“Mizumono” might just be the most perfect hour of television I’m likely to see all year. Walking around after the final image cut to black, I found myself feeling a strange, vacillating mixture of hardcore adrenaline and physical numbness. It’s a feeling I’ve experienced only a handful of times in my life, each time indicating that I’d seen something that thoroughly blew me out of the water. “Mizumono” finds everyone involved in the show at the top of their game and firing on all cylinders. It’s an incendiary, bloody end to a profound season of television.
Much like last season, the first half of this batch of episodes presented itself as a more straightforward, case-of-the-week crime drama. Around the time the Vergers were introduced, however, the show began to get a little more loosey-goosey with its structure, disregarding an external, plot-based narrative in favor of an internal, character-based one. Rather than presenting us with scenes of the team investigating various crimes, we were treated to a series of unsexy sex scenes, extended conversations filled with heady aphorisms concerning human nature and Michael Pitt gloriously hamming it up as Mason. While the first year’s descent into this more dreamlike style dovetailed nicely with Will’s hypnosis at Hannibal’s hand, the motivating factor for such a sensibility this season appears to be Will’s ever-deepening relationship to Hannibal. In getting close to someone so evil and warped, Will’s entire sense of reality appears to be adjusting itself accordingly.
Such an elliptical, fever dream-esque approach has subsequently led to large logic gaps that are still not addressed in this final installment. In particular, how Will managed to gradually convince everyone that Hannibal was the actual Chesapeake Ripper—despite having little-to-no evidence beyond his word—never entirely made sense to me. Considering that Jack goes from firmly believing in Will’s guilt to recklessly putting his life and career on the line to capture the cannibalistic doctor, such a development does not feel like something that should just be glossed over. Then again, Hannibal has always been a show prone to restraining important chunks of information, and most of the latter half of the season works in spite of this plot hole.
Right off the bat, the episode itself seems to know that the audience has been waiting for the Hannibal-Jack confrontation all season and does its darndest to augment the anticipation. From the first scene, a distinctive clock-like ticking overwhelms the soundtrack. The sound continues to appear sporadically throughout the episode, hanging over the characters like some kind of sinister raincloud (incidentally, rain is exactly what characterizes the final, bloody mess that ends the episode). Original pilot director David Slade returns after a lengthy absence and really ups his game for this event. Few pilots in the history of television have looked quite as striking as Slade’s Hannibal and, subsequently, “Mizumono” might stand as the most darkly beautiful artifact to ever appear on network airwaves.
Prior to the final fight, the main conflict appears to center on where Will’s loyalties lie. The opening scene crosscuts between his discussions of plans with both Hannibal and Jack until the two figures eventually merge via split screen. Whereas I previously believed Will’s bond with Hannibal was always a means to an end, this episode seriously made me question how much of Hannibal’s influence had truly slithered its way into Will’s delicate psyche. At one point, Hannibal even smells Freddie Lounds’ scent on his friend. Realizing Will’s treachery, the good doctor gives him a choice—abandon his revenge path or be killed. Will chooses to continue his betrayal. Yet, the exact nature of his relationship to Hannibal becomes all the more confounding when, upon realizing that he and Jack will be arrested by the FBI for “entrapping” Lecter, he calls and warns his enemy. One can argue that Will is merely trying to get Hannibal to leave before an ill-prepared Jack makes his way through the door, but it remains a muddled motivation. The fact that his exact wording to Hannibal is “they know” definitely carries some serious connotations, as that was the precise wording Hannibal used to warn Garret Jacob Hobbs of Will’s impending arrival back in the pilot episode.
Finally, the moment we’ve been waiting for finally arrives. Jack enters Hannibal’s kitchen and we have a quick recap of the fight that launched season two. It ends with Jack bleeding to death in a wine room while Hannibal attempts to burst through the door. Upon first viewing this episode, I worried Bryan Fuller was showing his cards a bit too early. Little did I know, this encounter would merely be the tip of the iceberg.
