatch his hair to frame him for Mason’s murder later, but the episode reduces Margot to a small part in the older woman’s drama. In an exchange with Will before he is rescued by Hannibal, Alana tells him that “the finer details of what [she] thought would happen have evolved”, and it seems that she follows his advice to evolve with it. For Margot, though, there doesn’t seem to be any evolution. It is as though we could not have two fully fledged women here, and so they have to share the job, just as they share the job of looking mournful and dumbfounded by Mason in various scenes. Despite locating misogyny within the character of sadistic Mason, the show continues to have its own problems with granting women space, even when the source material is very clear about it. I think, perhaps, the show lacked for not having a substitute for Barney, who provided a much more interesting male foil for Margot in Hannibal.
And so, rather than carrying Clarice Starling — his rescuer — away from Muskrat Farm, Hannibal carries out Will, keeping a promise to Alana to save him. At the end of the episode, Hannibal has done his level best to reverse time, as he always aspires to do. He has returned Will to himself, to his home, and to his desire never to see or think about Hannibal again, as though none of it had ever happened. But, wounded and petty in the moment, Hannibal does not leave, but waits outside Will’s home. When Jack arrives with the police, as eventually, inevitably, he must, Hannibal chooses to surrender himself.
Hannibal’s initial capture is not a subject of any of Harris’ books, but this episode, as it meanders its way from being a prequel to being something else, had to tackle the issue. Will has offered Hannibal the opportunity to escape. He so much as says that he will not call the police, whilst refusing also to remain with Hannibal any longer, because he “does not share [Hannibal’s] appetite”, but can only tolerate in wickedness, not delight in it. Their farewell has much in common with Alana’s final encounter with Hannibal, where she asks whether she could have ever understood him — as psychiatrist or lover, it is hard to tell — and he answers in the negative. Once again, there is an unbridgeable gap between Hannibal and those around him, and it seems to be this that he cannot accept.
He knows that Chiyoh is watching the encounter, as she has promised that she will watch over him as long as he is free, because “some beasts shouldn’t be caged”. Hannibal therefore has to choose to sacrifice Chiyoh’s protection, portrayed as the most dependable of things, in order to submit himself to capture so that Will will always know where to find him.
Hannibal here seems to play into Will’s idea that the fight between them is now zero-sum, with no decisive victory possible. By submitting himself to incarceration, when he knows will end in Chilton’s hospital, Hannibal suspends the game. Life and liberty are now off the table; they are pre-determined. Will cannot (easily) kill him within the hospital, and he cannot ever lose sight of him there, either. On the other hand, Hannibal has no such guarantees about Will’s visibility, but he also forfeits the opportunity to eat Will. Perhaps that is the point. Not sure that he can resist killing and eating Will, and unwilling to be abandoned by him, Hannibal restrains them both by using the police’s restraints upon himself.