“Two years is a long time to have Hannibal in your head.”
Miriam Lass is a time bomb and she is being loaded into an ambulance outside of the Chesapeake Ripper’s offsite location (a barn retrofitted as a torture studio). She has spent two years in the custody of Hannibal Lecter, and as such needs to be processed by the forensics before she can take a much-needed shower.
This is how “Yakimono” begins. It is the middle hour of this thirteen episode season tasked with wiping the slate clean for a strong second half story arc. It explosively succeeds at this, setting our hero, Will Graham, free from the dark and stale confines of the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, reuniting him with the titular Manstag of his dreams, and deftly sending the message that only two things are certain with this most excellent of horror shows: Hannibal Lecter is in complete control and no one, not even characters from the Thomas Harris books, are safe from his voracious appetite.
Dirt is scraped from Miriam’s fingernails, hair is taken from her disheveled head, and she goes down in history as the only surviving victim of the Chesapeake Ripper.
While this happens, Jack is in his office replaying Miriam’s once-final voicemail, now hopefully just a traumatic outlier in what will be many more mundane phone calls now that she is a survivor. It’s an intimate look at one of Hannibal’s longest running character arcs: Jack’s guilt for using Lass to find the Ripper keeps him looking in the wrong corner of the right box as the same thing happens to his friend Will.
After she’s cleaned up, Miriam thanks Jack as the two sit in her dorm room. He can’t accept her gratitude though, because, despite what Lass believes to be the case, the FBI and Jack did stop looking for her, and even though they were led by the nose to the mutilation shed, the Ripper is still at large. The bureau needs Miriam’s help one last time to help point the finger at the man that took her arm.
The former missing person can’t remember the face of the Ripper though. He got insider her head, with drugs and flowers and hypnosis, and two years is a long time to have Hannibal in your head.
Jack apologizes, but his trainee won’t have it. She doesn’t see herself as being saved yet. Jack asks the question on everyone’s mind: why didn’t the Ripper rip her? He gets an answer that seems obvious to Lass.
“He was saving me for last.”
She is taken to the interrogation room, where on the other side of one-way glass, Alana faux-interrogates Hannibal. The guilty party of a cannibal doctor does what he does best, hiding in plain sight and taunting Jack Crawford.
Casually figuring out the plan, that Crawford wants the survivor to hear his voice for a positive ID, Lecter fakes a missed guess as to Lass’ gender, using “him” to describe the her behind the mirror. He approaches the glass and stares into it, talking and staring, as if a reflection is no obstacle at all, giving Jack what he thinks he wants.
Try as Miriam might, she can’t recognize the voice of the man who did this.
“It’s not him,” she says, as we all collectively edge a little closer to the edge of our seats, waiting for Hannibal’s design to reveal itself.
After the titles, Dr. Frederick Chilton opens Will Graham’s cell for the last time. The Chesapeake Ripper has absolved him of his unspeakable crimes by taking the rightful credit. Chilton nudges the fourth wall as he expresses a hope that the now free Graham is trading places with Hannibal.
Chilton is starting to panic as one of the two remaining people in the world that accuse Hannibal of being the Ripper. Will gives him the right advice, to confess to bonding with Lecter over their respective malpractices, to essentially tell Jack everything he knows and has been through.
Looking for a different way off of Hannibal’s menu, the lesser of this show’s evil doctors asks Will his secret to surviving his brazen attempts at blaming the devil in nice suits. If Chilton had asked him before, he wouldn’t have gotten the right answer, but it is finally clear to Will now, as he returns to the real word. He is alive because Hannibal Lecter wants to be his friend.
Jack is waiting outside to offer Will a ride. He gives him the news about Miriam Lass, and disappoints the certified sane Graham when he says that Hannibal is still at large. In fact, he tells Will, Lass definitively stated that Lecter is not the Ripper.
Almost incredulous that Jack seems to be repeating the same mistake that lead to this whole half-season story arc, Will makes sure that this evidence wasn’t definitive enough for the Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Behavioral Sciences Division. Thankfully, these old buddy-agents are finally working in the same proverbial book, even if they’re not on the exact same page.
The two drive to Hannibal’s hobby house of a nightmare farm and Will is given access to the workshop. A surgical table with implements, presumably where Miriam’s arm was taken, jars of Beverly Katz’s blood, and the leftover Body Worlds slides from her gruesome display.
Will does his little trick. The metronome reverses time and after a lot of symbols, mind palace exploration, and finally the metaphorical planting of poisonous seeds in the Treeman from last week’s episode, Graham emerges with the right answer. All of this is theatre. The Ripper led Jack here in order to catch someone else.
Something will lead the investigation away from Lecter, predicts Will.
The easy metaphor to use, now that Will is out of the asylum and on the hunt, is a game of chess. Graham is predicting Hannibal’s play style, but the cannibal anticipates Will’s instincts. What is happening here is much more symbiotic than a game of strategy. It’s more like a dance of courtship, each mover trying to stay instep as they spin better than everyone else while trying to surprise the other with dangerous cleverness.
