WARNING: This review contains spoilers
…And the Beast from the Sea is an episode which starts to deliver on the promises made earlier on for climactic and explosive conflict and drama in the back end of Hannibal’s third season. The heart of the episode is a nail-biting set piece involving Molly, Walter and Dolarhyde; this dramatic centre is surrounded by typically quiet, metaphorical and suspenseful moments. This is also an episode which offers some knowing and very specific references to the iconic moments from previous incarnations of the Lecter narratives.
Following in the pattern established by the previous Red Dragon episodes, the drama begins just slightly before the conclusion of the previous episode. We are shown Dolarhyde consuming Blake’s work. This links into a later discussion between Jack, Will and Alana about the extent to which Hannibal has experience of this killer with Jack speculating that Hannibal might have even treated Dolarhyde as patient, as with Randall Tier. Although this creates some dramatic irony, it allows a transition into a telephone conversation between Hannibal and Dolarhyde, related as an imagined therapy session in Lecter’s office.
In this session, Hannibal’s dialogue is typical; as he once again takes the role of the rational and quietly encouraging mentor to the younger, troubled killer. We’ve seen this Lecter throughout the series; with Abigail, with Randall Tier, with The Muralist and most notably with Will. This idea of the connection between Will and Dolarhyde is further explored in this episode, but it is established here. As with Will, Lecter’s words place emphasis on the ideal of transformation. He imbues the idea of Dolarhyde giving himself over to his Dragon side with positivity; he talks of “the power of your becoming”. Dolarhyde is conflicted, however. The Dragon apparently wants Reba, but Francis, the redeemable man, doesn’t want that outcome. His interior conflict between his humanity and his beastly identity is another key concept in this episode, as the physical fight between these identities later visualises. Hannibal exploits the Dragon’s need for blood by offering surrogate victims; The Graham family. In an iconic line which comes directly from the Red Dragon novel, Hannibal tells Dolarhyde to “Save yourself. Kill them all”.
Later, the viewer is transported to a cosy date night at Dolarhyde’s abode. Reba, martinis and a warm lighting romantises this moment. Unable to keep the Dragon’s desires at bay though, Dolarhyde exploits Reba’s blindness to indulge his Dragon perversion of watching footage of his “nocturnal animals”; covert footage of Molly and Walter. In this moment, our fears for all three characters are elevated. More pointedly, though, it allows the viewer a moment to understand that the Dragon part of Dolarhyde is becoming more dominant and, as such, is more powerful.The next scene clearly signals that Dolarhyde has already begun preparing the stage for his next murder; Walter tells his mother “There’s something wrong with the dogs!” The dogs! Although removing the pets has already been established as part of Dolarhyde’s M.O., doubtless fans of the show will receive this information with extra horror. Fortunately, none of the pack die and no doggy suffering is actually shown on screen. The aftermath at the vets reveals some new information to viewers, though. Molly refers to Will as Walter’s Dad. Walter doesn’t reject this label, which tells us that Will’s participation in this family unit is whole and accepted by its most fragile member. Any loss here is going to be felt hard. As a result we know that Will is made more vulnerable because of it.
The subsequent scene between Hannibal and Will uses the camerawork to suggest that Will feels empowered as his initial shots are in a low angle. He believes that he is starting to understand what Hannibal is up to. Will interrogates the doctor about the possibility of his communication with The Tooth Fairy. Hannibal’s response about exactly how this could happen is a pleasing and knowing nod back to the novel. “Personal ads? Notes of admiration on toilet paper? “ Hannibal’s converse angles do not mirror the power dynamic that Will believes is present, thus feeding into the sense of dramatic irony for the viewer as the two discuss the next family to be targeted. Will is unaware, and Hannibal reinforces that he doesn’t care for them as “They’re not my family, Will”; a telling phrase which reminds us of Hannibal’s motivations for pointing the Dragon in the direction of Molly and Walter. This is vengeance for the loss of the family the doctor attempted to create with Will and Abigail, but which Will’s betrayal destroyed.
All of these moments lead to the set piece of the episode; Dolarhyde’s home invasion on the Graham residence. Molly and Walter are on their own. She’s not a conventional female victim; she’s smart and manages to get herself and her son out of the property and onto the road. Dollarhyde’s presence in her home is malignant and dominant; he confidently moves through the space clad in black leather and with his face partially obscured in a manner that is influenced by the canon, but which in this contemporary context will resonates with the image of Daredevil. This is a dark devil on the hunt, and the panning and tilting shots in the sequence help to reinforce how close to danger Molly and Walter are. They don’t escape unscathed, though. Dolarhyde’s parting shots put Molly in the hospital.
In the hospital waiting area, Will, the father, has to confront his past in his new son’s eyes. The tabloid coverage means that Walter is aware of Will’s past. The boy is understandably angry and wants justice. The two share some confrontation regarding the nature of justice. Will attempts to reassure his son that he will apprehend the killer, who will receive appropriate treatment. Walter wants his father to pursue basic and revenge-driven justice for his mother; “You should kill him” and although Will rejects this plea, the viewer understands that in a certain set of circumstances, Walter’s wish may come true.
Following the fight which further externalises the Dragon part of Dolarhyde and which demonstrates the cost of failure to kill Molly and Walter, Dolarhyde breaks up with Reba. The scene, set in her dark room, with emphasis on the Vertigo-esque colour palette of Red and Green allows us to understand the dominant danger he poses her whilst reminding us of her fragile and fertile positivity. He doesn’t initially make herself aware of his presence, raising the tension for the scene. He leaves with the only damage done being emotional rather than physical, but Reba is certainly in the firing-line as Dolarhyde later confesses. Should she pursue him to his house, he is anxious about the consequences.
Towards the end of the episode, and as a result of his tipping off Dolarhyde, Hannibal has his luxuries revoked. Alana takes pleasure in doing so, gloating that Hannibal is not the only one to keep his promises. This references the unfulfilled promise that Hannibal made Alana. Surely he will make good on this in the next two episodes. How is the more intriguing part. Of course, any discussion of this scene would not not be complete without a mention of the reveal of our Hannibal Lecter, restrained on a trolley, complete with a restrictive mask. This rendering is this version’s take on the iconic image of Lecter from Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs.
The final scene is a confrontation between the two lead characters, with the differences between the two made visually evident through the use of light and colour in oppositional two shots. The conversation reveals that Will’s personal equilibrium is now tied more tightly to his defeat of the Red Dragon. An interesting but highly implicit element of the conversation indicates that Hannibal has got something out of the attack on Will’s family, even though they survived. He’s soured it for Will, who now sees his family somewhat differently, perhaps because Dolarhyde’s presence in his home and near his family mean that Will will be unable to stop him using his tool of perception, his light pendulum state, and as such will see his victims through the eyes of a killer. Hannibal reveals to Will that he sees both Dolarhyde and Will similarly; Dolarhyde is embracing his becoming where as Will has rejected. The duality then, is not just inside Dolarhyde but also in Will and between them too. They are children of the Devil and the conflict between them is set up to be emotionally and psychologically apocalyptic.
Check back with us next week for a review of episode twelve – The Number of the Beast is 666 – on Thursday 20th August on City TV, 10/9c in Canada, Saturday 22nd August, NBC 10/9c or Wednesday 26th August Sky Living at 10pm in the UK
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