Hannibal executes a time jump and catches back up with its core cast three years in the future.
Let’s bitch it out…
He’s not as fancy as “Hannibal the Cannibal” but he does have wider appeal. You, with your fancy illusions and fussy aesthetics; you’ll always have niche appeal.
It’s difficult not to read into Chilton’s (Raúl Esparza) critique of Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen) – the cannibal. Is this a bit of commentary on Hannibal – the series – after seven long, labourious episodes that could have doubled as pretentious art films? Regardless of how viewers felt about the first half of this final season of the show, it’s undeniable that the “wider appeal” story line of the series’ third season has arrived with the appearance of the Tooth Fairy (played with convincing madness by Richard Armitage). The titular ‘Great Red Dragon’, inspired by a famed piece of art by Blake, is the original source material for the majority of Hannibal‘s characters. Tellingly, it is also well-tread ground, having previously been covered by two very different and distinct films: Michael Mann’s classic Manhunter (1986) and Brett Ratner’s less well-received Red Dragon (2002).
The jump into the future effectively resets the narrative and brings it back to its more humble S1 origins. This is familiar territory: investigating a serial killer is a far more conventional case for Will (Hugh Dancy), now married to wife Molly (Nina Arianda) and stepfather to her 11 year old son. Despite the time difference, it’s clear that Will remains partially damaged goods; he’s managed to reclaim a certain amount of peace in his new family life, which is promptly destroyed when Jack (Laurence Fishburne) shows up on his door asking for help with the Tooth Fairy. Interestingly Will is back to playing the reluctant profiler he was when the series began. The key difference is that he now carries baggage from his encounter with Hannibal. He may be in a familiar mind-set, but Will Graham has three years of scars that will undoubtedly inform his hunt for the Tooth Fairy.
One of the best decisions that Hannibal makes in this soft reboot is to delay the meeting between Will and Hannibal. The episode opens with an extended dialogue-free sequence establishing how Armitage’s Francis Dolarhyde (unnamed throughout the episode) physically becomes the monster he is. The mental explanation, however, goes unexplored. The reverse is true for all of Hannibal’s Baltimore State hospital scenes, which explore how the “certifiably insane” doctor has adjusted to his time in prison using his mind palace to reclaim both rooms and food he no longer has access to. It’s an interesting juxtaposition to make, one all the more evident thanks to Chilton’s dissection of the differences between the two serial killers.
That distinction is on clear display when Will is finally (gently) pushed out the door by Molly. In both the crime scene proper and Will’s mind, the killings are brutally violent and angry and this comes across very strongly when the murders are recreated. It’s surprisingly difficult to watch. Traditionally murders on this series are near bloodless affairs or the viscera is so beautiful constructed it takes on the appearance of art. The Tooth Fairy is different; he does not have the same “fancy aesthetic” as Hannibal’s artfully composed murders. The arterial spray from the husband and the use of a handgun to kill the wife and two kids is more akin to the grisly murders we see on other crime series that lack the politesse of Hannibal. Naturally this is all by design; the murders we see in ‘The Great Red Devil’ very clearly convey how different the Tooth Fairy is from the other killers we’ve seen. It is only when Will throws his arms open wide and the red yarn splatter lines take on a luminescent glow to form the outstretched wings of a dragon that the murder tableau approximates the more traditional side of Hannibal.
- I quite like the use of white noise to signify the call to kill by the Red Dragon (represented symbolically by both the painting he worships, and the specialty snaggle tooth set of prosthetic teeth Dolarhyde uses “to bite…a lot”).
- The transition between Will’s walk-through (which initially appears to be his own vandalized home) and the reality of the Tooth Fairy’s crime scene is expertly handled by director Neil Marshall. It is clearly intended to make us think that violence has come calling on the Graham household, which is a nice bit of deflection and reiterates Molly’s argument that the killer is targeting families just like theirs.
- Catching up with Dr. Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas), we learn that she has taken over the Baltimore asylum from Chilton. It was their combined lies that helped Hannibal secure an insanity plea and spared him the death penalty. I can’t understand her rationalization for this decision, though I will praise her razor sharp new blood red suit and artfully coiffed ‘do.
- I imagine some people were excited to see Jimmy (Scott Thompson) and Brian (Aaron Abrams) after a long absence, but I’ve always found their comedy artificially inserted and distracting. I understand the need for levity to break up these dark proceedings, but I would have been happy if we never saw these two again.
- Most haunting image: the Tooth Fairy being wrapped up in old film reels as light emanates from his eyes and mouth (symbolically echoed at the crime scene later with the wife’s eyes and mouth and the mirrors).
- Finally, I can only imagine TVAngie drooling profusely at the opening extended sequence featuring Armitage’s nearly naked physique. She’s a bit of a fan. I, on the other hand, kept mistaking him for Michael Fassbender.
- Hannibal (reassuring Chilton about the origins of the desert he once fed him): “The blood was from a cow…in the derogatory sense”
- Jack (when Will refuses him entry to his home): “You don’t want to invite me inside? Oh, you don’t want to let me inside.”
- Jack (when Will asks about the victims’ missing dog): “Please don’t worry about the dog.”
Your turn: what are your thoughts on Hannibal‘s time jump? Did Richard Armitage’s nearly silent performance capture your attention? Does Will feel like he did back when the series began? Has Alana sold her soul to keep Lecter alive? Were you excited to see Jimmy and Brian again? Sound off below.
Hannibal airs Thursdays at 10pm EST on City TV in Canada and Saturdays at 10pm EST on NBC in the US