Hannibal season 2 episode 11 review: Ko No Mono

Review Laura Akers 15 May 2014 - 06:32

Parenthood is the complex theme of this week's Hannibal. Here's Laura's review...

This review contains spoilers.

2.11 Ko No Mono

Last week’s Hannibal is focused on the theme of parenthood and parenting, although not in traditional ways. Papa Verger, Hannibal, Will, and even Jack have claims as parents, and we get an uncomfortable look at this through the lens of Shiva, goddess of creation and destruction.

When we think of parenthood, creation is central. After all, life is literally created in the act of human reproduction. But for the most part, this biological act of creation is not what’s addressed in the episode. That sort of creation is almost beside the point, except in one heartbreaking case, which I’ll come back to in a moment.

No, in Ko No Mono, if the relationship between parent and offspring is biological, that’s almost beside the point. Yes, Papa Verger is likely the genetic father of Mason and Margot, but his creation of who they are occurred after their birth, not before it. Fuller, Katharine Isabelle, and Michael Pitt have done an excellent job, both in this and earlier episodes of establishing that, while there may very well be hereditary mental illness in the family, the true origin of what Mason—and more indirectly, Margot—has become is the result of how Papa Verger parented them. Despite the fact that Pitt’s manic descriptions of how Papa educated are delivered with an upbeat sort of reverence (“It was a wonderful childhood experience”), Hannibal’s measured tones provide the counterpoint, if understated: “You had an odd education.”

That “odd education” included acts of random violence against animals and people, placing them into the same category, as Mason makes clear when he aligns the way his father used to stab coddled 4-H pigs to check the depth of their fat with the way he has handled Margo: “Papa taught me to stick the knife in only as deep as necessary to test the thickness of her skin.” But Mason does more than replicate his father’s actions. He has internalized two important things his parent passed on. First, that life is unfair and often unhappy. But more importantly, that the happiness of others is immaterial because they are no better than pigs for the slaughter.

He’s certainly not the only one on Hannibal to have that kind of world view.

But he takes it much further than even the eponymous psychiatrist. We see this in his interaction with Franklin. Mason is likely right that Franklin will not be able to stay with his foster family, and in the same way the Papa Verger forced his son to witness the cruelty inherent in the existence of a pig raised for food, Mason believes he is performing a paternal act in wising Franklin up to the bitter reality of his own existence. Whether or not he sees this as justification for what he does is unclear, because even if it is, Pitt’s Mason enjoys the sadism of it far too much. He even replicates the actions of many serial killers in collecting trophies (tears) from his victims. In describing his assaults on the campers, he does little to hide his glee, something he openly acknowledges when he assures Hannibal he’s holding nothing back. In fact, he’s so caught up in talking about how easy it is, how they will do anything for a candy bar, that he misses the way Mikkelsen’s eyes narrow.

Because while he talks about how much he learned from his father, insinuating that he even picked up his papa’s penchant for being able to size people up at a glance, he has misjudged Lecter. Hannibal does not kill children for pleasure, so Mason’s admission that he abused, likely sexually, the children in his family’s camp, does not shock Hannibal, as Mason probably intended. But it did make even more of an enemy out of him. Because whatever else Lecter may be, he sees himself in a parental role, something he expresses both in relation to his deceased sister and, in a more metaphorical sense, to Will and Abigail, his murder of the latter notwithstanding.

And for the first time, we get to see Hannibal and Will come to grips, with less obfuscation than they have on any other topic, with the murder of Abigail.

In discussing Will’s impending biological parenthood, Hannibal delves into his patients and his own feelings about killing her, not even really excusing himself when he tells Will that “There was no other way.” He was Shiva, in this case, destroying her in order to create what he thinks Will has become. For the first time, we see him express regret for one of his murders, telling Graham that he wishes he could give back what he had taken but that like with the teacups he smashes, he is not God enough to make them come back together afterward. One sense this is a great frustration in many ways.

Because, let’s face it, Hannibal identifies, despite his states atheism, with the supposed Father of us all. God, he tells us, is “beyond measure in wanton malice. And matchless in his irony.”

Which is an appropriate description of what Hannibal does to Margot, Mason, and Will in relation to actual biological parenthood. He provokes Margot to become pregnant and, although it is unclear whether he’s lying in setting up Will as the father, drags Graham into this already incestuous triangle. He then convinces Mason to end not only his sister’s pregnancy but her ability to reproduce ever again (in a scene that’s shocking for even a show like this), and finally sends Will off to kill Mason—effectively making certain that whether the Verger mental illness is hereditary or environmental, it ends in this generation. If the death of Hannibal was destruction in the aid of creation, this is creation (new life) in the aid of destruction.

Such is the wanton malice of a god, I suppose.

