Hannibal, Season 2, Episode 13, “Mizumono”
May 23, 2014, 10:00 p.m. (EST), NBC
“Mizumono” is a blood bath in slow motion, a graceful, elegant finale that also happens to be explosively violent, incredibly shocking, and surprisingly tragic. It is the dream that curdles into a nightmare, the hero’s journey that ends not in triumph but in a quiet resignation to duty, in a small decision to do the right thing even if it hurts, even if it kills you. Going after Hannibal Lecter was never going to be easy, and it was never going to be clean. Jack and Will knew they would have to get their hands dirty. They knew they might not even survive the effort. And as they effectively go on the run and go into battle to stop the monster they’ve uncovered in plain sight, there isn’t a hint of arrogant heroism to what they do. They know they’ve done bad things and will have to do more before the night is out. Yet they step out of the safety of their homes into that darkness, hoping to emerge back into the light having caught that uncatchable fish.
The final act of “Mizumono” crackles with tension, shocks with repeated twists and turns, and yet has a mounting sense of dread as its throughline. If Hannibal in its early going is pitched as a series of lost Thomas Harris novels, then “Mizumono” is the best climax he never wrote. What happens in Hannibal’s house references Silence of the Lambs visually at times (Alanna’s terrified walk through that house is nothing if not reminiscent of Clarice Starling in Jame Gumb’s basement), but it is something more sinister, more menacing, more seductive and thus more terrifying. This is what it looks like when Hannibal Lecter takes himself off his leash. This is what it looks like when the Devil comes to call.
What Hannibal has done so well over the course of the past two seasons is to remind us constantly that its titular monster is also a man. It is easy for us to refer to Hannibal as the Devil incarnate, or as a psychopath incapable of human emotions, but neither of those is true. He is something more complex than that, more fascinating because of the humanity that peaks out from beneath his monstrousness. The series of attempted murders that cap “Mizumono” are the result of Hannibal feeling betrayed by Will, his best and only friend in the world. “Now that you know me, see me” Hanibal says to Will as the latter bleeds out on his floor, “I gave you a rare gift, but you didn’t want it.” Hannibal keeps himself hidden from most of the world behind a mask of respectability and aesthetic accomplishment, but with Will, he didn’t have to hide. There is nothing more painful in the world than being completely honest and open with someone only to have them reject you for who you are. This isn’t exactly what Hannibal did (the amount of manipulation he is engaged in makes total honesty impossible, since he was hoping to shape Will as much as engage with him), but it is what he felt he did, and the pain at his betrayal is totally relatable, even if the reaction of stabbing and shoving your way through four people is perhaps not the most moderated reaction to that pain.
There are things about this episode that feel a little rushed, but nitpicking “Mizumono” feels a bit like trying to explain how you got from one location to another within a dream. Sure, Hannibal’s desperation to escape feels artificial, since he has been in spots at least this tight before and maneuvered his way out of them (there’ no Chilton this time, but also, no officially open investigation into him and no evidence to tie him to any crimes). And yes, the return of Abigail Hobbs feels intended more as an epic twist than something tied to narrative logic (if Abigail was kept off screen for over a season, returning to die minutes later, it feels a little cheap to me, like a two of clubs hidden up your sleeve, a cheat but not even a trump card). But these things make thematic sense within the story of this season. Hannibal and Will discuss imago tonight, final transformations and completed becomings. Hannibal has been shaping Will all season, but as Will points out in their final conversation, he has been shaping Hannibal as well. Will Graham may be a darker, more scarred man than he was before he met Hannibal Lecter, but Hannibal has been revealed, has stepped into the light and shown the world (or at least an important swath of it) who he really is. And after four straight episodes obsessed with the idea of parenting, of coaxing something into the world and helping to shape it into what it will become, the return of Abigal Hobbs, surrogate daughter to both Will and Hannibal, feels appropriate somehow, even if she may end up a casualty of the final bloodbath.
We don’t know who lives or who dies as “Mizumono” closes, but that doesn’t change the chief meaning of its climax. It plays initially for shock and horror, but really, it is the close of several tragedies unfolding before our eyes. It isn’t a question of who dies in that house, but of who was wounded, and the answer to that is everyone. Alanna Bloom found out she slept with the Devil, was blinded by his charms and manipulated by his monstrosity. Jack Crawford, master manipulator, has been played for a very long time by a killer right before his eyes. Abigail Hobbs has had everything taken from her, and hs her throat slit by a father figure for the second time here. Will Graham has been driven insane, imprisoned, and forced to embrace his darkest murderous urges. Hannibal Lecter has lost the only true friends he had in the world. Death is too simple for most of these people (even if it is tough to imagine all of them making it out alive). No, they will have to live with the scars Hannibal has given them and the idea that he’s still out there in the world, sipping champagne with Bedelia Du Maurier at his side, taking his brand of horror on a European tour.
Season two of Hannibal has been about the twin ideas of death and rebirth, about Hannibal guiding several characters toward their resurrections into darkness. He has forced Will, Jack, Alanna, and even Bella Crawford to be reborn into darker versions of themselves, more scarred but also in his eyes more beautiful, stronger and more capable of dealing with the world they find themselves in. Hannibal has watched over these transformations like a proud parent all season, and his reaction in “Mizumono” is one of deep, deep disappointment. He created a perfect world and asked the people he respected to come play in it, but they have upended all he has created and left him in the wind. Everything changes, but most importantly, each of these characters have changed, been remade by Hannibal’s machinations and by their own desires to retain agency in a game where they are constantly used as pawns by a chess master they can identify if not outwit. If this has been a season about becoming, then its closing chapter asks us a fittingly horrifying question: what have these people become? In some cases, the answer might be heartening, but in others it is deeply discomfiting. Evolution is a tricky thing, difficult to guide and impossible to predict. But we are all becoming at every step of our lives, shedding old skins and emerging as something different than we were before. Some believe that God guides that process of evolution. What Hannibal wonders is how the world might look if evolution was in the Devil’s hands. Everything grows darker by the minute, but the light isn’t extinguished, not yet. It survives to fight against its opposite for just a little longer, to keep kindness and justice and righteousness in a world constantly angling to sap them. It’s a candle in a pitch black room, being blown at by malevolent spirits. But for the moment, at least, it is still burning.
- -“He’ll try to kill you in the kitchen. For convenience.”
- -“Hannibal thinks you’re his man. I think you’re mine.” “When the fox hears the rabbit scream, he comes running. But not to help. When you hear Jack scream, why will you come running? When the moment comes, will you do what needs to be done?” “Oh yes.”
- -“The punctuation at the end of a sentence gives meaning to every word, every space that preceded it.”
- -“I dream darkness comes into me.”
- -“Reality doesn’t go away because you stop believing in it. It’s stubborn like that.”
- -“Walk away. I’ll make no plans to call on you. But if you stay, I will kill you. Be blind, Alanna. Don’t be brave.”
- -“Time did reverse. The teacup that I shattered did come together. A place was made for Abigail in your world. Do you understand? A place was made for all of us.”
- -“Do you believe you could change me, the way I’ve changed you?” “I already did.” “Fate and circumstance have returned us to this moment when the teacup shatters. I forgive you, Will. Will you forgive me?”
"Mizumono” is a blood bath in slow motion, a graceful, elegant finale that also happens to be explosively violent, incredibly shocking, and surprisingly tragic.