review of reaction to Hannibal 3×13 is hampered by two things: This time I am finding it really hard to find any underlying theme to concentrate the review on. Secondly, I am distracted by my emotions. After six+ weeks of weekly Armitage doses, I am finding it extremely hard to let go of Dolarhyde and face the reality of not seeing regular new Armitage stuff, again. And then there is the tiny detail of how the Red Dragon story arc ends… But needs must, and therefore I will try hard to gather my impressions of the final instalment of Hannibal.
Fannibal or not, the last episode of season 3 – and potentially of the whole show – was hotly anticipated by this fangirl. Over the course of six weeks, the show had certainly been successful in one respect: It had brought me along on the journey. I had become somewhat familiar with the characters, I was intrigued by the psychological web that is spun around them, and I desperately wanted to know how it would all end. Of course I had an inkling when it came to the story arc of the Red Dragon. I had read the book (Molly kills Dolly), had heard Mr A say that he was satisfied with the end of Dolarhyde’s story (which, coming from a decent, nice chap like him could only mean that Dolarhyde was going to meet his fair punishment, i.e. death), and knew that a show would not allow a secondary character to eclipse the main stars of Hannibal. In short: I knew he had it coming. But *how* they were going to tie up the remaining loose ends, was the question.
Into the Fire
The episode started with a true finale. Loose end number 1 needed to be tied up – the story of Reba and Dolarhyde – and I loved how this was done. We pick up where the previous episode left off and get the full version of the already hinted-at resolution between Dolarhyde and Reba. This scene showed the depth of Dolarhyde’s commitment to Reba even though it initially had to make the viewers wonder how Dolarhyde could be so cruel to the innocent woman whom he had previously shown some affection for. And by Jove, I was already on fire way before Dolly struck the match. The Armitage smoulder ignited a whole lot of
sensual fire, when he instructed Reba to take the key off his neck after disclosing to her who he is, and cruelly showing her her limitations by forcing her to lock herself into his house and scuppering her attempts at escaping. Never even mind the grovelly “Now you go back to the bedroom”. *hissssssssss* That will be a ringtone-favourite for generations of Armitage fans to come… He then taunts her with his weapon (ahem, I have to admit that the whole “Feel it, don’t grab it” instruction had me snigger slightly. Dirty fangirl mind *slaps wrist*. I blame Armitage and his patented smoulder, though) and clearly threatens to kill her. Only after he has splashed petrol all over the room, he suddenly comes over all whiny and weak (an indication to the observant viewer that not all is what it seems) and claims he cannot stand to watch her burn. A sign of emotion and love from the killer? Or just a coward? BANG – next thing, like Reba we hear a shot as the flames start swooshing in the room. We see a panicked Reba search for the key, and escape through the flames, as the fire is spreading through the house.
I had been wondering how the show was going to visualize this pivotal scene because the omission of important information is needed in order to keep the plot rolling past this moment in the story. And I had wondered whether the actors would be able to convey the variety of extreme emotions that were contained in this scene. Armitage – predictably – proved his skills, jumping from cold, merciless kidnapper, who is cruelly taunting his victim, to desperate, hopeless mess, a weak loser who has pulled an innocent victim into his game and is now not even able to spare her the horror of being burnt alive, but rather opts out by blowing his own brains out. The real surprise here, however, was Rutina Wesley. The way she acted Reba’s rollercoaster of horror was absolutely flawless. Once again a whole range of emotions, from disbelief to hope, to fearing for her life, to sheer horror once she realizes that Dolarhyde is going to set fire to the house. Her reaction to hearing the match being struck and the fire starting, inspired true horror in me, her panic was palpable in her shrieks and on her face. I was completely with her at that moment, and I felt the panic like a fist in my stomach.
However panic-inducing the scene was until then, the makers also threw in some comic relief. We were treated to the – rather comical – view through the hole that the shot had blown through Dolarhyde’s head, and we heard the sound of a body falling over (which incidentally made me laugh out loud. That was so comic-book OTT, it really took the creepiness away from the disgusting circle of flesh.) And fangirls were certainly distracted by visual gifts such as the creamy Armitage throat to which Dolarhyde guides Reba in order to show her the key. I may have licked my lips when that showed up. But oh woe – that was the end of Dolly and Reba, and it all came much too soon.
