“I am enchanted…and terrified”: A Hannibal Season 2 Retrospective

25 May

Hannibal-Season-2-Teaser-Image PolarBears: Season 2 of Hannibal is coming to an end, and Louis O’Carroll and I have decided to take a look back on the season as a whole. It’s been quite a ride, consisting of brilliant acting and tasty meals and sexy people, and it’s been a truly excellent 13 episode run. Let’s start off with Will Graham, who we saw behind bars in the final scene of the season 1 finale. OC, what do you think about how the show handled him in that situation?

Louis O’Carroll: I have to be honest: considering my Dad and I binge-watched Hannibal’s first season over the two days preceding the second season premiere, Will’s stint in prison was not as momentous a change in dynamic as I’d say it was for most people. As brilliant as it was for Bryan Fuller to subvert expectations and perform an elaborate role reversal in “Savoureux”, I was skeptical going forward that the show would be able to wring enough dramatic tension out of the situation to last the full season. And, sure enough, Fuller knew full well that he had exhausted most entertaining plot possibilities (and plausibilities – why the fuck was everybody so eager to pop in to visit Will seemingly three times a day?) by around the season’s midway point.

Which actually leads me to what I believe to be one of the show’s strengths: NBC were wise to allow Fuller to sculpt his story in 13-episode chunks, contrary to the usual, extraordinarily long 22-24 episode seasons of network TV. I have to admit, network dramas are a gap in my viewing, but the likes of The Good Wife, Elementary and Person of Interest are going to do a lot of coercing to convince me that 13 episodes isn’t the holy grail of prestige dramas. As disappointed as I was that this preposterously entertaining season of television flew by so quickly, its brevity resulted in a breakneck momentum that (apart from one little blip, “Hassun”) suffered from no real filler episodes. These were a fabulously lean 13 episodes, and the wire-taut tension that prevailed throughout is a testament to that.

(sorry, I’m a bit off topic; I’ll get back to Will now)

It wasn’t only Will’s new home that resulted in an interesting change in scenery, however. Not inhibited by mental illness anymore, he was on a more-or-less even playing field with Hannibal – if they were playing a cat-and-mouse game in Season 1, that was multiplied tenfold. I say more-or-less because, although not under Hannibal Lecter’s “care” anymore, the repercussions of his manipulation continued to haunt Will as he emotionally and mentally recovered from the nightmarish ordeal that began with his killing Garrett Jacob Hobbs, and ended with his imprisonment.

You can probably already gather that I fucking loved this season of Hannibal, so I’ll stop gushing momentarily. PB, do you think that the first half of this season was successful?

PB: I think it was some stellar television, and it was certainly also successful in setting up the second half of the season. You make a good point about the playing field and the augmented cat-and-mouse game, as well as Will being haunted by what transpired before; I’d say Abigail Hobbs (and her ear) was on his mind the most, especially considering there was some element of fatherhood there. Fatherhood was, after all, a major theme throughout the season, especially when the Vergers were introduced; I’m getting ahead of myself here, though. If we’re talking about Will’s prison stint, I found the Matthew Brown storyline very intriguing. We saw Hannibal strung up–in a fitting pose, considering the season’s exploration of Hannibal as a God-like figure, as the Devil–in a position of vulnerability we never saw prior, almost taken down by Will’s admirer. Will did wield power there, even from behind bars. Hannibal-Lector-Hanging LOC: But is that a healthy power to wield? In the first season’s finale, we got a hint that Hannibal wasn’t trying to ruin Will; indeed, Hannibal showed only affection and fascination for the man. This season, it was through the actions of both Hannibal and Will that his true motives were brought to the forefront. Both the show and the source material often tout Hannibal Lecter as a genius, and it’s hard to doubt that, when we’re shown the Machiavellian horrific catch-22 situation he puts Will in: Will trying to get even with Hannibal only serves to accelerate his devolution into total amorality. It’s an excruciating thing to watch, and Fuller uses it to its full potential to make the audience as uncomfortable as possible. On the one hand, we clamor for Hannibal to see his due, but on the other hand, seeing Hannibal get his due results in Will becoming more like Hannibal himself.

