In the realm of television season finales, Hannibal’s season two closer “Mizumono” will go down in the books as one of the most powerful displays in drama. As expected, we were brought full circle to the Jack Crawford/Hannibal Lecter fight that was so coyly shared during the opening episode. But aside from the plot and dialogue, which is always stunning, I was most impressed with the sound and lighting during the episode.
A theme I’ve become increasingly impressed with has been the recurring clock, both literal and figurative. From the clock drawings Will Graham sketched in season one to the conceptual clock that ticks as Jack attempts to capture Hannibal, the idea of time has become more important as it seems to slip away. Mizumono’s music, the work of evil mastermind Brian Reitzell, was so forceful it was as though time itself was present in the room. That near constant tick-tock-it’s-a-clock awareness of sound gave every scene an impossibly steady sense of urgency that unfolded differently for many of the characters.
For the majority of the episode, the urgency of time is indicative of a need for action. In other words, we feel like the characters are running out of time in which to complete their goals. But in Bella Crawford’s scene, the slow, dull knock of the ticking seconds serves not as a motivator for action but a reminder that there is an end for all of us. Gina Torres poignantly shatters our hearts delivering the line, “You moved my punctuation mark, Dr. Lecter. You moved my meaning.” The slow, hollow thump of the seconds passing on a clock remind us of how little time she has left to recapture her own meaning and make her final moments have value and purpose. The ticking ceases the moment her scene ends.
I was snared by the sounds of the clock as it wound tighter every second, but I was also intrigued by the portrayal of dichotomies throughout “Mizumono”. The duality of Will’s nature as an empathetic mind is the obvious example here, but Hannibal also gets some interesting attention to this quality as well. Scene lighting did a lot for this theme, often finding minute ways to change entire scenes based on the presence of light or shadow alone.
In previous episodes, Hannibal has been lit with a mixture of shadow and light. As “Mizumono” unfolds and smothers the audience, we are given close-up after close-up of Mads Mikkelsen’s (godlike) visage completely immersed in shadow. When Alana confronts him gun in hand, her face soaks up what little light is left in the room. The visual switches back to Hannibal and the only thing clearly visible is the blood on his shirt. The details of his face are lost to darkness, finally showing Alana the truth of this man as the devil he is.
Lighting speaks volumes for Will Graham in this episode as well. Up until the moment Will walks through Hannibal’s doorway in the last minutes, I think both Will and the frozen audience are unsure what he will do. We truly don’t know if Will is Hannibal’s man in the room or Jack’s. But the instant Will sees Abigail, his face is bathed in a cold light, sourced from a high point almost as though it shines down from the heavens. He has become the fallen angel, realizing too late that he can change nothing and fix nothing. Lighting from above typically gives a scene quite an ethereal feel, but because this beam was given a cold, bluish tint it becomes rather more sorrowful than angelic. It’s not the light of goodness but the sad, dying light of loss and despair.
To touch briefly on the acting, I have to put it out there that Hugh Dancy’s delivery in the last minutes of the finale alone deserves an award. If Judi Dench can win an Oscar for 8 minutes of screen time in Shakespeare in Love, Hugh Dancy can and should win an Emmy. His seasons-long performance of the flawed and lost Will Graham has left my heart in so many pieces on the ground that I am certain even superglue won’t fix it. He breathes emotion into small moments with just a glance, just a twitch in his jaw that hints at the turmoil underneath. The gasp of pain when Hannibal guts him, the inhuman wail he utters when Hannibal slits Abigail’s throat—those moments will cause a mental breakdown in anyone who watches them. I used to think Ewan McGregor’s cries at the end of Moulin Rouge gave me the most painful emotions I’d ever felt while watching a film. Then I witnessed Hugh Dancy in “Mizumono” and I’m certain I have never felt such gut-wrenching (sorry) pain in my own life before.
Mads Mikkelsen, who I will always regard as the most nuanced actor I’ve ever watched, is equally as powerful in his performance as Dr. Hannibal Lecter. A much-voiced opinion in the aftermath of Mizumono was that any reservations fans might have had about Mads taking on Anthony Hopkins’ iconic role have at long last been smashed into bits. To be able to take one of the most well recognized performances in the history of cinema and completely revolutionize and harness it is no small task.
These two gentlemen are the soul of this show, and a massive reason why fans continue to watch week to week. Their total surrender to the roles of Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter makes each episode compelling. We care about these characters; we care about their fate and their well-being, their dreams and hopes. We want to see them survive. So much can be written in a script, but it takes an artist to bring it to life. These individuals are able to convey depth and pain and the beauty of the human condition in a show about a cannibalistic serial killer, and I can only respond by tearfully handing them every television award known to man. Some people are born to do certain things. Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen were born to play these roles. When season three raises the curtain on another brilliant set of stories, I guarantee you will see art in every frame.
written by Taylor Walker