As a huge fan of NBC’s ‘Hannibal’, I hate to admit that – with the latest episode – I think the show’s decision to devote the rest of its final season to the Red Dragon storyline may have been a really big mistake.
I would guess that at least half of episode ‘And the Woman Clothed in Sun’ is a very faithful adaptation of Thomas Harris’ first Lecter novel, to the point that big chunks of dialogue and plot are recited verbatim from the book. That wouldn’t be a problem in itself, except that the book has already been adapted to film twice before and, to be frank about it, ‘Manhunter’ did it best.
Far too much of this episode feels overly familiar, especially the central set-piece in which serial killer Francis Dolarhyde brings his blind girlfriend to the zoo so that she can touch a tranquilized tiger. I just don’t buy these characters’ relationship on the show. This version of Dolarhyde is such an obvious creep that Reba would have to be not just blind but deaf and dumb (as in stupid, not mute) as well not to pick up on it. As a result, the tiger scene and their later montage-heavy sex scene ring false. Tom Noonan played this character with much more complexity in the movie.
Likewise is a scene in which Lecter asks to call his lawyer and tampers with the phone in order to reach an operator. (Is that even possible anymore?) He gets the operator to redirect him to Frederick Chilton’s office, and then cons Chilton’s secretary into giving him Will Graham’s address. While practically word-for-word from the book, the scene was obviously written for a very different version of Hannibal Lecter than the one Mads Mikkelsen has spent three seasons developing on the show. The words just don’t sound right in his mouth. For that matter, has Will even moved? Lecter already knows where he lives and sent him a letter just two episodes ago.
Perhaps the biggest problem is that the TV series ‘Hannibal’ feels like it moved past this catch-a-serial-killer plot a long time ago. The entire first season was devoted to that, and Will caught a new killer every week. Spending six episodes on a single nutjob feels both redundant and needlessly drawn-out.
Where this episode does work for me is with its new material, mostly the scenes with Gillian Anderson’s Bedelia Du Maurier. We find Will Graham attending a lecture she’s giving about her time as Hannibal Lecter’s captive. She claims that she was brainwashed into thinking that she was his wife. Will doesn’t buy it, and freely tells her as much afterwards. When they meet again privately later, Bedelia mostly drops the act, but now claims that she was trying to give Hannibal a kind of “covert therapy” that may not have worked out as well as she hoped. Will accuses her of letting Hannibal turn her into a psychopath like he is.
This leads into a flashback where we finally learn the truth about Bedelia’s story that she was attacked by a patient in her office and had to kill him while defending herself. Although the patient (Zachary Quinto) may have been very paranoid and disturbed, he never attacked her. In fact, he choked on something and suffocated in front of her. As she reached into his mouth to clear his throat, Bedelia was overcome with an urge to kill him – no doubt due to Lecter conditioning her to want to know what it’s like to murder another human being – and forced her fist down his throat until he died.
That’s all good stuff. The episode also ends with an interesting scene taken from the original ‘Red Dragon’ story. Pretending to be an art researcher, Dolarhyde arranges a private visit to the Brooklyn Museum to view an original William Blake watercolor of the Red Dragon painting. He knocks the woman guiding him unconscious (possibly kills her) and, lusting to be one with the Dragon, touches it and licks it and actually eats it.
As he’s doing that, the trail of clues from the last murder leads Will Graham to the same museum to see the painting. He and Dolarhyde cross paths at the elevator. Just as Graham realizes that he’s looking at the killer, Dolarhyde springs forward and throws him out of the elevator, then closes the doors and escapes.
These two parts aside, the episode as a whole left me disappointed. Honestly, I think the show probably should have stopped after Lecter’s capture in Episode 7, which could have made a pretty decent series finale with maybe a few extra minutes at the end.