Hannibal "Tome-wan" Review: Face Off

By Noel Kirkpatrick

May 17, 2014

Hannibal S02E12: "Tome-wan"

I don't know what you expect me to write after watching a man feed his own face to some dogs before cutting off his own nose, eating it, and then declaring, "I have the taste and consistency similar to that of a chicken gizzard! ... I'm full of myself!" 

Being in-the-know about Mason's fate, I've been waiting for his "self"-disfigurement to occur all season. I knew it was coming, but I honestly figured that, since Mason doesn't have dogs, he'd end up feeding his face to his own pigs. I forgot about Will's strays. And I know I should be repulsed by Mason slicing up his face, but mostly I'm just horrified that Hannibal is so bent on alienating Will from those around him that he's even willing to taint poor, innocent pups. At least Winston knew better.

"Tome-wan" might be one of the more straightforward episodes of Hannibal we've seen in a while, but that's because the show and Will no longer have time to beat around the bush. All that's left of Season 2 is the finale, and Will has Jack breathing down his neck, frustrated by the lack of progress and understandably worried about his own ability to protect (and control) Will after the Randall Tier fiasco. In fact, Jack was so worried about Will's progress that he hunted down Bedelia Du Maurier and brought her back from whatever deep hole she'd hidden herself away in after leaving the scene at the start of the season.

But I don't mind a little directness. As much as of the second half of Season 2 has been played up the show's ambiguity—both in compelling ways, as we see Will struggle to keep a grip on himself and his impulses while courting Hannibal, and not-so-compelling ways, as in the case of Freddie's faked death and the question of whether we were supposed to buy that Will had killed her and was dining on her with Hannibal—it was a welcome relief to clearly see how Will and Jack's plan was supposed to work. Will's interactions with Hannibal were decidedly more pointed this week, with Will challenging Hannibal to "posit a theory of [Will's] mind," demurring to Hannibal's dominance in the relationship by encouraging him to kill Mason (so that he could arrest the good doctor), and calling Hannibal out on his tactics of "fostering co-dependency."

The slick thing about the game that Hannibal and Will are playing is that sharing information, like the killing and dining, feeds into their partnership. Telling secrets and discussing fantasies and philosophies helps to enhance intimacy. It's how we gradually come to be close to people; it's also how Will intends to catch Hannibal, and how Hannibal intends to make Will his cannibal companion. This penultimate episode even played up this idea of Hannibal and Will overlapping with one another visually, as each of their faces was partially obscured by the out-of-focus back of the other's head during the shot-reverse-shot exchange about co-dependency. They can't get out of one another's heads.

Du Maurier's oh-so-reluctant return—I don't think I've ever seen Gillian Anderson look quite so sad and worried—served as a warning of Hannibal's influence, a quiet and knowing counterpoint to Randall Tier's savagery and the potential slippage of Will Graham. While she provided the way that they'll end up catching Hannibal—"Whimsy."—Du Maurier's past with the patient of hers that she murdered under Hannibal's influence highlighted the way that Hannibal takes care not to commit crimes with witnesses, so that the only actual witness is the person who committed the crime. Hannibal's invisible influence protects him from incrimination like his transparent plastic body suit prevents him from leaving behind physical evidence.

"Tome-wan" was noticeably direct, but there was also an absurd and equally welcome amount of humor. It may be the show's funniest episode to date, which is such a bizarre thing to say about an episode where Michael Pitt acted out skinning himself and feeding "the proceeds" to dogs, but even that ended up being very funny. The fun started early with Hannibal and Will's discussion of Mason as "free-range rude" and continued throughout the episode: We saw more of Mason being a complete and hilarious jerk during therapy as he pushed Hannibal's buttons by rifling through his sketches, putting his feet up on his desk, and even stabbing one of the arms of Hannibal's chairs not once but twice. It was a nice continuation of Mason's behavior during his first session, which featured the bit with the couch and the wadded-up jacket. 

Mads Mikkelsen played all that with barely contained annoyance, and it was great. That's why every comedy needs a straight man, and there's no better straight man than a cannibalistic shrink who could kill you where you stand but just won't. Even Hannibal himself squeezed in a one-liner as poor Matteo tore the scaple out of his leg: "He shouldn't have done that." The line delivery was so winking and dry, and then Carlo tased him and that was the end of the scene, like a shocking rimshot.

Most of the humor stemmed from Pitt's performance after Hannibal drugged Mason ("You need to write me a prescription for this, doctor"). Pitt's been hamming it up ("Mason deserves to be somebody's bacon") since the moment he appeared, but his performance and energy have never broken the show for me. That's in part because Season 2 has been funnier than Season 1, so I feel like the show's been gradually building to Mason's particular brand of psychotic in a way that it allows it work. The rest of it has to do with how the show and Pitt have constructed Mason: The ridiculous coat and hair. The riff on Gary Oldman's voice for Mason in Hannibal. Pitt's general conveyance of "I'm rich and crazy and have man-eating pigs, so come at me, bro!" arrogance, old money run amok. 

Mason feeding his face to dogs was gross and violent, but it wasn't awe-inspiring or beautiful, like the murder tableaux the show normally uses. Since it lacked that artistic merit, there were no other emotions or reactions to feel except horror and repulsion—and Hannibal has always wanted to make violence both comfortable and uncomfortable through an artistic distance. So Mason cackling like a loon while cracking food and dining jokes and Hannibal's casual suggestion that Mason eat his own nose granted us that distance from such a disturbing act while still allowing us to feel disturbed. The humor offers a release valve, a sense of relief, even as we're watching through our fingers.


