Review: ‘Hannibal’ – ‘Tome-Wan’

Senior Television Writer
05.16.14 77 Comments


A review of tonight's “Hannibal” coming up just as soon as I enjoy some free-range rude…

“Don't fool yourself into thinking he's not in control of what's happening.” -Dr. Du Maurier

Early in “Tome-Wan,” Hannibal explains that he warned Mason about Will because, “I was curious to see what would happen” – a sentiment that motivates his decisions as much as hunger and pride. Soon after, he invites Will to imagine what he would like to see happen between them, and Will pictures a scenario where a barefoot Hannibal is bound in a straightjacket, hanging from a meat hook above Mason's pigs, supplicant and ready to be sliced by Will and eaten by the pigs…

… which is a scenario that more or less comes true much later in the episode, which prompted me to wonder if the whole hour was some kind of “Total Recall” stunt – or the longest “This is my design” sequence in the series' history – existing entirely inside Will's head, whether he realized it or not. But though it all turns out to be real, the entire episode has the dreamlike quality – or, considering what happens to Mason, nightmarish quality – that's been such a key motif of this second half of the season. None of this feels real, because how could it? How could all of the grotesque things being done by Dr. Lecter, by Will, and by Mason be part of the world we know and understand? This is an episode where a man cuts off his own nose and happily eats it, laughing as he compares the consistency of his skin to that of a chicken gizzard, for the sake of whatever God our characters actually believe in. We know this is real, because it's part of the plot – and because even previous incarnations of the show had a flair for the macabre – but more than ever, the real comes with a healthy dollop of the surreal.

As the season's penultimate chapter, “Tome-Wan” does have to pause at times to start revealing how the magician is doing his trick – that, for instance, he really did mutilate Randall Tier's body, even if Jack knew about it – and it's a bit disappointing to find out that Will hasn't been quite as on his game as has been suggested in some previous episodes. Obviously, if Will had uncovered real evidence, Jack could just lock up Hannibal already and go home to deal with his grief, but when Will and Jack are together discussing the case, Will seems smaller and weaker than the man who sits at Hannibal Lecter's dining room table, confidently matching wits and bites with him. Probably the most interesting aspect of what we learn is simply the confirmation that Jack has been on Will's side this whole time, and that he believes Lecter is the Ripper, because of how that ties into the flash-forward brawl that opened the season. The expression on Jack's face in that scene suggested a man enraged to realize how badly he had been tricked, but obviously Jack has dealt with that realization by now. And that probably means that he is so furious because Lecter has done something very bad to someone Jack cares about. (Alana and Bella seem to be the only options.)

As for mutilated, paralyzed Mason, he and Margot provided a focus for this game between Will and Hannibal, and it's probably better that it was primarily them the last few weeks rather than more and more Killers of the Week. Still, I don't know that Michael Pitt's performance – memorable though it was – entirely fit into the framework of the show, and the Verger arc ultimately felt like Bryan Fuller and company simply taking advantage of Thomas Harris characters they had the rights to use, but wouldn't likely be on the air long enough to incorporate in their original context. But if this is the last we're going to see of them this season (or, depending on how long the show runs, ever), the “Boardwalk Empire” fan in me was at least amused to see Pitt temporarily playing Richard Harrow, his ruined face hidden behind a mask, his voice emanating even as we can't see his lips move.

One episode to go, and it's a relief to know the show will be back for at least one more season, especially since I can't imagine we close this season with Hannibal behind the same bars that held Will a year ago at this time. (A season devoted to Lecter as a fugitive, and maybe his trial, seems to make more sense.)

What did everybody else think? And what do you most want to see in the finale?

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