The penultimate episode of Hannibal! You see, I thought if I dragged out these reviews, they would surely have a fourth series ready by the time I finished the whole 39 episodes (in three weeks from now); after all, I’ve been reviewing Hannibal episodes since October 2018! There is certainly talk of a fourth season or a movie, a discourse reignited by the fact that Netflix has just started streaming the series in the USA and some other countries (not Australia – here it’s on Stan).
What do you do when you can’t go home?
It’s a very contemporary question, Hannibal has told us he cannot go home to Lithuania, although we don’t know why (but hopefully will find out in Season 4). But in this episode, made in 2015, the threat is not a pandemic but a serial killer, “The Great Red Dragon”, who slaughters families and puts broken pieces of mirror in their eyes so he can watch them watching him changing them. Will Graham’s family have fled after the killer came for them, their address supplied by the ever-helpful Hannibal. He told the Dragon “Save yourself. Kill them all”.
You and I don’t want to catch COVID-19, but Will certainly wants to catch the Dragon. But he is broken – his family is gone, in hiding, unlikely to see him again, or certainly not until the threat has been eliminated. In dreams, Will sees himself killing the Dragon’s victims, but each woman is his wife. This was Hannibal`s design. Will asks Bedelia:
Bedelia: “Could he daily feel a stab of hunger for you and find nourishment at the very sight of you? Yes. But do you ache for him?”
Bedelia is quoting, or paraphrasing, Dante, the sonnet that Hannibal quoted in the movie Hannibal to Inspector Pazzi’s wife, Allegra:
“He woke her then, and trembling and obedient, she ate that burning heart out of his hand. Weeping, I saw him then depart from me. Could he daily feel a stab of hunger for her? Find nourishment in the very sight of her? I think so. But would she see through the bars of his plight, and ache for him?”
Is Bedelia paraphrasing Dante because she also loves Hannibal? Or do all psychiatrists do a unit in fourteenth century Italian literature? We know her Italian is good enough to order Bâtard-Montrachet (Chardonnay) and tartufi bianchi (white truffles) – there’s a clue! Anyway, Bedelia now loves Hannibal being in the asylum – because he wants her dead, but only if he can do the actual killing,
Will is not contemplating love in any form, gustatory or otherwise, he is plotting destruction. As Hannibal puts it,
“Will’s thoughts are no more bound by fear or kindness than Milton’s were by physics.”
Well, now we’re getting somewhere, and it’s not medical but metaphysical. John Milton was a seventeenth century poet who wrote Paradise Lost, a fair description of Will’s current domestic situation – neither he, his wife or his step-son can go back to their idyllic estate until the Dragon is caught or, preferably, killed. Rather than getting lost in empathy, as he usually does, Will is now drowning in rage, and is “free and damned” – Hannibal is paraphrasing Sartre’s insistence that humans are “cursed with freedom” – other animals are bound by their instinct, but we always have to make choices, often between less than ideal options.
Hannibal sees Will more clearly than anyone, and quotes the Book of Revelations to Jack:
Yes, it’s Armageddon coming up – and it starts with confrontation. Will is going to make himself a target for the Dragon, to draw him out. He calls together Freddie Lounds, who will publish anything if it sells her magazine, and Frederick Chilton, who will spout his pop psychology to anyone in order to get publicity for his new book, which is called (honest) “Hannibal the Cannibal”. Chilton is furious with Hannibal for publically repudiating the book as nonsense, effectively disproving the insanity defence by which he was saved from execution. Why would Hannibal do that? Because Frederick doesn’t have “the proper stuff” to write about either Hannibal or the Dragon.
Now he’s quoting Goethe. Imagine what else he could find to enrage people with if Alana hadn’t taken away all his books!
There are a lot of allusions in this episode, both to the Classics and to the Hannibal books, particularly Red Dragon – lot of the dialogue comes verbatim from that book, although often from different characters. There is a good analysis of the intertextualities on the Hannibal Fandom page.
During the interview, Will translates Frederick’s pretentious psychobabble into real insults, the ones that your regular alpha serial killer might reasonably object to:
Then Freddie takes a photo, showing the Dragon where Will is, and with Will’s hand on Frederick’s shoulder.
Frederick has two security guards to ensure his safety, but their brains are splattered on the back of his car while he is still gloating on the phone about his new book. He is captured, and learns that the Dragon is “becoming”, he is “Other”
Hilariously, blind Reba comes to visit in the midst of Frederick’s torment. She can’t see Frederick (although she must be able to smell him; he’s been shitting himself since the Dragon took the stocking off his face), Frederick can’t say anything (or she’ll be killed) and the Dragon can’t hear her concern, her love, as she gives him some soup she made because he took the day off work. They are the three wise monkeys.
Yeah, it’s not the flu.
Like COVID-19, the Dragon’s psychopathy is worse than the flu. It’s more serious, and Frederick has caught it bad. He is shown slides of the Dragon’s work: before and after shots,
The Dragon opens his mouth and puts in his falsies, a set of his grandma’s dentures, the grandma who screwed him up by threatening to castrate him with her scissors when he was an incontinent little boy. He wears them whenever he goes killing. Both Hannibal and Freud would love to meet this guy.
He jumps over the couch, growling, a predatory animal, and bites off Frederick’s lips, which he posts to Hannibal, who in turn eats one of them.
The Dragon sends the FBI a video of Chilton’s forced confession, including the screams during the lipectomy. Will is less than thrilled as he watches. But, as Bedelia tells him, quoting the words Hannibal used to her, “that’s participation”. Will knew what would happen: the Dragon always kills the pet first.
With that photo op, Will might as well have lit the match that sent Frederick, burning, rolling down the hill.
Burnt flesh, eaten lips. At last, a trace of cannibalism. This is a cannibalism blog (I quickly remind you, and myself). And Hannibal never disappoints.
Next (and, sob, final) Hannibal blog in three weeks – June 28.