Hannibal, Season 3 Episode 9: And the Woman Clothed with the Sun...

"Family values have declined over the last half century but we still help our families when we can. You are family, Will."

Whether Will Graham wants it or not, Hannibal has become his twisted brother. In the early meetings between the two men, they discuss the murders committed by the Red Dragon and even though they remain civil, they relate to one another like brothers who purposefully haven't spoken in years. No one knows them better than the other and it almost feels like a waste that the two remain so reserved with one another now. Though Will is certainly the more guilty of the two. It's ironic that Will, consistently portrayed as a singular man through the entire show is now reaching out to Hannibal when he actually has a family of his own. There are plenty of narrative, expository reasons why Will visits Hannibal but ultimately it is because he needs him. Will has built a family member out of Hannibal and he seeks him even now that he has a real alternative. Hannibal takes Will's appearance with joyful malice, making it clear that he knows of Will's new life and that he certainly does not approve. On the contrary. Hannibal mocks Will's new life and even compares him to the Red Dragon. "Like you Will, he needs a family to escape what's inside him."

The family motif of the episode is compounded with the reappearance of Abigail Hobbes. She arrives after the mention that, in a way, Will has already had a child and it doesn't take much to remember how true this is. The entire first season of the show is motivated by Will's guilt over killing Abigail's father even though he was a psychopath. But here we see another angle of Abigail's upbringing. Hannibal as father. Strange flashbacks which ride a thin line between real and imaginary tell a story of the kind of twisted love that Lecter showed Abigail in private moments. He cleans and dresses her wounds. He teaches her the tricks of his trade (blood splatter, of course) and eventually he murders her and Abigail dies yet again. Hannibal reminds Will that families all have their own versions of love. To an outsider things might appear bizarre or cruel but to those inside the circle they are the purest acts of affection they may ever know. 

Enter Francis Dolarhyde. The Red Dragon grew from a boy raised by an incredibly cruel grandmother. Even though he despises her and the way he was raised, he still fears her and holds many of her values close to his heart. His method of killing has him place mirrors in his victim's eyes. He wants these families to see him and embrace him. He wants to belong somewhere. So much so in fact that he reaches out to a coworker, Reba McClane, a blind woman. He takes comfort in the fact that she cannot see his face as he is disgusted by his appearance. The irony is not lost on us that two people who are visually impaired in their own ways both work at a film processing plant where images are developed and human faces are everywhere. 

Hannibal, Season 3 Episode 8: The Great Red Dragon

Tom Noonan. 

Ralph Fiennes.

Richard Armitage. 

There are the men who have worn the name Tooth Fairy. By this point I've read the novel and seen the two film adaptations of Thomas Harris' Red Dragon and have the plot pretty much memorized. Brett Ratner's adaptation felt like a less interesting copy of Michael Mann's Manhunter rather than a new take on an old story. Yet even with this plot buried in my bones I couldn't help but be excited to see how Bryan Fuller would make the story his own. So far I haven't been disappointed. 

Having Francis Dolarhyde as the series' first new killer makes sense. He plays a foil to Hannibal in a way. He's intelligent and meticulous but unlike Hannibal, he's totally out of his own control. It's interesting too that after having so many long winded villains in the series, the final one we're faced with is nearly mute. He doesn't have a single line in his first episode. His silent nature isn't just a personality trait, it's more deeply rooted in his traumatic upbringing. It shaped him and explains his main motivation. He believes, through killing and "transforming" his victims, he may transform himself from a mentally abused man with a cleft pallet into something else. Something invincible. Something that in his mind has taken the form of the famous figure in William Blake's The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun, a painting depicting a scene from the Book of Revelation. It is one of a series of four paintings that tells the story of the Red Dragon failing at his purpose to steal the newly born Redeemer, yet revealing that his is not the only threat. Which is, of course, perfect for this series. Because he's not the only threat. In fact, he's barely the real threat at all. That spot will always be held by Hannibal. 
It has been three years since Hannibal's surrender and imprisonment when Francis Dolarhyde begins murdering whole families at the full moon. It is chilling to learn that his targets are always families and even more chilling to learn that Will now has one of his own. This could be looked at simply from an academic, story structure point of view. Will sees families being murdered so of course why wouldn't he go back to a world that almost broke him in order to protect his own. The motivations make sense. But I like to see it more from a prophetic point of view since that always seems to be the stance that this series has taken. Will's life is inevitably always going to wrap itself around or inside of Hannibal's. So when Dolarhyde begins his killings, he does so as an instrument of fate. Will cannot be free. Not while Hannibal lives. Even if he's living in imprisonment. Because let's not forget he allowed himself to be put there. 

