Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Hannibal: “Tome-wan”

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“Tome-wan” was an off-putting episode, and not just because we watched Mason Verger eat his own nose (tastes likes chicken!). Let’s be clear here: Mason’s final act of terror for the season was one of the more gruesome images the show has offered up, minus the beauty associated with the macabre that other images of horror have given us so far. Mason Verger laughing maniacally while he sliced off pieces of his own flesh and fed those scraps to Will’s dogs is certainly an image I will not forget soon, no matter how much I want to. This was an episode about unmasking. For Bedelia, it was about revealing her dark history. For Hannibal, it was about the idea that he could finally reveal himself to Jack. For Mason, it was a literal action, taking away his pretty face to reveal the ghoul underneath. The blood was copious throughout “Tome-wan,” even more so than previous episodes: Hannibal’s dream-state throat-slit, Matteo’s poor decision that lead to him bleeding out through his femoral artery, Carlo’s loss of legs. I prefer Hannibal when it’s brutality is filtered through art—as in the fate afforded to Beverly Katz. Yet, these images of blood and gore were not what made this episode so off-putting for me.

In fact, the Verger saga felt slight in this episode compared to the interplay between Will and Hannibal that is setting up the finale. Any show with a comparatively short run is plagued by the problem of rushing along storylines that may need some more time to breathe. While I think Hannibal fits perfectly into 13 succinct episodes, Mason Verger as a villain will never compare to Hannibal. So I cared less about doing away with Mason than I did about watching Hannibal and Will volley back and forth at the beginning of the episode. Even though the Verger story felt compact compared to the extensive battle between Hannibal and Will, it was a smart and necessary move to get Mason and Margot out of the way for the finale. The final showdown should not be muddled with B-storylines. Mason’s paralysis at Hannibal’s hands pares down the finale back to its most basic element: the relationship between Will and Hannibal.

That beginning scene is where the power of this series lies. As Hannibal points out their similarities, the characters are shot in complete parallelism, in close up from the front or in profile, both semi-cloaked in darkness. They are one in the same, Hannibal tells Will, as Will parrots previous Hannibal’s actions: “I was curious to see what would happen,” “You’d like him dead, either way, I’m giving you a little nudge.” The episode is bookended by another scene with the two together, as Hannibal discusses the relationship of Achilles and Patroclus, who donned his buddy’s armor to fight in the Trojan War, cloaking himself in Achilles’ identity and leading to his death. This, by extension, leads to Achilles’ own demise, as well. Will is very clearly the Patroclus in this situation, albeit a false version. He’s worn Hannibal’s mask, yet I doubt he will die.  At that same token, Bedelia, in her triumphant return, points out Hannibal’s proverbial Achilles’ heel: “Whimsey. That’s how he will be caught.” Will plays upon Bedelia’s notions to convince Hannibal to reveal himself to Jack, to culminate the theme of reality versus perception by showing that reality.

The most off-putting part of the episode is what I suspect will make the finale a good one. Last week, when it was revealed that Will did not actually kill Freddie Lounds, Will received a sort of redemption. The writers had been pushing him further and further to the edge with Hannibal since he and Jack agreed on their plan to lure Lecter. But in “Ko No Mono,” the audience is let in on Will and Jack’s little secret: Will’s not a bad guy after all because Jack is in the know and Freddie Lounds is safe and sound. But “Tome-wan” backtracks on that idea. Will is not being entirely honest with Jack, he’s holding things back and that reluctance on Will’s part is likely the catalyst that sends Jack on a fishing expedition, leading to the season’s initial scene. As I wrote above, “Tome-wan” is an episode of unmasking, but it wasn’t for Will. He obscured himself even more.

It’s the return of Bedelia du Maurier, Lecter’s on-the-run psychiatrist, who really shakes the foundations for the finale. First, her story is revealed: Contrary to my assumption, it was Bedelia who killed her own patient, at Hannibal’s “persuasion.” She reveals herself to be one of Hannibal’s potential killers, just like Randall Tier. Hannibal made her believe the murder of her patient was self defense, although she no longer believes that herself, just as he nudged Will to murder Randall. She reminds Jack that Hannibal is close to being caught only because he wants to be. This goes back to that feeling of shock I had last week when Freddie Lounds showed up alive, even though I firmly believe she hadn’t been murdered. Bedelia’s warnings may be misdirection on the writers part. Will may be the good guy that “Ko No Mono” portended, but right now I’m not so sure. I’ve grown so accustomed to the idea that Will will succeed in his finale cast to catch Hannibal that it never occurred to me Hannibal might still be winning.

Stray observations:

  • Recipe of the week: Kholodets
  • The sound design in this episode was particularly great.
  • This episode was one of the oddly funniest episodes of the series. The beginning scene set the tone:

“Mason is discourteous and discourtesy is unspeakably ugly to me.”

“Are you thinking about eating him?”

“Whenever feasible, one should always try to eat the rude.”

“Free range rude.”

There were other instances of this humor, especially coming from Mads Mikkelsen who rarely gets to break into the comedic as the other characters do. I have to say my favorite line came from Hannibal, who chastised Matteo after he removed the scalpel from his leg: “Oh, he shouldn’t have done that.”