WARNING: The following review contains spoilers.
During the first and second seasons of Hannibal, the cases of the week were entertaining ways of letting great directors paint grotesque-yet-beautiful pictures while giving Fuller and co. an opportunity to let their various players muse on life and death. From totem of bodies, to mushroom people, to sewed eyes, the show put things on television that you never thought you would see. From a more corporate angle, the cases of the week allowed the show to give new audience members something to latch onto. They didn’t need to know the intricacies of Will and Hannibal’s romance (after this episode, is there anything else you can call it?), they just needed to know “Oh, some dude made a violin out of a man’s vocal chords…that’s gross I’m changing the channel.”
But with the third season, Hannibal has abandoned the case of the week. On some level, the show has abandoned all semblance of traditional plotting and episode structure, content to let Will Graham wonder towards a fountain of fireflies as branches in the background conjure up memories of the stag, showing how Hannibal’s influence on Will (and others) extends beyond the physical. This is one of the motifs of the third season that I love so far. As Bedlia says when they talk about Will, “You’re drawing them all to you,” just before we cut to Jack Crawford walking into the same church where Will found a broken heart. It continues to blur the line between Hannibal the man, Hannibal the Devil, and Hannibal the force of nature.
What also continues to blur is the line between what’s real and what isn’t. Hannibal has always been a surreal show, but they’ve gone even further in season three. This is the second (maybe third?) time that stories and fairy tales have been invoked this season when people have been trying to make sense of the unexplainable. This episode, Bryan Fuller fully rejects the Hannibal origin story that Thomas Harris was more or less forced to write in Hannibal Rising. Hannibal isn’t Hannibal because Nazis killed and ate his sister. He’s Hannibal because he’s Hannibal. Putting his making into a story may cause it to make some kind of sense, but it’s still a lie.
Lastly, I have to give a shout out to how damn funny this episode was. We all laughed at: “Technically, you killed him,” right? And not a soft chortle, but a deep, borderline belly laugh, right? It wasn’t just me? Oh thank God.