Though the events of Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal have only taken place across 33 episodes, we have known this Will Graham since April 4th, 2013. In that span, the incredible change he has undergone has been intensified by all the extra time between episodes and seasons, during which we consider the different key moments that have shaped him into the deformed and brutalized character he is at the end of “Digestivo”–a season finale, for all intents and purposes. The person who began this journey as a reluctant teacher-turned-profiler was terrified of his ability to empathize so fully with the world’s ugliest and most horrifying creatures. He was shy. He was skeptical. And he was hyper-aware of how others perceived and interpreted him. Will’s relationship with Hannibal Lecter, though, eventually set his brain on fire, sent him behind bars and pushed him around into situations where he nearly had his head sawed open and face removed. It’s a far cry from the sleepless nights in Wolf Trap, Virginia. Of all the characters in the series who needed to hear Bella Crawford’s powerful, echoing advice–cut out the thing that’s killing you–Will’s need was greatest. Unfortunately for him, the damage that has been done can’t be erased, including what is almost certainly a permanent self-doubt about his ability to be in control of himself. Yet, Will takes on that advice by the time “Digestivo” concludes, “breaking up” with Hannibal as firmly and completely as he is able. So, even though the Will Graham of July of 2015 is almost completely unrecognizable compared to the Will Graham from April of 2013, the Will at the end of this episode is at least ready to begin rebuilding his life in the aftermath of Hannibal Lecter, which is the most optimistic his story has seemed in a long time.
“I miss my dogs. I’m not going to miss you. I’m not going to find you. I’m not going to look for you. I don’t want to know where you are or what you do. I don’t want to think about you anymore.” This is Will Graham at his most blunt and honest, which is a combination of qualities that is often lacking in relationships. Honesty usually comes reluctantly and/or carefully when dealing with powerful emotions that might hurt the other person, and bluntness is often a result of hurt–we are too quick to be blunt with someone who has annoyed us or made us feel insignificant in some way. What Will says to Hannibal, though, strikes the balance of honesty and bluntness in the perfect way. He is not callous; this is simply how things are now. And one of the hardest parts to think about from Hannibal’s end is that Hannibal’s love for Will forces him to respect those words. It’s why Hannibal leaves the room without saying anything. We can see that part of him that wants to stop and fight for Will, but Hannibal–always the smartest person in the room–knows when someone is capable of being swayed, and Will is no longer capable.
“I miss my dogs. I’m not going to miss you.” To me, this is a minor echo of Hannibal telling Will that he’s not one for regrets, but he didn’t want to leave Italy. With all the chaos of Hannibal going on around them, the characters in the series will sometimes focus on something relatively insignificant. This is not to say that Will’s dogs are insignificant (c’mon, I have a heart), but it’s a curious moment of tangential reflection that leads into dealing with the bigger issue at hand. On another level, it’s also a way to belittle Hannibal by comparing him to something non-human. Though Will’s bluntness isn’t supposed to be confrontational, this comparison allows him to the benefit of that way we twist knives with words because we hurt so much. It’s a decision that’s probably below him at this point, now that he’s moved into his post-Hannibal Lecter future, but I think we can extend him the courtesy of being allowed to be mean to Hannibal in the moment. After all, Hannibal is displayed as and treated like a pig in “Digestivo,” and dehumanizing other people is something he’s familiar with.
“I’m not going to find you. I’m not going to look for you.” These lines may be the most important ones for the audience to hear Will say to Hannibal, because so much of season two and three has been frustration with how Will has gone after Lecter. Season two’s lure-and-catch routine put Will at risk, forcing him to murder Randall Tier and put him into a mental and emotional state that really paved the way for Hannibal to sink his teeth into Will’s core. Then, at the beginning of this season, we saw the aftershocks of that damage in the way that Will reveled in displaying Mischa’s killer (we’ll have to take Hannibal at face-value that he wasn’t responsible for her death and that that guy actually was) and his pursuit of Hannibal into Italy. The pursuit itself was never an issue, but his continuation after his “I forgive you” moment in the basement of the Palazzo Capponi meant that Will couldn’t be satisfied with simple closure. It had to be something else–something more. Will’s words in this episode suggest that he no longer has that need. Not going to find Hannibal and especially not going to look for him, which extends to looking for him in his own thoughts and “mind palace,” means that Will is genuinely ready to put this behind him. The general consensus has been that there have been some problems with the way Will has been written this season in terms of motivation and decision-making, so these declarations should hopefully put some disappointed viewers at ease.
“I don’t want to know where you are or what you do. I don’t want to think about you anymore.” These final lines in this string of dialog fit most nearly into the “break up” language. Again, it’s still important to consider that Will and Hannibal’s relationship is one with love at its foundation, but that love as a concept is not limited to our common conceptions of romantic love. Still, as is the case with romantic love, the spurning here comes from reaching that point where one person simply can’t be with the other one. It’s almost impossible to excise the closest person in your life completely, but that process has to begin with making active efforts to not thinking about them anymore, which seems like in insurmountable obstacle when it’s something you’ve spend time and effort loving. There’s no hope at success if the person isn’t removed completely, otherwise there’s always the risk of relapse and the comfort it brings (much like an addict’s relationship with a drug, which is another comparison that could apply to Will and Hannibal).
