Monsters in the Mirror: Will/Hannibal and Lacan’s Mirror Stages part 2

Righto, moving onto Will Graham. Unlike Hannibal, who spends inconsistent amounts of time in each stage (see my previous post), Will’s journey through Lacan’s Mirror Stages matches up pretty closely with each season of the show. So he spends about one season in each stage, which makes it very easy for me to divide up this post.


Season One: Recognition.

Unlike Hannibal’s instant recognition, Will doesn’t see anything interesting in Hannibal at first (silly Will) going so far as to tell him as much. This lasts about one episode, until their first offical psychiatric appointment when Hannibal rubber-stamps his psych evaluation, so they can talk freely, and admits to sharing Will’s feelings of paternal responsibility for Abigail Hobbs. Later in the episode, after Hannibal’s accurate prompting, Will reveals (albeit reluctantly) that he “liked killing [Gareth Jacob] Hobbs” (Hannibal 2011). Hannibal provides Will with a non-judgemental space, promoting trust (like any good psychiatrist), but as time progresses Will comes to see his own reflection in Hannibal. Like Will’s empathy allows him to take on the persona of another, Hannibal’s observational skills and intelligence allow him to mimic the same ability. Where Hannibal is quite playful with his perceived reflection, Will attempts to use his to better understand himself. This very much falls apart because Hannibal is, in fact, manipulating Will. This comes to head at the end of season one when Will finally sees Hannibal’s manipulations, right before Will is arrested for Hannibal’s murders.


Season Two: Alienation.

Thus alienated from his reflection, Will enters season two with the need to respond to the loss. Due to his imprisonment and the care with which Hannibal commits his murders, Will’s retaliation takes longer than Hannibal’s. Before he can act against Hannibal, Will must convince him that the reflection Hannibal sees in Will is still accurate. In doing so, Will starts to struggle with the darker aspects of his own personality that Hannibal is attempting to draw out and Will’s morality considers unacceptable. In the finale of season two Will decides against siding with Hannibal or the FBI, in an attempt to avoid having to make a choice between the two. This goes super badly for everyone, except maybe Hannibal’s psychiatrist, but it is the catalyst for Will’s reconciliation to begin. Trying to shatter the mirror does not change what he has seen in it, Will has to come to terms with the parts of his ‘self’ that Hannibal shows him as well as the ‘not-self’.


Season Three: Reconciliation.

The path to reconciliation runs all the way through season three. First Will forgives Hannibal for framing Will for murder/gutting Will/murdering Abigail, then he tries to stab him as part of this forgiveness (forgiveness between these two is a strange concept). One very bloody pig farm later, Will has bitten off a man’s cheek (I consider this to be the first time Will acts with violence with no possible defence, as cheek-biting served no purpose other than irritating his captor) and rejected Hannibal in such a way as to convince him to turn himself in.


Part two of season three takes place three years later, and in those three years Will seems to have built a life that doesn’t allow any darkness to thrive in him. Adopting dogs, fixing motors, getting married. He is happy in this life, suggesting that the non-violent aspects of his personality are equally true to his nature as the violence that Hannibal encouraged. This where the two men differ and a major reason why their reflections of one another were doomed to be incomplete. Francis Dolarhyde’s murders ruin Will’s carefully constructed life, pulling him back into Hannibal’s orbit. Once back, Will is far more manipulative and comfortable with his darker side. He sets up Frederick Chilton to be attacked (but no one likes Chilton anyway) and his conversations with the imprisoned Hannibal are akin to in-jokes covered by the pair profiling Dolarhyde. Eventually Will suggests a plan to capture Dolarhyde using Hannibal as bait, which everyone is 75% sure is just a cover for helping Hannibal escape BUT THEY LET IT HAPPEN ANYWAY??? Cue Hannibal and Will eloping escaping to the final confrontation with Dolarhyde. By this point, Will has given up trying to hide his violent inclinations and he and Hannibal eventually kill Dolarhyde. Will completes his reconciliation with his reflection by admitting that he finds the kill “beautiful” (Hannibal 2013), finally come to terms with the ‘self’ in his reflection as well as the ‘not-self’.



Benvenuto, B & Kennedy, R 1998, The Works of Jacques Lacan: an introduction, Free Association Press, London.

Elsaesser T & Hagener M 2010, Film Theory: an introduction through the senses, ‘Cinema as Mirror: The Face and Close-up’, Routledge, New York.

Hannibal, 2011-2013, DVD, Living Dead Guy Productions, Dino do Laurentiis Company, AXN Original Productions and Gaunt International Television, Canada and Italy, developed by Brian Fuller for the NBC. Specific episodes referred to are: Season 1: episode 1 Aperitif, episode 2 Amuse-Bouche, episode 13 Savoureux; Season 2: episode 13 Mizumono; Season 3: look, just all of season 3 tbh.

Walker, E 2015, Understanding Soundtracks Through Film Theory, Oxford University Press, USA.


About frenzysista

Hannah has often been informed that she is intelligent and has the potential to achieve great things. She generally agrees that the potential could be there but is also a terrible procrastinator and lazy to boot. She currently resides in Victoria and lavishes about 38% of her attention on studying the mystical thing that is the creative arts. The other 62% of her time is divided unevenly between celebrating her fandoms online, sleeping, learning how not to talk to people and saving the world. Oh, and writing. Definitely that thing. In other words, you're reading the thoughts of one highly opinionated, entirely sleep deprived fangirl-y adult
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One Response to Monsters in the Mirror: Will/Hannibal and Lacan’s Mirror Stages part 2

  1. Pingback: Monsters in the Mirror: Will/Hannibal and Lacan’s Mirror Stages part 1 | Suddenly a wild teenager appears!

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