First things first: Happy Hannibal renewal, everyone! We may not have Community anymore, but at least NBC has ordered thirteen more episodes of elaborate food porn and charred-corpse-‘n’-body-part shrines. There are just two more episodes left in season two, making “Ko No Mono” the perfect opportunity for Bryan Fuller to reveal his hand, lay out the endgame for this season, and set up the next. Sure enough, this was the episode that snapped the entire back half of season two into focus, letting us know just what the hell has been going on since Will got out of the hospital.
Hannibal‘s writing is often maddeningly indirect. The characters speak in abstract, talking circles around one another over elaborately plated meals without much in the way of scheming or confrontation. “Ko No Mono” breaks with that pattern almost immediately, as Hannibal answers Will’s “slim pig” with songbirds cooked alive and consumed in a “rite of passage.” That’s about when Will drops the act entirely, openly discussing his murder of Freddie Lounds. Hannibal slips into the role of mentor with ease, telling Will that his ability to kill without so much as getting his pulse up shows promise.
“Ko No Mono” initially reads like the official beginning of Will and Hannibal’s partnership. The opening vision shows one wendigo looking on coldly as another grows horns and breaks out of the womb, about as literal a representation of Hannibal-as-serpent the show has given us thus far. But they don’t just talk about Will’s killing spree and how it’s changed him; they talk about Hannibal’s personal life, which has so far remained (deliberately) untouched. He talks about his younger sister, the loss that started him on the path to where he is today. He talks about Abigail Hobbs. And strangest of all, he talks about feeling regret, and suspecting that his own destructive impulse goes too far. Killing Abigail was like smashing a teacup with the infantile belief that the damage wouldn’t be permanent. It’s the very first time Hannibal has admitted to anything less than perfect self-control.
We also get further insight into the internal machinations of the Verger siblings. Mason turns out to be exactly the deranged psychopath we took him for; Michael Pitt’s having a great time hamming it up, but Mason is still a recognizable type, a stepchild of the Joker. More intriguing is Margot, whose once out-of-character urge to have a child turns out to be something far more Machiavellian: a Verger heir rendering Mason redundant and, therefore, expendable. Where Will and Margot once seemed like two damaged people looking to each other for answers or at least sex, the first two-thirds of “Ka No Mono” establishes them as cold-blooded operators laden with ulterior motives.
By episode’s close, however, both Margot and Will are firmly back in sympathetic territory. Mason catches on to Margot’s scheme, then has his henchman Carlo T-bone her car on an abandoned country road. Because he apparently has a hospital-grade OR set up on the estate, complete with doctors, nurses, and signature blood-red scrubs, Mason’s in a prime position to mutilate his sister so she’ll never get pregnant again. It’s horrendously cruel, and it almost sends Will—who despite his claims to the contrary, has most definitely gotten “attached”—over the edge.
But (surprise!) Will’s been anticipating this chess move all along. He’s not going to revenge-murder Mason, just as he apparently never murdered Freddie in the first place. His identity as a killer is just part of his seduction of Hannibal, and it’s a seduction Freddie and Jack are happy to assist him with now that he’s convinced them of Hannibal’s guilt. Other recappers have pointed out that Will and Jack’s ice fishing heart-to-heart was, in fact, a veiled request for permission to lure Hannibal in using methods the psychiatrist himself might call “unorthodox.” Permission that Jack then granted.
Left out of all this, of course, is Alana, whose arc this season suddenly reads like a commentary on last season’s complaints that she felt peripheral or unintegrated. She’s shut out by nearly everybody this episode, especially Will, who’s still smarting from her betrayal and choice of Hannibal over him. So he allows her to think the worst of both him and her boyfriend, a move that’s vindictive but understandable considering how deep her well-meaning condescension must have cut.
Jack’s decision to leave her out until she put the pieces together on her own, however, just feels cold. Alana may have been wrong and disastrously so, but she only ever operates with the best of intentions; she didn’t believe Will, after all, because she thought his judgement was too clouded by mental illness to be trusted. Keeping her in the dark about a plan to put Hannibal behind bars, allowing her to sleep with a possible murderous psychopath? That’s just cruel, and I hope next episode picks up with her giving Jack the verbal skinning she deserves.