The title of the show is Hannibal, but Will Graham is arguably our protagonist and the real heart of the series. That being said, it’s unclear exactly who is in charge here.
Theory: This is Hannibal’s show, through and through.
Evidence: Even though Hannibal is Will’s antagonist and quite obviously the bad guy, he’s the ringmaster of it all. Not only has he manipulated Abigail into viewing him as a father figure, but he’s also convinced the entire FBI to trust him (including Will, whom he seems to be testing, much like a lab rat). While it’s great to watch Will unknowingly track Hannibal, it’s Hannibal who’s entirely in control here.
The stag — or Ravenstag, as some fans call it — appears to Will in his dreams, particularly after he kills Garrett Jacob Hobbs. But what does it mean?
Theory: The stag symbolizes evil. Whether it’s an actual person or just a feeling Will gets, it appears as a manifestation of one of Will’s hunches. It can guide him toward the evil, or clue him in to something important.
Evidence: In “Entree,” Will notices a deer sculpture in Hannibal’s office and touches it. This isn’t lost on Hannibal, which suggests that Hannibal — and the stag — may eventually symbolize evil for Will. There’s another deer statue that we’re shown in Dr. Chilton’s office, which suggests it will continue to be a symbol of antagonists for Will to track. And in “Fromage,” Hannibal uses the statue to kill Tobias.
Theory: Alana is in love with… drumroll, please: Will. But totally has a crush on Hannibal.
Evidence: There’s been continued sexual tension between Alana, Hannibal, and Will. Even though Will and Alana have shared more close sexual moments — including a reciprocated kiss — it’s Hannibal whom Alana ultimately trusts, and even defends.
“Whatever reservations I have about Abigail don’t extend to Hannibal,” she yells at Jack Crawford in “Trou Normand.” And in “Sorbet,” when Hannibal and Alana are cooking, Hannibal asks Alana why they never had an affair. And she somewhat flirtatiously responds. This is a love triangle that could take a number of turns, especially now that Will seems to be losing his grasp on the situation.
Theory: She knows Hannibal is a psychopath, and has killed people, but she is unaware of the cannibalism.
Evidence: Aside from the fact that Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier appears to be the only person Hannibal confides in, she hints that something odd happened between them in “Releves.” Bedelia explains that Crawford was asking her questions about Hannibal, and that she told him “half truths” about the way she was attacked by a patient. And how it all ended. And what exactly happened. This suggests that there’s something she and Hannibal know that no one else can.
Hannibal has been known to use unorthodox methods to “treat” his patients, like when he gave Abigail mushroom tea so she could hallucinate and recreate the last meal she had with her father. So what’s to stop him from drugging more of his patients?
Theory: Hannibal is NOT drugging Will Graham.
Evidence: Based on his interactions with Dr. Sutcliffe, it’s clear that Hannibal wants to study Will without the use of outside elements. Rather than tell Will about his encephalitis, he chooses to actively keep him unaware and drug free.
Early in the season, Freddie Lounds seemed to be little more than a nosy blogger. But she’s been given an increasingly larger role, in both causing trouble and unwittingly aiding in crimes.
Theory: Lounds will continue to instigate violence, and be used by the psychopaths around her to lure in Will Graham.
Evidence: It becomes clear that Freddie has her place in this show when Jack Crawford decides to use her to run a story and provoke the Chesapeake Ripper in “Entrée.” During that episode, Lounds suggests that she and Will have both chosen professions that psychopaths are drawn to, and, in that way, they’re not so different. “Here we are,” she says. “A bunch of psychopaths helping each other out.” It’s her continued drive toward the depraved that will continue to land her — and Will — in harm’s way.
It’s a question that Will initially thinks he knows the answer to. “I know what kind of crazy I am,” Will tells Hannibal in “Buffet Froid.” But, once he gets back the results of a brain scan, he begins to question his type of crazy.
Theory: Will isn’t crazy at all. Not. One. Ounce. Of. Kookoo.
Evidence: We know that Will has encephalitis, unbeknownst to him, and he’s also perpetually dealing with a form of autism. This, according to Hannibal, has given him an empathy disorder, and “pure empathy” toward others. Unfortunately, Will is under the care of Dr. Lecter, who has the opposite of empathy. Through his interactions with Lecter, he’s been made to seem crazy, even though he isn’t at all.
Theory: Even before Hannibal revealed the extent of his true identity to her in “Releves,” Abigail perceived that what she was eating was a little too familiar.
Evidence: In “Trou Normand,” Hannibal hosts a dinner with Will to discuss the possibility of Freddie Lounds penning Abigail’s autobiography. During that meal, Abigail cuts a piece of meat, takes a bite, and a flash of something crosses her face. That something was most certainly recognition at a familiar taste, like the one her father used to make for her, and the one that her surrogate father Hannibal is now serving up. Why she didn’t mention anything was likely because it would acknowledge that she knew what her father was up to all along. That, and she had no one else to confide in other than Hannibal.
Theory: Based off of everything we know to be true about Will — his empathy disorder, the way he grieved over killing Garrett Jacob Hobbs, even though it was self-defense — the likelihood of Will becoming a killer is slim. But under the trance of Hannibal, he will kill again. And again.
Evidence: In “Releves,” Hannibal confesses to intentionally manipulating Abigail and her father because he was “curious.” He wanted to see what would happen, how everyone would react, and how far he could push Abigail. It stands to reason that he’s doing the exact same thing to Will, pushing him as far as possible to see how it will all play out.
Theory: Will knows, but because of his intense empathy coupled with how close he’s grown to Dr. Lecter, his subconscious isn’t willing to admit that knowledge yet.
Evidence: The rushing water hallucinations and the stag are all symbolic of what Will knows. It’s Will’s subconscious forcing this knowledge to the surface, even though Will is fighting against it with everything he has. In the end, while he may know the truth, there are some lies he needs to tell himself in order to survive. And if Will knew he was eating human flesh, and relying on a serial killer like Hannibal for emotional support, it would quite literally destroy him.