If a psychiatrist and his patient spend entire sessions plotting to kill and eat people, can it still truly be called therapy? Or is it more of a pitch session for a bizarro-world version of "Iron Chef"? Whatever you call it, that is where Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham are now as they discuss Will's treachery in revealing to Mason Verger the doctor's intention to see him killed. Will is now playing Hannibal as hard as Hannibal has played him, like a chess match where the stakes are your life.
Hannibal has Will try an exercise where the FBI profiler closes his eyes and imagines what he would like to see happen to Hannibal in his war with Mason. Will imagines Lecter, bound in a straitjacket and dangling from a wire over the pigpen in Mason's barn. Will raises a knife and cuts Hannibal's throat. As blood sprays all over both men, they stare into each other's eyes while Hannibal is slowly lowered into the pen to become the pigs' next meal. These little piggies don't need to go to market - the food comes to them.
If anything can get under Hannibal's skin, it's a therapy session with Mason Verger, who is critiquing Hannibal's sketches as either good or garbage. Then he plops into Hannibal's chair and puts his feet on the desk. Oh, Mason. If only you knew Hannibal's policy of eating the rude.
Mason pulls out his father's pocketknife. Hannibal has a letter opener up his sleeve; in case Mason takes the opportunity to attack him, this nice office could become an abattoir pretty fast. Mason sits in an armchair and, as he gets worked up, stabs his knife over and over into the upholstery. Hannibal closes his eyes to compose himself.
Margot Verger is still recovering from the car accident and the hysterectomy Mason had performed on her. She is broken, defeated. Mason has taken everything from her and shown her the consequences of trying to break free of him. Which is just another strike against Mason for Hannibal and Will. That is, depending on what game Will is playing. Because who can be sure?
Even Jack Crawford isn't sure. In his office, he and Will discuss their plan to bring down Hannibal. Jack is frustrated at how long it is taking, but Will insists the doctor has given him nothing actionable, just "vagaries," and you can't arrest a guy on vague evidence. Still, the FBI might have an ace in the hole. Jack leads Will to an interrogation room. There, pacing around a table, is Dr. Bedelia du Maurier, Hannibal's psychiatrist, who went into hiding because she was convinced the doctor was dangerous. Hannibal has not pursued her (he's been busy) but it's tough to hide from the FBI.
Bedelia makes clear to Will how terrified she is of Hannibal, how she feels she was under his influence when she was treating him. She confesses to having killed a patient, somewhat in self-defense, but mostly it was murder. Hannibal had persuaded her that killing the patient was her only choice. "He'll persuade you to kill someone, and it will be someone you love," she tells Will. Watch out, Will's doggies...
Bedelia also has harsh words for Jack, telling him only Hannibal is in control of what is happening, and if Jack thinks otherwise it is only because Hannibal allows it. But Hannibal doesn't know about Bedelia's return, and he doesn't know that Will is still working with the FBI to catch him. Or at least pretending to.
You would think Hannibal would have an inkling of how much Will hates him, since he has taken away everything Will bonds with or loves - Alana Bloom, Abigail Hobbs, Jack Crawford, Will's unborn child. Hannibal has gotten to anything that threatened to take Will away from him. "You're fostering co-dependency," Will tells him. Yep, weirdest doctor-patient relationship ever.
Hannibal is seated at his desk, sketching. His office door swings open. Carlo and a couple of henchmen enter. They tell Hannibal that Mason would like his company. When the men try to subdue Hannibal, he stabs one in the leg, slicing an artery. Carlo nails him with a stun gun. He passes out as the injured thug bleeds to death on his floor. Those stains are going to be tough to get out of the carpet, but Hannibal's had practice.
When Hannibal wakes up, he is bound in a straitjacket, suspended over the pigpen in Mason Verger's barn. Mason brings Will to see him and reveals his plan to lower Hannibal feet-first into the pen and let his pigs eat Hannibal alive. "We'll need a little sauce," Mason says, and hands Will a knife to cut Hannibal, make him bleed a little so the pigs get the scent.
Will stands there. It is his dream come to life, and how many of us ever get such an opportunity? He stares at Hannibal, who stares back. Then Will spins the doctor around and slices the straitjacket, freeing him. Carlo, Mason's lead henchman, hits Will on the head and he passes out to the sound of shouts and thuds.
When Will wakes up, he is all alone. Streaks of blood run along the platform, as if bodies were dragged this way and that. Will raises the rope leading down into the pen and finds Carlo. The bottom half of his body has been consumed by the pigs. He was eaten alive.
Somewhere, Mason wakes up on a couch as Hannibal places a mask over his face and doses him with some sort of gas. Mason is blown away, wired. Hannibal has given him some sort of psychedelic compound that makes him hallucinate. Most people would be terrified when having hallucinations with a dangerous killer in the room, but since Mason is out of his mind under normal circumstances, he finds it all very exciting. Especially when Hannibal hands him his father's knife and suggests Mason demonstrate on himself how his father used it to test the depth and thickness of a pig's skin.
Will returns home to find one of his dogs on the porch and the screen door open. As Will enters his dark house, Mason's voice calls out, "I just love your dogs." Will tracks the voice to a chair in a corner, where Mason sits in the darkness, gleefully sawing off pieces of his face and feeding them to the dogs. Will looks around. Hannibal is there.
"He fed his face to my dogs," Will says.
"He broadened their palates, as I broadened yours," Hannibal says.
He and Will debate what to do about Mason: Kill him or save him? Murder or mercy? "He's your patient, you do what's best for him," Will suggests. Sure, it's gotten them this far. So Hannibal breaks Mason's neck.
It turns out you can break a man's neck without killing him. Jack goes to see Mason, who lies in a hospital bed in his bedroom, wearing a halo and neck brace, his lower face hidden behind a mask of bandages. Mason says he had an accident and fell into his pigpen, where his pigs ate his face. They would have eaten more if his sister had not happened to find him.
Jack questions him about the care he received from Hannibal, and whether he's satisfied with it. Oh yes, Mason assures him, Hannibal is an excellent psychiatrist. He only hopes he can repay the doctor someday. Jack leaves and Margot appears, telling Mason she plans to take care of him, as he has taken care of her. Margot has the power now.
Elsewhere, Will tells Hannibal what they are doing is unsustainable; they are going to get caught. They need to do something. Jack still suspects Will of having killed Freddie Lounds. They must give Jack what he wants: the Chesapeake Ripper.
"Jack is my friend," Hannibal says. "I suppose he deserves the truth."
Deserves, sure. Wants? Maybe not if he knew what is coming next...
Bedelia returns and accepts immunity to testify against Hannibal. Mason Verger plots revenge after learning of Hannibal's manipulations.