Hannibal superseded my expectations in that, as superficially ghastly as the show is, it’s really the probe Fuller sends into the darkest corners of our protagonists’ minds that horrifies me the most. PB, what did you think of the show upping the ante on its violence levels this season? I mean, I’m as desensitized towards gore as anyone can be, but some scenes really made me wince.

PB: That’s very true; Hannibal’s goal this season was to craft a killer out of Will, acting as his mentor in the same way he did for people like Randall Tier and, as we found out in “Tome-Wan”, even du Maurier. The circumstances were a bit different for all three, but the essential goal was the same: Hannibal, acting as God, creating. That was, of course, borne out of that affection for and fascination with Will, and in order to do so, he had to, as you said, put Will in that catch-22 situation. And yes, the dripping blood in “Mukozuke” symbolized that transformation: Will having to become the man he was trying to take down. So, the question for the rest of the season became: How good of a fisherman is Will? At the end of “Yakimono”, he was ready to face Hannibal, confident in his ability to outthink and eventually kill Lecter; however, did he wind up going too far?

In my opinion, yes. The finale–the stunning, horrifying, and beautiful finale–was both a nightmare and a terrifying dose of reality, as I mentioned in my review. When Will ate with Hannibal, he crossed the point of no return. He knew what he had to do, but he was also emotionally lost, and seeing Alana and Abigail at the end of the season was the only thing that shook him out of his stupor. It was too late, though. He was left helpless, stabbed in the gut as he watched the life drain from his “daughter”, as he lost all his hopes for taking down Hannibal.

Screen shot 2014-05-25 at 5.13.37 PM


As for your violence question–how ’bout Mason eating his own face?–it made sense that as the situation descended further and the Will-Hannibal war became more prominent, so would the violence, due to the all-encompassing nature of the central relationship (bringing in Jack, Alana, Chilton, Miriam, Beverly, the Vergers, WINSTON, etc.). I didn’t feel like the show had to ramp it up this much, but I was fine with it; I was also very surprised at the stuff they got away with. Speaking of necessary vs. unnecessary in terms of violence, many fans were angry with Beverly’s death, which brought up a whole bunch of issues regarding women on the show–personally, the women on this show are some of the most interesting on television, what with Bedelia and Bella and Alana (half of the time)–and whatnot. What do you think about the way Bev’s death was handled? I, for one, was more disappointed with the way they handled Alana’s character than with the fact that they killed Bev off.


LOC: To be honest, the maelstrom of protestation following both Bev’s death and Will’s impregnation of Margot Verger was lost on me; admittedly, being a white male, I’d be the last person to pick up on racist or misogynistic vibes, but, that being said, I was troubled with the show’s mostly squandered use of the character of Alana Bloom. Hannibal is a show whose two main characters happen to be men. I ardently disagree with those who claim that this automatically renders the show’s female side-characters ditzy, one-dimensional caricatures. And, as you said, PB, Bedelia Du Maurier – played by genre heavyweight Gillian Anderson – is amongst Hannibal’s most enigmatic, interesting characters.

That Fuller is fully (hah, get it?) capable of fleshed-out female characters makes Alana’s momentary relapse even more demoralizing. Not only does she regress to an annoyingly unintelligent character, but she undergoes some character beats which just don’t really make much sense under the circumstances. It’s irritating that Fuller gave the people waiting for the show to falter in this regard some fodder.

Thankfully, the impact of this (pretty glaring) weakness was muted when Alana’s character took a backseat, replaced instead by a much more intriguing female presence; Margot – and her darling brother, Mason – Verger’s appearance really shook this season’s status quo up; not always in a good way, but she was she was still a fascinating addition to Hannibal’s increasingly odd supporting roster. What did you think of the Vergers’ introduction, PB?

