Blood and Breath:

Hannibal‘s Series Finale

Hannibal’s series finale winds to a close with an obvious note of hope. Much like the season two finale, no one is definitely alive, but no one is definitively done either. It ends with a character seemingly waiting for our two protagonists to appear any moment. It could be idle hope, or it could be the trappings of an unseen plot. It’s always hard to know with Hannibal, and that perpetual tendency for paraprosdokian serves the show well for its maybe finale. The last lines of Siouxsie Sioux’s original song that winds down the show alone might be a hint: “I will survive/I will…”

The thirteenth episode of Hannibal’s third season is an epic, grand finale. The episode, titled “The Wrath of the Lamb”, has everything you could want from Hannibal, including an absolutely chill-inducing final scene. It’s a send off befitting a truly excellent show. Premature or not, and is it ever premature, if this really is the series finale then it’s a perfect one, which is all I could ask for. All my favourite shows have ended perfectly this year, and what were the odds of that?

The episode picks up immediately where the last one left off, with Francis Dolarhyde terrorizing Reba. It’s a tense scene that ends with Dolarhyde trying to spare Reba from the Dragon. He does this by lighting his house on fire, then, realizing he can’t bear to watch Reba burn, he shotguns himself in the head. She gropes his shattered head for a key, then escapes the flaming house, leaving the headless Dragon behind. Cue credits.

It’s a dramatic opening indeed. Now Dolarhyde’s death is a ruse, but I completely fell for it. It seemed like the kind of twist Hannibal would go for, and it cleared the stage for a finale entirely focused on Will and Hannibal, which is a natural final note for the show. Revealing that Dolarhyde was alive was obviously better for the finale in the long run, as it is intricately tied to the finale’s handling of Will and Hannibal and the climax the show reaches. This has always been a show about the relationship between Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter and the series finale follows through on that in touching, thrilling ways.

Early on in the episode Will meets Hannibal, now fully realized as Will’s personal deity by the show’s visuals. Will meets Hannibal and the two talk about the death of Dolarhyde and what to do next. But this conversation’s end is the most shocking. Will calmly mentions that he knew Hannibal wanted Will to find him. He knew as long as he kept chase that Hannibal would keep moving, keep baiting Will. So Will told Hannibal the hunt was over, because then Hannibal would have to stay put, would have to turn himself in. This completely changes the dynamic on display in the season’s mid-point. Will then leaves Hannibal in the wake of this Machiavellian recontextualization of the past season.

It’s shortly after this that Francis Dolarhyde kidnaps Will. The two sit face to face in a motel room and have a discussion. Will has already used one person as bait for Dolarhyde, and that person almost died horribly, so now he’s considering using another as bait – Hannibal Lecter. He tries to convince Dolarhyde that “changing” Hannibal would be the true arrival of the Great Red Dragon, a suggestion Dolarhyde takes to with some vigour. The two co-conspirators want to work together to get the Dragon in a room with Hannibal.

Will decides to work his FBI connections, now aware of Dolarhyde’s survival, to make this happen. His plan revolves around getting Jack and Alana to agree to stage Hannibal Lecter’s escape. Then a police detail would move the cannibal to a new location and wait for Francis Dolarhyde to show up. Jack and Alana seem all too willing. Jack even sounds excited about the opportunity to kill both Francis Dolarhyde and Hannibal Lecter. They plan to release the news of Hannibal Lecter’s escape to the press, and claim Will aided him to make the whole thing sound more realistic.

Will warns Bedelia about his plan in their therapy sessions. She’s horrified. To her, Will might as well cut everyone’s throat himself. Will leaves her with the comment that “meat is back on the menu.”

