[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers from Friday's episode of Hannibal. Read at your own risk.]
Will Graham, what have you done!?
On Friday's Hannibal, it was pretty hard to tell supposed good guy Will (Hugh Dancy) from his evil, manipulative puppet master Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen). In fact, the episode's creepy closing shot implied the two are now almost one in the same.
I honestly couldn't believe what I was watching Will do in this episode. Is his transformation to psycho complete or is there more to come?
Bryan Fuller: Oh, it gets worse. [Laughs] After Hannibal meticulously framed Chilton as the Chesapeake Ripper, we knew Will was going to have to change tactics to catch Hannibal Lecter. In Episode 9, we get the feeling that Will is struggling with the beast inside him that Hannibal has been feeding. So, we knew if we started that descent, we needed to keep going. When you have Will take a life in self-defense, it is not necessarily a psychotic move because he's trying to preserve his own life. The idea of him taking a life had to be the next step.
Exclusive Hannibal video: Go inside the deliciously twisted mind of creator Bryan Fuller
But he seems to be enjoying the killing. Is he still playing the long con?
Fuller: In order to really seduce Hannibal and also blur the lines between who Will is and what he needs to become in order to catch Hannibal, he's sacrificing his humanity in some ways to get the truth. Up until the end of Episode 10, Hannibal has said nothing that is actionable and has not been demonstrative in any way with his own murders. He's not going to put himself out there until Will makes it a safe bet. We needed Will to take a life. And of all the characters Will might want to kill, Freddie was the first one to get what was coming to her in Will's mind.
Are Will and Hannibal definitely eating Freddie? I was hoping otherwise until Will referred to the meet as longpig, which is a phrase I wasn't familiar with.
Fuller: [Laughs] I guess you're not hanging around the right cannibals.
So, in your mind that makes it clear what Will has done to Freddie?
Fuller: It's pretty clear. Will has gone to the dark side and we should be fearing for him. It is very much a slippery slope for Will Graham because he is taking lives and that changes the way you think and interact with the world. We set up the theme of rebirth in Episode 8, and in 10 and 11 we're very much exploring the child that has been born out of this unholy union between Hannibal and Will. How are they going to foster and feed it?
Who came up with "slice the ginger"?
Fuller: [Laughs] That came out of the writers' room. I believe it was [episode author] Steve Lightfoot who coined that. It's a fun one.
Maybe my struggle is with how quickly this change is happening in Will. Is Hannibal at all suspicious that Will is playing him, or does he think this is the natural progression for Will's "therapy"?
Fuller: This seals the deal [for Hannibal]. It's such a huge move for Will and it is very convincing and effective. He took the biggest, most important step in that descent, and we wanted to make sure Will is in psychic danger of completely losing himself to Hannibal Lecter.
Where does Jack land in all of this? Does he buy Will's flimsy defense for why Freddie went missing near Will's house?
Fuller: I would challenge the audience to look closer and not mistake Jack Crawford's restraint as cluelessness. He is a man who is listening to the opinions of everybody around him and yet offering nothing of what he's thinking. Jack has been very close to the vest with how he has been interacting with Hannibal and Will since Episode 7. There is a sense of he knows more than he is letting on to the audience or other characters. And I would say that is true to the spirit of an FBI agent: They don't volunteer information; they ask questions.
I was relieved that Freddie was smart enough to call Jack, although she probably should have done so before going out there alone.
Fuller: I found it kind of fun that she was as scrappy as she was. She's doing everything you would do as a smart person in that scenario, yet it's terrifying. I found this episode went a long way in making Freddie likable. You root for her. So, when she dies, you go, "Well, goddammit, I was just starting to like her."
Let's talk about that "foursome." That has to be the weirdest sex scene I've seen on TV in some time.
Fuller: I wanted to have a Dead Ringers moment where you have two Jeremy Irons flanking Geneviève Bujold. And I wanted to have this triangle between two heterosexual men who are getting so intimate with each other, but because they're heterosexual, they have to make love via proxy. I wanted Alana to be kissing Hannibal and the camera would follow her as she turned her head and she'd be kissing Will all in a single shot. The lines between the two sex scenes would blur. Our director, Vincenzo Natali, came to me a day before and said, 'Can I put the Stag-Man in there or is that too weird?' I said, '[Deadpans] Not too weird. Do it.' [Laughs]
What did you want it to mean for the characters?
Fuller: I felt like it was an interesting opportunity for us to reestablish that Will was still pining for Alana [Caroline Dhavernas]. Even though he was having sex with Margot [Katherine Isabelle], he was still fantasizing that he was having sex with Alana. Intercutting that with Alana having sex with Hannibal, and the lines between those two sex scenes blurring so Hannibal and Will would be sharing a bed together, felt like it was representative of where we were psychologically with these three characters. Even though it's primarily in Will's head, it felt like it was where the characters needed to be to express the disturbing quality of their relationships.
What is behind Margo's attraction to Will?
Fuller: She sees herself in Will and Will seems himself in her. We have two characters who are in similar situations finding themselves in need of a friend that is not Hannibal because neither of them trust that guy. With Margo and Will, there's a trust. These are two characters who are keeping each other's confidence from Hannibal.
We finally met Michael Pitt's Mason Verger in this episode. How did you approach creating that character?
Fuller: We wanted him to be the Joker to Hannibal Lecter's Batman. With Michael Pitt, I found his take on Mason to be charming and despicable, and yet I liked him as a person. And I needed to like Mason in order to write him because I didn't want to necessarily write the character in the book who raped his sister repeatedly her entire life. I can't get excited about sitting down and writing that character if that's the core of him. So, we changed his pedophilia and serial raping into a general sadism and curiosity of mankind that could more closely parallel Hannibal's curiosity with mankind. Mason is constantly introducing choices for the people that he manipulates that hold a little more curiosity. He loves to push buttons and see how people will react to various stimuli in their lives.
The antagonism between Mason and Hannibal was almost instantaneous. Will you tell the story of their relationship fully this season, or do you expect to see Mason back in Season 3?
Fuller: The story line with Margot and Mason and Will and Hannibal crescendos in Episode 11, and it leaves way for Mason and Will and Hannibal to deal with each other more directly. These characters are outside of the psychobabble world that we're usually contained in and give us this — I was going to say breath of fresh air, but it's not exactly fresh; it's rotten — different energy for the second half of the season. We will deliver how Gary Oldman ended up looking the way he did in the Ridley Scott movie playing Mason Verger, but I would love, love, love to have more of Michael Pitt and Mason Verger in Season 3.
What did you think of the episode?
Hannibal airs Fridays at 10/9c on NBC. Catch up on past episodes here.