Hannibal season 2 finale review: Mizumono

Review Laura Akers 3 Jun 2014 - 06:45

Hannibal's season two finale is simply divine. Here's Laura's spoiler-filled review...

This review contains spoilers.

2.13 Mizumono

One of the Catch-22s of episodic television is that there are built-in expectations which are next to impossible to avoid. A series has X number of episodes. It’s built around specific characters and a specific scenario in most cases. And it is subject to cancellation. These in turn help to create certain unspoken rules in writing: Regular characters do not die. Stories are simple enough to be wrapped up in 22-60 minutes. And there will be a large gap in storytelling between series.

But it’s not just the writers and producers who know these things; it’s also the audiences. And this creates those built-in expectations. If regular characters do not die, then every time one of them is put into a deadly position, we know they will be saved or save themselves. The same with the length and complexity of the story: we know they will wrap up the narrative by the end of the episode. And because each series-end is followed by the off-season, we know that the writers are going to give us a reason, usually in the form of a cliffhanger, to come back for the next series.

Recently, however, more courageous (smarter) writers have played with those rules. Buffy may have come back from death so many times that it was made a joke on the series named after her, but when Joss Whedon killed off Tara, we were stunned - not because she was dead, but because she was DEAD. No mystical returnsies. Then there was Chris Carter, whose X-Files took the accepted carryover of a story across two or three To Be Continued episodes and turned into a nine-year myth arc. And Kitsis and Horowitz have revolutionized the often-sadistic cliffhangers that are the by-product of producers’ anxiety that they might lose their audience over the summer, and given us real endings that still have us salivating for more on Once Upon A Time. It’s been a revolutionary decade or so on TV.

But leave it to Bryan Fuller to take it one step further and use our now more sophisticated expectations against us. Where I think it was always fairly obvious that Will had not really killed Freddie Lounds, we were certain Abigail was dead, that there would be no similar miracle or sleight-of-hand, and had mourned the bright but disturbed girl’s death along with Graham.

Thus when Hannibal gives her back to Will only to then use her to punish his protégé by slitting her throat a second time, Fuller’s sadism has not merely subverted our expectation, but left us disorientated and completely bereft.

He does something else similar - giving us something we hoped and waited for only to strip it from us at the last moment. But rather than tie it to general conventions in narrative in television, we have been set up since the very beginning of this second series. In the first episode this series, we see Hannibal and Jack in a fight to the death in Hannibal’s kitchen. For thirteen episodes, we have been holding our breath waiting to find what happened, somehow sure that once Jack knew the truth and confronted Hannibal, that the good guys would finally win a victory.

Yeah… no.

But what is truly surprising is just how little that anticipated fight actually mattered in the grander scheme of things. What we thought was going to be a decisive mano-a-mano battle between the two powers was little more than a minor skirmish in the bloodbath we saw in Hannibal’s home. And with Fuller having so deftly played us, it’s anyone’s guess who will live - although Jack and Will seem obvious choices - and who will die. Alana’s death particularly might be less of a tragedy than Fuller intended.

Most of her actions in this episode follow the trend we’ve seen with her - Fuller alternating between using her as little more than a plot-moving pawn (as when she warns Will that the feds are coming for him), or as a sounding board for other characters (as with Kade Prurnell using her to explain her rationale fully enough to us that agent’s actions seem completely justified). When she confronts Hannibal, who warns her to remain as blind as she’s always been, and she’s forced to flee, it’s not even that surprising that, rather than run back out the door she came in and into the street where the cops should be showing up any moment, she heads up the stairs. Normally, this is precisely the kind of thing I would call the writers on - having a character who is otherwise smart do the dumb thing to advance the plot in a specific direction - but this kind of stupidity has not been out of character for Alana, so I have to give Fuller a pass on this one.

But for all the action in this episode, that’s not what’s really compelling here. Instead, it’s what’s happening in the quieter moments that’s really powerful.

One of the best is undoubtedly the moment where Hannibal realizes that Will is planning to betray him when he picks up the smell of Freddie Lounds emanating from his friend. While a good twist, what it reveals is going to be important for the show going forward - until that moment, most of us likely believed that Hannibal suspected Will and was already planning his revenge. Instead, we learn that Graham is absolutely good enough to fool even the master of manipulation. Whatever imbalance seems indicated by the carnage at the end of the episode, this has set up our understanding that the conflict coming between Will and Hannibal in the future will be between equals.

But that’s for later. In this episode, Will’s betrayal creates a Christ narrative around Hannibal. The scene opens with a discussion of the term imago, which Hannibal stresses is the “last stage of the transformation.” “When you become what you will be,” as Will replies. This conversation takes place over what they agree is a Last Supper of this life.

