The Verger family saga comes to a startling close in a penultimate episode that makes me really happy I’d already eaten…because barf.
Let’s bitch it out…
Just in case you forgot why Hannibal comes with a parental advisory each week, exhibit A: Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen) doses Mason Verger (Michael Pitt) with a psychedelic drug and convinces him to cut off his own face and feed it to Will Graham’s (Hugh Dancy) dogs. On a show that has made an exercise of cannibal food porn, the sight of a man cutting off his own nose and eating takes the top prize. This may be the most disturbing thing that I have ever seen on television – cable included – but in true Hannibal fashion, this act of self-mutilation is done in an exquisitely tasteful way. Although it’s never in doubt what Mason is doing with his father’s prized pig-gutting knife, the lighting and blocking of Will and Hannibal’s bodies obscure most of the violence, leaving the majority of the carnage to the sound technicians and our own imagination. It’s a classic horror ruse, but ruthlessly efficient – in this case it’s so effective that it’s nearly intolerable. I’m a complete gore-hound, but I could barely watch (particularly when it came time to work on the nose). <barf>
And so ends the Verger family saga. Having read Thomas Harris’ novel, Hannibal, I’ve been waiting for this moment since Margot (Katharine Isabelle) was introduced earlier this season. The perfectness of Hannibal’s terrible solution is a wonder to behold – Mason truly is rude (did you see what he did to Hannibal’s chair? Unforgivable!), and he deserves to be eaten – in this case, by himself and a pack of dogs. For Margot, this is a best case scenario: a mutilated brother whose neck is broken means that she need not fear any more of his torture and the Verger family fortune remains in play because Mason isn’t dead. So, in a way, the terrible events depicted in ‘Tome-Wan’ have a happy ending…of sorts.
Things are less simple for Will and Hannibal. The Mason plot is really less about the siblings and more about the evolution of the friendship between the cannibal therapist and the broken profiler. And make no mistake, Will is broken. His conversation with Jack (Laurence Fishburne) demonstrates exactly what Dr. Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson) was warning them of: Hannibal is always in control and he will use to influence to convince others to kill. The last few episodes have documented Will’s attempts to convince Lecter that he is a killer, but it’s become less and less clear how much Will is playing a role and how much he’s kidding himself. The vivid fantasy wherein he imagines cutting Hannibal’s neck and smiling as the doctor is eaten by pigs is solely for his satisfaction, so clearly Will is indulging in the very qualities that Hannibal is attempting to activate. Hell, if someone like Dr. Du Maurier was persuaded by Hannibal to kill a former patient, what hope does Will – a person who’s already on the edge of madness – have?
These are the issues that Jack raises with Will in his office, but Will refuses to admit that he’s seen anything incriminating. This is a very, very bad sign. Du Maurier suggests that she never saw Hannibal do anything more incriminating than influence others. We know that Will has seen far more than that. For WIll to assume that he can control Hannibal is an error of judgment: it leads to events like Mason Verger eating his own face. Or, as the cliffhanger-y ending suggests, it may end with Will killing someone close to him thinking that it’s the best thing to do. Initially I assumed that that comment would apply to Alana (an unseen Caroline Dhavernas), but as ‘Tome-Wan’ ends and Will suggests to Hannibal that Jack should meet the Chesapeake Ripper, I considered the flash forward from the premiere in a different context. Is this Will’s attempt to bring the ruse to an end, mistakenly believing that he’s convinced Hannibal to expose himself by going after Jack? Because there’s another reading which is just as compelling: is this the final indicator that Will has fallen under Hannibal’s influence for good and he’s moved from deliberately omitting details that could send Lecter to prison in favour of siccing a killer on his boss?
We know what comes next. The fight scene that opened the season has loomed large over so many of this season’s encounters and the time has come to revisit it. The outcome of that bloody encounter has yet to be revealed, but the table is set and everyone is ready to take their place…
- Hurray for the return of Dr. Du Maurier! I forgot how much I love Anderson’s frigid line delivery and her on-the-nose (too soon?) observations. I found it very telling that she suggests that Hannibal will be caught because of his self-congratulatory nature. If he truly thinks himself in control of everything, I can see that.
- I liked the symbolism of Will and Hannibal’s discussion after Will’s discussion with Du Maurier. Hannibal pours them wine (shot in close-up and slow-motion to resemble spilled blood). Will suggests that Hannibal is fostering co-dependency, eliminating all of the other things in Will’s life. During this time the framing of one’s head is deliberately made to obscure the other, as though they are part of the same person, or a visual presence in the other’s head. It’s not subtle, but it does suggest that they’re affecting each other’s mental state.
- Your #Hannigram (that would be Hannibal/Will) shipper moment of the week = Will slits Lecter’s throat and his face and neck are covered in *ahem* bodily fluids. Not a lot of subtext there, folks. See also: the Achilles/Patroclus comment (which many contemporary scholars read as a homosexual relationship, not just one “forged in battle” as Will observes).
- My favourite scene of the week: a new interpretation of the effects of hallucinatory drugs, which includes seeing sparks on the ceiling, two heads on one person, or a pig’s head replacing the head of a human. Perhaps this scene, including the mutilation, should be shown in high schools as a “don’t do drugs” PSA?
- Finally, what the hell was that sardine gelatin dish that Hannibal served Jack? That was nearly as disgusting as what Mason did to his face. Gag
Best Lines (lots of zingers this week):
- Hannibal (when Will asks if Hannibal will eat Mason): “Whenever feasible, one should always try to eat the rude.”
- Will (to Hannibal): “Mason Verger is a pig and he deserves to be somebody’s bacon.”
- Du Maurier (when Will asks about her patient who choked to death on his tongue): “It wasn’t attached at the time.”
- Du Maurier (to Jack): “If you think you’re about to catch Hannibal, that’s because he wants you to think that. Don’t think he’s not in control of what’s happening.”
- Hannibal (when Jack asks what moment they’re in): “Whoever’s pursuing who in this moment, I tend to eat them.”
What did you think: was Mason’s punishment justified? Was it too disturbing to watch? Do you think Will is still in control or does he only think he’s in control? Did he offer Jack up as bait or does he subconsciously want Jack dead? Have we seen the last of Du Maurier? And what happens after the Chesapeake Ripper reveals himself to Jack next week? Sound off below
Hannibal airs its season finale next Friday at 10pm EST on NBC. Here’s a mildly spoiler-y preview: