[These last reviews of the Red Dragon arc were originally published after the end of the series in 2015. I’ve edited these reviews to reflect new thoughts and information.]
The last episode I reviewed was about the different character’s perceptions, as has been the theme for most of the series., but this episode is about Agency, how each of the characters have it, take it, and/or employ it. Agency is the ability to affect change over the environment by one’s actions. One can affect change oneself or use proxies to do so.
We pick up the narrative where we left off in the last episode.
Graham is outlining the situation for Crawford. Crawford is incredulous that Dollarhyde ate a painting. Graham surmises that Hannibal knows who Dollarhyde is, and that he was once a patient. He’s only half wrong. Dollarhyde is Hannibal’s current patient through secret phone calls, after Dollarhyde masquerades as Hannibal’s lawyer. We flashback (not really) to Hannibal telling Dollarhyde to save himself by attacking Will and his family. This is about Dollarhyde taking and using agency, regarding his relationship with Hannibal, the Red Dragon, and Reba, but he is also Hannibal’s proxy.
Hannibal is using Dollarhyde to get back at Will for rejecting him. Lecter does, as Bedelia states later, have agency in the world, even though he is locked away. The difference is that she attributes this agency to the wrong person. She thinks the person executing Hannibal’s agency is Will Graham, when its really Dollarhyde. This is Hannibal, once again, playing his old game of I love you/I want to hurt you! Will may be tired of it, but Hannibal always finds this game amusing (except when Will enacts this particular game against him.)
Oh yeah, the flashbacks aren’t actually flashbacks. They’re conversations that Lecter had/is having, with Dollarhyde, over the phone, but are imagined from Lecter’s point of view, and usually from inside what he calls his mind vault. Being given Lecter’s POV is often done without any warning for the audience, an effect with which I’m not entirely comfortable, as nobody really wants to be in Lecter’s head, and is probably equally disconcerting for people who are “first watchers” of this series.
As the next full moon approaches, Reba and Dee (as she calls him), spend some quality time together. I don’t see a whole lot of chemistry in their relationship, (that’s just my inability to see romance between characters, in general), but these are both very good actors, who convince me that they’re in the beginning stages of a relationship. Dollarhyde wants to, but can’t let the Red Dragon go, not even for Reba’s sake, not even as he fears for her. While she cuddles with him on the sofa, he watches home movies of his next possible target, Molly and Wally.
Will’s wife is at the vet because the dogs are sick. She doesn’t understand that the Red Dragon always kills the pets first. I know this from reading the books, but she believes she poisoned the dogs with some food from China, because that was a thing going around in the news at the time this show was written, and Fuller, who absolutely loves dogs, was so incensed by that, that he put it in the script.
Graham goes to Lecter to beg for the identity of the Red Dragon, but Lecter would rather tease him. This is one of the quietest, and most sinister arguments, I’ve ever heard, conducted almost entirely in sharp whispers. This may also be the reason I can’t understand what the hell is going on. I managed to get around this by remembering to turn on the captions.
Dollarhyde tries to murder Will’s family, hunting them through their house, and injuring Molly. Both she and Wally survive, but Will, naturally, feels incredibly guilty about what happened. He has a conversation with Wally, about the killer’s mental illness, which forces him to divulge the time he spent in a psychiatric hospital. The conversation does not go well. Incidentally, we don’t see or hear from either of these characters again, and no end is written for Molly, as Will seemingly forgets all about her. Make of that what you will because the fans certainly did.
Will, incensed, confronts Lecter, who readily admits to giving Dollarhyde Will’s home address. Crawford, and Alana threaten Lecter into cooperating with Crawford’s scheme to capture Dollarhyde using drop boxes.
Because he failed to kill Will’s family, Dollarhyde imagines himself getting beaten by the Red Dragon. Reba walks in on him just after this event, and there’s a very tense moment where he is probably contemplating killing her, as he has not quite come back to himself, and the Red Dragon, having been deprived of the other kill, wants to be satisfied.
This scares Francis because he genuinely cares about Reba, and in an effort to be proactive, to save her from himself, shows up at Reba’s job and breaks up with her, saying that he’s afraid he might hurt her. Reba, not knowing or even suspecting any of this, (she is a true innocent), is understandably angry, and tells him to get out. It looks bad no matter what he does. From her point of view, they slept together a few times, and now he suddenly doesn’t want to be with her, having given no indication that he’s no longer interested.
These are both fine actors, who really sell this scene. I am touched by their conversation, (even though I hate romance movies). I suddenly realize that Francis isn’t as much afraid of hurting her, as he is also afraid of being in love, and being loved. In the flashback sequence with Lecter, he talks about how she makes him feel, and believes himself to be completely unworthy of the level of happiness he feels with her, or her desire for him. Love can be terrifying, especially for someone unused to giving or receiving it, and who has some deep self esteem issues due to child abuse.
I would also like to commend the show for showing an inter-racial relationship as if its no big deal. I like it that the show treats the characters, especially the women, like people, and doesn’t feel the need to change the dialogue to reflect the character’s race or gender. The same dialogue spoken by a White man in the movie, is the exact same dialogue that’s spoken by a Black man or a White woman on the show. In fact the only major recurring characters to remain unchanged are Graham, Lecter and Dollarhyde.
Dollarhyde calls Lecter, not knowing that their conversation is being overheard. Lecter gives him a quick warning, because that’s the kind of shit he does, and afterwards is duly punished. Alana keeps her word to him, by having all of his amenities taken away, including his toilet seat. He also gets restraints and the famous Lecter mask, first seen in Silence of the Lambs, (but was also seen on Will Graham in the second season).
Will talks to Molly at the hospital and she nominally forgives him for what happened to her. She’s not really blaming him, but yeah, she’s still pretty pissed that the man Will was hunting, tried to kill her, and her son. Will then goes to see Lecter in his new accommodationless accommodations. The story is not over. Normally, after the attack on Will’s family, the films end with the restoration of the status quo, and Dollarhyde dead, but Fuller has a lot more story to tell.
This is one of television’s strengths. It has the ability to tell complicated, interwoven, long form stories that cannot be done in a two hour movie. It has the ability to flesh out characters and plot in a way that’s more difficult on the big screen, (unless the movie is totally dedicated to a specific person or subject.)
On TV, the writers can create a tapestry of a story, using multiple threads, and deeper characterization, and I think this is where TV has really gained momentum as a storytelling medium, especially in the last ten years. TV didn’t always take full advantage of its serial nature. In fact it always tried to do what movies did, but in less time, as it would try to wrap up it’s mini- stories in the space of 45 or 50 minutes. Fortunately, its starting to break away from this model somewhat, and watching a series requires a certain level of dedication, if a viewer wants to understand the entire story.
None of that however, is going to help the casual viewer to understand whats going on in this show. I love this show, but this level of complexity, always just slightly out of grasp, may be the reason this is the show’s last season. You know there’s more depth to the show then you understand, but its ten o’clock in the evening, your mind is gone, and there’s a lot of urgent whispering that requires you to turn on the captions, so you can find out just what the Hell is being said.