And that’s just the beginning of the Christian imagery. According to Luke 22, as Christ and the Apostles sat down at the last Supper, Jesus knew the fate that awaited him (just as Hannibal, at this point in the story, does), including the fact that one life was ending for him and another beginning. He breaks bread and distributes it to his followers, telling them that it is his own flesh they are consuming (a symbolic cannibalism that is all too literal in Hannibal). Jesus also reveals that he knows that his betrayer is there at the table with him (as Will is with Hannibal). And by the end of the episode, Hannibal will raise the dead (Abigail), forgive his Judas (Will) even to the point of offering him a new life, and resurrect himself (completing his own transformation) as he is bodily transported into the heavens with Bedelia Du Maurier.

Hannibal as Christ.

We should have seen it coming. After all, Hannibal hasn’t exactly been subtle in his parallels between himself and God, casting himself as a somewhat less capricious and cruel alternate deity. But as always, Bryan Fuller hides the truth in plain sight, relying on us to use our supposed sophistication to cloak the truth for him. Hannibal is just a psychotic making unhinged narcisstic claims, right?

But what is truly surprising, what Fuller really reveals to us in Mizumono, is the utter humanity of the cannibal under all that suggested divinity. Hannibal may well be a god, but like Jesus, he is one made flesh and who shares our vulnerabilities, including sadness and disappointment. His heartbreak at the Will’s betrayal, his desire for his friend to accept his forgiveness and join him on the lam, and his grief when his offer is rejected - Mikkelsen making us feel it in every look and syllable - even as he slits the throat of Graham’s quasi-daughter before the profiler’s eyes, Hannibal has never been more human or more divine.

It’s hard to even imagine where Fuller will take us next series or how he will outdo this one. But I’ve rarely found myself looking forward to a show’s return more. Regardless of who lives or dies. 

Read Paul's review of the previous episode, here.

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Disqus - noscript

"In the pantry.." Goosebumps!

Still reeling from this finale, I was beginning to think DoG might have forgotten to review it!

Good review and amazing show. Not without it's problems (this season has been negligent with the women characters, a criticism all too common across TV and film) but besides that it's been the strongest season of any show. Season 3 can't come soon enough.

Observation/question.....after the credits Hannibal is shown with his psychiatrist (Gillian Anderson) on an airplane. It's not said or shown if she is there willingly or not (she does smile though), but IF she is there willingly and was in on it with Hannibal the entire time, wouldn't she have told Hannibal about Will's true intentions after she met with him at the FBI headquarters and Will interviewed her? Therefore, Hannibal wouldn't of had to smell Freddie Lounds on Will to know that he was plotting against him. Thoughts on this anyone??

I'm hoping this point gets explained, because it doesn't seem to fit with her character this season.

You know part of me was hoping Abigail would live and Hannibal and Will could leave with her at the end of the season. Then Season 3 could be the weirdest homage to My Two Dad's ever.

Yeah, sorry about tha folks. Been dealing with some medical issues, but enjoyed the episode so much that I couldn't bear to hand it off to someone else. Thanks for being patient. :)

I think she was in protective custody at the time (them believing Hannibal would kill her on sight). Once Kade Prurnell stepped in and ended the investigation (and it's pretty clear she doesn't really buy Jack and Will about how dangerous Hannibal is), it's likely that Du Maurier would have been let loose.

yeah, but that doesn't explain why she's with Hannibal.

My assumption is that she's been in on it for a long, long while. Which makes sense. Hannibal would have been risking everything considering what he told her in their sessions together. When we first met her, I speculated that it was possible that she groomed Hannibal (much the way we've seen Hannibal groom Will this season). That's looking like a definite possibility. The only other explanation is that she's a plant.

But that's a LOT to risk.

I'd like to agree, but Hannibal was definitely in her apartment wearing his kill suit and she definitely knew she was being targeted and fled.

I do hope we get an answer to that, and if we get more Gillian Anderson next season, that's definitely something I can look forward to.

We're just glad we can finally talk about it here, and I second Calverhall's comment on the review, you're doing great stuff. Never hand this stuff off to anyone else!
And good luck with medical issues.

True, but that's what's so delicious about Hannibal, just about everytime we make what seems to be a logical conclusion about anything, it ends up being anything but. Perhaps he was there to fake her death for some reason?

(chuckles) Seriously, I'm almost at the point of stopping all speculation, since Fuller will always outsmart us.

Agreed, let's see what the twisted genius has for us next season!

