That’s an old adage that takes on disturbing, oftentimes sickening connotations in the deranged tableau that is NBC’s Hannibal (AKA the prettiest/scariest show on television right this second).
In Season 2’s penultimate episode, “Tome Wan,” Will and Hannibal tackle the subject of codependency; Gillian Anderson’s Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier returns with some whispered warnings; Jack asks the question “Who’s zoomin’ who” (though in less Aretha-like fashion); and Mason Verger acts out one of Will’s darkest fantasies (or at least part of it).
Let’s review the major plot points (and ponder some of the key questions they raise):
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THE LADY IN RED | Bedelia’s back — the FBI tracked her down and is offering her immunity in exchange for intel on her deadliest patient — but she’s got nothing with which Will and Jack can implicate Hannibal. “You were attacked by a patient who was formerly under Dr. Lecter’s care. That patient died during the attack. A report said he swallowed his tongue,” Will notes, and Bedelia replies in the macabre fashion one would expect from Hannibal’s long-suffering therapist: “It wasn’t attached at the time.” Which isn’t to say Anderson’s character isn’t helpful. “Hannibal can get lost in self-congratulation at his own exquisite taste and cunning: Whimsy — that will be how he will get caught,” she tells Will, while also noting how effective Hannibal can be at convincing others (even herself) to commit murder. “It will be somebody you love and you will think it is the only choice you have,” she adds, blankly, and we’re all left wondering if Will or Jack might ultimately do harm to Alana or Bella or possibly one another. Later, alone with Jack, she shows what’s possibly the most terrifying card in her deck of knowledge about Dr. Lecter: “If you think you’re about to catch Hannibal, that’s because he wants you to think that. Don’t fool yourself into thinking he’s not in control of what’s happening.” In other words, is it possible the smartest psychopath in the room can’t see right through Will’s diguise? Is he aware that Freddie’s not dead, that Jack and Will are working together, that even Alana is growing cold to his charms — and using them all as notes in his horribly, bloody symphony? It seems more likely than not, no?
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THERAPY HOGS | Will and Hannibal open the hour discussing their similarities — and how they can be used to deceive one another. “Why did you tell Mason Verger I wanted to kill him?” Hannibal finally gets around to asking. “I was curious what would happen,” says Will, responding in a fashion the good doctor surely appreciates, possibly even delights in. This leads to a discussion of Mason’s murder-worthiness, and the episode’s best quote: “Discourtesy is unspeakably ugly to me,” Hannibal notes, in a moment of chilling irony. “Whenever feasible, one should always try to eat the rude.” (“Free-range rude,” adds Will.) When Dr. Lecter finally asks Will to close his eyes and imagine what he’d like to happen, though, it’s not Mason who’s on the receiving end of some Very Bad Things, but the good doc himself: Will imagines cutting Hannibal’s throat, the flow of blood turning the victim’s straitjacket crimson, his exposed feet dripping in gore, as he’s lowered into Mason’s sea of carnivorous swine. Will and Hannibal lock eyes as the latter descends into this hell…and dare I say there’s a flicker of passion in Hannibal’s eyes at it happens? The whole scene put an exclamation point on Alana Bloom’s observation last week that there’s a “courtship” in the air, but the question that always looms is just how far down the rabbit hole Will has slipped. As he baits the hook for Hannibal, is there a chance he’ll be the one who ends up on the line?
In a followup session, Hannibal courts Will by revealing his murderous feelings toward their common enemy: “Mason Verger is a problem. Problem-solving is hunting: It’s a savage pleasure, and we are born to it — a pleasure we can share,” he oozes in the most terrifyingly logical way. But Will looks past Mason’s awfulness and wonders what Lecter’s end game might be. His best guess? “You’re fostering codependency… You don;t want me to have anything in my life that’s not you.”
FOWL BUSINESS | Mason comes for his own session with Dr. Lecter, and winds up plunging his knife into… Dr. Lecter’s leather chair-arm. (How unspeakably ugly of him! I mean, Hannibal’s place is positively HGTV-worthy!) “What game of chicken are you and the sperm donor playing?” Mason asks Hannibal, barely acknowleding Will’s existence in the process. But Mr. Verger is clearly also waiting to see if Hannibal blinks, too, possibly unaware of the depth of blackness in his rival’s eyes. Nope, Dr. Lecter will not be shedding tears through which Mason can flavor his martinis.
