Hannibal's second season has taken us through Will Graham's ascent from broken prisoner to deliberate foil to Hannibal Lecter. Hannibal watches Graham's development with pride, as Will's darker impulses reach the surface. And then there's Mason Verger, who ate bits of his own face. So that happened. [Spoilers below.]
As monstrous act after monstrous act (whether it's theirs or the monster of the week), Will and Hannibal have gotten closer to each other, and to their truths. They openly discuss the fact that Will told Mason that Hannibal wanted him dead, and why Will did that. Hannibal's "perfectly tailored person suit" has yet to slip, or tear, but it did allow me to realize something important— Hannibal never disagrees with anyone. Ever.
He's been compared to the Devil before, and it's as perfect a comparison as you'll find. The Devil doesn't make you do horrible things. He simply offers... or nudges you in the direction of a damning opportunity, all the while doing and saying nothing to dissuade you.
This one trait allows Lecter to discover what others think, while betraying nothing of his own thoughts or agenda. Not a bad trick for a therapist: let someone speak unhindered by judgment or disapproval, and eventually they'll spill their guts... or give Hannibal cause to do it for them. Case in point: Will states that Hannibal wants Mason dead. Will is wrong, but Hannibal does nothing to correct him.
Hannibal doesn't want Mason dead, he wants Mason to suffer, incapacitated, so he's no longer a threat to Margot... and live long enough to father a male heir that Margot can raise.
That's going to play out, more or less exactly how Hannibal wants... but Will still plays an integral part. Will has agency again— something he lost long before he went to prison. He is in control of his actions, and makes his own choices, while recognizing and counter-balancing for the influence Hannibal has on him.
And then there's Mason. He's continuing his own therapy, discussing morality, suffering, and the blind rage of God, while Hannibal counters with talk of Margot's happiness and wellbeing. Mason keeps provoking the good doctor: sitting behind Lecter's desk, stabbing the furniture, pulling said knife on Lecter himself. This affords us the priceless gift that is Hannibal's 'bitch please' face.
Mason doesn't like being played with, any more than Hannibal does. It's just that he's so much worse about it! This is a man-child who has never heard the word 'no'. Hannibal and Will are playing an ongoing game of chess, Mason Verger prides himself on mastering the game Chicken.
It's a small point, but there's a trick to ongoing characters in episodic narratives. Somewhere out there, there's a person whose first impression of Hannibal is this episode, Tome-Wan. So this episode still has to present all of the justification for a) despising Mason Verger, and b) justifying his torment. To Bryan Fuller's credit, the show does that elegantly, by showing instead of telling. We see Mason acting like the selfish pigs he breeds. We're shown the physical scars he's left on Margot.
And our first time seeing Jack Crawford in this episode, he and Will talk about catching Hannibal, despite the complete vacuum of evidence. Jack is entirely complicit. That doesn't mean his career will escape this plan unscathed, he's taken gross risks in enabling Will to masquerade as Hannibal's worthy playmate.
Speaking of playmates, guess who Jack found? Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier! Hi Dr. Du Maurier! Despite her best efforts to disappear, the doctor has been found to sound off on how best to capture Lecter. In this interview, we finally get the details on what happened between Lecter, Du Maurier, and their late mutual patient. (If you want to know, go watch the episode.)
She offers the following insight into Lecter's mind: "Hannibal can get lost in self-congratulation, in his own exquisite taste and cunning. Whimsy. That will be how he will get caught." Note she doesn't say "That's how you will catch him." Hrmm. That's ominous. She goes on to say what I'm pretty sure is on all our minds: "If you think you're about to catch Hannibal, it's because he wants you to think that. Don't fool yourself into thinking he's not in control of what's happening."
But what would Hannibal be without copious food porn? The dish of the day is Kholodets, a meat aspic Hannibal uses to stage the never-ending chase. It not so subtly illustrates to Jack that Hannibal knows they're still chasing each other. (Subtlety is not Jack's strong suit, so this works out.)
Later, three henchmen (Mason's got henchmen!) arrive to grab Lecter, who kills one of them with a single stab to the thigh. Said mook pulls out the scalpel, and bleeds out in seconds. "You shouldn't have done that," Lecter chides, before getting tasered into unconsciousness. [It's worth pointing out that at any time, in any series, if you wish to defeat the title character, taser him. It literally works every time.]
Hannibal wakes, strung up in a straight jacket, soon to be fed to Verger's pigs. Special mention must be made of Mason's perfect crassness. His pidgin Italian, standing with Italian mercenaries, is borderline offensive. Hannibal remains implacable. Count the f*cks he gives: none. Will receives the knife, to slit Lecter's throat. Instead, he cuts Hannibal free... and is struck unconscious. When he wakes, the mercenaries are dead and Lecter and Mason have vanished.
... Hoo boy. Since Fuller announced that Season 2 would feature Mason Verger, I've been looking forward to this next scene, and how it would be executed on network television. I have to say that Hannibal did not disappoint. Mason wakes up in Lecter's care, a second before he inhales a heady mix of psychodelics. It is entirely the coked-up, slide-whistling, sparkler-streaming nightmare I'd hoped for. Holy God. Verger puts it best: "I am enchanted and terrified."
Will returns home to find Verger sitting in his living room... feeding his dogs strips of his own flesh. It is every bit as gruesome as it sounds. Lecter and Graham debate what to do with Verger. Murder or Mercy? Will refuses to kill him. "He's your patient, Doctor. You do what you think is best for him." Lecter snaps Mason's neck.
Crawford visits what's left of Mason, at home. Crippled for life, Verger assures Crawford that he tripped and fell in a pen with his own pigs. Verger claims ignorance. Crawford leaves. Enter Margot. Payback will be a spectacular bitch.
Hannibal and Will share one last scene, where Graham warns Lecter he'll be caught. Will suggests Lecter give Jack what he wants: the Chesapeake Ripper. And with that... Lecter decides to murder Jack Crawford.
The stage is set for next week's finale. It's going to be one hell of a show. If you haven't yet, please go watch the episode on Hulu. It's worth every second.
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