– Will just put Jack on the hook. I guess this helps to partially explain the fight scene that kicked off the season.

– "No fat on you! Take more than a flesh wound to make you squeal!"

– "Whoever is pursing whom at this very moment, I intend to eat them." OH HO HO HO.

– All the classical music came right in a row this week. As Hannibal prepared and served his kholodets, we heard the second movement of Mozart's violin concerto No. 5 in A major. That was followed by Chopin's Prelude Op. 28, No. 2 in A minor (a personal favorite of mine) as the dogs were fed their PROPER FOOD. Right after that, as Carlo and his brothers entered Hannibal's office, it was yet more from Fauré's Requiem. This time it was "Pie Jesu."

How did "Tome-wan" taste?

  • Comments (143)
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  • jeroenoostveen1 May 22, 2014

  • zanzaboonda May 20, 2014

    "I'm rich and crazy and have man-eating pigs, so come at me, bro!"


  • tigger_bounch May 20, 2014

    oh my god *hands on mouth*
    we can watch this on TV, let alone a network ?
    woo hoo !
    imagine when this episode aired in my country, the censors board will have a field day on this

  • tarniamoore May 20, 2014

    omg, omg..this show is full on, i can't even watch alot of it!

  • tarniamoore May 20, 2014

    dog eating face steaks is just not right, scared for life!! Viewer discretion advised alright, ha.

  • umacaiado May 19, 2014

    I`m still not ok with Crawford being such a meek & willing cannibal himself :(

  • willieno2 May 20, 2014

    I think he's been gradually broken. Plus he may not share the same kind of power dynamic with hannibal that he has at the FBI. so in one place he can be forthright and shouty but in others he would be submissive. and in response to tarniamoore, first thing in this episode they were eating fish so its kinda difficult to be a cannibal. secondly he has taken food from Hannibal's table and had it checked with forensics. It didn't work evidently.

  • ChicN May 20, 2014

    The Jell-O is people!

    Seriously, Hannibal boiled at least a lower jaw to make the gelatin in the prep scene. He even informed Jack that "traditionally" the stuff was made from bone as he was serving it.

  • willieno2 Jun 06, 2014

    ye your right, it was made from bones. the gellatine is the fatty deposit from the marrow. In all honesty I don't understand Crawford. Its possible that he is actually quite lonely. He had his wife and Will but they are no longer viable. so maybe he is left with only one person who he can spend time with and relax. it just so happens that its Hannibal. Another great piece of writing. Making the leader of the search friends with the man he hunts. God i love this show.

  • tarniamoore May 20, 2014

    I would suggest keep checking and maybe become vegetarian asap!! Still don't get it, its like Crawford has a man crush on Hannibal, he challenges his thinking and he likes the finer things. He's sucked in by Hannibal's narcissism and image..

  • willieno2 Jun 06, 2014

    heheh, being a vegetarian around hannibal is probably quite dangerous too. he'd just see you as corn fed, free range rude instead of normal free range rude.

  • tarniamoore May 20, 2014

    yes, what's that about. He enjoys the meals, how about sneaking some of that to the labs!!

  • Samantha_101 May 19, 2014

    I am not gonna lie, when Hannibal handed Mason the knife I was too afraid to watch and had to skip the grisly bits!

  • robertokuri May 19, 2014

    I don't think Will's as on top of Hannibal as he wants to believe. I don't think Hannibal bought that he killed Freddie, it's not like he cannot tell it wasn't human meat (unless it was from the beast killer but he wasn't scared when he died).
    He must be pretty much aware of what's going on and he's just playing the game. Jack attacking him all alone with no backup seems like sheer frustration so Hannibal should be getting away with killing a main character, probably Alana.

    Michael Pitt was really good as Mason, he's been kind of an underrated actor for quite some time. Really funny seeing him cutting his face off. Damn writing that feels weird.

    The fighting scene between Hannibal and Mason's henchmen was fucking awesome and I don't think anybody has mentioned it! "He souldn't have done that." Cracked me up.
    Hannibal has had another funny oneliner when that guy who was sewn inside a horse was comming out and he just turned to him and said "If you know what's good for you you will crawl back inside." Or something like that.

  • zanzaboonda May 20, 2014

    Actually, Bryan Fuller confirmed they ate Randall. o_O

  • robertokuri May 19, 2014

    Holy shit my phone didn't give a fuck about the paragraphs I made.

  • klotensen May 19, 2014

  • Vicky8675309 May 22, 2014

    awesome, even if they cut some of the arterial blood spray!
    Mason cutting off his face and eating it---no problem. A little arterial blood spray and NBC gets their panties in a twist! lol
    Seriously, I'm impressed with NBC allowing so much to be shown on this show!!
    Fabulous GIF!

  • zanzaboonda May 20, 2014

    It's like he sprayed him on purpose. Lol

  • christianmac090 May 19, 2014

    That scene were Mason ripped his own face off and fed it to the dogs was one of the most disgusting things i have ever seen.
    Keep going :)

  • SergiDomenge May 18, 2014

    Everytime that Gillian Anderson plays Bedelia Du Maurier is a master class in acting. Couldn't deliver her lines any better. Not possible.

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