You know what Hannibal doesn’t have enough of? Really sick twisted psychopath characters! After a couple weeks of foreshadowing, we got to meet the lovely Mason Verger (Michael Pitt) last night, a prequel edition of Gary Oldman’s deformed villain from Ridley Scott’s 2001 Hannibal film. To put it simply, he’s hard to love. Pitt has always excelled at playing the slimy and unlikable, and his performance here was agreeably over the top and creepy, recalling some of Oldman’s best and hammiest villains.
Verger trains pigs to tear apart human flesh and has tormented his poor sister Margot for years. His inclusion in the show is a clever choice—Mason possesses quite an intense backstory with Dr. Lecter in Hannibal, which was Thomas Harris’ third book about the titular psychiatrist, but it’s just a backstory, and it’s certainly going to be fun for showrunner Bryan Fuller to explore his own take on it. Right now, though, Mason just seems like another object of disgust for Hannibal, who has very specific taste in psychopaths and is encouraging his sister to get rid of him. They have a nicely cool meeting at Mason’s pig farm this week, and while Hannibal makes some veiled threats, he also gets to walk away with a pig to cook.
Current mood: Curious
The big plot twist this week came with Will’s showdown with gossip journalist Freddy Lounds, a character borrowed (and gender-swapped) from Harris’ book Red Dragon. Gossip journalist Freddy has always been one of Hannibal’s less interesting characters, existing as an instigator more than anything else, and so it would not be too jarring a deviation to bump her off, but having the audience believe that Will is responsible for her death is a whole other piece of business.
The show has rapidly and dramatically moved into really radical territory—Hannibal certainly seems to believe he’s molding Will into a killer and the episode ends with the two sharing a meal of “pork” which is hinted to be Freddy herself. This is somewhat ludicrous—for one, Will is not the expert surgeon that Hannibal is, and it’s hard to believe he could turn her into some juicy steaks. But if it’s part of a long con, it makes sense. Will has spent the entire season crystalizing his certainty that Hannibal is an evil killer, and the man is basically admitting it to his face now. This could all be part of that plot.
Current mood: Contemplative
But Fuller and his director Vincenzo Natali (director of such cult horror hits as Cube and Splice) are working hard to visually play up the Will/Hannibal connection. A faintly silly pair of love scenes between Will and Margot and Hannibal and Alana link the two men together, as if they’re sharing Alana, and the episode then closes on a merged shot of Will and Hannibal’s faces, bonded in shadow.
Just what is going on with Will and Margot, especially? In Harris’ books, she’s gay, and Fuller has made clear in tweets that the character is “part of the LGBT community” in the show too, but she pretty much throws herself at Will in this episode, perhaps as part of some longer game, but one I do not fully understand. Such plot developments often feel rushed and unfocused on Hannibal, where so much of the enjoyment is about the visuals and the interplay between its two leads. I still haven’t fully wrapped my brain around the Hannibal/Alana coupling, which still comes off very weird (Hannibal Lecter, in Harris’ books, never seems like a conventionally sexual creature).
Current mood: Uncomfortable
I don’t know if Fuller pulled off his sex scene, which he described as incredibly ambitious in an interview with Todd Vanderwerff. But it was a visually spectacular move. The problem is more in the plotting. As Hannibal approaches the end of its second (and hopefully not final) season, it has the feeling that it’s slowing down after so much action in its first half. Three episodes to go, the promos remind us, but we’re still a ways away from the confrontation that began this season in medias res. There’s at least one or two more plot twists to be thrown at us.