As the docs chat during the scan, Hannibal declares his certainly that Will is suffering from a physical condition known as encephalitis. How does he know? He could smell it (a sweet, fetid scent, apparently). When the unsettled but intrigued Dr. Sutcliff asks, “What do you smell in me?” Hannibal responds, “Opportunity.”
And with that, things take an appalling turn.
Will’s scan shows a brain aflame with infection, but Hannibal wants to see where Will’s addled imagination will go, and seduces Sutcliffe into withholding the results. Into actually lying to Will and telling him he’s suffering from mental illness, inflicting the anguish of believing there’s no real hope for cure.
Over dinner, Hannibal assures the incredulous but equally self-serving Sutcliffe that Will is a friend and there’s no need to worry. He’ll make sure it doesn’t go too far and put out the flame when necessary. Given Hannibal’s tendency toward loyalty, one hopes this means he’ll “miraculously” uncover the problem. That he “finds the world more interesting with Will in it,” as he might say.
But since they’ve been likening Will to the delectable rare pig they’re having for dinner, and Will pointed out several episodes ago that the Chesapeake Ripper kills in “sounders,” or groups of three pigs, this could indicate some disturbing foreshadowing…
Sutcliffe, of course, is a flame that must be snuffed. His purpose served, Hannibal dispatches him Georgia-style, and frames her for doing it. And Will goes forward, convinced that his sanity is lost to him, holding white-knuckled onto his work as the only remaining foothold in reality.
We end where we began, in dark house in a dark wood, with an apparition under the bed. Will’s bed. Reflective deranged eyes, matted dark hair, blue-pale skin, utter insanity, under Will’s bed. The anxious barking of his pack jolts him with adrenaline, and he slams in panic face down on the floor. Then, as he gazes at Georgia, the sheer grace of this series rises before us.
Despite his own torment, through his own anguish, Will is able to reach toward Georgia and let her know she is not alone in her suffering. It reconnects her to reality, treatment, and restoration. The scene from a horror movie transforms into a moment so achingly poignant it draws a tear.
It’s what I adore about Thomas Harris’ world, an affection I now shower upon Bryan Fuller as well. They have an astonishing ability to convey the humanity struggling within despite whatever depravity the world has inflicted. And in so doing, they fan the flame of resiliency and compassion in all of us who read and watch them.
Bring on those stories, Mr. Fuller!