I don’t know where to start. I really don’t. Something special happened this week on HANNIBAL. For the third time, the season finale has blown away all expectations. This show just keeps on delivering and it delivered majestically for the final time in ‘The Wrath of the Lamb’, the final ever episode (in all likelihood) of HANNIBAL.
I had such mixed feelings towards this episode going in. On one hand, I didn’t want it to end, none of us did, but on the other, I was so eager to see the conclusion, how Bryan Fuller and team would fit the last pieces together and form the final image the show has been working towards for three years. Well, it didn’t disappoint.
“Ding dong the dragon’s dead”.
One of the things I was most conflicted about was Francis, his story, and how much attention, how much screen time would be allocated to his tale during HANNIBAL’s final moments. The last thing I think we all wanted was for him to take precious time away from our heroes. If we wanted anything from the finale it was a fitting ending for Hannibal and Will. So in the opening moments of the episode when Francis shot himself in the head, leaving Reba to burn to death in Hannibal’s house, I was taken aback. In some sense I felt a little let down, this all felt anti climatic, not the way I was expecting things to go, but I was also left feeling rather pleased, with Francis gone the show could focus on what was most important and deliver a finale worthy of the titans at its centre. So with a rather surprising opening, I found myself even more intrigued by what might come next.
Following these rather gruesome events, we found Will paying Reba a visit in the hospital, she had survived Francis’ suicide/murder attempt and crawled to safety. There were no big revelations to be found here along with Will, nothing that would prove overly crucial to proceedings going forward, but it was a fantastic scene with some salient commentary on certain aspects of the shows main dynamic. Reba spoke to Will about the blind attracting freaks like Francis, drawing broken people in to them. Will responded that this wasn’t just something specific to blind people, but in terms of this particular show it was a very real truth. Will himself has been blind, from the very start he failed to see Hannibal for who he really was and blinded himself for the longest time to his true feelings for him. Will, through his lack of vision and clarity of sight, attracted the biggest freak of them all.
“You came all this way and you didn’t get to kill anybody”.
The crux of this episode and really the demonstrable message behind the whole series, is confronting feelings, being honest with yourself, being who you are regardless of what it might mean. This is something Will has battled with over the seasons and continued to battle with during this final episode — evident in the scene where he visited with Hannibal at his cell. Will tried labouredly to skirt around what his real intentions for Chilton had been during the botched set up for Francis. Knowing in his heart of hearts what he had done and why he had done it, but still unable to admit it aloud, especially to Hannibal. This despite Hannibal’s best efforts to drag it out of him. Hannibal knows as well as Will does — if not more so — why he did what he did to Chilton, but at this point, Will was still not ready to come out, at least not yet.
“Stronger than the dragon”.
Shortly after, it became clear that Francis was actually not dead, that he was indeed alive, faking his own death and now out to complete his transformation. Will was the first one to bear witness to his survival, being captured by the dragon while entering his motel room. Will was not hurt during this exchange however; this was not the purpose of this get together. What Francis really wants is Hannibal, the grand daddy, the ultimate being that needs to be changed. This, in Will’s diseased mind, fits in nicely with his own desires. He needs Hannibal out of the picture; he needs him gone if he is ever going to be free. So a plan is hatched between the two to kill the cannibal.
So Will takes this plan — well, half of it — and goes to Jack, posing another set up, one last trap to catch the dragon but this time with Hannibal as the bait, something Jack realises as an opportunity to finally be rid of them both. With everyone relatively on board with the plan, the last one to learn of what is to come is Bedelia, the one person who acts in pure horror at the very idea. She knows as well as anyone what Hannibal is capable of, and that using him as bait is a horrible idea, that it will surely blow up in all of their faces. Coming somewhat from a selfish place — not wanting to get eaten by her old patient — she tries to warn Will about enacting such foolishness, resulting in her becoming quite bitter and spiteful towards him. And everything she spoke of bears a certain inalienable truth, that Will is becoming pathological, that what he is doing is exactly what Hannibal has always desired. So as a viewer, I whole heartedly shared her fears. I truly don’t know what Will was thinking and really, he probably doesn’t either. One of his most fatal flaws and most fascinating aspects to his role as a series lead, is that he is so unreliable, to himself and to us. We never know where we are with Will, and that brings a unique energy to everything that unfolds around him.
