What is the job of a good therapist? Is it to cure a patient, or to help him recognize his inner self and embrace it fully, even if that inner self is a sadistic, angry killer? Hannibal Lecter may encourage his patients to follow their basest instincts, but perhaps a man being true to his own nature is the best treatment of all.
Will Graham is still dreaming of revenge on Hannibal, and it's more and more complex. Sending a hospital orderly to kill the doctor was one thing. But tying him to a tree and having a stag pull the ropes tighter and tighter around Hannibal's neck until it explodes in a geyser of blood? That will wake a guy right up.
Jack Crawford is still accepting Hannibal's invitations to dinner, and Hannibal is still serving him mystery meat. Has Jack resolved all his doubts about the psychiatrist? Because he really shouldn't.
At a lonely truck stop, a trucker climbs into his rig, ready to resume his long drive. A thump shakes his entire truck. What the...? He gets out and slowly walks the length of the trailer, shining a light underneath it, trying to find the source of the thump. He walks back to the cab, looks up... and with a heart-freezing howl, something pulls him on top of the truck and begins tearing him apart. Blood runs down the windows and splashes onto the snow.
Will continues his therapy with Dr. Lecter, Killer Psychiatrist. Will is riddled with regrets. Who isn't? Lost loves, career paths not taken. What is Will's regret? Oh, Hannibal didn't let him shoot Clark Ingram in cold blood. Will feels he missed an opportunity, so Hannibal has him imagine following through and shooting the man. It gives Will a powerful feeling. Hannibal tells him to remember that feeling.
Walking out of his session, Will bumps into Margot Verger, who recognizes the look on his face as one she usually has when she leaves Hannibal's office. Margot is still trying to figure out what kind of psychiatrist Hannibal is, but she's definitely getting the sense he is unconventional. Probably his encouraging her to murder her abusive brother was her first clue.
The Behavioral Sciences team, along with Will and Hannibal, is on the scene of the truck driver's murder. The body has been torn apart and left on top of the truck's cab. The team is sure it is some sort of animal killing, but they are also sure there is a man holding the leash and directing the animal to kill. The animal didn't eat the victim at least. Come on, it's not as if it is a sociopathic psychiatrist.
Will takes pictures of the victim to Peter Bernardone, the animal expert who now appears to be in a prison hospital. Some of the pictures are from animal mutilations near where the trucker was killed. Jeremy looks at the photos and says some killings were from a bear and some from a wolf. So the killer is keeping a menagerie of killer animals?
Well, no. The killer is in his workshop making a mechanical, pneumatic-powered jaw with some very, very sharp teeth. Apparently even nature couldn't create a powerful enough killing machine for this guy.
A young couple in party clothes goes for a walk in the snow. They pause by a fire and kiss. It's a sweet little scene, interrupted by our killer wearing his pneumatic animal jaw attacking. He rips the couple apart, dismembering them and scattering their limbs around.
Will and Jack examine the murder scene. Will has figured out that the killer is not an animal being directed by a man, but a man himself. How could psychosis like this slip through the system? It didn't, Will explains. "He tamed it, made a suit out of it... He's a student of predators." One thing is for sure: he's going to kill again.
Jack's team identifies the type of animal that has been killing people as a cave bear. Which is strange, since cave bears are vegetarians. Rather, they were vegetarians before the species went extinct 28,000 years ago. And even if they were alive, the force of the bites that caused the victims' wounds could not have been generated by a regular cave bear's jaw. However, if the jaw was powered by some sort of pneumatic device...
Hannibal suggests the killer has some sort of species dysphoria. In other words, he has a sense of being in the wrong species' body and desires to be an animal. Conveniently, Hannibal once had such a patient, because of course he did. It was years ago, and the patient was a teenager. So he'd be a grown man now. And of course Hannibal knows how to find him before the FBI does.
The young man, Randall, works for the Natural History Museum, where he puts together the skeletons of long-dead animals with very large, very sharp teeth. Hannibal pays him a visit, telling Randall that a psychiatrist's job is to set a patient on a path and wonder where that path will take him. Now Hannibal wants to talk to him about his "wonderful progress." He has seen Randall's work and is happy that the young man has embraced his own nature. But of course the authorities are looking for him, so Hannibal tells Randall, "It is important you do exactly as I say." Treating patients, encouraging them to brutally kill other people, helping them get away... Hannibal Lecter is a full-service therapist.
Jack and Will also pay Randall a visit. They have a little less luck with getting him to confess.
Will gets a visitor of his own - Margot Verger. Over glasses of whiskey, she asks him for a "character reference" on Hannibal Lecter. Which is a weird question for Will, since as he admits to her, he tried to murder the doctor. So perhaps any character reference should be taken with a grain of salt.
In another session, Will tells Hannibal he met Randall, and he thinks the therapist's treatment of the young man was successful. Though it's obvious that Will knows Hannibal's definition of successful treatment is not exactly conventional. He also mentions that Hannibal's own therapist had visited Will in prison. For once, the doctor seems unsettled by this news. The head games between the two men continue...
Hannibal stands in the woods outside Will's house. He has brought along a guest... Randall, dressed in his pneumatic animal suit. Will's dogs can sense him and are going crazy inside. One of them, Buster, gets loose and goes dashing across the snow towards the woods. Hearing him give a cry of pain, Will grabs a shotgun and goes after him. He finds Buster, wounded, lying on his side in the snow. Will scoops him up, and as he does, Buster growls at something nearby. Will senses it too... something is in the woods with him.
Holding the dog, Will dashes for the house. He puts the dog down, turns out all the lights and faces the door, holding his shotgun at the ready. A window shatters as Randall jumps through, intent on finishing his hunt...
Hannibal returns home and opens the door to his dining room. Will is there. He has laid Randall's body on the table. Come on, Will... Hannibal usually cuts up the bodies before he serves them. Half the joy of cooking is in the presentation.
"I think this makes us even," Will tells the doctor. Hannibal nods once in acknowledgment. What a relief that this whole sending-crazy-people-to-kill-each-other saga is behind them!
At least for the moment...
Margot Verger seeks out Will as she tries to understand Hannibal. The FBI searches for an animalistic killer who tears his victims' bodies apart.