The Hannibal season two premiere dives immediately into battle. The episode opens to a physical confrontation between two major characters set a few weeks into the future, then backtracks to the mistrust and manipulation that leads there.
With their brilliant coworker and troubled friend Will Graham locked away in a psychiatric institution and suspected for multiple murders, each of the show’s other characters is wondering if they can trust their own perception — or anyone else’s. The self doubt that plagued Graham’s mind last season is the current reality for the FBI.
Similarly, Hannibal Lecter finds himself in Graham’s shoes this season. Special agent Beverly Katz declares him “the new Will Graham,” and when we see him next he’s at a crime scene interpreting the few traces left behind. Lecter fluctuates between clearly feeling the loss of his only friend and suppressing a certain giddiness at managing to shift the blame onto Graham and away from himself.
Though to say everything is running smoothly for Lecter would be an exaggeration. Graham is determined to tell everyone, whether they’re listening or not, that Lecter is responsible for every gruesome detail. Even without Graham’s help, others do not appear to be completely sold on his innocence. Katz is tense during their interactions and despite her support of Graham she does not look convinced. Similarly Bedelia Du Maurier, Lecter’s own psychiatrist, is becoming increasingly unsettled by Lecter’s presence. For the first time in the series there is anxiety surfacing and a reluctance to continue covering Lecter’s tracks. It’s a substantial change from the flirtation between them at the end of the first season. Du Maurier may be developing a new sense of morality, or perhaps Hannibal is getting worse at disguising his lack there of.
As for Graham himself, it is obvious he has not fully recovered his clarity. A substantial amount of screen time is spent adrift in his imagination. Whether this is because he is trying to envision a world beyond his small cell, or because his brain is still suffering from the effects of inflammation remains ambiguous. This is where the most beautiful and unsettling imagery, which Hannibal is known for, comes in. The black stag man makes multiple appearances, foreshadowing even more violence and danger for Graham in the near future. Despite this, fragmented memories are starting to return to him. It’s only a matter of time before he’s got the full picture and can envision a way to lock Lecter up in his place.