“ And behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth. ” Revelations 12:3-4
I was a teenager the first time I read the Book of Revelations, so naturally, I found it pretty terrifying. Mostly because of some incredibly lurid imagery, I just wasn’t expecting the Bible to have. Reading it when I got older, I was less afraid, and struck instead, by the incredible beauty and poetry of those chapters.
Most people don’t know this, (Hell, I didn’t know it and I went to art school), but the painting featured in the movie version, but which I’ve not seen in the show, is one of a series of paintings by Willliam Blake, about the Book of Revelations, and his interpretation of the Rise of the Antichrist. The one featured in the Red Dragon movie is the painting titled The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed IN the Sun.
The second painting in the series, and that of the first episode of The Red Dragon arc of this series, is titled …And the Woman Clothed WITH the Sun. There are two other paintings in the series, which are also the titles of the next two episodes.
Hannibal and The Tooth Fairy are clandestinely discussing Francis’ transformation into the Red Dragon. This episode is sort ofabout how characters perceive themselves, vs, how others perceive them, and each character discusses who they are, which is contrasted to the reality. For the first time, we hear Francis declare himself to be the Dragon. This is how he perceives himself, but what we see in Hannibal’s imagination is the two of them sitting in a room together, while Hannibal looks at an ordinary man, but Hannibal responds with a line from Blake’s poem, The Tyger, in expression of the awe that Francis craves.
Bedelia, Lecter’s psychiatrist, is giving a public speech about the nature of her relationship with Hannibal the Cannibal, and how she managed to escape him. She is trying to create the public perception that she was one of Hannibal’s victims. Will Graham is there, and calls her out on her bullshit. Will’s perception of her is very different.
The two of them have a long meeting, and I have come to the conclusion that not only is Bedelia batshit-insane, she is also pretty terrifying. Not violent, so much as completely disassociated from what makes a person human, and while I want to think Lecter is responsible for that, this is most likely all her, and may be the reason he liked her so much.
Now contrast Will’s scene with Bedelia, with my favorite scene, which is when Francis takes Reba to meet the tiger. This entire scene is about perception. Francis views himself as the beast. It’s not quite obvious, but Reba has kind of caught on to that, and seems to know what he’s thinking. Apparently Reba can frame “thy fearful symmetry” just fine, of both the tiger, and Francis. I think this perception of what Francis may be thinking is what informs her actions towards him, later. Even Fuller states that this is a deeply sensuous moment between the two of them.
Francis describes the tiger’s color. Is that helpful to her? Depending on when and how she lost her sight (as we are never told), does she remember colors? In the book, Reba lost her sight as a child, and jokes to him about what animals she remembers. I can’t imagine this Reba knows what he’s talking about, if she’s been blind since birth. This scene is shot to perfection, as we see Reba’s skin tone against that of the glowing yellow fur of the tiger. She listens to its heart, while Francis stands there, barely able to contain his depth of feeling.
Francis takes Reba to his home. She is impressed by his home, and his thoughtfulness in arranging the thing with the tiger. They drink wine, listen to music, and Reba makes the first move. This is a woman who doesn’t believe in letting an opportunity to enjoy herself slip away. (Rutina Wesley appears to have these huge man-hands, which is deeply disturbing, and distracting. Her hands are as huge as Francis’ head.)
Their love scene gets the slo-mo treatment, interspersed with shots of Frank’s dragon tattoo. Francis envisions Reba, as the Woman spoken of in Blake’s painting, floating and goddess-like, in liquid gold, the same color as the tiger. Its almost like he’s worshiping her, but without the context that in the Book of Revelations, the Woman clothed with the Sun, is the Dragon’s downfall.
Later, while Reba is sleeping, he uses her hand to touch his face, but it’s not sexy, at all. It’s deeply sad, that he’s so lonely, so removed from normal people, and so starved for affection, and all of it self imposed, as he has deep self esteem issues, because of his disability. Reba is probably the only woman to ever touch him, in a very long time, with any form of love, especially his face, as he’s very self conscious about his cleft palate.
The next morning, he is summoned to the attic by the dragon’s voice, where he and his alter ego argue about what to do with Reba. The outcome of the fight is …uncertain, but I think Dollarhyde wins this round. He then takes Reba home.
Hannibal manages to get Graham’s address and home number. This does not look good.
Will and Bedelia are still talking. Will tells her she deserves to be eaten by Lecter. I’m as disgusted with her as he is, and I see why he’s so pissy with her. She was wholly complicit in Hannibal’s crimes, but claims it was curiosity that kept her with him. She’s as much a sociopath as Lecter, but couches it in a veneer of professionalism.
Zachary Quinto is guest starring in this episode. That man is everywhere. (Fortunately, I’m in love with him, so I can watch him anywhere.) Lecter used to be his counselor, and he claimed he got worst under his care. This scene switches back and forth between Graham and Bedelia, and her session with Quinto’s outraged patient. He starts having a seizure. Something that was subliminally planted by Hannibal.
To her credit, Bedelia does try to help him, but she botches the job by reaching too far into his mouth, in an attempt to reach his tongue, which she believes he is swallowing. This was apparently before she became inured to death. Now, she could probably watch him choke, with all the compassion of an insect. This is the event that gave Hannibal leverage over her, to coerce her to travel to Italy with him.
The elephant in the room is this deeply intimate relationship between Graham and Hannibal. It’s no secret that fans are shipping the Hell out of these two, and Fuller is well aware of this, and likes to play it up. Will asks Bedelia if Hannibal is in love with him and she tells him her perception of their relationship. From the beginning of the series the primary theme has always been about perception. How Will perceives the world around him, how Hannibal looks at the world ,and how the supporting characters view the two of them.
Will approaches Lecter with the Red Dragon symbol he found at the Leeds’ home, and Lecter informs him of its meaning, mentioning that the full moon is in eleven days, so Will better get a move on, before the next family dies.
At the Brooklyn Museum, Francis goes to see the the main Blake painting, and just as in the book and film, he eats it. This is probably his attempt to stop killing by ingesting the painting’s power, or so Will guesses. When Graham shows up, they finally meet face to face, which doesn’t work out too well for Graham, and Francis tosses him through the air like a kitten. Its easy to forget how large the actor is who plays Dollarhyde, next to the rather diminutive Graham. In a prodigious show of strength, Francis picks him up and throws him across the room, before making his escape.
Since the show hews so closely to the filmed version, (which is not unlike the book), this really plays off the difference between television and film. In every respect, this particular part of the series is just like the film, only with a depth of detail that movies simply don’t have time for, in the space of two hours. It’s really like watching an alternate universe version of the same story.
This is also one of the reasons that television is in the midst of a kind of renaissance of storytelling, right now. The creators of these shows, informed by social media and digital streaming, can take full advantage of the medium, take serial storytelling to its ultimate conclusion, and respond to fandom critiques of their shows, almost in real time. As a result, movies are just a very different medium of storytelling, and simply can’t do what a series does, in providing the depth of character detail that fans crave.
This leads to one of the differences I noted between Transformative fandom vs Curatorial fandom. Curatorial fandom is most often concerned with the minutiae and plot detail provided in movies, which have characters and relationships as less of a priority. It’s not that movies don’t have either of those things, its that its more difficult to get deep into such issues, in a two hour genre movie, that has more pressing concerns, like advancing the plot. However, you can get more in depth character development, and relationships in a ten or twenty hour series. In fact, the success of a series depends on how invested the audience can get into the characters.