Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Why The Season 2 Hannibal Finale Rocked Us Emotionally AND Visually


Second, HOLY HELL THAT FINALE. I know, I know, I'm super late on seeing this, but I've been busy... watching all of Seinfeld and X Files.

I wasn't too enthused about Hannibal after about mid season this year, but I'm stubborn so I pressed onward. I'm very glad I did. It only took me until the start of the opening credits to realize I wanted to do a post about it. So here I sit, Christmas Eve, glass of wine, and jaw on the floor. I was taking screenshots the entire episode, took me FOREVER to finish it. Anyway, here goes. <3

So first thing's first, this finale hit the duality of good/evil so hard on the head. All season the plot has been having this overarching discussion about good and evil and if they really exist. Everything is subjective, as Hannibal will say, but there is definitely a duality going on with Will Graham. Towards the end, Alana begins to openly reference their bizarre relationship and the conflicts it puts on their lives. The opening for the finale was SO INTENSE with duality (and shallow focus). The first thing that had me praising the cinematography gods was the use of focus on the close ups. As a film student, it was beat into my head to FOCUS ON THE EYES. They are the windows to the soul, after all. The opening scene, featuring Will, Hannibal, and Jack heavily, had an extremely shallow depth of field. We have come to expect that of James Hawkins in this series (other credits for Hawkins include Community and The Hitcher). But despite the sometimes rapid movement of actors' head positions, the focus stayed viciously on their eyes.

Somebody get on my level of excitement here? NBC is putting out a Class A drama with A List actors, an insane screenplay every episode, AND mind bending cinematography. (They've come a long way since The Jeff Foxworthy Show, am I right???) But seriously, little details like that never cease to amaze me on Hannibal. How many horror villains have we seen RUINED by TV? TOO DAMN MANY. TV is finally stepping up to bat against 3 hour dramas and not striking out.

So next, we get the duality effect I was talking about. Hannibal vs. Jack and the dueling sides of Will Graham. In a lot of ways, I feel like Hannibal and Jack are personified versions of the struggle between the two sides of Will. Here we thought we were getting a show all about Hannibal Lector and we end up with this immensely more complicated character. Will's struggle also plays as a surrogate for the audience to sympathize with Lector. You can't deny you've caught yourself with your mouth watering like Pavlov's dogs and thinking, "You know, he makes a pretty good point." As a testament to the writers and to Mads Mikkelsen, they've had this vegan craving filet during more than one episode. I'm simultaneously disgusted and drawn to Lector's moral compass, which I think is perfectly illustrated in this sequence.

For the next few scenes, we hop back and forth between real life and dream sequences. This further serves the purpose to blur the lines between the sides of Will Graham and of the viewers' divide between good and evil. Lector makes that great argument about storms being destructive, leaving you with an intense moral crisis.

The above shot is immediately followed by the shot below: bouncing back and forth flawlessly and making subconscious foreshadowings of the finale's big bang.

Next up, we have an incredible scene between Lector and Will burning the notes that Lector has kept on his patients. Lector says he is sparing his "patients the scrutiny" but they both know they are burning the notes because the biggest lead Alana and Jack have on Hannibal is the link between the Chesapeake Ripper's dead and Hannibal's house call list. (Also later, when Lector is killing Will, we get a call back reference to this scene. "Close your eyes.")

For almost all of the episode, Will and Hannibal are lit in very high contrast light, creating a duality of light on the face. But here, notice that Hannibal's key light is white and Will's key light is red. I read this as the different approaches they have to their duality. Hannibal reckons himself a sort of god and Will really toils with his 'evil' half.


Massive foreshadowing going on here (Alana later allegedly passes away in the rain). She is feeling drowned by everything and she calls out to it as a "darkness" that poisons her. Also note that the previous dream sequence was Freddie, another female character, in red facing up right and the following dream sequence is this one; Alana is inverted and surrounded by black.

Here we see more of Will in darkness, all of the light is being given to Alana's face.

And then macro shots of her blood in water aaaaand CUE DINNER SCENE. Coincidence? HELL NAW.

Above we see the only time Will is lit equally with his scene partner... and look who it is.

Oh hell yeah, then we arrive here. The SHOOT OUT. (Only figuratively, of course. Hannibal made sure to steal the bullets.) The POV of Lector we see above is an over cranked shot, showing us his physical presence in the scene. The funny thing is that earlier in the season, he tells Will a low heart rate signifies one's capacity for violence. This over cranked frame rate tells me that maybe this is where he starts to come apart. He is no longer in control of all the variables, even in his own home... even in his own KITCHEN. 

And you can't tell me it's not damn hilarious that he whacks Crawford in the face with his refrigerator door.

As we're coming up on the climax, Alana enters. BUT WAIT. She's now getting the lighting treatment Will and Hannibal have been getting for hours. She's finally being sucked in to the darkness Lector has been weaving for everyone she knows. Fitting, too, because she tries to shoot Lector but he has stolen her bullets.

We see Jack bleeding out in this shot which I found very intriguing because it seems very a la Enter the Void. 

Ah, and then we finally get Hannibal Lector in all his glory. Chaos, violence, and destruction... He's tried very hard to mask it with attractive logic and lots of existential questions, but now he has none of those luxuries. You can't argue with blood.

Also, notice he is getting top light from above... He thinks he is a god send, or perhaps just a god. But we can see the darkness on his face and the blood stains on his button down. We know he is not what he seems.

Alana's "death sequence" is just absolutely mesmerizing. (I put that in quotes because we didn't see her pronounced or buried so season finale law dictates she could still be alive). 

Oh hell, and then there's this macro shot of the falling rain drops. This is that call back I told you we would get from her drowning dream sequence. She's getting her watery, all submerged death she has had nightmares about.

And isn't this whole death sequence just beautiful? Hannibal pulling him close, making the murder as personal as possible. (and of course we get to all wonder if they're gonna kiss, like we're watching Frodo and Sam fight over lembas bread.) 

And finally, Will Graham's face is fully lit again... ear to ear.

These next few frames really got me in the gut. Lector walks out into the rain where Alana is living her worst nightmare... and he flourishes. He embraces this moral ambiguity that is killing someone he claimed to love right under his feet. She drowns and he swims to freedom.


This finale made me appreciate all the subtle (albeit sometimes boring) lulls of the show that gave us all too important context. Ladies and gentlemen, this is how you do television.

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