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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