Once Will gives the okay to return to the FBI we're quickly reminded why he was so hesitant. He enters the home of the first family of victims, the Leeds and struggles to enter Dolarhyde's design. But once he does we're shown a sequence that might be the darkest the show has ever been. Blood splatters everywhere and Will is shown shooting two children in their sleep. He places mirrors in Mrs. Leeds mouth, eyes, and labia and it's important to note that at this point Bryan Fuller has made what I think is a wonderful decision to downplay the sexual violence that made Harris' novel famous. There is never any direct depiction or even mention of rape in Hannibal. Instead Fuller asks his audience to read between the lines. His restraint makes this series far more palatable but almost a lot more horrifying all at once. Nothing is scarier than our own imaginations.

Speaking of horror, The Descent's Neil Marshall directs this episode, his first time behind the camera on Hannibal. Even though James Hawkinson's eye is essential to the look and tone of the series, Marshall's influence is felt all over "The Great Red Dragon," in particular flourishes with sound design. Most importantly, he's found a way of filming Richard Armitage that depicts his often naked or barely clothed character the same way we've grown so accustomed to seeing the female form portrayed on TV. Blake's painting is immediately visceral and sexual to anyone that takes the time to look at it and it's brilliant the way that this series works to overly sexualize the male form to the point of making it terrifying. The show has always done it but never better than in this episode. It's one of the best changes that Fuller has brought to this familiar story.

On the subject of change, the series' version of Hannibal's experience is probably my favorite. Hannibal's imprisonment is far more interesting to watch because we experience it from his point of view. That is to say, we get to live in the mind of a kind of genius and so we get to watch him share a glass of wine with Alana in a beautifully decorated room for much of a scene before we get Alana's take on everything and see the truth. Hannibal has no wine. No beautiful room. But he's using his mental palace as a way of remaining in control of his situation. Almost every scene that Hannibal occupies begins this way and it's a great little addition to Fuller's legend of Lecter. But of course, the show must go on and so after an entire episode of new plot developments and catching up we get what we were waiting for all along: Will must go and speak with Hannibal. 

Hannibal, Season 3 Episode 7: Digestivo

"Digestivo" feels more like a season finale than a mid season episode. The last six episodes have been methodical in assembling pieces and moving them around the series' board in order to get all of Hannibal's characters to this point, but it's been seriously worth the wait. 

This is by far one of the best episodes of the show to date and it was apparent going into it based on "Dolce's" ending. Mason Verger plays the most typically villainous character this series has introduced and that's saying something. He lays out his plan in a typical fashion too, telling Hannibal that he'll eat him piece by piece and take Will's face to use as his own. This level of evil does less to inspire fear in Will and Hannibal as it does to bring them together. They know now more than ever they need each other to survive. Will goes so far as to bite off part of a man's face in self defense and Hannibal looks at him like a proud father. The look on Mads Mikkelsen's face actually brought a smile to my own.

Genuine insanity ensues as the episode goes on. Hannibal is tied up and treated like livestock. Will is prepared for surgery to have his entire face removed. Knowledge that there is a Verger child after all is only seen as a mild surprise after it is revealed that the child is being carried by a comatose pig. It is actually amazing that in a show that focuses so strongly on its male leads, it's the women who manage to save the day. Alana and Margot go to Hannibal's paddock and address him like the animal he appears to be. They release him on the condition that he'll use his banshee-like powers for their own purposes. Hannibal's happily agrees. So after being unleashed upon the Verger estate, Hannibal murders Mason's surgeon (though not before removing his face instead of Will's), milks Mason's semen as a gift for Margot, feeds Mason to his pet eel, and finally takes Will away from all of this madness and danger, all the while aided by Chiyo, providing covering fire with a sniper rifle. It's the most thrilling sequence in a television show I've seen in ages.

