Synopsis: Mason Verger cuts off his own face and feeds it to Will Graham’s dogs. Also, fish jell-o. Some other stuff probably happened too, I’m not sure.
Last night’s episode of Hannibal definitely blew my mind. My favorite part was the fact Bryan Fuller was live-tweeting the passages from the various books which inspired the different plot lines. In the face of people questioning whether or not he was truly sticking to canon, Bryan produced direct quotes and concepts from Thomas Harris’ work to back up his claims. It was glorious and way too fun to see how he took small allusions in the books and formed them into long term, tangible television plotlines.
Now onto the episode.
There was a lot of plot content because the show is done with its slow build. Everything is crashing down as we surge toward the season finale next week. Will and Hannibal have an intriguing scene at the beginning of the episode where they both keep their promise: no lies. Will comes clean about telling Mason Verger to kill Hannibal Lecter. If anything, Hannibal seems amused and not altogether worried. Given he’s expressed interest in killing Mason Verger, Will asks if he is going to eat him and the best dialogue in the entire season occurs:
Hannibal: Whenever feasible, one should always try to eat the rude
Will: Free range rude
It is dialogue that comes almost directly out of the book, at least the free range rude bit. Originally it is a line Barney recounts because that is how Hannibal once described the people he killed and ate. In Bryan Fuller’s remake of the old tales the line is given to Will.
Hannibal asks Will to close his eyes and imagine what he would like to have happen. His fantasy is definitely not for children as he pictures Hannibal’s throat being slashed before he’s lowered into a pen of flesh-eating pigs. The game continues and Will’s ultimate goal is still Hannibal’s destruction, though his reckoning will not come in the form of a slashed throat and death by man eating pigs, as evident by later in the episode.
The main thread of this episode is Mason Verger, though, and we get quite a number of scenes with him putting nails in his own coffin. He appears to have a blatant disregard for his life as he purposely taunts a man he knows to be very dangerous. Obviously Mason understands some of the darkness in Hannibal and I think he believes they have a kinship because of it. Yet even with this kinship he does not cease to try and get a rise out of the other man. Mason is poking a bear with a stick and waiting to see what happens.
Michael Pitt is flawless and brings a depth to the character that I honestly wasn’t expecting. The way Mason moves and speaks and motions with his hands all reflect his confidence and lack of boundaries. He’s a boy that was never reigned in, allowed to do whatever he pleased, and he truly seems to believe that Hannibal would never actually hurt him. Mason is above being hurt, in his own view of the world, and so he taunts a man he should know is dangerous because he doesn’t believe anything will happen.
Unfortunately for him, he made the wrong move. He read the players incorrectly and allowed his own childish glee get the better of him. Mason pushes and prods and it doesn’t end well for him.
I’m good at chicken, doctor Lecter.
No, Mason, you’re obviously not.
The scene with Margot Verger, as a transition, is important. It reflects the relationship Will and Hannibal are still building while also drawing our favorite FBI profiler further into the realization that Hannibal will not slip up. Killing Mason would have been a great way to catch Hannibal in the act and arrest him, but now the stakes are higher. Mason cannot die because if he does, everything will be given away and traumatized Margot won’t be able to do a damn thing. If Mason doesn’t die, then there is no way for Will to catch Hannibal in the act and find hard evidence to submit to Jack.
Speaking of the wonderful gift that is Jack Crawford, we see the scene where NA-NA NA-NA NA NA JACK KNEW THE WHOLE TIME. Okay, sorry, but I’ve been saying it since the beginning of this whole dark!Will story arch and there were a lot of people I talked with who didn’t believe me. I guess that reflects just how fall Will has fallen for the sake of catching Hannibal, because he not only had everyone in the show convinced but the audience as well. They’ve been playing Hannibal this entire time but, much to their despair, they have nothing. Hannibal is still firmly in control, somehow, as Bedelia later points out.
Oh wait, did I not mention that Bedelia is back?
Will might be a good fisherman, but apparently Jack is not a bad one himself. Using god knows what resources, he managed to track down Hannibal’s old therapist and dragged her into FBI custody. While I’m distraught to see Bedelia, who has to date been the only one smart enough to get the hell out of the entire Hannibal sphere, back and in danger it is a delight to get her insight. Not to mention I’m cool with any excuse to see Gillian Anderson on my television screen.
In an interview with the AV CLUB, Bryan Fuller shed some light on Bedelia’s scene. Apparently, had he gotten his way, the story about the client that attacked her should have taken up most of the episode. Instead, because of time Gillian couldn’t offer the show and the need to deal with the Verger’s, it was cut down into two scenes. Nonetheless, they were a well crafted two scenes and she has become yet another witness to Hannibal’s atrocities. Unfortunately for her, as I mentioned before, this puts a target on her back again and we can only hope Jack does his job and protects.
I swear if she dies I’m going to cry. She’s too perfect.