PB: Yeah, they were interesting, for sure. Like you, I don’t think the two always worked, but I do think there was a point with the way someone like Mason was portrayed. Here was a guy who operated in stark contrast to someone like Hannibal, the calm, meticulous doctor who viewed his food as art. However, he wasn’t willing to eat Mason; he was disgusted by him, and Mikkelsen did a wonderful job with the barely disguised contempt across his face during their conversations. Michael Pitt’s performance, on the other hand, was so out of place that it actually worked at times. He was an interesting presence that really shook up the show’s handling of its characters.

Of course, there were also thematic parallels to dig into. Although Hannibal viewed Will in a much brighter light than Mason did with Margot, the essence behind their goals were the same: dependency. In an interesting twist of fate, though, Mason was the one who ended up completely dependent (for now) on Margot, and as much as Will believed he had control, Hannibal was the one who broke off the relationship in the finale. In a way, Hannibal succeeded, but he also failed.

There’s another character we haven’t talked about, however: one of my favorites, Frederick Chilton. LOC, what’d you think about him and the way his storyline turned out?

LOC: Just before I dig into my favourite side-character from Hannibal, I’d like to momentarily swing back to the Verger clan. My main issue with their presence in the show was probably unavoidable;  Episodes 4, 5, 6 were of a preposterously high quality, but that breakneck intensity ground to a halt once Chilton was removed from the situation. To see Margot introduced so abruptly felt like a hackneyed attempt at spurring the season’s arc – which was in a naturaly lull I had no problem with – onward.

Hannibal - Episode 2.10 - Naka-Choko - Promotional Photos (2)

Once the show became adjusted to the presence of those two outliers, however, it promptly got back into the swing of things. I agree with your analysis of their chiral thematic connection to Will and Hannibal. It seems that there was so much of that type of thing going on this season (Peter Bernardone and Clark Ingram, Randall Tier and Hannibal), so it’s impressive in and of itself that Fuller still managed to make it an interesting dynamic.

Now, back to (arguably) this season’s MVP: Dr. Frederick Chilton. Chilton wasn’t exactly the most likeable character in Season 1 of Hannibal – he lacked the charm and the, uh, organs, and sympathetic plight he had this time around. It’s not unknown for TV shows to make unlikeable characters likeable (the best example of this I can think of is Jaime Lannister from Game of Thrones), but Chilton’s quick transformation from slimy psychiatrist to an unfortunate guy in way over his head was impressive nonetheless. Because things got so dark in Season 2, we had to cling on for dear life to whoever wasn’t a murdering psychopath. My affinity for the man was probably helped by the fact that he was at the height of his prominence during the aforementioned high point of the season, episodes 4 through 7. In fact,  once he was injured by Miriam Lass (yeah, I’m hoping against hope he’s still alive), I perceived a slight drop in momentum.

Again, Chilton’s–like most other side-characters’–ultimate purpose this season was to serve as a pawn for Hannibal’s intricate chess game with Will. His friendship with Will, which probably only developed due to their mutual enemy in Hannibal, really helped to put into perspective just how clever Hannibal is; here are two highly intelligent men, who are beaten at every turn by this towering strategic genius.

I don’t consider Frederick Chilton’s fate as tragic, per sé, but Hannibal forcing Will to betray one of the only friends he had left (I think Alana was boning Hannibal at that time) was quietly somber, and another thing to add to the long list of misdeeds Hannibal Lecter has committed.

But that finale? Now that was the epitome of the word ‘tragic’. How do you think the show’s set up for Season 3, PB?

Hannibal - Season 2

PB: After the finale aired, my immediate thought was HOLY SHIT WHAT JUST HAPPENED about the fact that this really seemed like a series finale. We left off with four characters laying there dying as Hannibal and Bedelia flew off to Europe, and given Fuller’s track record with two-season shows, this was probably written as somewhat of a series finale, just in case. There was truly a sense of finality to the proceedings, whether we’re talking about Jack deciding this was the final thing he had to do or Bella’s final wish being Hannibal would take care of her husband or Hannibal’s desire for Will’s ‘final transformation’ evaporating. Also, death.

