The interesting thing about the latest episode of ‘Hannibal’ is how faithfully the show (which has always played very fast and loose with its source material in the past) is attempting to adapt the Thomas Harris novel ‘Red Dragon’, while at the same time seamlessly integrating it into its own previous two-and-a-half seasons of unique backstory. It’s a very delicate balancing act, and I think it’s mostly working so far, except for one fairly serious misstep.
When Will Graham visits Hannibal in prison at the beginning of the episode, their dialogue is recited nearly verbatim from the book, but it has a different resonance now given the characters’ much more involved relationship. That happens again in some later scenes, with a few necessary changes (such as moving Chilton’s dialogue to Alana since she’s in charge of the hospital). I still think that the time-jump in the middle of the season is a little problematic. As viewers, we saw Hannibal and Will interacting intimately just two weeks ago, and now we’re supposed to accept that they haven’t seen each other in three years. I suppose that can’t be helped. If this storyline could have been saved to start off a fourth season, that would have put a little helpful distance between events, but NBC has decided that further seasons are not in the cards.
Will asks Hannibal to review the details of the “Tooth Fairy” murders and provide any useful insight he can offer (much as he did when he consulted with the FBI), but Hannibal knows that their meeting is really just an excuse to help Will get back into the profiling mindset. He says that he’s happy to oblige. Afterwards, Will stops by to talk with Alana, and we learn that not only is she still with Margot, they’ve had a baby together – a legitimate Verger heir, the product of Mason’s unwilling sperm donation. Alana even carried the child herself, the prospect of which sends chills down my spine. When Will asks why Alana would come back to work at all, much less run this particular hospital, she answers that she needs to know every single day that Hannibal Lecter is still incarcerated.
As I speculated last week, this episode more or less makes it clear that the fancy accommodations in Hannibal’s cell are a fantasy, not literally the room he’s locked up in. As Will talks to him, the cell changes into Hannibal’s old office, and then into the Tooth Fairy victims’ house. In another scene, the glass wall disappears and Alana interacts with Hannibal right in his room. When she chides him over something and he calls her out on her behavior, they have an absolutely hilarious dialogue exchange:
“I love a good finger wagging.”
“Yes, you do… How is Margot?”
I suspect that went right over the head of the network censor.
The episode also has several flashbacks to Hannibal’s time with Abigail Hobbs, including them faking her death (which confused me momentarily, because I’d forgotten that they did this late in Season 1, but Hannibal later killed her for real at the end of Season 2), and Hannibal making Abigail symbolically murder her father’s embalmed corpse.
While investigating the case, Will is confronted by Freddie Lounds, who’s back writing for TattleCrime (which is somehow now a newspaper tabloid and not just a blog, as unlikely as that transition would be). As last we saw her, Freddie had faked her death. I assume she came out of hiding when Hannibal was captured. She pries Will with questions but he refuses to answer.
We then cut to Francis Dolarhyde, the Tooth Fairy himself, reading Freddie’s articles about Will and Hannibal. The episode ends with Dolarhyde calling Lecter in prison, pretending to be his attorney, because he thinks the doctor is the only person who can understand what he’s becoming. When Hannibal asks what that is, he responds, “The Great Red Dragon.”
As in the novel, Dolarhyde works in a photo lab. (Yes, some dialogue does address how antiquated that is in the modern digital age.) At work, he meets Reba McClane (Rutina Wesley from ‘True Blood’), a blind photo developer who takes an interest in him. He offers her a ride home and she invites him in for drinks. The point of this storyline, assuming it plays out as previous versions have, is that Dolarhyde actually has the possibility of a normal human relationship if only he can suppress his demons enough to see it through.
Unfortunately, this is where I think the show stumbles. Richard Armitage’s performance as Dolarhyde is way too creepy when he’s supposed to be operating in the normal world. It’s impossible to believe that he could get a job at all, much less that he could hold a conversation with another person. Even though Reba is given the excuse that she likes him because he’s one of the few people who doesn’t immediately feel sorry for her and treat her like she’s helpless, he’s far too off-putting for me to buy into her attraction toward him.
In contrast, when Tom Noonan played the role in ‘Manhunter’, he came across as someone very shy and withdrawn when interacting with others as “Francis,” and only behaved like a full-blown freak when he was alone and let the Dragon come out. It’s possible that a woman like Reba (Joan Allen in that film) might be drawn to him as a fragile and broken person. In this version, however, everything about this guy screams “I’m a serial killer. I’m going to murder you and dance naked covered in your blood!”