Hannibal and Alana even manage to have a reunion where they finally are able to come to an understanding between one another. Alana finally realizes what Hannibal truly is: he's an enigma she'll never even hope to solve. But she's fine with that because she sees that somewhere inside of him there is humanity hiding, only rearing its head when absolutely necessary. 

Will and Hannibal get their own bit of closure as well. Will finally releases himself from his obsession with Hannibal. He finally understands there is nothing but death and darkness on that road. Hannibal lives on a similar road but because he embraces that death and darkness it's never seemed quite as terrifying to him. Jack explains to Chiyo at one point in the episode that Will and Hannibal are "identically different;" the perfect description. Will finally breaks away from Hannibal and by doing so is finally released from Hannibal's control. It is a moment of sheer triumph for Will that the show has been working towards for two and a half seasons now, even though when the police arrive to take Hannibal away, they find him gone. They question Jack and Will and just when the man hunt seems about to begin anew, Hannibal appears and surrenders. Hannibal has always ever only let people believe they are in control of him. It's incredibly fitting that even now at the end of everything, Hannibal doesn't lose. After everything they still didn't 'catch' him. The episode ends with what I really wish were the last line of the entire series. Hannibal gets to his knees with guns drawn on him. He looks at Jack, and then past Jack at Will before saying "I want you to always know where I am. Where you can always find me." It's one of the most chilling lines of the series and there is still so much more to come. In fact, the last act of Bryan Fuller's Hannibal is actually the legend's first. The Great Red Dragon. 

Hannibal, Season 3 Episode 6: Dolce

Seeing Hannibal walk away from Jack with open wounds was a jarring experience and it took this week's episode, "Dolce"to help cement what it really meant. "Contorno's" bulletin finale was designed to make viewer's understand that we were entering completely new territory. No one was safe anymore. Not even Hannibal himself. The first four episodes of this season exist to move characters around on a story arc chess board. It just took this long for this to be clear because Bryan Fuller and his team managed to do an ingenious job of hiding exposition behind the best cinematography and editing the show has achieved thus far. Not to mnetion dialogue so vague and mysterious it could only die-hard fans could assemble the puzzle from the pieces provided. Bedelia has been warning Hannibal all along that he's been flirting with disaster and now, finally, disaster had chosen to respond.

Bedelia herself is a huge part of "Dolce" and with good reason. It seems to be the last episode Gillian Anderson will occupy and she goes out with a bang. Even after everything that Hannibal has done to her, she still doesn't want to be directly responsible for his downfall. There's a kind of love there that no one, not even Bedelia, fully understands. Knowing her own limitations when it comes to creating an alibi for herself and her supposed husband, Hannibal, Bedelia shoots heroin to keep herself from revealing the truth. The beauty of this sequence is even though she's helping Hannibal, she's ultimately just trying to free herself from him and after providing a wonderful performance and a sultry and silly alibi, she finally does it.

We also learn this episode the full meaning of Margot's motivations. She wants a child more than anything and has developed a physical (at the very least) relationship with Alana in order to help her get it. A kaleidoscopic sex sequence helps what could have been a blunt elbow to the ribs sequence become something much more and this reason isn't much of a surprise. Hannibal has always been skilled at taking expository sequences and masking them behind mind bending visual effects which make for great TV watching and force the audience to keep their minds open while they watch in order to absorb every detail.

The final storyline in the episode follows Hannibal as he nurses Will's wounds. That is, until he realizes that if he doesn't act on what has become an obsession with eating Will Graham, he'll certainly miss his chance. So follows the most jaw dropping ending sequence the medium of television has seen in a long time. Hannibal has Will drugged and strapped to a chair, forcing Jack (who's achilles tendon has been slashed) to watch as he saws open Will's skull. And as if the show realized when it's audience simply couldn't take it anymore the scene just stops. Suddenly we find ourselves pushed ahead through time, though how much time we don't know, and Hannibal and Will are the prisoners of Mason Verger. It's almost too much to take. What on earth could happen next?