The rest of this episode is really dedicated to the dance between Will and Hannibal, though the nice thing about dancing is that both partners are usually involved in the movements. In this case we get an intense scene where Will calls Hannibal out on his actions. Hannibal has taken away or forced Will to alienate everyone around him in order to make it so he doesn’t have anything in his life other than Hannibal.
Of course the real kicker in this conversation is Will’s line, something else taken straight out of Red Dragon, which describes their relationship. Will claims they are just alike, words Hannibal used as Will was walking away from him after consulting him on the Toothfairy case. In this context, he uses it as a weapon and admits it himself. He and Hannibal are alike: they’re both alone, and this is the crux of their relationship. Two lonely, completely unique men who have managed to understand each other but are misunderstood by the rest of the world. The only difference is that I don’t think Will draws any pleasure from being dark, I don’t think it soothes the depths of him like I believe Hannibal’s actions do. He won’t give in to the darkness, but he’s happy to acknowledge that it is an aspect of himself that is there and he wants to show it to Hannibal in order to gain his trust.
Will Graham is very Jungian in this sense. Carl Jung proposed that people are made up of dualities. Everyone has the persona and the shadow, the side of themselves they show the world and the side of themselves they hide because it is not socially acceptable. In this way, Will’s perceived persona is the side he shows to the FBI while his shadow is what he shows to Hannibal. That is what Hannibal is interested in seeing, in drawing out of Will, so Will as the expert fisherman gives it to him. The persona, of course, is still a valid part but Will has gone and accepted both as aspects of himself which I believe is what gives him a leg up in his dance with Hannibal.
I hope that makes sense. I’m a psych nerd, I see things through psychodynamic lenses most of the time.
There’s a dinner scene between Jack and Hannibal where they talk and Hannibal serves him fish jell-o. I don’t know why fish jell-o is an appropriate dish to serve in any country but I guess we’ll just roll with it. It wouldn’t be an episode of Hannibal without some weird ass cooking, though I still hold to the fact that fish jell-o looks like something from a Southern Baptist potluck sponsored by old people. It is hella gross and Hannibal has problems.
He should just go back to eating people. I’m just glad we at least got a cannibal pun out of the man.
Whoever is chasing who, I intend to eat them
Finally, we hit the stride of the episode that will throw us into its inevitable and predictable conclusion. Mason picks up Will at his house while he sends Carlo and an unfortunate man named Matteo to capture Hannibal. We get the good fortune of seeing Mads Mikkelsen’s bad ass dancer moves in the form of self-defense in a beautifully shot scene that gave me goose bumps. Even though Hannibal is apparently a ninja, he is no match for the taser Carlo pulls out on him and goes down. Caught in Mason Verger’s clutches, he’s put into a straitjacket and lifted up by some rope with every intention of cutting his throat and dropping him into a pen of pigs.
Huh, that sounds familiar doesn’t it? It ties it back into the start of the episode and Will’s fantasy, except unlike the fantasy, Will severs the restraints and frees Hannibal (and gets a thwack to the head for his trouble).
Also, bless Mads Mikkelsen for putting up with being bound for I swear the majority of this season.
Finally, we get to the scene I’ve been waiting for since Mason Verger was introduced. It is also the most painful scene to watch and I had to keep looking away, but man it was good. Mason has been drugged and Michael Pitt plays crazy so well. This whole scene can been described in Mason’s own words, “I am enchanted, and terrified.”
As it is with the books, Hannibal offers Mason a sharp object and suggests to him that he begin to slice off his own face. Being high as a kite and hopped up on some serious hallucinogenic drugs, Mason apparently decides this is a great idea and slowly but surely begins slicing up his face. Will returns home to find Winston (the only dog who appears to be disinterested in human flesh) sitting outside and hears his dogs whining within. When he steps inside he’s faced with a horrific scene where Mason is feeding Will’s dogs…pieces of his own face.
Will: What are you feeding my dogs?
Mason: Just me!
Then Will and Hannibal have a lovely conversation about mercy and murder while Mason sits in the background cutting off his face. Hannibal tells him to eat his own nose and he does and the entire situation grossed me out entirely (well done Bryan Fuller and the rest of the team). Finally, Hannibal breaks Mason’s neck right in front of Will with a sickening crack and leaves the man there, mutilated and paralyzed. As Bryan Fuller said on Twitter, Michael Pitt and Gary Oldman’s portrayal of Mason Verger finally merge and we’re left with a man who will one day be out for revenge.
Power scene of the night? Margot Verger telling her brother she’ll take care of him like he always took care of her. Hello sweet revenge.
Finally, the episode ends with a discussion of Greek mythology. Hannibal tells the story of two warriors, close like brothers, who wished they could conquer the world together. At the end of it, Will very subtly encourages Hannibal to kill Jack, and in that moment Will slips on Hannibal Lecter’s skin and makes the final move in the dance. He’s put the bait out, that bait is now Jack, and Hannibal is going to leap at it.
Next week we get the season finale, where we’ll revisit the epic fight scene introduced in the first episode and finally close out this season of crazy.
Thank god for season three on the horizon.