Leave it up to a show like Hannibal to take a courtroom procedural and give it a, shall I say, killer spin. While the first two episodes of the season dealt mainly with laying the groundwork for Hannibal’s eventual downfall, while at the same time playing with the idea of boundaries and power, this episode shifts focus to Will and his trial. We knew he would finally get his day in court, but we didn’t know that a few surprising faces would be showing up in his defense, and that the courtroom would eventually be turned into a crime scene.
The episode opens with a great sequence that shows Will having a vision of his own death via electric chair. It’s shown in the show’s trademark dream-like style and is just haunting enough to kick things off with a bang. It’s nowhere near as horrifying as last week’s chase through the corn fields, but it’s hard to see our protagonist turned into a smoking corpse right before our eyes, even if it’s all in his head.
A significant arc throughout the episode is of Jack Crawford’s battle with his own guilt about what’s happened to Will. He’s partly guilty for the murders that he thinks Will committed, and is definitely to blame for pushing Will to continue doing field work when everyone around him urged him not to. To the FBI’s behest, he takes the stand in Will’s defense and openly admits that he did the wrong thing, even if for the right reasons. It’s interesting though that while he’s willing to get up there and cast a light on his own guilt, he’s not willing to admit that the Ripper was under his nose the entire time.
The writing in this episode was really top notch, and the dramatic irony was played just subtly enough to be effective. When Jack is being scolded for working so closely with the Ripper without knowing it, we know that though they’re pointing the finger at Will, the real shocker is that Hannibal is the one they’re looking for. That just makes the betrayal so much worse and makes Jack’s ignorance all the more shameful.
Crawford wonderfully points out that Will hated working crime scenes. He loved that he was saving lives, but despised being exposed to the darkness of serial killers and entering their minds to solve these horrifying cases. It wouldn’t make sense, in that case, for Will to be a psychopathic serial killer on the side. He may be able to think like them, but that doesn’t mean he can become one of them.
This angers Kade Prurnell (Sex in the City‘s Cynthia Nixon), an FBI higher-up who’s been tasked with making sure Will’s trial goes smoothly and that the FBI doesn’t take heat for hiring someone who ended up brutally killing five women. You could see how that would look bad in the press.
On the side of the prosecution, we have two witnesses that could be very damning for Will’s case. Freddie Lounds makes her grand debut this season by taking the stand and exaggerating her relationship with the late Abigail Hobbes and throwing quite a few bad accusations Will’s way. Why she does this is a bit unclear, probably to boost her reputation a bit and get some much needed spotlight, but Will’s attorney brilliantly shoots her down, reminding the court that she’s been sued for libel six times, and settled on each of them.
The second witness is the ever-slimy Dr. Chilton, someone we know has it out for Will and wants so desperately to keep him in his hospital as a trophy. Chilton claims that Will is an intelligent psychopath, so intelligent in fact that he commits epic killings in order to prove that he’s smarter than other serial killers. As a well respected man in the medical field who’s currently housing Will in his mental institution, I’m sure that struck a chord with the jury.