While Will reunites with his family of dogs, learning about Alana’s compromised situation and meeting her adopted pooch named Applesauce, Chilton is trying to remain not dead: he is in Jack’s office, offering to aid in the Ripper case pro bono.
He has no credibility, however, thanks to his history of psychological driving. Chilton claims that he has dug up the buried memories in Will, and he can do the same in Lass if given the opportunity.
The two surviving victims of Hannibal’s brain scrambling are having a bonding moment elsewhere in the building. Lass the time bomb has been armed with a new prosthetic, and Will tries to help her remember what happened to her. He mentions the induced seizure response that Hannibal used to brainwash him and this prompts her to remember light and chamber music, flipping through to flickering flashback implications that Miriam has been hypnotized.
Will assures his fellow freebird that the Ripper is not done and that all of this liberation they’ve been experiencing is part of his design. They are only free because Hannibal wants them to be.
That night, Hannibal smells the ambush waiting for him in the kitchen from a mile away. Will has a gun drawn and is still wearing the unfortunate aftershave with a sailboat on the bottle. They pick up right where they left off last time the two of them were in a kitchen together, Hannibal speaking of his motivations under a veil of plausible deniability and Will wanting so badly to pull the trigger.
Dr. Lecter goes full-on movie villain, bargaining for his life by dangling the always bulletproof promise of the Truth with a capital T in front of his would be killer. If Will kills the Hannibal everyone else believes him to be, then an innocent man dies, but if he kills the Chesapeake Ripper he will never know the answers to all of his questions.
The oldest trick in the villain handbook works, and Will heads back to the drawing board. You can’t catch Hannibal Lecter with threats of violence. You need to collaborate with him.
The next day, Hannibal lets the time bomb he’s set loose into his office, escorted by Jack Crawford as they try to dig up any memories they can. Lass eerily retraces her steps, finding Hannibal’s life drawings in the same place she once found the evidence that motivated the psychiatrist to abduct her.
Playing along, Hannibal uses strobe light induced hypnosis to regress Lass back to the time she placed the voicemail that Jack carries around in his pocket.
Back at the CSI lab, they actually find one of Hannibal’s fingerprints on some of the scary farm evidence, but because of Will’s warning that the evidence would lead the investigation away from the real Ripper, Jack is more inclined to follow the evidence that points in the direction of Chilton.
Too tired of swallowing his pride to risk getting it wrong, Agent Crawford demands both of the unethical shrinks be brought in for processing.
Of course, this is all part of Hannibal’s grand composition. When Chilton comes home to the distant beeping of a heart monitor from somewhere inside his house, the marble in Hannibal’s game of Mousetrap starts rolling.
In his white guest room, Chilton finds a limbless Abel Gideon on life support in the final moment of death. Hannibal chloroforms Frederick just as the FBI begins to knock on the door, which Hannibal goes on to answer without removing his plastic kill suit.
Chilton comes to, covered in blood with a gun and a knife, finding a disemboweled FBI man sitting on his kitchen counter next to the dead man’s partner who has been impaled in classic Chesapeake Ripper fashion.
He flees to Wolf Trap, where the only man he knows will listen to him allows him to have a shower. Unfortunately for his old keeper, Will calls Jack while Chilton washes off the gore.
Chilton books it for the trees, while Graham greets Crawford, asking why he came alone, and staying outside as Jack enters the Wolf Trap home, eventually giving chase and catching the sad, sad psychiatrist.
Frederick is processed by an uncharacteristically angry Brian Zeller (this is the Katz-killer, to him, after all) and taken to the interrogation room where Alana has a chat with him. On the other side of the mirror Miriam Lass begins to freak out as her time bomb trigger starts to activate. She recognizes Chilton’s voice as that of her killer, and before she can be calmed a bullet ejects from the end of Jack’s service weapon (lifted from his side), shatters the one way glass and perforates the suspects head.
Chilton escaped Hannibal’s appetite, but sadly he was unsuccessful in staying not dead.
This is possibly the most important plot point in the series so far. Frederick Chilton is a character from the original Thomas Harris Hannibal Lecter canon, and is supposed to stay alive at least until the end of The Silence of the Lambs.
By killing Chilton before even the events of Red Dragon have taken place (season four, if Hannibal can survive that long in a Friday time slot) Bryan Fuller is taking a stand that is indicative of all the best serialized TV dramas determined to make their mark: no one is safe, not even the people who are in the books.
The death is particularly resonant considering that Jack Crawford begins this season in a flash forward to the finale, bleeding from the neck in Hannibal’s pantry. The stakes of the season just got punctuated with an exclamation point made out of lead and bits of Chilton’s skull.
The equilibrium is quickly reestablished, however, as Will, wearing a much needed haircut shows up all cute and stuff for his standing appointment with Dr. Lecter. The chair has been empty all of this time, as Hannibal waited in ritual for the man he admires to return with eyes for him and his handsome suits.
They take seats across from each other, and Hannibal starts from what seems to be a clean slate between men who have changed each other through acts of violence born form the confusion and betrayal of their love.
“Where shall we begin?” prompts Hannibal as the camera slowly zooms out. It’s a good question: a season and a half of television is a long time to have Hannibal in your head.