In this penultimate episode, the series cleaves quite closely to the Red Dragon novel, except this time it is Chilton going up in flames, rather than Freddie. I was wondering how the series would get around the fact that they have already used some of the best images and sequences from the novels, repurposed for previous storylines, and this is the solution. The episode is in two minds about whether it is Frederick or knowledge of Will’s stunt faking Lounds’ death that prompts the Dragon to set fire to Chilton after biting off his lips; when he awakes, Chilton feels pain in his back and on his skin, and asks whether he is burned. The idea seems to take hold with the Dragon, who repeats the word several times, but Jack reads Chilton being set aflame as a ‘copy-cat’ act. Nevertheless, setting Chilton as bait, rather than using Will himself, is an interesting twist. When they discuss it Jack, Will and Alana pretend that they are still trying to set Will up to tempt the Dragon, and that they are using Chilton only for legitimation, so that the Dragon is less able to see the trap, it is clear that this is only a shared delusion of control over the situation. Hannibal confronts Alana about her “professional discourtesy” towards Chilton, knowingly putting him at risk by inviting him to undertake a task that she herself would not.
Hannibal — TV review (S3E12, And the number of the beast was 666)
Will confesses to Bedelia — his new psychiatrist, as they both use the other as a Hannibal-proxy — that he puts his hand on Chilton’s shoulder for the publicity photograph deliberately, consciously establishing Chilton as a possible target. Will is beginning to develop something of a split personality. On the one hand, he is the empathetic, tormented Will Graham who can barely stand to hear Chilton’s screams on the Dragon’s videotape of his torture, and who hallucinates about all of the women about whom he cares suffering the same fate as Mrs Leeds and Mrs Jacobi. On the other hand, he is Hannibal’s agent in the world, as Bedelia calls him; he is curious about what violence he can provoke from the Dragon, and Bedelia calls him to account with the same words that Hannibal used to her: “that’s participation”. Will is the lamb, but he is also — as Hannibal warns Jack — becoming a lion, and his righteous wrath has the potential to be devastating. That is, if he can hold himself together.
The Dragon’s confrontation of Chilton is the most verbal scene that Richard Armitage has been able to play this far. His speech is precise but not laboured; the Dragon proves articulate, except when he is speaking about himself, when guttural growls creep in and begin to conceal the words themselves. When Reba arrives, he lets her in, and despite her frequent glances around the room, as though she senses Chilton’s presence, the scene is wryly funny in bringing together the most terrifying kidnap with a very domestic circumstance: a woman bringing soup to a prospective lover who claims to be sick. The scene strikes the same tone as some of the flashbacks with Hannibal and Abel Gideon, and it tempts us into thinking that Reba might go free, but at the end of the episode she has been kidnapped by the Dragon, and we seem to be in for a finale that follows the books quite closely.
More generally, this episode was full of some wonderful dialogue, especially between Chilton and Hannibal. “I have seen a lot of hostility, but this was quantifiably bitchy” is a great line from Chilton, and I would like to see the quantifying scale for bitchiness! “A man becomes famous because he has the proper stuff in him. You don’t have the proper stuff, Frederick” is also an excellent retort from Hannibal. Chilton also taunts Hannibal about what life will be like in the mental institution after Alana stops protecting him, including threats of sexual assault. With his books gone, and the number of threats about degrading treatment escalating, it certainly feels like Hannibal is gearing up to free himself from his prison.
In terms of how the next episode will play out, Will now seems to be convinced that his family life is over, now that Hannibal has chosen to destroy his happy family by putting them in danger. Bedelia, however, feels herself relatively safe because Hannibal is not in a position to eat her, and he would not have her harmed until he could achieve that end. Being able to trust Hannibal’s promises offers a certain security. Will calls her Bluebeard’s wife, riffing on the their previous encounter when they accused each other of being ‘brides’ of the monstrous Hannibal. She notes that she would rather be the last wife of Bluebeard, who survived finding her strangled predecessors in Bluebeard’s ‘forbidden’ room by the skin of her teeth. Bedelia, we know, is always planning how to survive, just like Hannibal. Will, on the other hand, seems only to be planning how to destroy the evil that surrounds him. I would really rather like it if this series ended in the same way as series two did, with Bedelia and Hannibal preparing for round two together, although that might be too much to hope for. Definitely too much to hope for would be Will and Hannibal escaping together, I think because Will is less self-actualised than either Hannibal or Bedelia; he seems to take on whatever form those around him allow. It will be interesting to see what opportunities the final episode offers him.
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