Hannibal Lecter is in a contemplative mood, as he finishes his composition on the harpsichord, after his near death at the hands of Will’s admirer. He is probably ordering his thoughts about Will, trying not to seem so giddy at the idea of Will orchestrating (i.e. composing) his death, as he finishes one of his own major orchestrations, the takedown of Frederick Chilton and Abel Gideon, the two major threats to his autonomy. I often wonder what we’re supposed to think Lecter is thinking about in these scenes. The fans have written a lot of words about this character but he is still mysterious enough that we have no idea what he could possibly be thinking during quiet moments like this. Lecter doesn’t often say what he is actually thinking. In fact, most of the time what he says is the exact opposite, when we do know what thoughts he’s having, so him saying something is not necessarily an indication of his thoughts.
Okay, how twee is it that Lecter owns a harpsichord? He would never be so gauche as to own a piano, I guess, choosing only the most obscure musical instruments on which to write his compositions, like the harpsichord, a kind of mini-piano with a tinier sound, and the theremin, a musical instrument you play by waving your hands at it. (The theremin is that woo-woo sound in the original Star Trek theme song.)
Jack confronts Will Graham about subletting Lecter’s death.Will just, straight up, lies to Jack’s face when he asks, which I find hilarious, for reasons known only to the Devil and Bob. Not only should you listen closely to Will’s speech patterns, during this scene, but be sure to pay close attention to his body language too, which strongly reminded me of Anthony Hopkins’ version of Hannibal from the movies. His posture is straight and still. He sounds confident, almost arrogant. This is a man who is completely at peace with any decisions he’s made and has zero fucks to give about Jack’s judgement of him. Contrast that with his behavior in the first season, when he seemed desperate to have Jack’s approval.
He tells Jack, with certainty that The Chesapeake Ripper is eating his victims and that soon Lecter will have a dinner party. Jack is still reluctant to believe any of this, until Lecter invites Jack to a dinner party that he says is his way of trying to get back to normal. At the same time, he tells Alana that he is going to emotionally distance himself from Will, he tells Jack that he can no longer consult with him on his cases. So his attempts at reformation appears to be sincere.
This time the case the forensic team is working on has almost nothing to do with the themes of this episode but has much bearing on its plot. Price’s and Zeller’s investigation of the “Tree-Man”, as I’ve taken to calling him, leads Jack to a momentous discovery. For him. Which, of course, is all part of Lecter’s design. The victim in this case has had all of his organs removed and replaced with poisonous but beautiful flowers. Lecter places his body in the middle of a parking lot, entwined with a tree.The forensic evidence from this body leads Jack to a very alive Miriam Lass, at the end of the episode.
We can see the creators of the show start to play around in the mythology of the series a little more with Will’s callback to Lecter’s behavior in the movies, Lecter joking about Census Takers, and getting his appetite back. Lecter says he’s trying to put Will in his past and that he’s given up consulting but it turns out to be a rather short lived retirement, as a couple of episodes later, we see him consulting with Jack on a case and resuming Will’s therapy, which understandably has Alana confused.
I’m not sure if Jack is beginning to be suspicious or not. He acts as if he is, or he could just be being thorough and checking off all his boxes, for both Lecter and Chilton, who both fit the profile of a serial killer.
Will warns Gideon that now that the two of them have met, and can compare notes, (because Lecter didn’t think Will would remember that he’d met Gideon at his home), his life is in danger from Lecter. And he’s right. Since Will didn’t kill Gideon like he was supposed to, the only witness Will has, about what was done to him, is Gideon, and Lecter didn’t think the two of them would ever meet. Lecter can’t see everything, it seems. Chilton overhears all of this and realizes that he too is in danger of being killed, if Lecter is the Ripper, so goes to Jack and offers to work with him to catch Lecter, saying that Will and Gideon are his witnesses.
Chilton gets some of the funniest lines, as he desperately tries not to get on Lecter’s radar, when he begins to believe Lecter is The Ripper.But its already too late for him. Lecter has something very different than killing in mind for Chilton.
Jack tries to talk to Gideon about the night Will tried to kill him, but Gideon isn’t being cooperative because he still resents Chilton for mentally manipulating him into believing he was The Chesapeake Ripper, and upending his sense of self, which still hasn’t completely returned, I think. He also inadvertently, (or Hell, maybe very advertantly), gives Will an alibi, as he insinuates that Chilton was behind the murder attempt on Lecter.
Jack and Alana discuss Will. She has noticed a distinct change in Will’s behavior since his attempt on Lecter’s life.
Will begins hallucinating antlers growing out of him again, as he takes on more and more of Lecter’s tactics. This isn’t just about putting out a hit on Lecter, its also about knowingly putting Abel Gideon’s and Chilton’s lives in danger by talking about his memories of Lecter. Later, as Will becomes more and more enmeshed in Lecter’s life, these hallucinations start to fade, but the ManStag hasn’t gone away. Will is getting desperate to catch Lecter somehow, someway, and is willing to go against all his morals to do it, playing directly into Lecter’s hands, of bringing out his true self.
Lecter goes to see Will. He’s not happy that Will tried to have him killed and subtly suggests that he might want to cut back on that kind of shit or put Alana’s life in danger. He wants Will to realize his murderous tendencies, he just just doesn’t want Will exercising those tendencies on him. Its annoying to have to keep slapping down his protege, even though he’s secretly proud of Will’s more assertive stance against him. Lecter has little patience with Passive-Will. He very much prefers Bossy-Will.
Later that evening, during Lecter’s dinner party, Gideon’s guards beat him up and he’s taken to the hospital. Lecter thought far enough ahead to know that he would need an alibi, for when Gideon disappears, which is why he puts the make on Alana that evening, and drugs her wine. After a while, its fairly obvious that Lecter doesn’t love Alana, although he seems to like her well enough. He lies to her as often as he lies to Jack. Certainly she’s useful at making him appear more normal to people. (Its not unheard of for serial killers to have wives and girlfriends, so their inability to attract women, is not the reason they kill.)
Lecter spirits Gideon out of the hospital, and uses Alana as his alibi, when Jack comes calling. Jack had come to the party but only to collect samples of Lecter’s food, which is not a very subtle way of letting someone know you think they might be a cannibal. (Yeah, that’s real low-key, Jack! He will never suspect that you suspect him of eating people!)
There follows for Gideon an especially hellish fate, not just being slowly eaten alive, limb by limb by, but being forced to participate in his own cannibalism, and knowing in advance he won’t be saved because no one knows where he is. Yet, he still manages to pour on the snark. Gideon’s not going out without some kind of fight.
This is Lecter’s grand composition. Lecter crowing to Alana that he has finished his composition is just the writers playing with us about Lecter’s plans all coming out as they should. Gideon is out of the way, Chilton will fall soon, Will’s finally getting his butt in line. Its been a long time in the making, and its almost done.
Seeing how vastly intelligent Lecter is, how can Will even hope to go up against such a creature and win? (He does win but not by being smarter than Lecter.) What Lecter has failed to master are his emotions, having had so little practice with them. The way for Will to prevail against him is not by being smarter, but by taking advantage of Lecter’s feelings and appealing tohisneed and desire for friendship. Now that he understands what it is that Lecter wants from him, he can use that to his advantage. This begins Will’s grand composition in the last part of the season.
Not only does Jack discover that Lecter’s dinner party food is not people, but an investigation of the Tree-Man, sends Jack to the abandoned farmhouse where Miriam Lass had been held hostage for the past two years.