WARNING: This review contains spoilers
This season (hopefully not series) finale is explosively gorgeous and suitably dramatic. It offers several moments of deliberate mirroring, allowing the avid fan to reflect on the journey the characters have taken. Predictably, the main focus is Will and Hannibal, with the supporting characters making quiet exits from the season, with some (Molly, Walter & Freddie) not featuring at all. The Number of the Beast is 666 set up Will’s true loyalty as the central dramatic enigma, as Dark Will was evoked more prominently. The Wrath of the Lamb leans heavily on this ambiguity, only delivering a clear resolution in the final moments of the episode. There is much focus on the possible alliances and allegiances of our “Good Will”.
The teaser delivers a viscerally and narratively shocking moment, presenting the audience and Reba with the apparent suicide of Francis Dolarhyde. There is some irony as the notion of trust is so clearly employed just moments earlier. The death seems convincing both in its presentation and also in the logic of the show; Francis appears to be in control of the Dragon, and commits suicide as a final expression of the remnants of his humanity. Set against our generic expectations, though, this moment is pretty anticlimactic and devalues the established threat of the Great Red Dragon. As a result, though, the remainder of the episode is more exhilaratingly ambiguous.
Hannibal reminds Will that though his external adversary is no longer a threat, there is still “the enemy inside” which prevents Will from returning to the happiness he knew with Molly. Will’s reaction to Hannibal’s astute observation of his desired effect is to reject Hannibal once more. Will delivers the message cooly and, as Hannibal later remarks, drops the mic and leaves. It would certainly appear that Hannibal’s feelings are not reciprocated and Will is angry at Hannibal’s manipulation of him.
Dolarhyde’s subsequent reappearance in the narrative is not entirely unexpected, but his ambush of Will initially creates fear for our protagonist. However we, like Will, realise pretty quickly that he will not be subjected a Chilton-esque ordeal. In fact, the two men eventually appear almost like brothers. They share a recognition of how their mentor/father figure has manipulated, betrayed them and set them against each another. The resulting alliance is set on murderous revenge.
The next scene provides some exposition about how Dolarhyde managed to fake his own death. This placement of evidence allows us to understand that the FBI have come to their own understanding of Dolarhyde’s survival without Will telling Jack that he has met with Dolarhyde. This is useful, of course, because Will doesn’t tell Jack at all. Will’s plan, to use Hannibal as bait to catch Dolarhyde, is an extension of the plan established with Dolarhyde. The fact that Will withholds this suggests he’s playing a game where his goal is different from Jack’s. They agree to fake Hannibal’s escape to draw out Dolarhyde. Of course, we know that the FBI’s plans never quite successful on this show.
Bedelia is the only one who apparently understands what is going to happen, and she is understandably upset at the prospect of Lecter even being ‘fake’ free. He will cause havoc if allowed freedom. Later, Lecter in a reinforcing low angle shot, reminds us and Alana of her debt, but now compounds it with staking a claim on Margot and their son. The resulting noir-ish tete-a-tete between Jack, Alana and Will reveals a plan to not only kill Dolarhyde, but also Lecter.
Going into the fake-turned-real escape, Will’s true allegiances are ambiguous and and the possibilities reflect various possible moral positions. Either, he’s on the side of institutional righteousness on a quest to take down Dolarhyde and punish Lecter, or he’s dubiously aligned with Dolarhyde in order to get personal revenge against Hannibal, or he’s secretly manoeuvring and manipulating those around him in order to secure Hannibal’s liberation. Of course, morally this is the most conventionally repugnant, but by this point, it’s also what a lot of audience want.
Dolarhyde intervenes and facilitates a genuine escape but then disappears. Will chooses to accompany Hannibal in fleeing from the scene, confirming nothing for the audience. The last we see of Jack is his confusion at the aftermath, and Alana is shown fleeing with Margot and her young son.
We find Hannibal and Will later at Hannibal’s impressive clifftop house. They stand at the edge of the cliff and look down to the sea. “The bluff is eroding” Hannibal says, drawing attention to this facet of the setting and planting ideas about how unstable this place is, reinforcing its appropriateness for the final scenes. Of course, ‘bluff’ is polysemic. Whose bluff is eroding? Seeing as Will is the only other person present, we’re positioned to see this as one of the many highly perceptive double-edged observations made by Hannibal. But what is exactly is Will’s bluff? Does Hannibal know? Do we?
