WARNING: This review contains spoilers
This ninth episode in Hannibal’s third season quietly reinforces the stakes for the final four episodes of the series. Family is the dominant theme of the episode, which allows for the viewer to connect more emotionally with what the presence of Francis Dolarhyde threatens for our key characters.
The episode starts where The Great Red Red Dragon left off – the conversation between Hannibal and Will. With his Sherlock-like powers of perception and deduction, Hannibal quickly sniffs out the change in Will’s personal life and then begins his mind games; highlighting Will’s own reluctance to procreate for fear of passing on demons. This observation is perhaps motivated by bitterness, though, as Hannibal also reminds Will that he also tried to provide some familial comfort in the past, through Abigail. In the Red Dragon novel, it’s Will’s family that Hannibal attacks with Dolarhyde’s assistance. It would appear that Fuller is setting up the same arc with this opening scene. Although we do not witness any interaction between Will and Walter, his step-son, we are shown a late night phone call between Will and Molly. She is warm, teasing and supportive. Will is clearly at ease with her. We’re meant to be believe that this is a genuine relationship and the closest thing that Will has ever had to a healthy family. As such the stakes are high for our special agent and the personal cost could be greater than he currently imagines.
Interestingly, the initial scene between Will and Hannibal leads us next to an illuminating flashback between Hannibal and Abigail. We are taken back to a familiar scene from season one; the moment where Abigail fully realises Hannibal’s true nature and believes he will kill her. This is elaborated now that there is no need to perpetuate any narrative enigma. We see Hannibal and and Abigail faking the evidence of her death. The relationship is clearly a father/daughter one, with her perched on the kitchen counter and him speaking softly and with some humour. Their physical interactions are led by him and reflect a paternal tenderness – he touches her hands and pushes her hair behind her ear.
This presentation might seem initially unexpected, as Hannibal doesn’t stand to lose family in the same way that Will could. Its inclusion, then is one which helps to explain Hannibal’s emotional state and will motivate his behaviour. Despite killing Abigail, he feels that he has lost a daughter because of Will’s betrayal, and that in his mind, that is a debt that Will will have to pay. Given the mentor/mentee relationship also established in these scenes with Hannibal and Abigail, it helps to frame the potential relationship that Hannibal feels he could have with Dolarhyde – a willing and capable pupil whom Hannibal can help truly realise his terrible potential.
Despite clearly representing both Will and Hannibal as fathers in this episode, other key characters are also presented in relation to their family status. We learn that Alana and Margot now have a son; the Verger heir and that Alana carried the child which reinforces her familial connection to both Margot and the boy. This doesn’t make her death any less inevitable given Hannibal’s promise and the power that she holds over Hannibal (which is reinforced so clearly in this episode – she is the only one to show her lack of fear of him by being in the same space) but will certainly make it more tragic. Jack’s brief scene with Hannibal also allows some hint that Jack also has someone new in his life and that he has moved on from Bella’s death. Though small, this also gives Jack something which could be threatened and which he would seek to protect.
We also a have a short flashback to Dolarhyde’s past; a small and melancholic boy sits at a dining table. His company are stern looking elderly folk. The music played connotes some sort of celebration, but it is out of tune and slightly out of time suggesting that this is not a happy or well-adjusted environment for the boy. Here, the emphasis on family is not about reinforcing the potential loss, but instead is hinting at the context of Dolarhyde’s childhood. It’s reasonable to expect further elaboration on his past as a way to help humanise him and allow viewers to see Dolarhyde as sympathetic, at least in part. This sympathetic representation is further developed through the introduction of Reba; a blind co-worker who reacts positively and with some affection towards Dolarhyde. His manner and her perceptions reinforce that he is often socially alienated and is ill-at-ease in the company of others. She appears to have a positive effect on him, reminding us that he is not beyond redemption. Her reaction to him encourages the viewer to see him more sympathetically.
One of the secondary functions of this thematic emphasis on family is to allow us to connect more clearly with the victims of Dolarhyde’s crimes; the Leeds and Jacobi families. In this episode, we see a short excerpt of a Jacobi home movie, the birthday of one of the children. This footage helps to elevate them out of the conventional representation of cold and forensic victims and brings them into the sphere of life and dynamism as Will imagines the scene more completely. As a result, we can more fully connect with the tragedy of their loss and is presented as a contrast to the walk throughs of the horrific crime scenes and Will’s returned nightmares of the victims.
Freddie Lounds of Tattle Crime (now in print; presumably facilitated by the money she made exploiting her connection to Hannibal following his capture) is back this episode. She finds Will outside the Jacobi’s house. This is the only way she is connected with the idea of family at all. We are not given any information about Freddie’s personal life, which suggests that as a single agent she has less to lose and so might continue to be the loose canon she has always been in this narrative. However, during her interaction with Will (which also contains a nice little meta reference to Hannibal and Will as “murder husbands”) she makes it clear that she could also be a valuable asset to him in helping apprehend The Tooth Fairy. In Red Dragon, this is exactly the role that Freddie plays, but it doesn’t end well for that version of the tabloid reporter. Given that Fuller has already played with that version of her fate in her faked death in season 2, the outcome for Ms. Lounds will likely be less informed by the canon.
Aside from the thematic and narrative construction of this episode, this visualisation of the Red Dragon tale has typically made some more aesthetic choices which have helped free Hannibal from the confines of his cell. These were so obviously limiting in the previous filmed versions of the story. His mind palace serves as a gateway to allow Will and Hannibal to appear collectively present at the crime scenes to better elucidate Hannibal’s observations and to more clearly suggest Hannibal’s ability to get inside Will’s head. However, even in his cell, Hannibal is hardly disempowered; in the conversation with Will separated by glass, Hannibal’s reflection is bigger than Will in his shots reinforcing his dominance. This is matched by the repeated low angle shots of Hannibal in his cell when conversing with Jack.
The episode ends at a suitably dramatic point. Having seen the article regarding Will’s consultation of Hannibal on the Tooth Fairy case, Dolarhyde successfully manages to get a call placed to Lecter in his cell after posing as his attorney. This first direct contact establishes what will surely be a highly dangerous partnership for those who think that Hannibal is powerless to hurt them whilst incarcerated.
Check back with us next week for a review of episode ten …And the Woman Clothed in Sun on Thursday 6th July, City TV, 10/9c in Canada, Saturday 8th August, NBC 10/9c or Wednesday 12th August Sky Living at 10pm in the UK.
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