All of this, of course, flies right past Alana Bloom, who, for the first time all season seems to have pulled her head out and finally had a look at what’s going on around her. Unfortunately, despite the fact that she supposedly trains FBI agents in reading behavioural clues, she’s still so far behind the curve as to be unable to tell the good guys from the bad.

Which makes her statement that “most terrifying thing in the world can be a lucid moment,” rife with irony, as is her warning to Jack that “even with as much as you know or think you know Hannibal, you don’t know him either. And you don’t know Will. You are going to lose, Jack. If you haven’t lost already.”

Because it’s clear that, until she comes face-to-face with a very much alive Freddie Lounds, she has no real idea what’s going on other than a vague feeling that Will and Jack are out to get her boyfriend. Certainly, if she did have any actual insight (rather than simply acknowledging the way Jack has been hammering away at her over backing the wrong horse), if she was really starting to acknowledge that Hannibal might be everything Will accused him of, there’s more than enough evidence to show her that admitting to Lecter that you have even the smallest doubt about his innocence is deadly. And yet, there she is, all but painting a target on her back in her discussion of her doubts with the cannibal. One almost wonders if the reason she’s entirely absent from the trailer for the next episode is because she’s already in the morgue.

But based on that trailer, it seems certain that Will may be in the final steps of turning the tables on Hannibal, and using Mason’s hogs to do it. Not a particular fitting end for a parent, let alone a god. We know it’s not the end of Hannibal, since Fuller’s always got five more seasons’ worth of story and NBC has decided to foot the bill for next year. Instead, it’ll be a near miss, which is fine. Watching Lecter twist a bit will probably be quite enjoyable. Hannibal has fostered just such sadism in us. 

Read Laura's review of the previous episode, Naka-Choko, here.

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Great Review, but Shiva is a God (masculine) not a Goddess.

How can a tv show start so bad, and and end up so good? It's getting crazier and better all the time! Maybe because Fuller is progressively buying the rights to all the characters we want to see! Let's hope that Hannibal never gets to say "Oki doki"!

Except it didn't start so bad. It started pretty good and ended up being great.

This show was bad at the start? I must have gotten a different version than you because the start of Hannibal was amazing and it just kept getting better.

I agree with you. The first like three episodes were very ho-hum, like a very pretty looking Law and Order knock off.. But that was because the story needed so much set up for the rest of it to pay off.

I don't know why so many people bash Alana for not seeing Hannibal for what he is. How quickly would you accept when a group of people (who consequently have acted monstrously themselves) start accusing someone you've known as a friend and mentor for 10+ years as a cannibalistic, serial killing, criminal master mind? Hannibal has in no way shown his cards to any living person except Will (and Dr. DeMurier), and unless you know what Jack Crawford knows (i.e. what will has shown him) Will would come across looking like a *%&$ing lunatic. Even after he was cleared of the ripper charges, in fact he seems crazier now even though he is pretending. The only way she was able to get a glimpse past the "human suit" was to see how unethical Hannibal's therapy actually was. Which she was able to do as she saw the relationship of Will and Hannibal come to light and sees him seemingly slip farther away from reality. Freddie Lounds only came to the conclusion about Hannibal because of a wrong impression of Will and she was open to the idea of anyone being a monster. The issue is not how blind Alana is, it is how convincing Hannibal Lecter is.

For those reasons it's natural that Alana is the last one to the party but she's there now, even if Will had to lead her to that realisation. The girl then shows serious balls to return to Hannibal and allow him to see her doubt.
You have to imagine that Hannibal knows exactly what he's doing with Alana and has been leading her himself. Certainly that 3-way conversation about Lounds at the dinner table and then Lounds ending up "dead" was less than subtle.
Their whole relationship has been so he can position her to be useful to him when the time comes. Partly that may be her inadvertent role as his spy but I'm sure he's planning to use Wills feelings for her as control.

What you or I would do in Alana's situation is immaterial precisely because we aren't Alana. This woman is supposed to be one of the great psychiatric minds in the country in this storyline. THAT's why her blindness lacks credibility. And while Hannibal has not shown her his cards explicitly, the sheer number of people with whom Lecter has close contact--including as Freddie pointed out, people Hannibal has been treating--who have died under mysterious and brutal circumstances should at least have had her asking questions.

