“Tome-wan,” Hannibal’s riveting and wildly careening penultimate episode took us on a wild book-heavy ride we’ll not soon forget. From its incredibly detailed and innuendoed dialogue bandied in and around numerous characters, to the stomach-churning third quarter events, it was an hour demanding instant replay just to catch every entendre…every piece being moved during each player’s match. Like Achilles and Patroclus, Hannibal and Will take turns as teacher and student, therapist and patient, leader and follower; persuader and persuaded. Their game echoed in the relationships around them. Mason and Margot, Jack and Will, Hannibal and Jack, Will and a surprisingly returned Dr. Du Maurier all turn tables on each other until everyones’ positions were left dizzyingly hazy. By hour’s end, we’re left broken and queasy; Hannibal and Will continue the long game.
While Will believes he’s gained the upper hand, he’d have done well to have been a fly on the wall during Jack’s conversation with Bedelia. Hannibal’s therapist believes Lecter will be caught lost in his own self-congratulation (“…whimsy”); Graham might lose Hannibal the very same way. Will’s confidence allows ever-increasing honesty between himself and his prey, and he openly brags to Hannibal about the snare he’s placed around Lecter’s neck. Hannibal quickly points out their alikeness allows them to deceive each other, but Will doesn’t seem to catch what his (he believes) nearly-netted fishy says. In a cleverly reversed conversation, Hannibal asks Will why he told Mason Hannibal wanted to kill him, and Will throws back Lecter’s own words: “I was curious what would happen.”
Having contained his sister’s reproductive intentions and abilities, and foolishly believing he’s got the upper hand over Hannibal, Mason Verger’s next therapy session is a study in pomposity — Lecter himself, is a model of restraint. The two men goad each other into exceedingly arrogant statements, but while Mason’s bravado is clearly put on, Hannibal’s is earned. Lecter amusingly swats away Verger’s threats as he would any bothersome insect, knowing his control over Mason is absolute. Even later when Hannibal lives out Will’s death-wishful thoughts, as he’s being prepared as piggy pâté, Hannibal remains cool as a cucumber — stares directly at Will. Whether Lecter is certain Graham will save him, or he’s just that pragmatic and accepting of death, Hannibal shows no fear when Will comes at him with Mason’s knife. Verger talks a good game about not flinching at chicken; under the influence of psychotropic drugs, he remains true to his word.
During Bedelia’s semi-murderous admission to Will, we got a little bit more of her intriguing Hannibal history…a tiny dribble of detail about that dead patient of hers. Du Maurier confesses to having killed the patient who attacked her, the man who died choking on his tongue, but “it wasn’t attached at the time.” Hopefully someday we’ll see that scene flashed-back and learn Lecter’s role; “What Hannibal does isn’t coercion, it’s persuasion.” She tries to warn Jack, but one gets the sense its only us listening; “If you think you’re about to catch Hannibal, that’s because he wants you to think that. Don’t fool yourself into thinking he’s not in control of what’s happening.” Later Hannibal echoes Du Maurier’s warning in a gelatinous dish he’s prepared for Jack. Tiny fish frozen in a three dimensional canvas — Kholodets — “A Ukrainian dish whose outcome can never be predicted…at a certain point it becomes unclear who’s pursuing whom.” While Hannibal intends to eat “whomever,” our own thoughts of food are quickly banished after his relaxing and therapeutic sketching is rudely interrupted.
To say that Bryan Fuller’s vision is bold and unafraid doesn’t quite capture what he’s done with this series; we have to constantly remind ourselves we’re watching network television. And though the blood has always flown freely, Hannibal’s had a slightly surrealistic quality that allowed our brains’ escape. But this time, as Mason Verger’s treatment began to play out, there was a grim reality (especially for book readers who knew, yet couldn’t quite believe what was about to come) that overtook the fantasy. There was no shying away; even in the bloody shadows, our stomachs were pitched. Here, in some of Mikkelsen’s finest Hannibal moments, we saw the monster inside. We’d caught a glimpse when he intubated Will, shoved Abigail’s ear down Graham’s throat. This was different. This was psychotic, twisted, horrible…insane. This is the terrifying Hannibal taking joy in bad behaviour revenge against free range rude. He taunts Carlo and lowers the trainer to be consumed by his meat-eating pigs; hands Mason his dear Papa’s knife, and influences Verger to carve slices off his own face and feed them to Will’s dogs (“expanded their palates”). Don’t even get me started on the nose…”I’m full of myself.” Clearly, Will is fully transformed, he stands tough against Hannibal, refusing to be persuaded. In his godly moment, Hannibal remains aware enough to snap Mason’s neck without killing him (negating Will’s manipulative power), leaving Verger physically and mentally altered, at the mercy of his suddenly empowered sister. When Hannibal speaks to Will of the Achilles/Patroclus relationship the two agree that hiding and revealing identity is a theme in battle-tested friendships. Hannibal throws out a last ditch hope for their own warped relationship (“Achilles wanted all Greeks to die so he and Patroclus could conquer Troy alone. It took divine intervention to bring them down”), but Will shoots illusion down (“This isn’t sustainable”). And as Will makes his own last effort to manipulate Lecter, he has no idea the hell he’s about to bring down on Jack (or does he?) Graham can’t really believe Hannibal would confess, so is Will truly taunting Lecter to go after his boss (someone he loves)? Every word they speak to each other in that final conversation is duplicitous entendre, and as we know from “Kaiseki,” this trap they’ve each set goes horribly wrong. As Will said earlier to Hannibal, “We are just alike,” and cloaked in his Hannistag power (armor), Graham is as susceptible to mistakes caused by his own hubris as he believes Lecter to be.
“Has he ever tried to persuade you to kill anyone? He will. And it will be somebody you love. and you will think it’s the only choice you have.” (Dr. Du Maurier)
So next week, we’ll get a replay of that epic Jack and Hannibal fight, and I have a funny feeling Jack won’t make it. The real question is: Is Will at Hannibal’s house, too? It’s a bit early for Lecter to be caught (we know Hannibal gets the upper hand over Jack), but I could see Fuller setting the finale up so that either Will comes very close to catching him, or it *looks like* Will catches Hannibal, but at the start of Season 3, we’ll see he got away.
Book Reader Spoiler Ahead — whited out, swipe to see: The eel, the eel, we saw the eel! I love that with this storyline, Fuller’s been able to work in so much of Harris’ Hannibal, and greatly hope we get to see Margot shove that eel down Mason’s throat. End Spoiler.
Either I’ve gotten used to him, or Pitt’s overplaying worked much better this week. Either way, he was perfection in his drugged-out state; all the one-liners worked. “I am a taste and consistency of chicken.”
Hannibal speaks in Italian to Carlo; I die.