I originally wrote the following as a sort of “preface” to my forthcoming reviews of the first three episodes of Hannibal’s second season. Since it’s nearly a thousand words long I thought it might work better as a standalone post.
Those reading these reviews as they’re published probably don’t need this, but it might come in handy for future readers. Also, it helped me get everything straight in my head.
Reviews of Hannibal’s second season start next week.
The story so far…
Will Graham has an unusual mental disorder: he possesses “perfect empathy,” an ability that serves him well in his career as criminal profiler and psychology instructor at the FBI Training Academy.
Special Agent Jack Crawford, head of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit (or BAU), calls upon Will to help profile and catch a serial killer dubbed the “Minnesota Shrike” by the press. Graham agrees, but since many consider him emotionally unstable, Jack also decides to assign a psychiatrist to Will, to monitor his mental state and serve as a source of stability. Crawford’s first choice is Will’s friend and associate Dr. Alana Bloom. Alana declines, citing her personal interest in Will; she also suggests that Jack approach her university mentor, Dr. Hannibal Lecter, for the task. Dr. Lecter agrees, and travels with Will and Jack to Minnesota.
Not too long after the BAU’s arrival, the Shrike appears to strike again, the victim being a young woman named Cassie Boyle. However, Will dismisses the killing as the work of a copycat. He soon identifies construction worker Garret Jacob Hobbs as the likely perpetrator of the Shrike’s killings. However, before the BAU can apprehend Hobbs, Hannibal (for reasons yet unknown) secretly tips him off. When Will arrives at the Hobbs home to arrest him, he’s already killed his wife and is about to kill his daughter Abigail. Will shoots and kills Hobbs to prevent him from killing Abigail.
Will and Hannibal join Jack at the BAU. Will, Alana and Hannibal become closer to Abigail; they all feel responsible for her in one way or another. Yet Jack becomes convinced that Abigail knew more about the Shrike murders than she let on, perhaps even being complicit in them. When the BAU team returns to Minnesota, the Shrike copycat strikes again, killing Abigail’s friend Melissa Schuur.
Cassie Boyle’s brother Nicholas believes Abigail complicit in the Shrike murders; Abigail accidentally kills him during a confrontation. Hannibal helps her hide the body, convincing her it’s not a clear case of self-defense.
Will and Hannibal continue to work with the BAU, and investigate a long-running string of murders attributed to the so-called “Chesapeake Ripper.”
What nobody yet knows is that Hannibal Lecter is the Ripper, a highly intelligent, psychopathic serial killer. He’s also a gourmand who takes the organs of his victims, cooks said organs and eats them…as well as serving them to his acquaintances and associates at lavish dinner parties.
Will’s mental state gradually deteriorates, and he begins to suffer from headaches, hallucinations and blackouts. While most assume it’s the result of stress caused by work…
…the truth is that Will has contracted encephalitis. Even Will is unaware of the truth; the only person who knows is Hannibal, who’s deliberately keeping the illness a secret. To this end, he murders Dr. Sutcliffe, a neurologist to whom he referred Will.
Will’s condition worsens and he begins to suffer from seizures. Lecter uses his addled state to attempt to manipulate him into killing again by placing Alana’s life in danger.
Later, Lecter kills Georgia Madchen, a mentally disturbed woman who might be able to identify him as Dr. Sutcliffe’s murderer. Will and Abigail return to Minnesota, where she confides him that she was complicit in the Shrike murders, acting as bait for her father. Will begins to experience a psychotic episode and emerges from a blackout in Virginia. Abigail isn’t with him, and he doesn’t know where she is.
What he doesn’t know is that, back in Minnesota, Abigain ran away from him during his episode, thinking he meant her harm. She later encountered Lecter, who apparently killed her.
Days later, Will vomits up a severed ear. Unsure of what’s going on, he contacts Hannibal, who in turn contacts Jack. The FBI takes Will into custody and search his home. Will is an avid angler, and the crime scene investigators find fly lures crafted from human remains in his collection. Crime scene investigators identify the remains as belonging to Cassie Boyle, Melissa Schuur, Dr. Sutcliffe, Georgia Madchen and Abigail Hobbs. The ear, similarly, belonged to Abigail. Jack arrests Will, who briefly escapes and visits Hannibal.
Will soon comes to a realization: Hannibal Lecter is responsible for the five murders, and framed Will for them; he’s also the Chesapeake Ripper. Will attempts to shoot Lecter, but Jack shoots and wounds Will first, and takes him back into custody.
Season one ends with Dr. Lecter visiting Will, incarcerated at the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, where he awaits trial.
Additional dramatis personae
Beverly Katz is the BAU’s lead crime scene investigator. Her assistants are Jimmy Price and Brian “Z” Zeller.
Fredericka “Freddie” Lounds is a journalist and blogger whose website, tattlecrime.com, specializes in tabloid reporting. She thinks Will is insane and capable of murder.
Dr. Frederick Chilton is the haughty and arrogant administrator of the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. His treatment methods are unconventional at best, unethical and dangerous at worst: his incompetent treatment of Abel Gideon (see below) led to the murder of a nurse at the hospital.
Dr. Abel Gideon is an inmate under Dr. Chilton’s care. A former surgeon, he was originally incarcerated for murdering his wife and children, but Chilton ultimately became convinced that Gideon was the Chesapeake Ripper. He wasn’t, but Chilton inadvertently brainwashed him into believing he was. He briefly escaped custody and attacked Chilton before being captured.
Dr. Bedelia du Maurier is Lecter’s psychiatrist. Several years ago, a former patient attacked her. Hannibal saved her life, but the exact circumstances of the attack are unknown. Hannibal fascinates her, but she also distrusts him and might be afraid of him.
Jack Crawford’s wife Bella works for the State Department. She’s dying of lung cancer; she’s been seeing Dr. Lecter, who’s been helping her come to terms with her mortality.
Two years ago, Miriam Lass was an FBI trainee assigned to the Ripper case by Jack. She discovered that Lecter was the Ripper and he killed her.
The Black Stag is how Will’s imagination symbolized the Shrike copycat before he realized Lecter was responsible. It’s huge and its entire body, including its antlers, is black. It has raven feathers around its neck. Will now imagines Hannibal similarly, as the Stag-Man, with a black body and antlers.