I think people over estimate the ability of psychiatrists. Alana is still a human being and her thoughts and judgment are going to be clouded by personal feelings. Much like doctors make the worst patients, therapists can be oblivious to issues in their own lives. That's why many are themselves in therapy, it is a useful tool to help us navigate our lives. And the people making the observations/claims are far from credible to her. Jack was so obsessed with catching criminals he was willfully dismissive of Will's deteriorating health. Will on all accounts seems to be losing it and becoming a budding killer (even the viewer has their doubts about his sanity at times and we KNOW he is the hero). And Freddie is an incorrigible jack-@$$. I think Alana was having doubts or at least questions before this episode, which is why she is so openly critical of Hannibal and Will's relationship. it was just this episode that she gave voice to it to those around her. Since the show doesn't have monologues or exposition laced dialogues it is up to use to infer what she is thinking. And she is not the type of person to just glibly say whats on her mind. She is a cautious reserved person, which is why when it does come out its kind of in a rage. She has obviously been stewing over this issue for some time and it has been bothering her. I think the dinner scene with her Hannibal and Will is a great example of that, the tension is so thick in that scene, but it's only coming from her. Hannibal is having such fun with will he does very little to dissuade her unease. (Which is the utter brilliance of Will's plan) I'm not saying you (and other critics) don't have some justification for viewing Alana as a poorly written, missed opportunity, of a character, I just disagree with your interpretation.

I took Hannibal's dating Alana as a direct attack on Will. Alana has been a plaything which Hannibal has used to hurt and confuse Will. And now that he seems to be getting what he wanted out of Will and the two are no longer feuding, he is losing interest in Alana and dropping his guard. Which has been Will's plan since he left Chilton's care.

Actually, at least in the US, the reason therapists are in therapy is because it's expected. Not because they are damaged.

And yes, we'll have to disagree on Alana because I find her character a blight on an otherwise brilliant series. I've seen no evidence before this episode that she has any idea what's happening around her. Nor what her part in it is. Her reaction to Will after he got out of the hospital is a prime example of this.

I did not mean to imply they were in therapy because they are damaged. Therapists see other as you said because it is part the expectation in being licensed. Most that I have known use it as part of self care, like an emotional work out that prevents burn out and keeps skills sharp. But, what I was getting at is that one of the cornerstones of therapy is that it is difficult to see what goes on in your life and that using a third party to help guide you can be effective. The fact that therapy is a useful tool outside of being damaged shows how fallible our own sense of our lives can be. So it is understandable that even though she is trained to understand psychology doesn't mean she is going to see clues in her own life, or believe something that seems far fetched. A real life example comes from the book Mindhunter (the author of which was an FBI profiler and consultant on Silence of the Lambs) Where an FBI agent (who I think was part of the profiling team) is completely oblivious to the fact that his wife is trying to kill him, and almost succeeds with a hired hit man. This is a man who is trained to look for things exactly like that but because it was so close to home it didn't register.

I felt some of the conversations Alana has with Hannibal show her growing concern and her beginning to question Hannibal's methods and intents. Initially she won't even consider Hannibal as a killer. Then she starts to question his methods and intents, but still giving him the benefit of the doubt. And finally as the doubt nags, and Hannibal does little to dissuade her fears (such as at the dinner table when discussing Freddie and Will/Hannibal relationship in the previous episode) she starts to accept it as a possibility but is still unsure.

Hannibal dropping his guard doesn't seem very Hannibal to me. He wouldn't let Alana know anything unless that's what he wanted.

That dinner was so blatantly trying to agitate her that I'm left wondering what he gains from her suspicion. I think he's using her as a barometer of what's happening behind the doors of the FBI but he's also Lass'ing her, keeping her as his ace in the hole when he needs leverage.

I wouldn't be surprised if that's what causes the fight between Jack and Hannibal. Jack thinks he has Hannibal pinned down, then Alana disappears.

I agree, it's not like him. And I think that's kind of the point. Will has found the lose thread on the human suit and is slowly unraveling it. I don't think Hannibal has fully realized how far he has dropped his guard, which is what will be his undoing. He is so happy with his design and charmed by Will's bait that he isn't thinking clearly.

"Because it’s clear that, until she comes face-to-face with a very much alive Freddie Lounds, she has no real idea what’s going on other than a vague feeling that Will and Jack are out to get her boyfriend."

I have to disagree with this statement (although her realization came not too long before that). Prior to this episode, she did seem rather oblivious and wooden, but I have to side with the other commenter.

How many people can take their own good advice? How many writers can fix someone else's manuscripts but not their own? How many teachers can teach but not do? (I hate this phrase - just an example.)

The woman was in the throes of lust, if not love, and I dare anyone to come forward and honestly say they've never been blinded to something by that. Not that I've ever dated a cannibalistic serial killer, mind you. (Well, not to my knowledge, anyways. Lol) But still. Hormones and other chemical reactions in your body make you stupid, no matter how smart you are.

Plus, there's the whole denial thing. It would go against every fiber of your being to admit that you were wrong on such a grand scale, which also makes things harder to accept. She knows she is a professional. She knows she should have seen it.

Her meltdown is going to be epic.

Poor thing.

Also, I don't think Mason was tormenting that kid to give him a reality check in any way, shape, or form. He was doing it just to be cruel.

It's all about the tears, man.

I disagree that it started off bad, but I completely agree that it's just getting better and better. For my money, the best show on network (non cable) television right now. I'm really glad it's coming back for a third season.

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