It’s back to familiar territory for Hannibal. That is, we’re back to the same episode structure seen in previous seasons; a sort of monster of the week except not as lame as that sounds, especially with this new Monster (capitalisation necessary). The Great Red Dragon works in two important ways: it shows us life three years after Hannibal’s surrender, and introduces us to Francis Dolarhyde (Richard Armitage), an unstable man obsessed with The Great Red Dragon paintings by William Blake, and one who believes it is a real creature who is using him to do evil. Not only that, we also see some old faces return, specifically Brian (Aarom Abrams) and Jimmy (Scott Thompson) whom we really haven’t seen since Hannibal killed Beverly.
What’s changed in three years? Quite a bit it seems. Dr Alana Bloom is working with Dr Frederick Chilton (who has published a book about “Hannibal the Cannibal”) at the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Jack’s back at it chasing sociopathic criminals. And Will Graham has gotten away from it all and finds himself married to a lovely woman named Molly, who apparently likes to take in strays (metaphor here is pretty self-explanatory and self-referential too). Meanwhile, Hannibal Lecter sits in his jail cell, upholding his grandeur and manipulative nature to anyone who visits him.
The way Hannibal’s scenes are depicted are fantastic if a little too obvious. As if we are invited into his mind palace, Hannibal is shown to be in a mansion surrounded in luxury. As the camera moves the illusion fades and we see Hannibal in nothing more than an uninspiring grey cell.
The real star of this episode, however, is Richard Armitage as Dolarhyde. From the opening sequence it is hard not to be captivated by this man. His movements are awkward, his silence off-puting. He is a typical TV psychopath, a testament of the “it’s always the quiet ones” axiom. Given the name The Tooth Fairy by the media, a name he loathed, Dolarhyde rivals Hannibal’s exploits. Driven by The Great Red Dragon, Dolarhyde is killing entire families. He lacks Hannibal’s penchant for macabre artistry but he is just as bloody.
Deep down, though, he is a deeply disturbed man. That’s not to say it excuses him or his actions, but it adds a sense of humanity that Hannibal does not have, or rather a sense of humanity Hannibal would reject and mock. However, as Chilton points out, there might be some jealousy on Hannibal’s part for this Tooth Fairy. Like all fads, Hannibal the Cannibal is nearing the end.
This Red Dragon is so much of a threat that Jack has had to seek Will’s help once again. Will understandably refuses but is convinced by Molly to go and help. So he does. And after so long we see Will’s investigative methods at work again.
The results are the same but Will is no longer comfortable doing so. He’s been damaged by Hannibal so much that he now fears going into the darkness to “understand” the killer’s mind.
As much as Will is able to shed light on this Tooth Fairy, he needs to overcome his mental block by visiting Hannibal. No matter how hard he tries, Will just can’t seem to escape Hannibal’s grasp.
It’s near the end of the series and there’s way too much that needs to be explained and looked at. Hannibal has been great with its stylistic choices but, from a narrative perspective, this is a big problem. The meandering storytelling might not be fast enough for fans who want some sort of solid resolution. There’s a danger of the show being rushed but knowing Bryan Fuller the real danger would be ending halfway through the story. Will and Hannibal deserve more than to fizzle out at the last moment.