Enter the dragon.
It’s finally here. The moment, the story, the chapter in the saga we have all been waiting for. As soon as it was announced that Thomas Harris‘ books were being adapted for the small screen, as prequels to her first novel, everyone was wondering how long it would take for the show to reach the RED DRAGON portion of the story. The point where the tale of Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter officially begins, before Clarice, before Lecter would be made infamous in pop culture by the film adapation of SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. Well, now is the time, waiting is no longer required, he, and the grand story that accompanies him, have arrived.
Right off the bat, one can already tell that Francis Dolarhyde aka The Tooth Fairy, aka The Red Dragon, aka Richard Armitage, is a different kind of villain — removing Hannibal himself from the equation — than any other we’ve seen on the show before. This episode served as a fantastic introduction to the character, revealing certain aspects of his insanity and his ritual, but leaving out details about him as a man, as a human being — this only made him more horrifying. There is something very scary indeed about a man that kills so randomly and without reason, well, without any reason we can ascertain so far. All we know is that he kills “perfect families”, butchering them in their homes and that he has fake teeth, a really big scrap book and an awesome tattoo.
Richard Armitage was left without any dialogue in his debut episode, only guttural screams of pain and torment to express himself. One of my gripes with season 1 (a little of two) was the ‘killer of the week’ trope that it toyed with. Although HANNIBAL has pulled it off far better than most, it was still something that bugged me, but I get the feeling The Tooth Fairy (sorry, The Red Dragon…) will be a completely different kettle of fish. He is going to be around for a while and is already intrinsic to the plot of this season going forward. Hannibal will always be the shows ultimate villain (quasi hero) but with the good doctor locked up, it has allowed a new killer to emerge, one that is equally monstrous to behold.
“There is no name for what this man is.”
This week, like I mentioned earlier, was an important episode for the show, but also a strange one given off screen events. ‘The Great Red Dragon’ saw the start of the books finally take place on screen, taking us into somewhat familiar territory, but also delivering us the end of the show. In all likelihood these next handful of episodes will be HANNIBAL’s last, so the irony is certainly palpable here with the start of the grander, more famous story, but with the end of the tale we have grown to love so dearly. It’s a bitter sweet sensation for sure.
After Hannibal’s surrender at the previous episodes end, we pick up events three years later, with Hannibal locked safely behind bars at the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Sporting a new haircut and having beaten the death penalty on an insane plea, Hannibal is using his memory palace to help stomach his undesirable new surroundings. We see him meeting with old friends such as Alana and Chilton which produced some fascinating and downright funny conversations. Such as Chilton and Hannibal’s discussion about a dish they once shared, spawning lines like, “the blood was from a cow, but only in the derogatory sense.” Oh that one got me good. Great stuff.
Hannibal behind bars excites in a way that I find it hard to describe. Perhaps if one wasn’t privy to the source material or the films that preceded the series, then this might have had a different effect, but just seeing Hannibal back where we have always known him ignites a certain tension and perhaps a little nostalgia. It’s really great to see the show finally reach this place in the story, despite all the difficulties it’s had behind the scenes.
“If I go, I won’t be the same when I come back.”
It took a while for Will to appear in this episode, but appear he did, setting up the crux of the season going forward. We find him, or well, Jack finds him, at relative peace in snowy seclusion, seemingly married and parent to his new partner’s child. A nice nod to the opening of the book. Jack is back at his old job and trying desperately to stop the Tooth Fairy striking before the next full moon, knowing there is only one man that can get the job done. He pays Will a visit, hoping he can lure his old friend back into the world that scarred him so deeply. Will eventually agrees, with a little help from his wife and a nice nudge from Hannibal himself, via a letter that warned him not to come, and about the madness that awaits him if he does, but also in typical cheeky Hannibal style; with a news clipping from the Tooth Fairy’s latest murder. Hannibal will never be able to resist toying with his old… well… toy.
With Will back to work, struggling with all the demons that it arises in him, we see him traversing the hallways of one of Francis’s murder houses, giving the show the opportunity to revive Will’s old method of getting in the heads of killers. It was nice to see after what feels like an age. The best thing to come out of that moment however was the image of the forensic blood strings spread out behind Will like wings, a really terrific shot.
“I have to see Hannibal.”
Will knows and so do we, that to catch a killer like the one he is after, there is a certain mind set required, a mindset that he has long left behind, a mindset that he once used to catch the greatest of them all and the only way to recapture it is to visit the man himself. My favourite moment of season 1 was the very last scene of the finale, where Hannibal walks down the long corridor of the hospital to visit Will in his cell. So when the final moment of this episode re-imagined that very scene, I was excited to say the least. “Hello, Doctor Lecter” Will says upon seeing Hannibal behind the glass. “Hello, Will” he replies, beaming with pride at being reunited with his pal. The exchange being the exact opposite of the moment from season 1 with their lines reversed in order. It was a magical moment for the show and sets up events wonderfully.
Hannibal, like the show that bears his name, “defies characterisation”. What is HANNIBAL? It’s certainly not like any other network show, it’s certainly not your run of the mill serial killer affair, it’s something else, HE is something else. HANNIBAL has become so cinematic, both visually and thematically. This story, this arc, seems so big, it seems important and grand. This is a truly special TV show that borders on being immaculate. And this all might come off as hyperbolic but I don’t care. For someone that is normally so curmudgeonry towards so many things, you can take these words (not that you should need convincing) as ones that mean something. HANNIBAL is extraordinary, must see television. Period.