After my spending half a season complaining that the show has merely replayed storylines already familiar from the Thomas Harris novel and its two movie adaptations, ‘Hannibal’ finally went off-book, so to speak, with a series finale episode packed with surprises and plenty of glorious insanity.
Of course, I’m still assuming that the episode, called ‘The Wrath of the Lamb’ (nice!), is the series finale. It sure looks that way. NBC has canceled the show and, as of yet, no other outlet has picked it up. If this is the end, the episode brings a satisfying amount of closure. But if it were to continue, I think there are ways to make that happen too.
Having kidnapped his blind girlfriend Reba and revealed that he’s a serial killer, Francis Dolarhyde tells her that he doesn’t want to harm her. As a test, he makes her take a key hanging around his neck and tells her to make her way to the front door and lock it. “Don’t try to run. I can catch you.” Of course, she tries anyway, and he indeed catches her.
Reba begs for her life. Dolarhyde, who seems troubled, says that he doesn’t want to let the Dragon have her. Instead, he pours gasoline around the house and plans to kill the both of them in a fire. After he starts the blaze, he says that he can’t bear to watch her burn, so he takes a shotgun and blows his own head off. (Pay attention to the way this scene is staged.) Reba feels her way to the body, finds the key, and crawls to the door.
Is that really the end of the Great Red Dragon? Something seems fishy here.
Afterwards, Will consoles Reba in the hospital. He also stops by Hannibal’s cell to gloat. “Ding dong, the dragon’s dead.” Hannibal tells Will that he was rooting for him, but remarks how disappointing it must be that he didn’t get to kill anyone. This does seem like an unsatisfying resolution.
Hannibal also suggests that Will deliberately set Chilton up to die. Will takes issue with the accusation, be we know that he’s been thinking the same thing. As Will says goodbye, Hannibal asks him to, “Think about me.” Will points out that Hannibal only let himself be captured to keep himself in Will’s life, which means that he knew that Will had already rejected him. The comment stings. Hannibal will later call it a “mic-drop” moment as Will walks out.
Returning to his motel room, Will is suddenly grabbed by Dolarhyde. Ah ha! Of course, he staged his death. All that business with the key was to ensure that Reba would survive and report his death to the FBI.
Restrained to a chair, Will keeps his wits about him. He immediately starts talking about Hannibal, and how he betrayed the both of them. Dolarhyde insists that he’s stronger than the Dragon now, and no longer a slave to his impulses. Will advises that the he needs to “change” Lecter (i.e. to sacrifice him to the Dragon) as the next stage of his Becoming.
Dolarhyde lets him go and Will returns to the FBI, but keeps mum about what happened. Medical Examiners Price and Zeller (their final appearance!) have figured out on their own that the corpse in the fire wasn’t Dolarhyde. Will recommends to Jack that they use Hannibal as bait to lure out the Dragon, and the best way to do that is to fake an escape.
Will sees Bedelia again and tells her the plan. She says that it’s a bad idea, and that Hannibal will escape for real. Will tells her that he intends to kill Hannibal.
Chilton – or what’s left of him – is still alive, locked in a hyperbaric chamber. Alana pays a visit. He still blames her and Will for what happened to him. He tells her that he’s been receiving skin grafts, and becomes amused at the thought of having some of Hannibal’s skin on his body.
Alana officially extends Hannibal the FBI’s offer. If he plays along with the fake escape, all privileges (his books, his drawings, his toilet, etc.) will be restored to his cell. Hannibal agrees, but warns her that he very well may escape for real. If that happens, he will honor his earlier promise to come after not just her, but her wife and child as well. He is a man of his word, after all.
Forming a mini cabal, Jack, Will and Alana secretly discuss their plans to ensure that both Dolarhyde and Lecter must die.
A prisoner transport is arranged. Will rides in the van with Lecter and goes over how the escape will play out. Once they reach their destination, Hannibal will pretend to overcome his guards and slip away. He’ll later make contact with Dolarhyde, and lure him to a meeting space that can only be observed from a limited number of locations. The FBI will be waiting for him there.
Suddenly, a police car that’s not part of the escort screams by the others. It’s Dolarhyde. He pulls a gun and shoots the driver of the lead car, causing it to crash and the van to roll over. Chaos ensues. Will is disoriented. The next thing he knows, the door to the van is open and Lecter steps out. He climbs out behind him. Dolarhyde speeds away in the cop car. This is not the time to meet. Will and Hannibal are alive and free, but many cops and FBI agents are left dead. Did Will know this would happen?
Hannibal commandeers another cop car and invites Will to join him.
Surveying the aftermath later, Jack is pissed. Alana and her family evacuate their mansion.
Hannibal brings Will to a house on a seaside cliff where he had previously brought both Abigail Hobbs and Miriam Lass. He pours some wine and says that he knows that Dolarhyde is watching them – and by extension knows that Will arranged for Dolarhyde to try to kill him. What he doesn’t know, apparently, is how soon that will happen. A gunshot rings out. The window behind Lecter shatters and a bullet hits him in the abdomen. He collapses to the ground. Dolarhyde steps in and tells Will, “Don’t run. I will catch you.” Will calmly drinks his glass of wine.
Dolarhyde sets up a camera and informs Lecter that he’s going to film his death to rewatch over and over. Composed as ever, Hannibal describes this as a “glorious and rather discomforting idea.”
Will slowly reaches for a knife hidden in his waistband, but Dolarhyde is ahead of him and pulls his own knife, then stabs Will right in the face!
Still alive, Will grapples with Dolarhyde. They both tumble through a window into the courtyard. Will pulls the knife out of his cheek and stabs Dolarhyde in the leg with it. In turn, Dolarhyde pulls it out as well and stabs Will right back. They exchange the blade a few times when Hannibal pulls himself up and joins the fight. He, Will and Dolarhyde form a bloody three-way, hacking and slashing at each other bit by bit. Hannibal gets Dolarhyde in a headlock and Will slices open his abdomen. Lecter then chomps down with his teeth and takes a huge bite out of Dolarhyde’s neck. The Great Red Dragon dies, a geyser of blood pouring forth from his body as he collapses.
The imagery in this scene is amazing, if almost crushed in darkness. (No doubt the network has rules about how graphic the show can be.)
Catching his breath, Lecter surveys their accomplishment and beams to Will, “This is all I ever wanted for you.” Will, half-dead and leaking blood from every part of his body, stumbles to Hannibal and embraces him. Brothers, at last. Neither of them individually could have achieved this without the other. Their symbiosis is complete.
Will grabs hold of Hannibal tightly and lunges backwards, plunging the both of them off the cliff. They disappear into the night, surely both dead.
The credits roll. The show is over. But not yet.
Bedelia, wearing a fancy gown, sits at a dinner table. Her left leg has been amputated and lies on a platter before her, cooked and garnished to Lecter’s utmost standards. Does Hannibal live? Bedelia picks up a fork, as if to eat. She’s sitting alone. Did Hannibal do this to her, or did she completely snap and do this to herself?
We will probably never get a proper answer to that question. Honestly, that’s OK. It’s a nice little mind-screw to leave off with.
The finale packs a whole lot into a single hour’s length, and honestly it’s one of the best episodes the show has ever had. As disappointed as I’ve been with much of this last season, I’m very glad that Bryan Fuller was able to take it out on his own terms, unbeholden to anyone – not to the network or even to the source material.
Certainly, I would love to see another season of the series. Hell, I’d probably subscribe to Netflix if that’s what it took. On the other hand, if the plan for a proposed fourth season would just be to replay the events of ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ in the same fashion that this one replayed ‘Red Dragon’, perhaps this is the best stopping point after all.