‘Hannibal’ Is the Worst Ex-Boyfriend Ever in ‘…And the Beast From the Sea’
I’ve stayed quiet about Hannibal since the Red Dragon arc began — this half of the season has been slowly simmering and less surreally theatric than the first half. It’s not that it hasn’t been interesting, but there’s been less meat on its bones to chew over. Not so with “…And the Beast From the Sea,” in which Hannibal Lecter essentially proves why you should never break up with him.
The romantic relationship metaphor has extended into the Red Dragon arc, with Will Graham treating Hannibal like discarded refuse, and the latter acting the part of the jilted and angry ex-lover. Will acts like the selfish ex who only sees Hannibal when he needs something from him, refusing to acknowledge their intimate past and dancing around the giant elephant in Hannibal’s exquisite cell. Hannibal appeals to Will with morbidly poetic overtures, goading him into a reaction — any reaction, to prove he still cares.
Three years later, and Hannibal still isn’t taking this break-up very well. When the Red Dragon calls under the guise of Hannibal’s attorney, the good doctor is all too happy to offer his own twisted form of therapy, but this week he crosses the line from vague sympathy and mischievous manipulation into blatant direction. No longer is Hannibal merely pulling Francis Dolarhyde’s strings from the shadows and subtly influencing his thought — gone is the Dr. Lecter who knows the right things to say without saying them at all. Here is the gleefully vengeful Dr. Lecter who no longer gives a damn.
Will has made it clear that they are no longer going back to anything resembling the way they were, and he’s put up a mental wall between himself and Hannibal, echoed in the institutional glass that separates them. As Francis agonizes over his inner beast and what it might do to Reba, Hannibal dismisses his protege’s affections entirely, directing him to re-focus his energies on feeding the beast — perhaps he can pass it on to someone else, perhaps that someone else is a similarly tortured soul whose ability to empathize with serial killers has had him straddling a moral line. Perhaps that someone is Will Graham.
After poisoning Will and Molly’s dogs and eliminating them from the house, Francis slips into the Graham home to kill Molly and her son — to the exceedingly irrational Francis, it is another transformational act, one that might allow him to transfer the Red Dragon to Will Graham by devastating him to the point of madness. But to Hannibal, it is a scorned ex-lover’s act of revenge, the act of taking away everything Will loves not only as emotional retribution, but to leave Will so completely alone that he might come crawling back to the only twisted comfort he knows.
The home invasion sequence is the most riveting of the Red Dragon episodes so far, as Molly shows us yet another reason why Will is so enamored with her — she’s quick-witted and sensitive, and intuits a presence in the house as Francis barely makes a sound.
Quickly she gathers her son and sends him to wait by the car as she evades Francis in a shadowy, nerve-rattling scene. Even if you (like myself) are familiar with Thomas Harris’ source material, the sequence is utterly disturbing — given the small liberties Bryan Fuller has taken with Harris’ work, it’s possible for Molly and her son to die at the hands of the Red Dragon, but Fuller proves his devotion to Harris’ work by allowing them to live.
Molly does not escape unscathed, and like Will she now carries mental and physical scars from her encounter. “When you look at her now, what do you see?” asks Hannibal when Will pays him an angry visit — Will refuses to answer because Hannibal knows without even asking, and the answer is clear to us even as Will doesn’t say it: he sees himself in her now. Francis’ goal was to change Will’s family, and he accomplished it without even killing them.
Almost as equally riveting as the home invasion scene is the one between Will and Hannibal, when the latter freely admits what he’s done:
This is why you don’t dump Hannibal Lecter — he has essentially become the crazy ex-girlfriend out for revenge, deluding himself into thinking he could take Will’s family away and their relationship could resume.
Alanna catches on to Hannibal’s phone calls a little too late, but she and Jack decide to use them to their advantage — the next time Francis calls, they trace the call, which he’s piggybacked onto the line in Hannibal’s old office. And while Hannibal plays along with their game at first, he can’t help but tell Francis they’re listening before abruptly ending the call. Hannibal’s fun costs him his amenities and provokes glorious iciness from Alanna:
Hannibal’s human mask refuses to betray any inner response to the loss of his playthings, though we get the sense that he hardly cares — it’s not his books and drawing implements and even his toilet (Alanna is not messing around) that give him pleasure. He can retreat to his mind palace for respite, but he takes his own form of joy from manipulating others. As long as he still has contact with human beings, he will never find himself bored.
A horrible line may have been crossed into Will’s persona life, but even he admits — openly — that he cannot go home. It’s not just the need to capture the Red Dragon; it’s Will’s obsession with the work and his attraction to men like Hannibal. He’s just drawn to the worst kinds of men.
- Hey! We finally get to see Bryan Fuller’s version of the iconic Hannibal Lecter mask. It’s so perfect.
- I continue to love Alanna’s chilly and severe new aesthetic, but I also fear for her life. Hannibal will free himself eventually, and I’ve a feeling that Alanna is the first name on his checklist.
- I also continue to hate Hannibal’s prison hair cut.
- Nina Arianda is incredible in this episode, particularly her conversation with Will in the hospital. Her acting and the chemistry with Hugh Dancy is so naturalistic — this is likely due in part to their previous acting relationship in the stage production of Venus in Fur.
- I really can’t help but wonder what Michael Shannon’s version of Francis Dolarhyde would be like.
- That scene where Francis beats himself up was very Jim Carrey in Liar Liar.
- Love the nod to the Red Dragon source material when Hannibal ponders how he might receive communication from anyone on the outside — in the original novel and films, Francis sent Hannibal letters on toilet paper.
- Unless something huge happens next week or I’m particularly inspired by the next episode(s), I may not review Hannibal again until the season (series? Ugh) finale.