Later, an uneasy romantic atmosphere is established as Hannibal muses on the nature of love as he cracks open a bottle of wine. This tranquility is short-lived as a shot shatters a window and penetrates Hannibal’s abdomen. Dolarhyde follows after, and whilst Hannibal writhes in pain on the floor, Dolarhyde sets up his camera and Will stands by passively. Although his allegiance finally seems clear, a couple of paired close-up shots of Will and Hannibal exchanging wordless glances sells the idea that Will has a choice here; he can change sides. An insert shot of Will reaching round to his back suggests that this is exactly what he will do. However, Dollarhyde also knows this and stabs Will suddenly in the head in an attempt to Cain his Abel. Fortunately, we know Will has some of the ‘stuff’ that Chilton does have which makes them both so hard to kill.
The conflict spills outside and onto the clifftop with Dolarhyde, now presented as part man, part dragon and full of rage. He tussles with Will and lands another knife wound to Will’s upper chest. Hannibal finds his strength and also attacks Dolarhyde. This sequence shows Will and Hannibal working in tandem to viciously take down Dolarhyde, the Dragon. They succeed, of course, and we’re shown both the aestheticised physical death of Dollarhyde and the metaphorical death of the Dragon, symbolised by the burning book and film stock. The accompanying soundtrack is the original Siouxsie Sioux track fittingly entitled ‘Love Crime’ and predictably it adds a gothic romanticism to this finale.
With both Hannibal and Will beaten and bloodied, they are left to make sense of what they just did. Hannibal typically offers words driven by his need to connect with Will. And what words they are, words which function as a call back to Garret Jacob Hobbs’ final words to Will in Aperitif. “See?” Hannibal says. “This is all I ever wanted for you, Will. For both of us.” That ‘this’ is a primal, violent, masculine union; a killing team. Hannibal wanted someone to participate. Will’s response to this admission is simple; “It’s beautiful”. His words clearly indicate that finally, like the Hannibal and audience always has, Will sees the the beauty in violence and death. They embrace at the cliff edge. This embrace is truly one of union, unlike Mizumono. In this embrace, they go over the edge of the cliff. The positioning as Hannibal through this series, but particularly in this season, as Lucifer the fallen angle, allows us to see this moment as one which finalises Will’s transformation into a similar creature. The camera slowly tilts to reveal the sea below. There are no bodies at the bottom. They have gone into the water, and no doubt Hannigram shippers will note water’s Freudian associations with sex. In any case, their deaths are not confirmed. The final credits roll over this held shot of the cliffs and the sea.
However like season 2, this is not quite the end, and also like season 2, this little stinger features Bedelia. She is sat at her dining table, dressed in revealing blue lace with a chilling look which fuses a confused contentment and contained fear. The table is set with all the trappings of a fine dinner. The camera pulls back slowly to reveal that she is alone, but that the main meat dish is centrally positioned on the table. It’s size and presentation reminds the viewer of the meals shared by Hannibal and Gideon in the past. Indeed, the camera jibs down to reveal she is missing a leg.
There has already been some speculation that this stinger doesn’t necessarily confirm that Hannibal and Will are responsible, and that Bedelia may have done this herself in order to reconcile with Hannibal. Whilst this is clearly possible, it’s worth noting that there are three place settings at that table, and so if she has done this, then Will is clearly invited too. Personally, I believe, we’re meant to take this as confirmation of Hannibal and Will beginning to make good on Hannibal’s promises.
Of course, this leads nicely to questions of what happens next, should the Gods of Television grant us more of this deliciously disturbing series. The Murder Husbands might now be canon, but their is much that is still unresolved. With Will established as the Christ-figure, then it is always possible that he can return from the Wilderness. What about Alana’s fate? Will Jack attempt to pursue Hannigram? How about Molly and Walter? Chilton is still alive and wants Hannibal’s hide, and Will’s too probably. There is also the small matter of the other canon killer who is keen on skins…
The Wrath of the Lamb will also be broadcast on Saturday 29th August, NBC 10/9c or Wednesday 2nd September on Sky Living at 10pm in the UK.