Hannibal's heartbreaking “Primavera” is an episode about the brutality of framing.
Hannibal is a show about the pain of empathy, and "Mizumono" hurts. The finale brings the Ravenstag story arc to a conclusion in a brutal way.
When it comes to understanding exactly what to expect from Hannibal, the two most important characters are symbolic representations of who Will Graham and the titular serial killer are not. At least not anymore.
“Tome-Wan” is Hannibal at its most distilled and sustained. Showcasing the series’ underlying dark humour, this is the tightest, most mesmerizing hour of the series. To use the words of Mason Verger: I am enchanted and terrified.
“Ko No Mono” shifts to an unreliable narrator, allowing us to experience the first truly heartbreaking moment in Hannibal. Using the most iconic image from Red Dragon, we also get a glimpse at who’s really pulling the strings in this show.
In addition to being Hannibal’s most self-reflexive hour, “Naka-Choko" features a really steamy sex scene that takes place in two separate rooms and involves four humans, a theremin, and a Manstag.
In “Shiizakana” we are asked to forget the fast paced, twisty-turny, Will Graham-on-trial arc that velocitized our television watching appetites earlier this season, and to get used to the emotional and psychological contemplation of the now classic Hannibal as an episodic nightmare format.
In “Su-Zakana” the cocoon constructed of mystery novel pages, fond pop-culture memories, Hollywood disappointments, and countless other symbols that once encased Hannibal has cracked open, and out of it has come a new and unpredictable kind of butterfly.
The middle hour Hannibal's thirteen episode season, “Yakimono” is tasked with wiping the slate clean for a strong second half story arc. Hannibal Lecter is in complete control and no one, not even characters from the books, are safe from his voracious appetite.
When Dr. Lecter is plucking the strings and writing the notes, Hannibal is thrilling, unpredictable and disgustingly beautiful to look at. In “Futamono” we get all of that, some meta humor, and the most disturbingly delicious looking human leg eaten on network TV. Also a fun dinner party.
“Mukozuke” succeeds in providing the contemplative space that other serial killer centric shows don’t. It’s a case study in what we will let our icons get away with and what makes them different from us and the fictional people they prey on.
“Takiawase” is as close as we will ever get to a Jimmy, Brian and Beverly episode. Because of that it is hilarious at times, but that doesn’t prevent it from being stomach churningly disturbing, perfectly thrilling, tearfully heartbreaking and as thematically tight as a well tuned pressure cooker.
“Hassun” is perfectly distilled Hannibal. It takes the conventions of a well established television format - the courtroom procedural - and mutilates it into a nightmarish message about the kind of love that compels you do horrible, violent things.
The great mandala that is Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal is only just beginning to reveal itself. We know slightly more than the characters about the overall design, and this new territory will be adding a different nightmarish colour to our palate.
Hannibal’s greatest strength, the one that produces the most gut-wrenching moments, is the most viscerally sterile: Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham in a room trying to destroy each other while falling irretrievably deeper into a mad sort of love.