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NBC (ended 2015)

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?

Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 8/29/2015

Season 3 : Episode 13

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