Francis Dolarhyde and his quest to become the Great Red Dragon is a new chapter of Hannibal, but the events which took place for these characters three years previous still loom in a variety of ways and they need to be addressed. Loose ends are tied up relating to Dr Bedelia du Maurier, who when we last saw her was trying to convince the world that she thought she was Lydia Fell. Bedelia was in a unique position with Hannibal as his traveling companion and this week’s Bedelia catch-up reveals what happened leading up to the death of her patient. In returning to this world Will is attempting various forms of self preservation with one method involving a debrief session with Hannibal’s other Bride of Frankenstein.
The past plays a vital role this week for Will, but Dolarhyde is all about the present as he continues to experience inner turmoil and much to his surprise he has a very successful first date. He is at war with himself and while Bedelia’s split state was all smoke and mirrors, Dolarhyde is very much experiencing two very distinct versions. One is sweet and shy, the other devours paintings and has murder on his mind; with the next full moon just 11 days away the Great Red Dragon is awaiting its next kill.
Dolarhyde as we saw is fond of scrapbooking his own murderous achievements giving them pride of place next to the clippings he has collected on Hannibal’s many crimes. An interaction with the man who he holds up in such high regard seems like an impossibility considering Hannibal’s current location and yet last week ended with Hannibal receiving a phone call from his new protege. The episode opens on how Dolarhyde makes this happen and the very familiar location provides an instant connection between the pair while also reinforcing the notion of Dolarhyde’s dueling personas. It is Dolarhyde’s perspective rather than Hannibal’s memory palace and the location is real; Hannibal’s physical presence is imagined, but as this is a guy who is seeing flaming images and tails this is the least out there vision he has had.
The fan adoration turns into a therapy session as the demeaning names the press has given both of them gives Hannibal an instant personal connection to Dolarhyde’s plight; all the better to manipulate him with. This is what Hannibal does as he takes someone’s fears no matter how small or big and bends them to his will. With others he has to put the hours in to make them killers, here the murders have already begun but there are still plenty of strings to be pulled. As one Dolarhyde watches on the other turns into the beast giving Hannibal a glowing sheen.
Stroking a tiger is going to be a hard first date to top and this was an inspired idea. Tigers also feature in the work of William Blake (“Tyger Tyger, burning bright“) so he is on point here, but this version of Dolarhyde doesn’t feel threatening. Instead he is the incredibly shy and nervous one as he watches Reba edge closer and closer to the sharp teeth of the animal. Reba stops before putting her hand fully in, much to his relief and instead places her head on the tiger; smiling followed by a single tear.
Positioning Reba as the good in Dolarhyde’s life could lead to the age old Madonna/Whore complex at work especially as he is quite clearly not accustomed to intimacy of this kind – more drinking implements are broken this week – but there is nothing scandalous about Reba’s actions despite her “Hope I didn’t shock you” comment. After a moment of recovery he scoops her up in a sexually charged moment. The painting Dolarhyde worships has a demonic sexuality component (thanks Hannibal for that interpretation) and the vision he has of Reba is instead rather angelic. So rather than Madonna/Whore there is a whole lot of Madonna/Madonna if such a thing could exist.
Rutina Wesley spent years on True Blood in a variety of storylines that didn’t particularly serve her well and her portrayal of Reba is both vulnerable and confident; these delicate flourishes show just how good she can be. Like True Blood the sex scenes on this show don’t play with general conventions so here she is sleeping with a dude who wants to be a dragon as he imagines her bathed in golden light.
Body hangups are common, but for Dolarhyde his perception of his disability is mostly imagined from his hair lip to his speech. He is comfortable around Reba because she can’t see and yet he worries what their co-workers have been saying about him; they are curious about him and they know he is sensitive about his face even though he shouldn’t be. While she is sleeping he places her hand on his face and in this moment he seems content. Content until dreams of teeth, the moon and the dragon wake him from his slumber sending him dashing to his broken mirror and painting.
