written by Chris Brancato, Bryan Fuller & Scott Nimerfo | directed by Michael Rymer
This season's penultimate hour drew a veil on the Mason Verger (Michael Pitt) arc, which felt reasonable because the finale will focus on the exposure of Dr Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) as the Chesapeake Ripper and perhaps even his capture and imprisonment. This would contrast nicely with where Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) began season 2, but I'm not sure if a third season with Lecter in Silence of the Lambs-mode (advising on the ghastliest of FBI cases) would sustain this iteration of the character. These two seasons have proven the opposite of what the Hannibal Lecter films did: Mads Mikkelsen's approach is much more fun when he's loose in the world, not locked up behind bars and being wheeled around on a gurney.
We got some clarity with the game Will and Jack are playing this week, too. didn't expect to have it revealed that Jack allowed Will to mutilate Randall Tier's body into a museum exhibit, which seemed like a very unreasonable step to take, no matter how keen the FBI are to catch Lecter. I'm also not wholly convinced there isn't enough evidence on Lecter to let the FBI at least search his home, and discover that dungeon poor Dr Katz paid the ultimate price in locating. Still, in some ways this episode was persuasive in its stance that Lecter has never given irrefutable word that he's killed people. His silence merely speak volumes if you're on his wavelength, especially when Will is probing him for answers.
"Tome-wan" also saw the unexpected return of Dr Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson), perhaps because the actress's other commitments had become less pressing after the cancellation of NBC drama Crisis? Her presence wasn't key to the episode, but it was good to get some straight insight into her opinion of Lecter and her own back-story (she killed her patient and fed him his own tongue, after careful persuasion from Lecter). It got to the heart of what Lecter's all about as a villain, really. He's certainly an active killer who likes to "eat the rude", but his greatest skill lies with manipulating people's minds. He's a control freak, and Will is just his latest plaything—albeit his most enjoyable project, since Will is more aware of what's going on than most. He even called Lecter out on the fact he's spent the past few years ensuring he's been alienated from outside influences (surrogate daughter Abigail was murdered, his unborn child was aborted last week, Jack and his friends once believed he was an insane serial killer).
The prime concern of this episode was grinning Mason Verger, who had a recent victory in ensuring his sister Margot (Katherine Isabelle) could never give birth—and thus provide any male heirs who have a claim on his family's fortune. Pitt's been fantastic in this OTT role, and the show has managed to contain such an aggressively extroverted character. Mason offers bursts of dark, twisted humour that you can't help enjoying—like the moment he apologised for twice stabbed the arm of a chair belonging to Lecter, or his lamentation before going to kill Lecter ("You are an odd psychiatrist! We could have had some good, funny times together.")
Of course, Will's plan to catch Lecter in the act of killing Mason didn't really come to fruition. Instead, Mason's goons got ahead of him and Lecter was strung up (for the second time this season) in a straight jacket, waiting to have his throat slit and become pig food. Will isn't a killer, so naturally he released Lecter while posing as a collaborator in Mason's sick plan, and Lecter had his vengeance in another of the show's ghoulish sequences. The novel of Hannibal tells how Lecter persuaded Mason to cut his own face off and feed it to a dog, so it was great to see this episode honour that back-story... but in a more plausible way, with Lecter first giving Mason some psychedelic drugs to divorce him from reality, and the dogs being those belonging to Will.
And in the pantheon of macabre moments on Hannibal, the sight of Mason Verger merrily carving slices of his own face off and feeding them to hungry dogs is right up there. The make-up looked pretty good, but was wisely hidden in a twilight, and the incongruous nature of Mason's cheerful voice made the whole thing feel very nightmarish. I especially winced at the moment Lecter suggested Mason stave off hunger by cutting off his own nose and eating it.
So where does this leave us? Well, Margot's problem has apparently been solved thanks to Lecter and Will. Her brother is still the family heir and she retains her rich lifestyle, but he's now doomed to be a recluse because of his egregious facial disfigurement, and is entirely dependent on her. And what a weird scene it was when Jack went to visit him, finding Mason sat up in bed with his missing obscured behind an inanimate mask that made him look like a ventriloquist's doll. (How apt for someone who manipulated his sister all these years.) Interestingly, Mason didn't reveal his wounds were caused by Lecter—as it's likely Mason is keeping quiet so he can exact his revenge at a later date. There's certainly more to come, if the writers are going to follow the storyline from the Thomas Harris books. It's just not clear how they'll do this, because I can't imagine this show relocating to Florence, Italy to film a later season.
In next week's, Lecter has agreed he owes Jack the truth and will reveal himself as the Chesapeake Ripper—and we already know that won't go down well, as the premiere's opening flash-forward revealed a fight to the death we'll soon learn the outcome of...