Of course, this plan requires Hannibal’s cooperation. To ensure this Alana goes and has a talk with her captive, promising him the return of his books, drawings, and toilet. She returns saying that Hannibal wants something else – he wants Will to ask him. So Will goes to see Hannibal again. This prompts what is already the most quoted moment of the finale, a conversation where Hannibal almost comedically over analyzes the “mic-drop” trope. Will, as Hannibal sees it, left with a mic-drop during their last talk, now he has to come back and awkwardly pick it up again. It doesn’t take much to convince Hannibal though – Will just needed to say please.

The next we see of our two protagonists they’re riding in the back of a police van flanked by squad cars. Hannibal is muzzled and caged, and Will sits next to two shotgun-wielding police officers. They’re taking Hannibal to the location they plan to trap Dolarhyde at, however they haven’t counted on Will’s betrayal. Francis Dolarhyde, driving a stolen cop car, rides alongside the cops and empties his silenced handgun at them. He kills the all the cops before leaving Will and Hannibal in the wreckage. Will and Hannibal pick themselves up. Hannibal, chiding Will all the while, empties the corpses out of one of the squad cars and takes Will for a ride.

They go to a secret second home that Hannibal maintained. It’s here the episode enters its last legs. Will and Hannibal drink and talk together, before they finally kill together. The Dragon descends upon them, and in a beautifully brutal fight the two friends circle the winged monster and take him down, like two wolves hunting their prey on a windswept cliffside. Particularly memorable is the fact that the fight pretty much revolves around a single knife that’s repeatedly stabbed and removed from various people. It’s bloody and beautiful and moonlit.

Then it ends. Hannibal and Will stand in the aftermath of their murder. “This is all I ever wanted for you, Will. For both of us.” The two, bloody and wounded, hold each other before falling off the side of the massive cliff. They tumble together to their obfuscated fate.

But that’s not quite the end of Hannibal. The end, the aforementioned moment of hope, is Bedelia, sitting at a table admiring an elegant dish. The dish is made from her now missing leg, and the table has two empty place settings.

Everything about this episode is what you want from Hannibal. The cinematography is grimly beautiful, for one thing. It’s unusually stark for the show. Other than the more decoratively imagined versions of Italy, the show’s palette stays grey and black and sombre. The contrast is heightened in a few key moments, like Hannibal and Will’s final fall. A moment immediately preceded by Will commenting on the colour of the blood. “It really is black in the moonlight.”

Brian Reitzell’s music is typically gorgeous and atmospheric. His collaboration with Siouxsie Sioux is the perfect musical end to the show. The rest of the music is up to snuff, with jarring, hollow sounds and eerie synths. Reitzell’s music has always been a key component of the show, and it’s important to the quality of the finale that Reitzell was working on the show right till the end.

Even Hannibal’s typical fashion on the show (Hannibal’s clothes are normally made by in Toronto) makes a comeback after a few episodes of white jumpers. His suit, like the episode’s aesthetic, is gorgeous and grey, stark and simple, and it gets dappled in blood and dropped off a cliff.

It’s a great episode, which is good, because it will probably be the last ever. It’s too soon for the show to end, naturally. This show’s version of Silence of the Lambs would’ve been fascinating. Bryan Fuller wanted Lee Pace to play Buffalo Bill, which would have been a fascinating thing to see. But more importantly it would have been brilliant to see what Bryan Fuller’s ultimate ending would’ve looked like.

However this isn’t a perfect world, so instead, in season three, this show is ending. Or at least it looks like it. There haven’t been any new announcements, good or bad, about the fate of the show. Last we heard Bryan Fuller was looking at making a feature film as a follow up. There hasn’t been anything new on this front. So this still looks like the ultimate finale. The ending may not have been the one we were hoping for, but it is still an excellent finale for the series. It’s a better final episode than many shows have.

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Harry Edmundson-Cornell is obsessed with comics and film and writing, and he fancies himself a bit of an artist. He's dabbled in freelance video production, writing, design, 3D modelling, and artistic commissions. He mainly uses Tumblr to keep track of what he's watching and reading and listening to. Occasionally he uses it to post original works. You can find his email and junk there too, if you want to hire him or send him hate-mail.

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