“We made a bargain for Will’s life and I spun you gold”.
Alana wasn’t to be denied some well deserved last moments in this final episode. After paying a visit to Chilton, who is still trying to recover from his burns, she takes herself to Hannibal’s cell, informing him of the plan to use him as bait. He takes it much like you might imagine, with great humour and confidence, finding time and opportunity to poke Chilton while he’s at it. “I hope he’s not very ugly”. He just can’t help himself. Hannibal wouldn’t spare Alana some final parting words however, ending their conversation with a message that hit home in a way that she might never forget or disagree with. He reminded her of how she died in his kitchen at the end of season two, that she was now living on borrowed time, that her life as she now knows it, belongs to him and that if he were ever to escape for real, he very well could come after her. All of this was said with a smile of course. That winning smile.
So with the plan all set, Will travels along with a chained up Hannibal in the midst of a police escort to execute their plan. They would never make it to their destination however, as Francis, showing no patience, attacking the convoy and in a superhuman effort (a little weird but whatever) takes out all the cops and frees our two heroes. He drives off however indicating to them both that a more intimate and private meeting was the only way to settle things between the three of them. Hannibal, always the forward thinker, takes himself and Will to his cliff top house, a place where he once took Abigail and Miriam, a place that would become the final stage of the series, the setting for a grand and climatic duel.
“It really does look black in the moonlight”.
After no more than a few drops of wine, a cliff top battle takes place, a grand environment for the final battle of souls and bodies. Francis starts off with the first shot, shooting Hannibal in the stomach. But before he can inflict any further damage, Will has a change of heart, a change of heart that caused my own to race, and I wanted to cheer as he attempted to go to Hannibal’s rescue and as a gruesome fight to the death ensued. At first Francis had the upper hand but the bond between Hannibal and Will refused to be broke — it can never be broken. They united to protect each other, joining forces gloriously, brutally, to slay the dragon once and for all, murdering Francis with knife, axe and teeth. It was majestic, fantastical, the most artistic of murders I’ve ever seen committed to TV. “This is all I ever wanted for you” Hannibal says through heavy breath to Will as they hold each other, bloody but not beaten. “Beautiful” Will describes it as, before they throw themselves off the cliff, going out in a style, going out together, the only way it should be.
This alone would have been a perfect ending to the saga, to the greatest TV male relationship in recent memory, to the most raw and brutal bond between men, to a once in a lifetime adaptation and to a masterful narrative. There is no need for a revival series, for a final film or movie to wrap things up. There could be no better way to end things. But… and there is a ‘but’ to be had, as the final credits close, a new scene appears. Bedelia fills the screen, and her leg has been eaten… What? Wait… Was the jump off the cliff perhaps only a metaphor? A metaphor to describe how they are now over the edge, over the top, beyond the point of no return? Now fully committed to each other and everything that this brings? All these thoughts and more arise with that final image alone, at what appears to be Hannibal’s table, Bedelia’s leg cut and served before her, as the words “I will survive” ring out.
What really happened? Did they die? Did they not? What does that final image mean? Who can say. Honestly it doesn’t matter. We have to assume this is the end, so whatever those final moments mean to you, let that be the truth. “Was it good to see me?” Yes, Hannibal. Yes it was. We had quite the time together and when life becomes maddeningly polite, we will think of you. Thank you HANNIBAL, thank you for the memories. I never knew I wanted you, but I’m glad you were there. It was short, but oh was it sweet. “Bonsoir”.