In case you’re wondering, yes, this is a cannibalism blog, and yes, there were plenty of human body parts consumed in Hannibal Seasons 1 and 2. Season 3 is different, because Hannibal Lecter is locked up in the Baltimore Asylum for the Criminally Insane for most of it, so cannot offer us a lot of gastronomy. But there’s more to eating than flesh, and there’s more to Hannibal than just eating. Hannibal believes he is the Übermensch and so is all about becoming, and becoming requires the use of others to fuel his radiance, and the radiance of those he chooses to mentor.
In the previous episode, Francis Dolarhyde, a.k.a. The Tooth Fairy (Freddie’s name for him) or The Red Dragon (his own preferred moniker) had killed two families, each event happening on the full moon. Besides the date, though, there seemed to be nothing in common between the victims, so Jack called on Will, and Will called on Hannibal, to get the old murder scent.
In this episode, Francis finally contacts Hannibal, breaking into the office of Hannibal`s lawyer so the call will go through to Hannibal’s cell. He visualises Hannibal in suit and tie, a master rather than a captive. He wants to be recognised by Hannibal in his becoming of the Great Red Dragon, he wants to “meld” with Hannibal (eat him). Hannibal is happy to play along, stroking the killer’s ego, telling him how magnificent he is, quoting Blake, who of course painted the Great Red Dragon in the early 19th century.
Bedelia is back in town, no longer claiming to be Mrs Fell, now being bugged by Will Graham to admit she lied about her identity confusion. But she has her own philosophy of subjectivity now. She tells Will, and an adoring audience of psychiatrists (?) that everything we see and believe about ourselves is just a mental construction. When she was under the control of Hannibal, she was metaphorically in Hell – Hell before Dante turned it into an urban environment, Hell when it was portrayed not as the “gates of Hell” but the “mouth of Hell”
Will scorns her story of…
“suffering inside Hannibal Lecter’s bowels for what must have felt like an eternity”
Thank goodness, we finally got to the alimentary canal.
Francis, meanwhile, is trying to go straight, falling in love with Reba, his blind colleague, who cannot see what, he imagines, is his abhorrent deformity. He takes her to a zoo to feel a sedated tiger, tying her to another Blake image:
Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
Just as Reba can ‘see’ the tiger with her hands, so she can see the radiance (or at least the nice part) of Francis, with those same hands, which she proceeds to use to seduce him, when they get home. He experiences probably his first time with a woman that does not involve blood and biting and broken mirrors in eye-sockets; he is falling in love. She is part of his fantasy now – if he is the Dragon, she is the “woman clothed in the sun”
He decides to solve the problem of the Dragon, who is not going to want him to get all soft and mushy, the way Hannibal solves a problem – by eating it. He tricks his way into the National Gallery of Art and eats the original Blake painting, stopping on the way out to beat the shit out of Will, who has come to find out about this Red Dragon business.
Bedelia has told Will to make an appointment and guess what – he did! Now they spar in easy chairs in her office.
B: I can’t blame him for doing what evolution has equipped him to do.
W: If we just do whatever evolution equipped us to do, murder and cannibalism are morally acceptable.
B: They are acceptable, to murderers and cannibals.
The moral of the story, children, is that we are all capable of love and mercy, and capable of murder and cannibalism. Bedelia has a flash-back to killing a patient sent to her by Hannibal, no doubt to see if she would help him or save him. She explains this theory to Will, in one of the seminal aphorisms of the series. She asks Will what he thinks if he sees a wounded bird on the grass. Will would see the bird as vulnerable, and try to save her.
“A primal rejection of weakness which is every bit as natural as the nurturing instinct. Of course, I wouldn’t crush it, but my first thought is to do just that.”
Hannibal explains Blake’s Red Dragon to Will, and to us. The Dragon stands over a pleading woman who is caught in his tail. Few images in Western art radiate such a unique and…
“I like this dragon Will. I don’t think he’s crazy at all. I think he might be quite sane. A magnificent thing, to watch the world through his red haze.”