In some ways, Hannibal almost reads like a fan fiction version of the Hannibal and Will Graham story — without forcing its two leads into a sexual relationship, that is. The love between Hannibal and Will is so twisted, so deep, and so accurately explores relationship dynamics that it’s almost more chilling than watching an eel slide down Mason Verger’s throat, or the awful realization that there’s a human baby inside of that pig.

“Digestivo” is a total killer of an episode — it’s intense, sickening, startling, and romantic in ways that are at once both grotesque and sentimental. But before we dive into the romance, let’s talk about our time on Muskrat Farm, which I will dearly miss, though devoting one episode to the grisly horrors within was well-calculated; it’s just enough to make us want more, though if that wish were granted we might resent it.

We backtrack a bit at the outset of “Digestivo” to see just how Hannibal and Will landed on the Verger estate, while Chiyo serves as Jack’s deus ex machina (and ours, thank goodness), saving him from suffering a slaughtering staged to look like he was Hannibal’s final victim. And back at Muskrat Farm, Mason and Cordell gleefully begin setting the table for the deaths of their guests. Mason wants to perform a Face/Off operation so he can ingest Hannibal while wearing Will’s face, a concept that has its own morbidly poetic charms.

While Mason is busy self-indulgently playing with his food, Alana tries to remind him that Hannibal is always playing, whether he appears to be bested or not. Her warnings go unheeded, though, and after Margot discovers Mason’s special “surrogate,” the decision to unleash Hannibal from the pig pen comes with swift fury.

Alana’s subsequent interaction with Hannibal is…unnerving, to say the least. It is only Hannibal who can save Will now, just as it is only Hannibal who truly understands him. He promises to save Will’s life, and assures Alana that he always keeps his promises in a way that feels both like a comfort and a threat.

“They are identically different,” Jack tells Chiyo earlier in the episode when she asks if he knows Will and Hannibal, and this is perhaps the most succinct and direct way possible of describing their exquisitely complex relationship. Strip the horror and genre elements of Hannibal away, and what this series is, at its core, is an incredibly smart exploration of relationship dynamics. It is a heightened examination of co-dependency and emotional abuse, of manipulation and desperation, of seeking one’s self in the eyes of another — seeing ourselves in that which is “other.” Essentially, finding someone who is identically different.

We watch Hannibal carry Will’s limp body away from Muskrat farm in the snow, the heroic prince rescuing his damsel in distress, evocative of the moment when Hannibal Lecter carried Clarice Starling’s body out of Mason Verger’s farm in the Hannibal film. It is an overtly romantic gesture — and just last week, Hannibal was planning on slicing Will’s skull open to consume his mind, metaphorically and literally; perhaps that notion is romantic to Hannibal in its own right.

Will’s following speech to Hannibal back at his house is, essentially, a break-up speech:

Will: I’m not going to miss you. I’m not going to find you. I’m not going to look for you. I’m not going to think about you anymore. I don’t want to know where you are or what you do.

Hannibal: You delight in wickedness and then berate yourself for the delight.

Will: You delight. I tolerate. I don’t have your appetite. Goodbye, Hannibal.

It is elegant and horribly crushing in its simplicity, but as with many break-ups, that initial simplicity is merely performative. A co-dependent relationship cannot conclude by surgically removing one half from the other; there is no economical means of division. One must brutally obliterate the other, forcing them away like that familiar scene of a boy cruelly yelling at his loyal dog to go in order to save him. He will have a better life on his own, wandering alone somewhere unknown, than he would have if he stayed.

Will’s folly is proven when Jack and his team arrive to apprehend Hannibal, and although Will tells them they’re too late, Hannibal comes around the corner of the house and peacefully surrenders — “so you’ll always know where I am, and where you can always find me,” he says, as he glances over to Will.

It is a far more romantic gesture than simply carrying his wounded significant other through the snow. Is it further indicative of Hannibal’s mental imbalance? Sure, but his grisly crimes aside, the series not only holds Hannibal and Will up as reflections of one another, but as reflections of human nature; how many of us willfully commit to an act against our better judgment, against our best interests, in the pursuit of someone we love?

Hannibal’s surrender is the ultimate act of that love.

Additional Thoughts:

  • I would like to thank Bryan Fuller for his commitment to keeping Mads Mikkelsen undressed as often as possible this season. I am only human, after all. Praise hands emoji.
  • Hannibal once promised to kill Alana, and his final words to her indicate that it’s a promise he will not forget to keep — even if next week finds him in a cage.
  • Speaking of cages: Chiyo wants to use her freedom to watch over Hannibal, finding herself caught some place between what he describes as “iron and silver.” No longer considering herself a fragile, kept bird, Chiyo offers “some beasts should not be caged,” speaking of both Hannibal and herself. But what happens to Chiyo now that Hannibal has been arrested? Hmm.
  • There was really no place for it above, but I love that Fuller & Co. kept the cattle prod thing from the novels — Hannibal uses it to milk Mason’s prostate to get Margot the sperm she requires to produce an heir. Of course it was Hannibal’s idea. Of course he would know something like that. Of course.
  • Also, we saw a vial of sperm on network television. This series is really going out in style.
  • Here, let’s watch Mason’s fun eel death again: