“Tome-wan” opens with a handful of fascinating conversations. But that’s not what you’re going to remember about it. What you’re going to remember is that scene.
Hannibal, the show, tends to portray violence as some sort of grotesque art installation. Despite the terrifying nature of what happens to the bodies in each episode, murder and mutilation are rarely played as pure horror. (Allow exceptions like that poor bastard who ripped himself out of the mural in this season’s second episode.)
In “Tome-wan,” though, Fuller and his crew take the plunge. There’s nothing particularly beautiful about the things covered in blood this time around, and it’s possible as much blood is spilled in this episode as in any that came before.
The absolute centerpiece of gore in this episode, obviously, is that scene. The one where Mason Verger cuts off his own face, feeds shreds of it to Will’s dogs, and then slices off his own nose and eats that bit himself. Those images won’t be leaving anytime soon, I can promise you that. Here’s one right now!
“What are you feeding my dogs?”
One of Hannibal’s best attributes is its sly, sick sense of humor, which is wall-to-wall this week. Grotesque and horrific though it is, Bryan Fuller went on the record as saying “Tome-wan” is one of the funniest episodes of the show. Aside from the crazy stuff that comes out of Mason’s mouth as he calmly mutilates himself, you can feel the smirk in exchanges like this one between Hannibal and Will regarding the elder Verger:
“Mason is discourteous and discourtesy is unspeakably ugly to me.”
“Are you thinking about eating him?”
“Whenever feasible, one should always try to eat the rude.”
“Free range rude.”
While we’re on the subject, Michael Pitt would have made a pretty good Joker if Heath Ledger hadn’t worked out. His character seems to be channeling some weird amalgamation of the Nolan and Animated Series Jokers — just listen to Mason’s laugh in… um, in that scene. Not to mention that crazy bit where Hannibal drugs him up and the show just goes to hell for a few minutes. I doubt we’ll hear a “you wanna know how I got these scars” monologue anytime soon, but if Mason decided to he’d have a story to tell.
“I am enchanted and terrified.”
Anyway, I mentioned the episode opening with some fascinating conversations. Will and Hannibal seem closer and closer these days; their opening chat sees them evenly matched in both provocation and deception. Though Will’s obviously been thinking along these lines for a while, the sequence where he imagines slicing Hannibal’s throat open is still unnerving to see.
Elsewhere, Jack’s faith in his ability to catch Hannibal seems to be slipping as well, with tensions between him and Will rising with the level violence Will finds himself undertaking. Jack’s been a remarkably cool customer lately (given the circumstances), but it seems his resolve is cracking. Presumably, this continues into the rather rash decision we saw him make in the season opener.
You know this is coming…
Most surprisingly, we see the return of Dr. du Maurier, who finally shows up to tell us what she knows about Hannibal Lecter. I know her absence this season was partially brought about by scheduling conflicts; I’m so glad they got her to come back for its penultimate episode. As the questions surrounding her are answered — Hannibal’s power over her was such that she had to kill her own patient — one big question faces Will.
Not to put too fine a point on it, that question is this: Can he possibly resist the manipulations of Hannibal Lecter?
The closing minutes of the show seem to wrap up the Verger storyline (for now, at least). Margot gets a quintessential (paraphrased) kiss-off line: “I’ll take care of you, Mason… like you took care of me.” I wonder how much we’ll see of them moving forward; if shown I’d bet her retribution could wind up just as twisted and scary as the stuff Mason did to her.
Also of note in this scene: Mason Verger becomes the second character in this series not named Hannibal Lecter to wear a version of the iconic Silence of the Lambs mask.
One note before we leave: Fuller said in that same linked interview to “Wear your slickers, because the blood is going to flow.” So… yeah. The finale should be something else.