Long time, no see. You might be wondering where the “Hannibal” write-ups have gone to. Well, rest assured that this is one of two final installments covering the third (and sadly, last) season of my favorite cannibal show to ever air on the small screen. Part of the reason for the delay was a busy work schedule, but most of the reason actually came from the episodes themselves.
This write-up doesn’t focus on each single episode, but rather the story line that takes place from episode nine to 11.
It seems that the “Hannibal” prequel story lines have been devoured by Thomas Harris’s “Red Dragon” novel.
The final episodes of “Hannibal” encase the plot from the novel “Red Dragon.” The book was adapted onto the screen by Michael Mann in “Manhunter”, Brett Ratner in “Red Dragon”, and now a glorious long, detailed version on the NBC series.
When last we left Will and Hannibal they had reunited after three years to discuss new serial killer Francis Dolarhyde. Will has found himself once again in a nightmarish investigation that is opening up a darkness inside him.
However, we’ve seen Will investigate psychopaths in the past and it’s the same thing here. What makes this six-episode arc interesting is that Francis Dolarhyde isn’t your typical serial killer. Dolarhyde is a scarred man with a hairlip who’s haunted by an abusive childhood and has unknowingly developed a split personality. This personality is what he believes to be the “Dragon” and our timid “shy boy” is eager to transform into something more than human. He wishes to transform himself into the Great Red Dragon and that will take at least one more sacrificial kill. That kill may come in the last thing you’d expect a blood-thirsty, mentally unstable serial killer to find: a girlfriend!
Francis Dolarhyde finds himself a girlfriend in the form of the blind, but strong, Rita. What started as Dolarhyde potentially picking up another victim turns into a touching, but disturbing, romance.
It’s also proof positive that no matter how lonely you feel in life, you’ll eventually find someone to love. I mean if Francis Dolarhyde, Charles Manson, and Henry Lee Lucas can get a girlfriend, then so can you.
This Dolarhyde/Rita romance is the only plot line where I find myself favoring Brett Ratner’s 2002 version of “Red Dragon.” There were more meaningful scenes between Rita and Dolarhyde in that film. It almost feels like this NBC series is including the romance scenes, because it’s obligated to and doesn’t care about them for any other reason than the ultimate outcome.
This is especially apparent in a stylized sex scene that doesn’t feel nearly as beautiful or erotic as one earlier in this season, and when Dolarhyde “shows” Rita a tiger.
I found myself favoring the 2002 version of that same scene, because it packed more of an emotional punch in Rita’s reactions to touching a sedated animal and Ralph Fienne’s facial expressions as Dolarhyde.
The lack of development put into Dolarhyde and Rita make their break-up scene feel wooden and a ham-handed plot device to drive the rest of the story forward.
It isn’t as if the show couldn’t afford to carve out a convincing relationship between Dolarhyde and Rita. There have been a few pointless scenes that could have easily been cut out to make room for more of the Dragon and his potential victim, such as the flashback showing how the evil psychiatrist framed Will for a murder at the end of Season 1 and the rather pointless scene of Hannibal’s evil psychiatrist “wife” (who hasn’t shown up since she was left in Italy) using some diabolical methods in her therapy that result in a patient losing his life by choking on his tongue during a seizure.
The scene doesn’t really serve a purpose, other than to show Gillian Anderson sticking her arm down a man’s bloody throat.
Fortunately, this show isn’t “Dolarhyde,” it’s “Hannibal” and the cannibalistic killer has far from left the scene. In fact, he’s become much more a villain than he ever was in Season 2 or the first half of this season.
Three years and constant asylum life have left Hannibal with an urge to harm someone, severely.
Instead of helping his former patient/potential victim, Hannibal feeds Dolarhyde information that will drive the latter to track down and attack Will’s family. This reveals a darker, scarier side to Hannibal that we have only glimpsed a couple of times this third season and makes for one of the biggest game changers in this small-screen adaptation.
While 2002’s “Red Dragon” had brief mentions of Will’s family being in danger, they were merely relocated off -screen and never fully developed characters. “Hannibal” uses a six-hour format to its advantage in crafting one of the most suspenseful home invasion sequences I’ve ever seen.
Dolaryhyde finds Will’s house and then poisons his dogs. After that, he visits Will’s wife and step-child in the middle of the night.
Thanks to some creaks and noises, Will’s family are able to make it out alive. However, that doesn’t stop the terrifying sequence from being any less intense. Every creak, shadow and movement is enough to make you jump out of your skin as you watch Francis Dolarhyde try to off Will’s wife and kid.
The biggest emotional scene of these past episodes comes in the final moment of Episode 11. Will goes to the hospital to check on his family and it’s revealed that his step-son has found out about his disturbing past. This results in a brief, but very strong conversation about Will’s job and man who tried to kill them. Both the home invasion and this aftermath mark a distinct change in the story that will make the series finale that much more resonant and haunting.
Overall, the short-lived “Hannibal” series might end up being a blessing in disguise. If the final two episodes play out like the novel and other films do, then we’re in for a perfect conclusion to a stellar horror series.