One chapter is over for Hannibal this season and the Red Dragon portion begins with a three year time jump. Moving forward by this amount is a wise move as it spares any lengthy courtroom scenes, which weren’t so successful when Will Graham was on trial last season (it did give us Freddie’s hat which I will forever be grateful for). It also means all the players in the Hannibal hunt have been given time to heal both physically and mentally; some have moved on in a big way and others seem comfortable in returning to their jobs with varying degrees of proximity to Hannibal.
The episode opens with Francis Dolarhyde’s transformation and at no point does he speak or do we get to hear his real name (it can only be seen on his uniform name badge). A William Blake retrospective in an issue of Time gives a peak into the beast he becomes obsessed with and this is where the episode gets its title from; “The Great Red Dragon” proves to be so important to Dolarhyde he gets it etched on his back and kneels before this painting in a position of worship.
Blurred butts ahoy! This has been very on trend this season and Bryan Fuller did mention at the Comic-Con panel there would be no blurring on the DVD.
This opening sequence does a good job of highlighting Dolarhyde’s isolation as you can see his co-workers chatting over lunch in the background as he sits alone. His attic dwelling with its broken mirror and portrait reinforces and when we see him picking up the teeth which inspired his tabloid nickname, his hood is up as a way to protect his identity and attempt to conceal his hair lip.
Red Dragon is the only Thomas Harris book I have read so this is the one portion of Hannibal where I know the source material and hopefully this won’t bleed too much into my interpretation because while he doesn’t speak, the way Richard Armitage moves and makes those guttural sounds indicates he is a killer who might just have a monster inside him. One thing we know is that he is a big fan of scrapbooking and as Hannibal predicted he is not so fond of the sensational name he has been given.
Dolarhyde has also been paying attention to ‘Hannibal the Cannibal’ and despite Dr. Chilton’s assertions that people have tired of Hannibal’s crimes in favor of the new serial killer on the block, Hannibal is not without fans. While cutting out evidence of his latest endeavors we also see a family photo from Dolarhyde’s own collection and pictures are an important part of this storyline.
Some of those are moving and in a terrifying fantastical moment Dolarhyde is enveloped by the film turning him into the projector.
Transformation is important with the moon cycle acting as a countdown for when he will kill again. When he exits the home of the second family he killed covered in blood it acts like a kind of rebirth and briefly stops whatever is giving him the urge to kill. There are two sides to Dolarhyde; this duality also exists in Will Graham and it is Dolarhyde that causes Will to come back to the crime solving fold.
Photographs act as a prompt to get Will to come back and while it is an emotionally manipulative move from Jack he sees it as a necessary evil to stop another family being murdered. Will doesn’t want to see the crime scene photos using Molly and her 11-year old son Walter as an excuse; really it is him that doesn’t want to see them. Jack borrowed Will’s mind before resulting in the twisted relationship with Hannibal so it is clear how desperate Jack is as he has ventured up to Will’s secluded residence.
By not inviting Jack in, Will attempts to keep his home free from this old life, but the weight of responsibility is too much and Jack ends up staying for dinner. Dolarhyde has infiltrated Will’s peace with his crimes and if the photograph of happy families wasn’t enough to convince Will, well then Jack has his props at the ready to show Molly.
By leaving Jack with his wife, Will is knowingly giving Jack the opportunity to make his case and despite everything telling him to protect the life he now has, he also feels responsible for the fate of whatever family might get torn apart next. So long to the brief moment of happiness we got to see on Will’s face.
Old faces come to visit in several forms for Will Graham and he has a letter from Hannibal (in beautiful cursive of course) telling him “We have all found a new life, but our old lives hover in the shadows” followed by “I would encourage you as a friend not to step back through the door he [Jack] holds open. It’s dark on the other side and madness is waiting.” The newspaper clipping about the Tooth Fairy murders makes it quite clear that Hannibal wants Will to walk through that door and into his new abode.
Will obliges and he’s rather practical about it all as he explains how he might as well get it out of the way now rather than in an act of desperation when the countdown clock to the next full moon is approaching at speed. Will makes it clear he does not care for Hannibal’s note nor the clipping by burning them.
Chunky shawl neck sweaters and beanies for Will are more like his clothing of old and thanks to the shooting schedule there’s always a lot of snow on this show. The “Will Graham Glasses Watch” continues and the only point we see him wearing them this week is when he takes them off as he approaches Hannibal’s fancy pants cell.