I totally had this feeling too. Although Du Maurier would make a strange addition to that little family.

D'aw! That's so sweet. I feel honoured to be able to write about such a smart show for a smart audience--these discussions in the comments are one of my great motivators.

"you were supposed to leave!" - Will Graham, just before being gutted by Hannibal.

And after everything, Will was taken in by Hannibal and found himself wanting too protect him...

This show should be seen by everyone (unless of course they are squeamish)

Great job on the Christianity parallels (and great to see you back reviewing Hannibal). I did not delve quite as deep into the metaphors and symbolism as you on this episode and apparently missed some fun stuff.

One aspect that I loved was the juxtaposing Hannibals we saw in the end. As you pointed out we saw the more vulnerable and human aspect of Hannibal, who seemed genuinely hurt by Will's betrayal. But we also saw a truly savage Hannibal. We know he's a killer and a sadistic manipulator, but until we see him drenched in blood slamming against the door over and over, we hadn't really seen him as a monster. The brutality he let loose at the end of that episode finally showed everyone (including the audience) who they were really dealing with.

I think it's important to remember that any real relationship with Hannibal is complex at best. This is a a guy that doesn't truly see murder or attempted murder as deal breakers in a friendship. I think Dr. DeMaurier did flee from Hannibal and did consider killing her. But she never broke free of his manipulation and he still wants to be known and understood for who he is, even if that mean having 'friends' he controls.

I don't think this is a fair criticism of Alana. She didn't run upstairs out of some act of stupidity, she did it because she knew there bullets in the room. She could have been a coward, ran out and saved her own life but instead she chose to stay.

Not protective custody (you cant get protected when there's no apparent threat) but self-imposed exile, which is why she was less than impressed when the FBI hauled her in.
Regarding her spot on the plane, Fuller basically hinted that she took Abigails place and that Du Maurier was never meant to go with Hannibal. Hannibal went to her after the bloodbath, piqued her professional curiosity and convinced her to go with him.

That line was chilling and I can't work out why. It's just like the mask was gone in that moment.

that makes a weird sense, her professional curiosity might end up costing her her life though. If only there was a saying that summed this up. Maybe involving felines?

I too have tried to be a supporter of Alana. And I while I agree that she had a logical reason for going upstairs I realized that needs to die. More importantly as she was lying bleeding on the pavement I realized I don't care if she dies. Which means that a lot of the general criticism of Alana being a poorly written character is true. I concede to Ms. Akers point of view.

If she was in on it, then she would have tipped Hannibal off after Will interviewed her at the FBI headquarters. So Hannibal wouldn't of had to smell Freddie on Will to know his true intentions. Doesn't make sense that she was in on it.

Don't watch this show, may have to ingest.

..with a nice f*****g chianti. excuse me.

While I agree that some part of Will wanted to protect Hannibal, I think an even bigger part wanted to protect Jack – knowing he was ultimately going in without backup, Will called Hannibal so that the latter might flee, thus there would be no fight. Unfortunately, Hannibal decided to stay.

seeing him slamming against the door repeatedly was jaw dropping...he wanted to get to Jack to finish him off no matter what...someone he even said he'd come to consider a friend.

Excellent point, I wasn't seeing it from the 'try to save Jack' perspective

Well, it is where you keep your food, and the off-handed way he said it...

I think she WAS in self-imposed exile but that once Jack was convinced, he likely sought her out and then it would only make sense to put her in protective custody.

Watch this show.

That is all.

Oh, she would have been the judge who gave the two dads custody.

Will is very conflicted. Jack is an old friend, Hannibal is a newer one; but while both were manipulative, Hannibal did what he did out of a desire (warped though it may have been) to benefit Will. Jack's actions were intended to benefit Jack. And never mind Alana's apparent foolishness, what about Jack's obtuseness? He was told that Will was on the edge, and in as many words stated that he would go with the opinion that benefited him, namely Jack.
Hannibal saw potential in Will, Jack saw usefulness. Maybe only Will's fundamental regard for life is what prompted him to still try to save Jack?
This is why I love this show. It gives one so much to think about and discuss.

Plot Twist shes is his sister

Such a great review. I missed quite a bit of the Christ parallels and will probably watch it again with this in mind. The filming of the whole series has just been breathtaking and it is hands down the best series around. How season 3 will beat this I just have no clue.

I cried throughout the whole finale, I was just so completely overwhelmed.

Can I also just say that Mads Mikkelsen plays Hannibal to perfection!

cant be hannibal's sister.. she was eaten by a group of men that had hannibal and sister as captives..hannibal also eat a piece of her without knowing; thus, his cannibalism

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