And well, it was such a thrilling, stunning episode of television. When you think about it, they really didn’t answer any of the questions we had about how Will’s plan developed, but they weren’t intending to. Still, I do believe the finale took a few liberties with the Jack storyline, structuring his narrative around the fight scene that we saw in the first scene of the season without actually delving much into his character. Alana was another case of too little, too late, as the resurgence of some of that Alana fire and intelligence in “Tome-wan” didn’t bring back the goodwill lost toward the character. Hopefully, neither of them died in that finale, and the writers handle them better next year.

My criticisms stop there, though. “Mizumono” was Hannibal at its finest, with the production team–David Slade’s direction was impeccable, and the incessantly ticking clock propelled the episode forward–doing brilliant work and the actors selling the script beautifully. For example, Kacey Rohl’s performance was heartbreaking, even though she only had about 5 minutes of screen time.


I’m not sure I have predictions for next year, but I know I’m excited. What about you, LOC? Finale thoughts?

LOC: Yeah, I also got a strong series finale vibe from “Mizumono”, if only because we actually saw Hannibal express emotion for once – which was absolutely horrifying, kudos to Mads Mikkelsen, who has slowly morphed into (in my opinion) the definitive Hannibal Lecter.

If I were to have a few minor (and I mean very minor) nitpicks, they would mostly be surrounding the likes of the reveal that Bedelia was in cahoots with Hannibal; following an episode filled with shocking twists, this was one that tipped the scale just a shade towards ridiculous, and it left me more confused than intrigued. I also agree with you regarding Jack’s role in the season’s endgame; I would have liked to have seen it developed a little further, but the material that superseded it was so stellar and hauntingly brilliant that that barely registers as a complaint.

Screen shot 2014-05-25 at 5.11.29 PM

(Tumblr explodes)

And everything else was just marvelous television. From Alana’s resurgence to the staggeringly surprising return of Abigail Hobbs, the finale was as devastating an episode of TV as anything I’ve seen since Breaking Bad’s “Ozymandias”. Perhaps the most soul-destroying aspect of the finale was Will’s horrible realization that he had failed; yes, the show decided not to go into specifics regarding his plan, but, whatever it was, Hannibal beat him. This was the best chance they (he, Jack, and Alana) had on catching him, and it literally ended with the three of them (and Will’s surrogate daughter, to add insult to injury) dying, and Hannibal escaping (relatively) unscathed.

You know a show has truly succeeded when it evokes in you the reaction I had when watching the episode; it was by far the pinnacle of the show to this point, and although I have fears for the next season (splitting Hannibal and Bedelia from the rest of the characters could possibly lead to a new villain attempting to replace Lecter temporarily), Fuller’s ridiculously good execution of Will’s prison sentence fills me with confidence that whatever happens, Hannibal will remain as formidable as it was this season.


Find Louis O’Carroll at 


PB: Part of the reason I hope Alana doesn’t die (aside from a chance to improve her character) is the fact that I want to continue to see Caroline Dhavernas–and I might decide to cover Wonderfalls this summer; haven’t decided yet–on my TV. She’s gorgeous, and also, you know, a talented actress.


LOC: One of the pieces played in whatever the horse-baby episode was called is called In Paradisum from Fauré’s Requiem. It plays while Hannibal and Will are having one of their existential talks; the text translates to “May angels lead you into paradise; upon your arrival, may the martyrs receive you and lead you to the holy city of Jerusalem. May the ranks of angels receive you, and with Lazarus, once a poor man, may you have eternal rest.”

Especially pertinent considering you brought up the season’s general theme of religion, PB.