Mirroring the end of season 1 and the roles are reversed; the only similarity is Hannibal’s part in creating the conditions for both scenarios as he framed Will and surrendered himself to the FBI. Hannibal’s surroundings both real and memory palace are far more opulent than the cell which housed Will and the memories which haunted him. You might say Hannibal has landed on his feet despite his lack of freedom as now he has everything he needs before him.
Last week Alana warned Mason that Hannibal is always playing; Mason did not heed these words and ended up with an eel down his throat. Now it is Alana and Chilton who are embroiled in a dangerous game of their own making as they lied in court and now Hannibal is considered legally insane.
Alana’s sticking to the fabulous pantsuits and her new power color of bold red in her visit to her former boyfriend and it is a conversation peppered with contemptuous remarks from both parties. It remains rather civil as they drink the wine which revealed Hannibal’s Italian location even as they trade barbs about Alana’s current job, how to categorize Hannibal away from lazy monster assertions – Alana thinks he defies categorization – and why she stopped drinking beer. They also discuss the number of people he was charged with killing, a baker’s dozen if you include Mason (“You’re welcome”) and the thinly veiled threat Hannibal made last week towards Alana’s life comes up again as he reminds her that he always keeps his promises.
Instead of taking this moment to storm out, Alana instead sits back down and while I am sure she does fear that he will come good on this promise at the moment she is protected. The Alana/Hannibal romantic relationship was frustrating because of the position it put her in; however I want to see a lot more of this dynamic because their back and forths are rather fun. Somehow there is still warmth and humor even with what has gone on. Plus she is now part of his Renaissance fan art collection.
In this conversation with Alana we get to see his memory palace in action:
And in reality:
His former Baltimore residence is not the only place he spends time and the church in Palermo is just as vital. Hannibal’s fanciest of suits which are more Baltimore than his European collection appear in the moment where he listens to a choirboy singing. Hannibal is making the jumpsuit work for him, but I am always thrilled to see him in a three piece suit.
This provides the soundtrack for Hannibal getting booked by the returning Price and Zeller (so happy to have them back) and a hint of the work Freddie Lounds has been up to. Lounds is later referred to as an “obnoxious flame haired woman” after she has tried to take photos of the dead woman at the funeral home.
Yes I had to chuckle at the “Kitchen Nightmare” headline.
Alana is not the only one sharing words and treats with Hannibal as Chilton enjoys fine dining and a dessert he has had with Hannibal before. A dessert which includes blood and Chilton asks the question you don’t ask Hannibal if you have sat at his dinner table and gets the answer he was hoping to avoid “The blood was from a cow only in the derogatory sense.” Eat the rude and all that.
Chilton provokes Hannibal with the discussion of the new serial killer du jour – like the show Hannibal is niche – and as is generally the case with Chilton he wants to know the opinion of an esteemed mind on the subject.
Reporting his findings to Alana about their ‘cabal’ confirming their involvement in Hannibal’s trial outcome and why they lied; they are attempting to save everyone else from the ‘monster.’ Yes he would have got the death penalty and yet he would have probably found some way out of it. And as Alana pointed out previously she was up for Hannibal getting tortured, but less so for his death even if it puts her in the firing line. For Chilton fame motivates this choice and with Alana it is more likely a sense of duty. Concern is in her voice as she discusses Hannibal’s presence and she informs Chilton that Hannibal has written “a brilliant piece for the American Journal of Psychiatry” debunking Chilton’s book about him.
They are all walking cautionary tales when it comes to Hannibal and yet they’re all getting pulled back into his influence. Everyone is playing the most dangerous game.
The stag is of course Will’s thing, but it is worth nothing that Alana has one in her office.
Sure is good have the crime solving gang back together and a return to the storytelling format closer to previous seasons. The first half of this year was incredibly ambitious, but at times it did feel weighed down by some of the dialogue and continuous slow mo shots of blood.
Returning to Baltimore and a crime where they don’t know who the killer is, gives a sense of familiarity; Will’s pendulum swinging followed by “This is my design” coupled with a red stringed winged looking form was really good to see. It’s not all old tricks as Will’s flashlight was used to illuminate where the bodies had been and this whole sequence prior to Will’s recreation of the murders is disturbing both because of the crime and the dangerous path he is about to walk down. A path he tries to resist, but he knows he will have to embrace the darkness (and Hannibal) to save another family from this awful fate.