After last week’s cliffhanger/reveal, Alana and Freddie are spirited away in the season’s penultimate episode to make room for Bedelia du Maurier. Hannibal’s therapist has been tracked down by the FBI (or rather, Gillian Anderson has been tracked down by Hannibal‘s producers) to provide insight into just how the good doctor works his magic. By the end of “Tome-Wan,” Will Graham witnesses a demonstration of how Hannibal’s “persuasion” translates into the grisly final product. Before all everything’s place for Jack and Hannibal to duke it out, it’s only natural that “Tome-Wan” gives us one of our first examples of Hannibal in action.
We’ve seen sporadic examples of the psychiatrist’s violence before: the blur of motion before Beverly Katz met her demise, the office scene back in season one. But “Tome-Wan” is the first time we see the work that goes into creating one of the show’s infamous murder tableaux from start to finish—though in this case, Hannibal’s chosen victim is still alive, trapped behind a mask. Mason Verger makes for a gorgeous living corpse all the same, framed in embroidered bed sheets and a Regina George-esque metal halo. It’s the only time Hannibal‘s ever ventured into Dexter territory, giving us a death that’s moral as well as gruesome.
As Will is well aware, however, Hannibal’s hatred for Mason hardly comes from a place of empathy. Margot’s forced abortion, after all, was simply a prompt for Will to seek out vengeance, another chess move in Hannibal’s long game. Hannibal has never been offended by Mason’s appalling treatment of his own sister; he simply views him as “rude,” and one should always eat the rude. Seems like more than a “vagary” to me, although Will’s right that Hannibal’s euphemistic speeches don’t make for compelling evidence. They’re hard enough for the audience to parse, let alone a court.
Jack and Will, as last week’s ending made it easy to guess, are attempting to finally catch Hannibal in the act. Mason Verger theoretically presents the perfect opportunity, and Will and Hannibal spend most of their screen time together in a tug o’ war over who should do the deed. But as Bedelia warns them, in a speech that deifies Hannibal just slightly more than necessary, this particularly serial killer didn’t get where he is today by letting the FBI pull a fast one. This is the man, after all, who convinced Miriam Lass her torturer was an incompetent hospital administrator.
Bedelia finally reveals to us what happened between her and the patient that attacked her, an incident that makes much more sense considering the insights Randall Tier allows into the kinds of people Hannibal’s former charges turn out to be. I’d forgotten that said patient used to be in Hannibal’s care, but Bedelia’s story is a perfect illustration of how far-reaching his poisonous influence becomes. Hannibal turns one patient into a walking time bomb; said patient turns on another doctor and forces her to act in self-defense, making Bedelia’s first kill an exact parallel to Will’s. Gillian Anderson sells Bedelia’s strange mix of remorse and unapologetic frankness to a tee. She did what she had to do, yet she understands why she had to do it and how her actions bound her to a psychopath.
Will, she admits, at least has the advantage of being “aware.” He’s also built up Hannibal’s trust by being unflinchingly honest with him. He uses his confession that Mason will probably attempt to murder Hannibal, for example, as a means to demonstrate his darker tendencies: “I wanted to see what would happen.” Later, he tells Hannibal he’s perfectly aware that his isolation from Abby, Alana, and nearly everyone else is his doctor’s doing, a tactic he attributes to jealousy. And in the ultimate vote of confidence, he cuts Hannibal free from his restraints in Mason’s slaughterhouse rather than indulge his fantasies about that exact same situation.
For a split second, we’re allowed to believe that Will’s succeeded in his entrapment, and that Hannibal was reckless enough to literally snap the hallucinating Mason’s neck in front of his foil. Unfortunately, the surgeon knows exactly what angle will simply break bone. The flesh-eating pig incident doesn’t finally out Hannibal to the FBI; it puts distance between Will and Jack by creating a secret no one—not Hannibal, not Will, and out of a desire to get even on his own, not even Mason—will rat out to the FBI agent. Jack knows Will has to hide certain things from him in his quest to “hook” their chosen target, but even he likely didn’t expect those things to include feeding an Italian henchmen to some murderous livestock. Or watching a drugged-out sadist devour his own nose.