LOC: The piece played at the end of the finale is Glenn Gould’s 1981 recording of Bach’s “Goldberg Variations”, which was playing in Silence of the Lambs when Hopkins escapes from his cell and disguises himself with that guy’s face flaps.

Check out the Hannibal version here:

PB: That final piece was also played at the beginning of the series, so that’s a nice callback, along with “They Know”.

PB: I really liked Jeremy Davies in his stint as Peter Bernadorne. He was the perfect actor to play that character.

LOC: I think there should be a clause in every TV show’s contract that obligates them to have a cameo role especially for Davies.

LOC: This is the new picture I send to my friend to piss him off:


This is equal parts hilarious and terrifying:


Also, Mason Verger’s “I’m full of myself” line made me clap my hands together with glee.

PB: Anna Chlumsky did some fantastic work with Miriam Lass, as well.

LOC: Yeah, but it would’ve been nice to see her a little more than two episodes, although I understand her commitment to Veep.

LOC: I request a buddy cop spinoff featuring a grizzled Zeller and Price traveling through Europe chasing after Hannibal and Bedelia, while eating baguettes and visiting the Eiffel Tower.

…”Sterling Cooper Zeller Price”, anyone?

PB: Thanks for reading, everyone! This was one of the best television seasons I’ve seen, so it was nice to get to dissect it with someone else. LOC’s reviews of the final few episodes of season 2 should be up across the next few weeks, so be on the lookout for those. We’ll both be back at it next spring/summer, or whenever NBC decides to air season 3. See you then.

*Walks out into the rain (with Winston and Applesauce), leaving a pile of bodies behind*


Photo credits: NBC, Hannibal


6 Responses to ““I am enchanted…and terrified”: A Hannibal Season 2 Retrospective”

  1. Mel May 25, 2014 at 5:53 pm #

    The ending felt like a cop-out. Four characters on death’s precipice. All of them with fatal injuries. Yet all but one of them breathing when we leave the scene. Wimpy. Crawford and Graham are characters from the books so we know how the books describe their fates (if they’re following the books) It just felt unfinished. I was hoping they would fill the gap between Red Dragon and Silence. Also I like the way Jonathan Demme and Ridley Scott made us root for Hannibal. He was crazy but likeable. The TV show does not do that. So when Hannibal wins (Hannibal always wins… except for that one time) we are not happy. I want to root for Hannibal. The TV show just makes him savage and evil. Slitting that girls throat was unnecessary and un-hannibal like. It served no purpose but to hurt Graham. Hannibal IMO is supposed to be the anti-hero. But they have made him simply a high functioning, highly intelligent but brutal psychopath with an outrageously good sense of smell. The best parts of this season were the parts that came directly from the books.

    • bhammel103 May 25, 2014 at 8:38 pm #

      In my opinion, Hannibal Lecter should never be labeled as an anti-hero. He is a full blown villain.

      • Pop Eye May 26, 2014 at 1:11 pm #

        I agree. I really disliked the book Hannibal’s Hannibal. He seemed like an entirely different character than the one Harris presented readers with in Red Dragon and The Silence Of The Lambs.

        On a side note, Bryan Fuller’s plan for the next couple of seasons looks like this at the moment:

        – S3: inspired by Hannibal and Hannibal Rising (even though Hannibal’s origins will be completely different);
        – S4: Red Dragon adaptation;
        – S5: an alternate version of The Silence Of The Lambs’ story (because of a rights issue the show’s not able to use Clarice, Buffalo Bill, etc.);
        – S6: original material and final season.

        Interesting, no?

      • bhammel103 May 26, 2014 at 2:43 pm #

        Very interesting. Loving every second.

  2. Pop Eye May 26, 2014 at 1:04 pm #

    This is a great retrospective, PB and LOC! I wouldn’t mind seeing more of these… at all!


  1. I’m still here… | Louis O'Carroll on TV - May 25, 2014

    […] To tide you over, here’s a collaboration I did with PolarBearsWatchTV: a retrospective look on Season 2 of Hannibal. […]

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