Reluctant hero/antihero of the show, Will Graham works on and off for the FBI as a profiler and teacher at the academy. His ability to empathize with anyone and re-create their thoughts and actions makes him a valuable asset for Jack Crawford in the field. The same ability is also at the root of his mental problems, aggravated by untreated encephalitis in season one.
Will does not like to talk about his childhood/youth. His mother left when he was "very young", his father fixed boat motors, and the family moved around a lot. They were poor. He did not pass the FBI entrance exam the first time ("too unstable", according to Freddie Lounds), and spend some time as a cop. He quit when he was stabbed on the job, and accepted a teaching post (profiling) at the FBI academy in Quantico.
"I fear not knowing who I am." -
Persuaded back into the field by Jack Crawford, Will re-constructs the cannibal murders of Garret Jacob Hobbs, aka the Minnesota Shrike. He apprehends and kills Hobbs, and together with Hannibal Lecter he is able to save Hobb's daughter Abigail. To work through the incident and the resulting trauma, he is then assigned therapy with Hannibal. His mental condition nevertheless worsens considerably over the season, aggravated by a case of untreated anti-NMDA encephalitis, Hannibal's subtle manipulations, and the brutal crime scenes he is working.
Two cases in particular keep him occupied: the case of the copycat murderer, and the Chesapeake Ripper. The copycat imitates and re-interprets existing crimes, the Chesapeake Ripper kills "in sounders of three or four", and leaves artistic and dramatic crime scenes. At the end of the season, Will connects these two cases, but due to his mental deterioration, nobody believes him. He is even less believed when he connects Hannibal to these murders. Instead, he is framed as the copycat due to forensic evidence in his home, and he is sent to the BSHCI.
"If you can't beat Hannibal Lecter, join him." -Freddie Lounds, Naka-Choko
Incarcerated in the BSHCI and awaiting trial, Will starts his own manipulations. He gets Beverly Katz to investigate the crimes he is accused of, and he manipulates Matthew Brown, a nurse at the BSHCI and a killer in his own right, to try and kill Hannibal. At his trial, he maintains his innocence, while Alana Bloom and his lawyer run an unconsciousness defense. The trial is aborted when the bailiff and the judge are murdered by Matthew and Hannibal respectively. Before the re-trial starts, another inmate at the BSHCI is kidnapped, and forensic evidence is found that connects the Chesapeake Ripper and the copycat. As a result, Will is released from the BSHCI.
In the second part of season two, Will tries to lure Hannibal into betraying himself with the help of Jack Crawford. The nearer he gets to Hannibal, the more he operates outside the law. He kills a man in self-defense, and with Hannibal's help creates his own dramatic crime scene. He tells Hannibal he has killed Freddie Lounds, and shares a piece of her thigh with him. He manipulates Mason Verger into kidnapping Hannibal, and sets him free again. Will and Hannibal drug Mason and get him to feed his own flesh to Will's dogs before Hannibal breaks his neck. It becomes unclear if Will wants to catch Hannibal or be with him. In the end, he warns Hannibal of his pending arrest, and when he gets to Hannibal's home, Hannibal stabs him and leaves him bleeding on the floor for what he considers Will's betrayal.
"Is Hannibal in love with me?" -
After long months of recuperation and healing, Will sails to Europe to find Hannibal. He starts at the Norman Chapel in Palermo, the entrance of Hannibal's mind palace. Pretty soon, a skinned body in the shape of a human heart is found, his "valentine on a broken man" from Hannibal. He journeys to Lecter castle in Lithuania, where he meets Chiyoh, Hannibal's former ward and now guard to a prisoner who is denied human contact. Due to Will's manipulation, she is forced to kill her prisoner and decides to join Will in his search. In Florence, they meet Hannibal and Bedelia. While Hannibal and Will try to kill/maim each other, they are captured by Mason's men and brought to Muskrat Farm. Bend on revenge, Mason keeps them prisoner, until Alana and Margot help them escape in a bloodbath. Trying to sever himself from Hannibal, Will says goodbye, and Hannibal gives himself up as the Chesapeake Ripper to Jack.
Three years later, Will lives with is wife Molly and her son Wally, having quit the FBI. When the Red Dragon kills two families, Jack persuades him back into the field. Will has to ask Hannibal for advice, and Hannibal reacts by sending the Dragon after Will's family, who narrowly escape. Because of Will's manipulations, Frederick Chilton gets badly burned. At the same time, Will takes up therapy with Bedelia. When Dolarhyde (aka the Red Dragon) catches Will unawares, they make a deal to take down Hannibal. Together, they free Hannibal from custody. In a big showdown, everyone fights everyone, with words, blades and guns, until Will and Hannibal take down Dolarhyde together. The final shot is Will, blood soaked and at peace in Hannibal's embrace, tipping them both over the cliff they were standing on.
Interpretations and FanonEdit
Will's character development and his relationship with Hannibal is the driving factor of the show. Consequently, a lot of the fan meta and interpretation is focused on assessing his character and motivations at different points of the show.
- "This is my design" -various episodes throughout the show
- "Don't psychoanalyze me. You won't like me when I'm psychoanalyzed. Please excuse me, I have to give a lecture. On psychoanalyzing" -Apéritif
- "It isn't very smart to piss off a guy who thinks about killing people for a living." -Potage
- "Did you just smell me?" -
- "I can make myself look, but the thinking is shutting down." -Coquilles