First, let’s begin this review with the wonderful news that Hannibal has been renewed for a third season. This second-season run has been so extraordinary, and Bryan Fuller clearly has so much story left to tell, so the fact that NBC will continue to air this extraordinary show is really heartening. Never has something been more applicable to my mood-based reviews.

Current mood: Jubilant

In celebration of this great news, Hannibal aired a really fun episode last night that set everything in place for the epic finale it promised with the year’s first episode. It also helped clear up some of the more implausible twists of the last few weeks, especially everything revolving around the resurrection of Miriam Lass and her helping to pin the crimes of the Chesapeake Ripper onto Frederick Chilton. And, as I thought, it revealed that Will had not killed Freddy Lounds at all, merely folded her into some kind of conspiratorial deep-cover operation he’s running with Jack Crawford to reveal the real killer.

Really, it makes so much sense. From the moment Beverly was murdered while Will was in jail, there’s no way Jack could have really believed he was the Ripper. Despite all of Hannibal’s brilliant manipulations, we knew things were going to come to a head by the end of the season, and it works much better (and makes Jack seem much smarter, which he should be) if Hannibal’s villainy is not some sudden revelation.

Current mood: Satisfied

The episode begins with a re-creation of Freddy Lounds’ murder from Red Dragon—her corpse is supposedly lit on fire and pushed down a hill in a wheelchair. It’s a clever visual for Fuller to borrow, since we know that is the (gender-swapped) Freddy’s actual demise in the books, and we can believe that it’s simply been accelerated. But Freddy is actually in Jack’s custody (probably overjoyed that she’s part of an FBI sting operation, and on the inside) and is revealed to Alana late in the episode.

Poor Alana. She hasn’t had a ton to do this year except embark on a relationship with Hannibal, which is really going to reflect poorly on her analytic abilities when he’s revealed to be a calculating, murderous psychopath. If the show has failed one character this year, it’s her, but that was probably unavoidable given her role—she’s a shrink on a show that focuses on a different shrink. Maybe her relationship with Hannibal (which feels very reckless for Dr. Lecter the more you think about it) will end up playing into the final two episodes.

Current mood: Sympathetic

The rest of the plot is driven by the Vergers, who have basically replaced the cases of the week as the B-story for the season’s closing arc. As Mason, Michael Pitt really does a nice job chewing on scenery; the guy literally DRINKS THE TEARS OF CHILDREN and conspires to remove Margot’s unborn baby (that she conceived with Will for her own purposes) because he wants his own heir. He’s, uh, not too nice, shall we say. Mason hasn’t really served much of a purpose past being a secondary villain whose fate (if you know it) you eagerly await.

But I thought the ending of this episode extremely clever. Will goes to murder Mason, as he certainly wants to, for killing his unborn child and generally being a big jerk. But he’s already realized that this is another of Hannibal’s games, just a different version of his experiments over life and death. He’s been nudging each of these three players towards each other with the hope that it will resolve in Will killing Mason, part of Hannibal’s supposition that he’s molding Will into a killer.

But that’s not what’s been happening, not exactly. Will has been born into some new darkness, no doubt, but not exactly in Hannibal’s image. I’m excited to see how this all plays out for the final two episodes of the season (but not the series).

Current mood: Giddy