Early on in last night’s Hannibal—we’re talking pre-opening credits here—Will had a vivid fantasy of stringing Hannibal up and cutting his throat open, bathing in the arterial spray that cascades over him. Once again, I was horrified and amazed by just how violent (if strangely artful) this show can be considering it’s on network TV. Then, later on in the episode, a man cut his face off. I have read Thomas Harris’ Hannibal and seen Ridley Scott’s film, so I knew the ultimate fate of Mason Verger going in. That didn’t make me any less surprised to watch it happen.

“Tome-Wan” wrapped up the subplot of the Vergers just in time for next week’s season finale, and it did it with all the grand guignol madness a character like Mason Verger deserves. Yes, in the back of my head I remembered that he had been persuaded to cut off his own face by Dr. Lecter, while high on some insane drug cocktail, and somehow survived the experience. That’s exactly what happens here, as Mason makes his play to scratch Hannibal off but doesn’t account for Will Graham’s loyalty.

Current mood: Sick

Mason’s fate played perfectly into the theme of the episode, which was about Hannibal’s incredible powers of persuasion. One reason the FBI would never think to find him guilty is that all of the deaths he’s publicly connected to are committed by his mentally troubled clients. It’s not untoward for a psychiatrist of Dr. Lecter’s status to be around so much strange behavior.

But as Will and Hannibal’s former psychiatrist Bedelia du Maurier (a wonderful return appearance from Gillian Anderson, who literally had one day of filming available between projects) allege, Hannibal is the reason for all the chaos that surrounds him. His expertise is not just in silently killing and carving up prey, then serving it for dinner. It’s also in nudging everyone around him to do the same.

Current mood: Predatory

This is very much a theme of Harris’ books, where Hannibal’s interests are presented as not just killing, but delving into the minds of his subjects. Will Graham in Red Dragon, then Clarice Starling, and also the Tooth Fairy and Buffalo Bill. He likes seeing what happens when he turns people towards darkness, and he likes mixing agents of chaos together. He’s also a classic psychopath in that he selects his victims for seemingly arbitrary reasons. Much like Frederick Chilton, Mason Verger’s major crime in Hannibal’s mind is just that he’s rude.

Of course, to Will Graham, Mason has committed quite a few other sins, which is maybe why he doesn’t shed too many tears when he assists Hannibal in mutilating him. One of the big questions going into next week’s finale has to be where Will’s loyalties lie. Last week, the big twist was that he and Jack had been working together, both convinced of Hannibal’s guilt. This week, it felt a little more ambiguous.

Current mood: Weird

Will is still helping Jack, but he’s definitely not telling him everything about what Hannibal is doing, and he’s also helping the good doctor out with his most recent case. At some point Jack raised the perfectly reasonable point that the FBI is not in the business of putting people’s lives at risk to catch killers, and I almost laughed, because Jack was talking about Mason like he was a normal person. It’s funny just how much everything has become part of Will and Hannibal’s cat-and-mouse game, it’s hard to remember all the legal business at play here.

“Tome-Wan” was a beautiful episode to watch, right to the very end, even as Michael Pitt took most of his face off with a knife. The results were not quite as devastating as Gary Oldman’s horrifying visage in the film Hannibal, but again, for network TV, it was something else. Mason, to the end, was as intrigued as he was annoyed by Hannibal’s machinations, and that helped sell the ease with which he took the good doctor’s instructions (of course, the unnamed drug cocktail did most of the work). Now, Mason is free to return behind his Hannibal-mask at some point, but the final showdown is in the hands of our four principal players—Will, Hannibal, Jack and Alana.

Current mood: Curious