Alana Bloom arrives on the scene to find a bloodied, disheveled Hannibal pounding away at the door. Producing a small gun, she orders him to stand down. Here, Hannibal gives her a similar ultimatum to the one he gave Will—leave now or die. Given the damage he’s done to her, Alana attempts to fire her gun, only to find it has been stripped of bullets. She runs upstairs and locks herself in a room. It’s here that she discovers Abigail Hobbs—alive, yet looking like hell. Before Alana has time to process this shocking development, Abigail pushes her out of the window and, in one of the most beautiful sequences the show has ever produced (and that’s saying something) Alana falls to the ground in super slow motion as bits of broken glass and raindrops fall around her like something out of an ethereal painting (or Cowboy Bebop).
Despite the show’s continual emphasis on her death, Abigail’s demise was something I never felt entirely certain about. When a character on Hannibal dies, the show either goes out of its way to show the death (Nicholas Boyle) or create an elaborate postmortem display of the body (Beverly). If Miriam Lass’ and Freddie Lounds’ reappearances have demonstrated anything it’s not to assume a character is dead until you physically see them butchered. In this way, I always believed Abigail would one day reappear. With everything that had occurred in this episode, however, it was a plot point I temporarily forgot about; thus, the reveal managed to be very surprising, if not utterly shocking.
Finally, Will arrives on the scene. He finds a barely conscious Alana, who tells him that Jack is in the house. Will storms in, gun in hand, only to be immediately taken off-guard by the sight of Abigail Hobbs. Upon asking Abigail where Hannibal is, Will turns to find the doctor standing right behind him. “You were supposed to leave,” he bemoans. Hannibal responds by promptly gutting their friendship—figuratively and literally. He stabs Will in the stomach, making sure to maneuver the blade for maximum impact. As Will collapses, he must watch helplessly as Hannibal slits Abigail’s throat, finishing the job Garret Jacob Hobbs started in the pilot episode. As our main cast lies bleeding to death, Hannibal gracefully walks outside, allowing the torrential downpour to cleanse the blood from body, and walks away a free man.
As if to give the audience a moment to detox from this traumatizing climax, the credits appear on the image of a serene blue sky. We subsequently cut to a plane where a cleaned-up Hannibal sips champagne next to none other than Gillian Anderson’s Dr. Du Maurier. Whether Hannibal’s former psychiatrist has been a co-conspirator all along or merely his prisoner is something we’ll have to wait until next year to find out.
So, wow, lots to talk about.
“Mizumono” is nothing short of phenomenal. Since it first aired, Hannibal has presented itself as a melding of prestige drama, Lynchian procedural and gonzo, Argento-esque horror. Throughout the episode, there’s a sense of finality to the proceedings, as if everything has been building to this moment. Certainly, if NBC decided to axe the show and this turned out to be the last season of Hannibal we got, it would be among the most depressing conclusions to any TV show ever; yet, in some strange way, it might also be the appropriate ending and fit in with the dreary, bleak tone that the series established long ago. Either way, I’m glad to have it back another year, even if I doubt the show will ever be able to rise to these kinds of dramatic heights anytime in the immediate future.
Rivaled perhaps only by later episodes of Lynch’s Twin Peaks, the second season of Hannibal feels unprecedented in its scope and complexity. In the beginning, the show felt like a cable drama bursting to get out of its network confines, but—kudos to NBC—the show has subsequently been allowed both an artistic freedom and a level of experimentation that feels like an unchecked fluke in the network system. Bryan Fuller is certainly no stranger to the kind of economic concerns that ended his two previous shows (Pushing Daisies and Wonderfalls) early in their run, and prevented his most recent pre-Hannibal project (The Munsters reboot Mockingbird Lane) from making it past the pilot episode. Yet, thanks to funding from French studio Gaumont and some great international numbers, Fuller and his team have found a loophole that allows them to keep resurrecting the show with full season orders. Film and television have always been a peculiar dance between art and commerce and it’s nice to live in a world that allows a group as brilliant as the Hannibal creative team the financial freedom to make something as brilliant, moving and disturbing as “Mizumono.”
So, yeah, in conclusion—landing…stuck. See y’all next year!
Mark Rozeman is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.