THE ETERNAL CHASE | We also get a brief dinner scene with Jack and Hannibal, the latter whipping up an elaborate fish-and-gelatine mold that — from a cinematic standpoint — made my mind briefly wonder why Food Network hasn’t tried to poach Hannibal‘s director of photography to oversee some kind of Bacchanalic new programming bloc. Hannibal and Jack use the fish dish to ponder questions of who’s pursuing whom, but only verbalize the portion of the debate that pertains to Will. Both men, however, are too smart to not know, deep down, that they’re talking about each other. And we, as an audience, know that next weeks’ season finale will pay off this read-between-the-lines chit-chat with a bloody, violent kitchen confrontation.
WHAT HAPPENS IN THE SLAUGHTERHOUSE… | Finally, Mason’s henchmen descend on Hannibal’s office, but while Dr. Lecter dispatches one of ’em with a knife — “Did he foul himself? I imagine he smells worse than you now,” he later asks, perversely, about his victim — he’s eventually subdued with a stun gun. Back at the pig farm, though, Mason miscalculate’s Will’s loyalties, and Will slashes Hannibal’s restraints instead of his throat before being knocked out from a blow to the head. When Will comes to, Mason’s main man has lost his lower half — not to mention his life — to the oinkers. But where’s Mr. Verger? (Oh, you know if dude didn’t get fed to freakin’ meat-loving pigs, that there’s something even worse in store. But how the heck is that possible?)
MASON, YOU IN DANGER, BOY! | In one of many moments of exquisite cinematography, Hannibal forces psychedellic compounds into Mason’s system, the cold, murderous desire in his eyes matched by Mason’s giddy realization that something mercilessly bad is about to happen. “I am enchanted and terrified,” he howls. And Hannibal, his pulse clearly not elevated in the least, makes a request: “Show me how Papa would check the depth of a pig’s fat.” (Gulp.)
MASON GOES TO THE DOGS | When Will arrives home and finds only Winston on his porch, you know you’re about to witness something you’ll wish you could unsee. And sure enough, when he gets inside, there’s Mason, hacking off pieces of his own face and feeding them to Will’s pack of strays. Just in case we’re starting to feel bad, Mason shares a tale of how he once left two starving dogs in a cage for so long that “one of them died hungry; the other had a warm meal.” And then Hannibal emerges from the shadows, trying to reassure Will that no puppies were harmed in the arranging of this carnage. “He broadened their palates as I broadened yours.”
But wait… there’s more! “I’m hungry,” whines Mason. “Eat your nose, then,” commands Hannibal. And suddenly, there’s our villain, slicing off a chunk and noting, “I have a taste and consistency thay’s similar to that of a chicken gizzard.” Somehow, it’s all less comical and campy than it should be, the over-the-topness muted by Hannibal’s shark-eyed pleasure. “Pity has no place at the table,” he tells Will, but his protege declares that Mason’s life or death is Hannibal’s problem. And so Dr. Lecter cradles Mason’s head in his hands, then snaps his neck. Don’t break out the arrest warrant just yet, though…
REVELATIONS | …it turns out Hannibal only left Mason paralyzed, not dead. And Mason, it seems, fears Hannibal’s wrath so much that he won’t implicate him when Jack comes around with questions. “I took a terrible tumble in the pig pen,” he explains, then adds, “I will always be grateful for how much [Hannibal] helped me; I only hope that I may be able to repay him one day.”
Will, meanwhile, reasons it’s time for Hannibal to reveal himself to Jack, to give him the Chesapeake Ripper (because, after all, hiding and revealing, as well as battle-tested friendships, are central to Greek mythology). But are Hannibal and Will like Achilles and Patroclus? Are they warriors who stand alone from the unworthy masses — and possibly a little gay for one another? Is Will about to become Willdigo? Or is Will merely playing the longest of long cons, letting the undertow of madness drown him if it means Hannibal will be stopped, too? Perhaps next week’s Season 2 finale will tell us.
Your turn. What did you think of “Tome Wan”? What parts freaked you out the most? What burning questions are percolating in your brain? Sound off below!