The second season of Hannibal ended in grisly, although not entirely satisfying fashion on Friday night. Hannibal Lecter was exposed and as a result went on a not-quite killing spree, rather leaving four people for dead in his house while he simply dashed off into the nighttime rain, in typical Hannibal-esque slow motion aesthetic.
The second season as a whole remained similar to the show it was last year, with the same loose plotting (in terms of its season long arcs), metaphorical speeches and mystifying dialogue exchanges (boy, if you liked True Detective's allegorical talkiness, try this one on for size). As such it was also at turns mesmerizing, beautifully put together (the art direction is its own character on this show) and well acted by every member of its relatively small cast. Still, as much as I enjoy Hannibal, there are always twists in the storytelling I'm at any moment struggling to understand, although I'm willing to admit that may be the point.
The first half of the second season saw Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) locked up in the mental asylum for being the Chesapeake Ripper, a scenario that Hannibal himself saw to at the end of last year. Although Will knows that it's really Dr. Lecter who's behind the murders, no one else believes him, at least not for a while. The amount of time that Will spent incarcerated this year essentially saw him exchanging those long talks with several people, including Hannibal, Jack Crawford (the always excellent Laurence Fishburne) and Alana Bloom, while we occasionally still got the crazed killer of the week episodes, with Hannibal filling Will's role as psycho-analyst for the FBI. The best part of these episodes turned out to be the increased presence of psychiatrist Dr. Chilton (Raul Esparza), who provided a much needed dose of humor in his delightfully smug character, but sadly we were deprived of him halfway through the season when Will is revealed to be innocent and Hannibal needs a new patsy for his crimes. If you know the books though, you know that he'll be back, and I can't wait until he is.
Just when Will's prison stay was turning tedious however, he was released and began to plot a season ending arc to trap Hannibal into revealing himself. This was presumably a carefully constructed plan, and it's eventually revealed to have included Jack Crawford and Freddie Lounds, but this entire story line turned out to be my biggest problem with the season this year. I can tolerate only so many plot holes, and on a show like this, where the plot is often less important than the atmosphere, mood and dialogue, I extend my tolerance even further. But in this case I wanted and felt like I deserved, to know a little bit more. When it's revealed that Jack is in on Will's plan, it is never explained how long he's been in on it, and how on earth Will managed to convince him that Hannibal was the killer. What we'd seen of Jack all season showed us that he was firmly convinced of the opposite in fact, and up until the last moment of the season he has not been shown one piece of evidence that links Hannibal incontrovertibly to the murders, yet he's now so convinced that the climactic showdown between himself and Lecter, which we were shown at the beginning of the season, apparently takes place because Jack walks in and starts it, and only because the FBI is about to shut down his entrapment plan and arrest him. I really needed to know more about what happened behind the scenes that led to those events. The same thing occurred with Freddie Lounds, whose death was faked for Hannibal's benefit, yet we're never shown how Will and Jack brought her into their plan either.
The back half of the season preferred to spend its time with Will and Hannibal instead, where the two of them fall into each other's heads ever more so, reduced at some point to speaking only in metaphors with each other (like the plot holes, I can only take so much of that as well- after a certain point, enthralling becomes maddening), and apparently intended to make us believe that Will doesn't know what he's doing, that he's falling under Hannibal's spell, that he might really love Hannibal after all and want to stay his friend. But I never bought that for one single second. After Hannibal framed Will for murder, made him think he was insane, killed Beverly Katz at the beginning of the season and killed his surrogate daughter figure Abigail last year (who was revealed in the finale to still be alive, only for Hannibal to slit her throat in front of Will), and crucially, knowing that Bryan Fuller intends to follow the books here, I was never dubious about Will's intentions. I just couldn't believe that there was a danger of him allowing himself to get caught up in Hannibal's head, no matter how talented a shrink Dr. Lecter is. As such, I wanted to know more about the actual plan in play, and was a bit frustrated by all the supposed psychological manipulations going on.
The other subplot being played out in the second half of the season centered on the introduction of Fuller's backstory for the Verger siblings, characters from the books that were brought in early to show their victimization at the hands of Hannibal. The psychotic Mason Verger, in particular, was played by Michael Pitt (the late Jimmy Darmody on Boardwalk Empire) in grotesquely over the top fashion- he seemed to be channeling Heath Ledger's Joker performance in mannerisms and voice actually, which proved to be a highly entertaining contrast to the subtle and understated acting style of almost every other cast member. Hannibal himself continues to be portrayed in an eery and magnetic turn by Mads Mikkelson, whose very presence is authoritative, threatening and enticing in every scene- everything they give him to do he plays with charisma and a sense of calm, emotionless narcissism. He's a great Hannibal Lecter who I can't wait to see on the run next season, which is the premise that the finale set up, leading to what will be according to Fuller, in many ways a brand new "pilot" as a premiere when the show comes back next winter.
Hannibal remains a mysterious, absorbing, macabre piece of horror fiction, also pretty much unlike anything else on TV right now. I'd just prefer a little side of clarity to go along with those helpings of gore and metaphors next season.