“The most terrifying thing in the world can be a lucid moment.”—Alana Bloom
Hannibal has never been subtle when its comes to symbolism and this week’s opening is no different. “Ko No Mono” commences with a dreamy, snow-covered forest where Hannibal’s stag-man stands watch over a large cocoon. Soon, a stag-man version of Will bursts out of the shelling, thus providing an apt visual illustration of our hero’s incorporation into Hannibal’s twisted secret life. How far Will is mentally able to go in convincing Hannibal to trust him is an issue that plays out throughout the rest of this week’s entry.
To the show’s credit, it did manage to convince me, for a split second, that Will had indeed gone in too deep and killed Freddie as part of his initiation. The show even includes a recreation of the infamous Freddie/Freddy death from Red Dragon/Manhunter wherein the corpse is lit ablaze and pushed down a parking garage in a wheelchair. I then quickly realized that this would be the obvious choice of confirming her death and Hannibal is not a show that does obvious well. Sure enough, her “murder” is quickly revealed in the last moments of the episode to be part of a large orchestration by Will and Jack to ensnare Hannibal.
With only two episodes left in the second season, the writers appear to have all but excised any notion of a case-of-the-week structure. As such, much of this installment continues the gradual build-up to Hannibal’s prophesied reckoning. Unlike last week, however, this episode benefits from having more tangible stakes and consequences as well as a plot line that goes beyond Will and Hannibal simply glaring at each other and pontificating about their inner nature. Of course, there’s the lingering debate of whether or not Will really killed Freddie, but even if one were to dismiss that question outright there’s also the fact that Alana is slowly piecing together the larger picture at hand, coming ever-closer to the realization that she’s been sleeping with a monster. Such tweaks to the story give this hour a bit of suspense and genuine drama that previous entries seemed to be lacking.
Then there’s the continuing subplot with the Verger siblings. While I still contend that this story feels like a bit of a late addition to the season, it’s an interesting addition nonetheless. If anything, Michael Pitt’s crazed presence injects a different energy level to the show’s otherwise dour and somber atmosphere. Certainly, Pitt’s sessions with Hannibal mark a significant departure from the mental chess game that Will and Hannibal have been playing for the past few weeks. In contrast to Will’s boiling intensity, Pitt’s Mason displays an energy that brings to mind Heath Ledger’s manic performance as The Joker in The Dark Knight. Based on his light-hearted delivery, one could even mistake Mason for the kind of high-energy character you would find in a comedy program—assuming you aren’t listening to the horrible things coming out of his mouth.
Furthermore, the show also gets some major mileage out of the theme of children and their fathers. There is, of course, Mason’s spiel about his father’s influence and how it helped mold him into the psychopath he is today. A more unexpected contributor to the fatherhood issue, however, is Hannibal himself. When asked by Will if he ever had children, Hannibal claims he was a “father” to his sister Mischa, a nod to the otherwise abysmal Hannibal Rising novel/film. That being said, perhaps the most prominent extension of this theme is Margot’s reveal that she had sex with Will in order to conceive a child since, by having a male child, Margot would be able to seize control of her father’s wealth and power from Mason.
Naturally, Mason is upset by this turn of events and, after a session with Hannibal, decides to perform an impromptu operation on Margot that not only kills the young fetus but assures that she will never have children again. So, yeah, as big of a fan as I am of Pitt’s performance, I can’t wait to see this guy get mauled by his own pigs.
This wish almost comes to pass in the final scene when a rage-fueled Will breaks into the Verger farm and holds Mason over a pit of his hungry pigs. Instead, he convinces Mason that Hannibal has been pulling the strings and toying with the siblings. In this moment, Mason’s purpose in the show becomes a bit clearer—he’s an unlikely recruit in Will’s crusade of revenge against Hannibal.
Watching “Ko No Mono,” it does seem like—despite Fuller’s publicized claims about how he wants to handle future seasons—the show’s creative team designed this final stretch of episodes with the idea that it might be their final year. Luckily, we found out this week that this would not be the case. This news is great on multiple levels. Long-term, it means we’ll be getting yet another year of Will and Hannibal duking it out. Short-term, it means that this upcoming season finale will contain the kind of heightened climatic activity that normally accompanies a show’s series finale. Everyone wins.
Mark Rozeman is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.