The copy he has is a mere reproduction; the real one is in Brooklyn where Dolarhyde ventures. Under an assumed name and using academia as a reason to view the real thing he literally eats the painting and has his first encounter with Will Graham. Hannibal has pointed Will in the direction of this work by Blake acting as puppet master from his cell and this is where Will has a brief, but violent interaction with Dolarhyde. All that working out comes in useful when it comes to picking people up and throwing them so you can escape.
The symbol Will discovered last week carved on a tree is replicated in this stunning shot of Will approaching Hannibal’s current abode and it is the Chinese character for “you hit it” used sometimes in gambling. It is also the symbol for “The Red Dragon” on a Mahjong tile and this is where Hannibal steers Will toward William Blake. Hannibal is clearly having fun here pointing out the 11 days countdown until the next full moon – “tick tock” – and talking about Dolarhyde with such fondness claiming that he doesn’t think he is insane.
Hannibal is proving both useful to the investigation and as a mischief maker. In another phone call he manages to get Will’s new address and that is not good for those Will has left behind at home. Thankfully there are plenty of dogs to watch guard.
The set design also continues to create fascinating and striking images such as Will’s reflection merging with Hannibal.
Great danger still exists despite the physical barrier as Hannibal represents Will’s darkest path. A path Will has shared some details of with Molly, but how can he truly explain what occurred between them? And no one tells their current significant other everything about their ex.
Will made a clean break from Hannibal and has got dragged back by recent events; for Bedelia du Maurier she has been using her time with Hannibal to fuel her career, which is troubling because her encounter with Neal Frank (oh hey Zachary Quinto not playing just a corpse this time) shows she’s not a great psychiatrist. Everyone is lying when it comes to Hannibal; Alana and Chilton with the insanity plea, Jack with what really really went down and Bedelia with her fabricated drugged story. To the outside world Bedelia is just another victim and she’s giving grand lectures which directly reference Dante; a cheeky nod to Hannibal’s specialist subject in Florence.
Not wearing adequate armor is how Will puts the events of three years ago and you’re going to need more than just your glasses – once again he wears them out in public, but not private encounters – to stop the spiral.
A hint of smugness peppers Bedelia’s comment that she doesn’t need to see Hannibal because she was behind the veil; how very Wizard of Oz. She does still receive cards from him on Christian holidays and her birthday which he sends via the FBI. He always includes a recipe and this made me laugh so hard. Will’s response is less kind as he tells her it will be what she deserves if she ends up on Hannibal’s plate.
This session plays out in the classic sitting across from each other format with a twist as Will’s present day conversation is seamlessly intercut with Bedelia’s sessions with Neal.
Present day Bedelia. She is rather self-satisfied with her current position.
Neal is understandably annoyed at his experience with Hannibal and the care he is receiving here as his mild symptoms have increased in a dramatic fashion. Bedelia exasperates the situation and is not too concerned when Neal mentions how Hannibal stood over him as he choked on his tongue doing nothing. When this happens again, Bedelia does go to help and instead fists him to death. The aftermath is what we saw in the season premiere.
In a scenario Bedelia asks what Will would do for an injured bird and he replies he would want to help it, Bedelia has the opposite urge and while she claims she wouldn’t actually crush it as we see with Neal when he was in danger she did just this. She’s really failing at the ‘do no harm’ thing. In Bedelia’s school of thought Will is not a killer even though he has killed and instead it is his compassion that led to these righteous acts of violence. I mean I’m pretty sure he is still a killer, but I get her point that he isn’t the monster he maybe believes he is. She also tells him he should use his empathy to crush rather than nurture as it will be easier for him in the long run. You can see why Hannibal let her see behind the veil with comments like this one.
As with Dolarhyde, Will has this internal battle between two versions of himself; the one he fears he is and the compassionate empathetic saver of the vulnerable. Hannibal encourages what he believes are natural urges and someone usually ends up dead and maybe mounted in a artistic tableau as a result of this push. He also doesn’t let the limitations of his surroundings get the best of him and he is incredibly resourceful when nurturing new projects. The pieces are forever moving and I don’t think even he could foresee the chance encounter between Will and Dolarhyde, but I bet he will have a plan formulated as soon as he finds out.