“Good things come to those who wait,” so says the old English saying. And for those of us who adore the world of Harris, whether since the publication of Red Dragon, the cinematic achievement of Silence, or just recently here with Hannibal, last night’s Season 1 finale was sheer perfection.
I’ve been railing at the De Laurentiis’ for decades for their seemingly intractable unwillingness to let us experience the fullness of Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter, and what makes them tick as individuals and in their unsettling pas de deux. They violated the story by excising the dragon the first time around (Manhunter), and redeemed themselves after Silence’s unequivocal success by remaking Red Dragon, but then completely chickened out and changed the ending of Hannibal, rendering it just grisly without meaning.
But all is now forgiven. Last night we got to see that glorious moment: Hannibal’s direct assessment of Will’s temperament and Will’s direct recognition of Hannibal’s identity. And not only that, Fuller and company it took it a step further.
Note: Below will be some complete spoilers. If you missed the finale, you owe it to yourself to go watch it before proceeding. We can’t discuss the show without discussing the ending, so be warned!
We all knew by now that Hannibal had sealed Will’s fate, at least for the foreseeable future. Having expertly framed Will already, he performed the final injury by adding Abigail to the list. Create handmade fishing lures from the body parts and plant them amongst Will’s own, making them appear as trophies, and it’s a fait accompli.
Jack’s consigned Will to the clink, but not before Will asserts his innocence and points out, once again, that the actual killer is close. Along the way the distraught Alana has arranged to serve as long-term guardian of Will’s pack, and denounces Jack as having Abigail’s blood on his hands and Will’s on the entire team’s. She also comes to realize and advocate for Will’s physiological illness, which Hannibal deftly unravels and leaves her by episode’s end utterly confused as to Will’s veracity.
But Will no longer has any doubt. The stag that has been haunting him all season has morphed into a demonic human form, and having escaped the paddy wagon and headed to Hannibal, his response to how he’s feeling is, “Self-aware.” The two travel to the Hobbes home, and we see the confrontation we never had the chance to experience before (originally, Will snapped to the situation less than a second before Hannibal stabbed him).
There Hannibal puts before Will the road not taken, point blank, urging Will to consider life’s road had he acted upon visions as the inspirations they were; Will would have become a different person. To which Will draws a pistol on him, and we get to see him confront Hannibal for what he is: to see Will deeply clear-eyed and self-assured once more, to see him stare the ever-unruffled Hannibal in the eye, resolute in his assessment and putting Hannibal on notice that he has been seen clearly. And Hannibal loves it.
Of course Jack cuts the party short, and we leave Jack and Hannibal at Will’s bedside, with Will now in a medically-induced coma. Over a delivered meal at Bedelia’s – to which she is disturbingly receptive, as noted last week – he speaks of stopping to see Will for a farewell of sorts.
And then as Hans Zimmer’s Vide Cor Meum plays, Dr. Hannibal Lecter descends the stairwell of the Baltimore Hospital for the Criminally Insane… through the gates, down the hall, past the cells… and turns to face the gray-jumpsuited Will Graham, who turns, Hopkins-esque and glowering, to face him. “Hello Will.” “Hello, Dr. Lecter.” And Hannibal smiles.
It’s among the most perfect ten seconds of drama in history.
Perfect in its deliciously unexpected turn for having lulled us into thinking Will’s unconscious; for its spot-on rendering of the hospital consistent with the source material and continued presence in the films; for incorporating Vide Cor Meum and to such superb effect (it’s from Hannibal the movie, and interestingly, re-used in Kingdom of Heaven at the passing of King Baldwin, who was played by Edward Norton, who played Will Graham). Perfect for being a stand-alone jaw-dropper of what could easily have been a series finale, and for being equally rich with possibility should it go forward. It brought all history into the present, gave us every single element we love about that world, and launched a future to boot.
The team in its entirety couldn’t have done a better job with this show; they deserve Emmys and Golden Globes across the board. Additionally, NBC and Martha De Laurentiis are to be commended for giving Hannibal a serious, unfiltered shot.
We WGTC Fannibals cannot wait for Season 2!
Head on over to the next page as my colleague Sam Woolf joins me for some season-end reflections and thoughts for what’s to come.