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TV Review: Hannibal “Tome-Wan” By: Brandon Wolfe

TV Review: Hannibal “Tome-Wan”
By: Brandon Wolfe

Hannibal’ has always felt like the ‘Red Dragon’ show. It may precede the events of that story, but the presence of Will Graham has always linked it to that particular Hannibal Lecter tale. The link is compounded further by the fact that the 2002 film version of ‘Red Dragon’ opens with a prologue of Will consulting with Hannibal on a case, the only time we ever saw the Anthony Hopkins version of the character in a position similar to the Mads Mikkelsen interpretation. Which is why watching the show abruptly shift its focus so sharply to the events of the ‘Hannibal’ novel and subsequent film adaptation has been a bit jarring. The decision isn’t without logic. Hannibal Lecter’s initial encounters with Mason Verger preceded his incarceration, which would put it in roughly this timeline. But as viewers who are aware that ‘Hannibal’ came last as a novel, all the references and allusions to it in this prequel feel like putting the cart in front of the man-eating boar.

But any dissonance created by deploying the Vergers at this point in time is more than acceptable when we have Michael Pitt being such a hoot as Mason. Suggesting some kind of three-way gene-splicing experiment between James Spader, Heath Ledger’s Joker and Dwight Schrute, the character is hilariously manic and so much fun. ‘Hannibal’ has always had a grim, understated sense of humor, but Pitt gives it a blast of spirited dementedness that we never knew it needed. It remains to be seen what sort of role Mason will have on the show going forward, given how this episode ends, but keeping him in its back pocket would seem wise.

Mason is the primary focus this week, as a sort of Mexican standoff emerges between he, Hannibal and Will. Will has put the bug in Mason’s ear that Dr. Lecter is the one Mason should consider a true threat. Will freely informs Hannibal of what he has done, his reasoning being a very Hannibal-esque “I was curious what would happen.” It becomes clear that Hannibal plans to take Mason down, something he feels is necessary because of Mason’s rudeness, of which he cannot tolerate (Hannibal admits to prefer to eat the rude, to which Will adds “the free-range rude” in another direct nod to the ‘Hannibal’ novel/film), but he does not let on whether he will opt to do it himself or use Will as his weapon of choice. Will, meanwhile, fantasizes almost erotically about slitting Hannibal’s throat before sending him to be eaten by Mason’s pigs. As always, the dynamic between these two remains intriguingly murky, never spelling out exactly what one is feeling toward the other.

Will checks in with Jack, who is growing frustrated by how undisciplined this entire sting operation has become. Off of Will’s insistence that he can nab Hannibal, in spite of how questionable the means are rapidly growing, Jack shows him the latest asset in the war against Hannibal Lecter: Bedelia du Maurier, Hannibal’s former psychiatrist who fled and has been tracked down. Though we learn that Bedelia once killed a patient of hers due to Hannibal’s persuasion, echoing what is now happening with Will, how she fits into the events transpiring now is left unclear, though it’s always great to have Gillian Anderson around in anything that isn’t ‘Crisis’.

“Tome-Wan” kicks into gear when a couple of Italian thugs are dispatched by Mason to apprehend Hannibal. Though one does manage to successfully stun-gun the doctor into submission, he doesn’t do so before Hannibal manages to sever the man’s femoral artery (and even before that, Hannibal breaks out some crazy ninja defense moves that I’d have loved to have seen Hopkins attempt), leaving the man’s partner with a personal grudge toward Hannibal, one that Hannibal can’t help but needle him about (“I imagine he smells worse than you now” he says of the dead man in another ‘Hannibal’ movie direct lift). Mikkelsen has always played Hannibal Lecter very cool and drily, so it’s a treat to finally see him start to cut loose with the character’s physical menace and sharp tongue.

Hannibal manages to escape the clutches of Mason and his men before he winds up in the pig trough (curiously, he is set free by Will, who robs himself of realizing the fantasy he had at the top of the episode), and that leads us to the big money shot of “Tome-Wan”, where Mason, drugged out of his gourd by Hannibal, is found cutting off sections of his face to feed to Will’s dogs. ‘Hannibal’ routinely gets away with sneaking some of the most heinous gore in television history onto the NBC airwaves, but this might be its squicky masterpiece. At one point, Hannibal orders a hungry Mason to slice off his own nose and eat it, which Mason does, on-camera, obscured only by a thin layer of shadow. This would have been hardcore even by cable standards. Even the ‘Hannibal’ film, notoriously graphic and a hard R, softened the edges of this sequence considerably. And while this sounds like a thoroughly unpleasant display, it should be noted that, like everything on this show, there is an undercurrent of truly funny dark humor that really sells it (“I’m full of myself!” Mason announces after he’s finished his nose).

“Tome-Wan” leaves us with a tantalizing lead-in to next week’s finale, in which Will (whose allegiances are again feeling a bit blurry) implores Hannibal that he owes it to Jack, as a friend, to confess his true identity as the Chesapeake Ripper, which Hannibal agrees to do. This sets up the final road to that nasty brawl Jack and Hannibal had in the flash-forward that kicked off the season, a fight ended with Jack getting stabbed in the neck. With so many balls in the air – Jack’s fate, Will’s sanity, Hannibal’s freedom – it’s impossible to predict what this show, so erratic with its twists and willingness to parts ways with its source material, might do. The only guarantee ‘Hannibal’ will ever give is us that there will be gore.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJFilms, and follow author Brandon Wolfe on Twitter at @ChiusanoWolfe.

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