In prison and on trial for his life, Will Graham has nothing to lose. Still, playing a chess match against a brutal serial killer is a dangerous way to earn his freedom... not only for him but also for his friends and colleagues. If he doesn't want more deaths on his conscience, he'll need a foolproof plan...
Somewhere in a prison, the hands of a clock run backwards. Will Graham, stone-faced and clad in a suit, throws a switch. Electricity flows to a nearby electric chair occupied by... Will Graham, head shaved and wearing a prison uniform. Suit-clad Will watches as his doppelganger in the chair writhes and thrashes, ghostly white smoke rising from his body. Nearby, a voice says, "Mr. Graham, it's time..."
Will opens his eyes. He is still in the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, lying on the bunk in his cell. An orderly stands nearby, holding a suit. It is the first day of Will's trial for murder.
In the courtroom, Will listens to the prosecutor lay out the charges against him, ticking off the names of his alleged victims while showing pictures of their death scenes: Cassie Boyle, impaled on antlers in a field; Marissa Schurr, impaled on a wall of antlers in Garrett Jacob Hobbs's hunting cabin; Georgia Madchen, burned alive in an oxygen chamber in the hospital. It's a horrible montage of very creative staging, like performance art from the world's most sadistic theater director.
Hannibal Lecter sits in the audience in the courtroom, listening to the presentation and occasionally glancing in Will's direction. Will's face might betray the pain he is feeling over being accused of killing all these women, but Hannibal is his usual impassive self. The sight of all this horror does not seem to bother him in the least. Maybe it is because he is mostly concerned about his friend Will. Or maybe because he's a sociopath. Though he does allow himself a small, knowing smile when the prosecutor describes Will as "the smartest person in this room." Even sociopaths have egos.
Jack Crawford nervously paces the hallway outside the courtroom, awaiting his turn to testify. He's visited by Kade Prurnell, the agent from the FBI's Oversight Office who has been tasked with investigating how Will became such an integral part of Crawford's team in the Behavioral Sciences Unit. It is clear from the conversation that Jack is still struggling to believe that Will is really a killer. Prurnell makes clear that she believes it and that Will is a cold-blooded sociopath playing a game. "That's why you're a witness for the prosecution," she says. "If you can't represent your own beliefs, represent the Bureau's." This is why Prurnell is here in the first place: to clean up this investigation, pin these murders on Will and assure everyone that a crazed killer is no longer roaming free. The question is, will Jack play along, sacrificing Will to save his own career?
He will not. During his testimony, Jack suddenly begins arguing with the prosecutor, admitting he had been warned that he could break Will if he pushed him too hard, but he went ahead and pushed anyway. And now Will is broken, perhaps insane. This is great news for his defense, and afterwards, Will's lawyer, Brauer, is ecstatic. As he lectures Will on the law not always being about the truth but rather about creating a perception, a courier brings him a piece of mail. Still talking, the lawyer opens the envelope and empties it onto the table. A severed human ear falls out. Will and Brauer stare at it, shocked. "I think I opened your mail," the lawyer says.
Will must have an admirer, and he thinks he knows who it is. But to tell anyone would reveal the game he's playing to get Hannibal to expose himself. Meanwhile, the FBI and the prosecutor have a new problem. Is there another killer on the loose? And where did this ear come from? Jack's team in the Behavioral Sciences Unit quickly determines that the ear was cut off a corpse using the knife Will allegedly used to hack off Abigail Hobbs' ear before eating it. That knife was checked out of the evidence room at the courthouse by a bailiff from Will's trial and never returned. Jack leads a team of FBI agents to the bailiff's home and watches as the agents break down the door. But someone has booby-trapped the house. A homemade bomb explodes, sending flames shooting from the building.
When the fire has been put out, Jack and his team find the body of the bailiff in the house, impaled on a set of antlers, just like Will was accused of impaling Cassie Boyle. But beyond having a new killing to solve, Hannibal asks the big question on his mind: What does this mean for Will's defense?
Hannibal takes the evidence in the bailiff's murder to Will to get his take, and Will finds a difference between the bailiff's death and the earlier killings: the bailiff's ear was cut off after his death while the girls Will is accused of killing were mutilated before they died. "It's not the same killer," Will says. He adds that Hannibal knew that already. The doctor is chagrined. He wanted everyone to think the bailiff's killer was the same person who committed the murders of which Will is accused and get Will freed from prison. "I wanted to dispel your doubts about me," he says, casting a big set of puppy dog eyes at Will. "I wanted you to believe in the best of me, as I believe in the best of you."
Sociopaths are so manipulative.
Despite the weakness in the theory, Brauer tries a new defense. Instead of claiming Will was temporarily insane at the time of the murders, he puts Hannibal on the stand to try and convince the judge of this new theory that the killer of the bailiff and the girls is one and the same. The judge listens to Hannibal and decides that he won't allow Brauer and Will to change up the defense mid-trial. Which is too bad... for the judge. But he's not going to get a chance to rethink his decision...
A janitor is waxing the courthouse floor when he walks into the empty courtroom. Strung up in the middle of the room is the body of the judge. His head has been peeled open like a piece of fruit, the skin pulled down to cover his eyes. A scale holding the judge's brain and heart is attached to his raised left hand. "Not only is justice blind, it's mindless and heartless," Hannibal observes when he sees the body. Sociopaths are so philisophical.
Alana Bloom sits with Will in a meeting room at the BHCI. Alana had hoped that a verdict in the case, one way or the other, would help Will focus on getting better. But now that process can't start for a while longer. So what now? Will thinks the killer will reach out to him again. "He wants to know me," he says with a hint of disgust. Staring at Alana, he asks, "What do you want?"
She thinks for a moment and says, "I want to save you." They stare at each other. Maybe she does have more than a professional curiosity about Will after all. He reaches over and takes her hand, and they sit like that, two people finding a moment of calm in a raging storm.
As Will's murder trial begins, a copycat killer sends a gruesome message. Jack is under pressure to wrap up Will's case while Hannibal hopes for his friend's exoneration.