Hannibal "Ko No Mono" Review: Parental Expectations
Well, that was a relief.
Freddie being alive, I mean. And Alana beginning to wise up. Not Margot's abortion or the removal of, as Mason not-so-charmingly said, her "lady parts." That was not a relief. That was just super-horrifying.
While I didn't think that Will had actually killed Freddie, both last week's episode and much of "Kō No Mono" were intent on leaving the answer to that question up in the air, down to having Freddie "die" in the same fiery manner as her literary incarnation does (Hannibal does enjoy messing the part of the fandom that's read the books). Much of my anxiety around the idea that Will had killed Freddie centered on the idea that Hannibal had established enough of a foundation for it to be possible, given Will's apparent instability and his slaying and displaying of Randall Tier. The episode was so committed to the idea that Will was even having nightmares about whatever corpse he and Jack had rigged up in that wheelchair—a bizarre thing, at least for the moment, for Will to be having stressful, sweaty dreams about.
Freddie being alive, and in Jack's care, confirmed that Will and Jack are plotting to capture Hannibal, and that Will's doing his damnedest to play a willing student to Hannibal's murder tutor, to aid in this apparent transformation that Hannibal believes Will is experiencing. It's a balancing act for Will and for the show, since we're privy to Will's mind and his darker, stag-related impulses. Hannibal may be conning us as much as Will is conning Hannibal concerning Will's enjoyment of murder, since Will only ever talks about his murder feelings with Hannibal. We have to rely on those dreams/fantasies of Will dealing with the ravenstag and the manstag/wendigo to get a sense of how Will is thinking and operating.
But even those feel a touch misleading, along the lines of Will's dream about the fiery wheelchair. This episode opened with an antlered Will being born (it certainly seemed like an amniotic sac he was ripping apart) from the ravenstag, while the wendigo watched. If we take the ravenstag as a sort of totem animal for Will—a guiding force, if you will—and if we treat the antlers as a sign of Will's murderous transformation and we position the wendigo as Will's psyche's representation of Hannibal, what does that scene mean for Will, and for us? Did Will feel quietly powerful when he killed Randall Tier, as he told Hannibal, or is it all just a lie he's convincing himself of so that he can, in turn, convince Hannibal? Is Will struggling with keeping his empathy disorder in check again? Or is he in fact being born again, more assured of himself than ever, destroyed by the events of this season so far only to be recreated, as the ShivaFreddie and ShivaWendigo were supposed to indicate?
That brings us to childbirth and parenting, the episode's primary concern. The theme appeared throughout the episode: there was Mason's chat with Franklin the foster child ("Franklin, you can't stay there with Mama, Shirley, and Kitty Cat"); Margot spending the night with Will in a plot to conceive an heir of her own to dethrone Mason; Papa Verger's influence on Mason; and Hannibal and Will's talk of Abigail and Hannibal's sister, Mischa. Some of it served to flesh out Mason's behavior—a clear case of arrested development and daddy worship mixed with psychosis—and that's necessary as Mason becomes more prominent in the narrative. Mason is clearly still a kid who Papa Verger used to bail out, and now he's modeling himself into a warped version of his father, down to medically cutting away Margot's ability to inherit the Verger fortune in the same way that her father attempted to do it legally.
Of course, all of this comes back onto Will, and how he will likely never get over losing Abigail. Season 1 played up the My Two Dads aspect between Will, Hannibal, and Abigail, and this episode returned to that, with Will mourning the loss of a surrogate daughter and Hannibal mourning the loss of a replacement for Mischa. There was a painful tenderness to their scene as they discussed Abigail, with Hannibal seemingly genuinely apologetic that he had to kill her. She meant so much to both of them, but Hannibal still sacrificed Abigail, saying that "What happened to Abigail had to happen. There was no other way." Part of that was protecting himself as a killer, but now it's growing ever more apparent that it was just another bit of psychological coercion to push Will into becoming a killer too—the same way Mischa's death likely spurred on Hannibal's own serial killer transformation.
Pile on the loss of Margot's child, and that's twice now that Will's been denied a sense of fatherhood, hence his storming out of Mason's pig barn and threatening Mason's life. If Will's outrage here didn't entirely click in for you, I wouldn't be surprised. It was an emotional act connected to emotional baggage, but the swiftness of it may ring hollow... until you consider the fact that Will doesn't blame Mason for the loss of his and Margot's child so much as he blames Hannibal. I'm sure he blames Mason as well, since Mason carried out the deed, but it was Hannibal's prodding and seed-planting that put Mason on that path, and so it's Hannibal who has, again, taken away fatherhood from Will.
In other transformations, Freddie's "death" had Alana finally getting involved and thinking about everything that's been going on around her. It's probably too little too late for this to be happening, since many of you have written off Alana entirely, and even I'm a touch frustrated at how abbreviated Alana's plotting has been to get to this point. It's relied on big events, like Freddie's "death" and Will's attempted murder by proxy, to push her around the narrative, a contrast to the more subtle approach that Hannibal takes with most everyone else. The show owes Caroline Dhavernas the biggest fruit basket ever for making it seem like all the dots have been connected through her performance, because she was really selling that confusion, paranoia, and anger.
And so it was nice to see Alana actually doing something that illustrates why her opinion is supposedly valued by Jack, providing counterarguments and insights into Will and Hannibal's read of the desecrated corpse/body/dummy/whatever. In doing that, and in Jack's apparent lack of consideration that Will had anything to do this, she managed to piece together the idea that Jack was likely scheming, and with Will. Her explosion in Jack's office was the result of that, of realizing that Jack is likely repeating his past mistakes and pushing Will too far.
At least now, all the cards are apparently on the table, so the show will, hopefully, have Will and Jack actually discussing some stuff, and maybe Alana can be there, too.
À LA CARTE
– Hannibal's talk of teacups pulling themselves together was lifted from the novel Hannibal, itself referencing and thinking about Stephen Hawking's ideas on entropy, the past, the future, and the universe and time contracting. Here's a video to help visualize the concept. Mason's chat with the foster kid Franklin was also lifted from the novel.
– Hannibal's first therapy session with Mason was a delight. "I want to tell you about camp!" I just want to watch it over and over and over again. Hannibal's frustration with Mason's behavior made it so very funny.
– "How was my funeral?" I love Freddie, I really do.
– Only one bit of classical music this week, and it was something we've heard before: The aria to Bach's Goldberg Variations played as Will and Hannibal dined on their ortolan buntings. We last heard it back in Season 1, and as a little movie tie-in, in Silence of the Lambs, it scored Hannibal's escape from his cage in Tennessee.
– What a relief: NBC has agreed to continue paying the comparatively measly $750,000 an episode (an amount that likely to go down, according to Deadline) to air Season 3. So, more Hannibal for everyone! I wasn't surprised by the renewal because NBC pays so little for the show that, at the very least, the network can break even in advertising sales, regardless of the show's ratings. Factor in the cut of streaming cash it gets from Amazon, and Hannibal might actually turn a small profit for NBC. Broadcast television economics are a-changin'.
How did "Kō No Mono" taste?
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