It hurts. Everything about it hurts. There’s a reason why sad love songs are so popular–people relate to them. Even if we don’t have exactly similar experiences to one another, we’re always able to bend someone else’s words and experiences to have them fit some aspect of our own, because we get some amount of healing out of sharing pain with someone else. On paper, it’s preposterous to feel sorry or bad for a serial killer who treated the object of his affection so horrifically, but watching Hannibal messes with your mind in so many ways, and I think one side effect of that is slowly developing the capacity to understand and sympathize with Hannibal Lecter. It might be Hannibal‘s biggest coup of all.
And, of course, in typical Hannibal fashion, the punctuation mark of “Digestivo” is its most powerful moment by far. After all this, Hannibal just doesn’t have it in him to let Will Graham go. He could live life as a free man under a new pseudonym in a new country that could possibly suit his tastes and develop new bonds with new people, but Will Graham is his unicorn and Moby Dick all in one package–a mythical thing thought not to exist and one that instills an incredible level of obsession. Hannibal gives himself up in a decision that is really the only way you could get me to believe that Hannibal Lecter would be caught. He’s too careful and smart and elusive and powerful for anyone else to beat him in a war. It had to be this way and so that Will would “know exactly where [he] is and where [he] could always find [him].” On the narrative level, it’s the best way to keep Will and Hannibal in each other’s orbits as we fast forward ahead to Red Dragon. On the emotional level, however, is where it’s at its most inspiring, because it’s an act of sublime defiance in the face of impossibility. It suggests that, if Hannibal is able to get the thing he desires most in life when it looked like it was completely out of reach (and at the expense of his own life, pretty much), maybe we should re-evaluate the obstacles we face in our own lives and our attitudes towards them.
Bite-Sized Thoughts: Buon appetito!
– And fast forward ahead to Red Dragon, we shall. There’s a preview from Comic-Con of Richard Armitage in the titular role that, if you don’t mind a little bit of information ahead of time, you should definitely check out. Armitage is just another impressive name in an impressive list of casting choices, so here’s hoping the second half of the season finishes strong.
– RIP Mason Verger. After these episodes and the last few from season two, I have more positive things than negative things to say about Mason’s and Margot’s arcs in Hannibal. There were certainly some hiccups, but this is fantastic finish that emphasizes Mason’s cruelty (and how absolutely disgusting it is) and Margot’s cunning. It’s unfortunate and somewhat interesting that Alana takes an active, rather than passive, role in Mason’s death, but good people doing bad things has been a huge part of this season. I’ve enjoyed both Michael Pitt and Joe Anderson in the role, and Katharine Isabelle knocks it out of the park in this episode. Big shoes to fill for secondary characters going forward (although, maybe Margot would theoretically appear again at some point?).
– A little bit less satisfactory have been Bedelia and Chiyoh this season. I think that both characters combine to form an interesting take on Hannibal Lecter’s influence over a certain kind of person, but nothing in either story ever really popped for me, other than Gillian Anderson’s performance being flawless. I love the image of Chiyoh just walking around holding that rifle, but I could have done with more of her if it meant more development.
– Not only does Hannibal not flinch when he gets a knife in the back. He doesn’t flinch when he gets branded. How’s that for the power of the mind to diffuse pain?
– Mason describes what the extraction plan is for Will’s face and how Cordell will be performing it. Cordell walks up and just says “Hello!” and smiles. RIP Cordell.
– What’s Mason supposed to do after he has all his fun? Will has some ideas: “You could wreck some foster homes and torment some children…”
– “Well, no pajama party for you, Mr. Graham.”
– More blunt honesty, this time between Alana and Hannibal: “Could I have ever understood you?” “No.”
– There was a scene with an eel. Something happened. It was gross (and over-the-top).
Hannibal by the Numbers:
Speaking Roles in “Digestivo”:
- Mason, 95 lines
- Hannibal, 58 lines
- Alana, 43 lines
- Margot, 33 lines
- Jack, 26 lines
- Will, 26 lines
- Cordell, 25 lines
- Chiyoh, 14 lines
- Inspector, 9 lines
- Guard, 1 line
Total lines: 330
Total scenes: 26
Longest scene by line count: Margot and Alana free Hannibal, 39 lines
Longest scene by running time: Margot and Alana free Hannibal, 5 min. 19 sec.
Shortest scene by line count: 5-way tie, 0 lines
Shortest scene by running time: teacup shattering, 0 min. 05 sec.
Average running time per scene: 1 min. 35 sec.
[Photo via NBC]