But I digress. Titillation was really not the name of this game. Rather it was diversion and distraction. Dolarhyde had put Reba, us – and his pursuers – on the wrong track, and so it came as a big surprise when Dolarhyde suddenly turned up at Will’s hotel. It initially did not make sense to me that Dolarhyde does not kill Will, and instead has turned against his former idol Hannibal. Why exactly he feels so betrayed by Hannibal is unclear to me – essentially Hannibal had been under pressure from Crawford to listen in to Dolarhyde, and that should’ve been obvious to Dolarhyde from the start. In any case, Will very cleverly and smoothly suggested that Dolarhyde “change” Hannibal, and the Red Dragon was all too happy to take that on board. As was Hannibal convinced into agreeing to act as bait, as soon as Will turned his puppy eyes on him. Surprising, that such an unwillingly given “please” can have such a great effect.
The action stalled slightly, with the show half-heartedly tying up other character’s stories – Bedelia clearly in a state of fear when faced with the news that Hannibal was going to be set free; Margot and Alana being whisked away to a place of safety; poor old Chilton languishing in his sterile breathing box.
And then as Hannibal is transported in an escorted police van – whoa, Dolarhyde overtakes the action on the left. I should’ve seen it coming, but I didn’t, so I was surprised again when Dolarhyde shot all police officers, conveniently kept Hannibal and Will alive, and promptly jumped into his hijacked police car again to whizz off. That was all too quick, but maybe better that way, because any more of that Belstaff jacket, and I would’ve believed I had inadvertently switched to an episode of Spooks.
The show cleverly kept the mystery up – what was going to happen now: Hannibal at large, Will more or less in his power, the police searching for both, and Dolarhyde waiting his next move. It turns out that Hannibal and Will take refuge in a fancy house on a cliff. I take it, that was Hannibal’s house? Or did they just break into an empty holiday shack by the side of the road? It seemed a bit improbable that the police would not check Hannibal’s house, but well, it allowed the two lovers, eh, protagonists, to continue their little mind game with raised steaks, eh, stakes. Until the Red Dragon turns up in spectacular fashion.
I really dislike getting into the last bit of the episode, because it jars with my feelings, but it is unavoidable, because now the final knots are tied. Will and Hannibal are having their little tete-a-tete in front of the panorama window of Casa Hannibal. A right goldfish bowl for Dolarhyde who has been lurking in the dark, outside. As a bullet from Dolarhyde takes Hannibal down, the Red Dragon unfurls his wings and strides towards the final showdown with a self-assurance that makes him look like the angel of death. Clad in black, large strides, brandishing his weapon. What a fabulous visualization, a true swan song. For a moment I thought that Will was going to sip his wine and watch Hannibal die. But well, I am obviously not a Fannibal, because lover boy eventually steps up to the plate as Dolarhyde prepares to film Hannibal’s demise and starts the attack.
The ensuing fight scene was pretty gruesome to watch, and I looked away several times because I could not stand the sight of the blood gushing from stab wounds, neither on Will nor on Dolarhyde. Suffice to say that two are stronger than one, and in a concerted effort Will and Hannibal manage to take the Red Dragon down. His death was most beautifully done. As he has been given the mortal blow, he goes down on his knees, spreads his wings one last time, and collapses on the floor. The Red Dragon is no more. There, another loose end tied up.
All that was left now, was to bring the season – and possibly the show – to a satisfying end. And I presume that the episode delivered on all that fans could ever have hoped for. A final declaration of love from both protagonists, an embrace as they become one – and a mutual decision to throw themselves over the cliff. Not quite the vision of two lovers riding off into the sunset, but an effective ending that allows fannibals to hope for a happy ever after of Mr and Mrs Hannibal Lecter. Fin.
Hannibal 3×13 certainly delivered. All characters get what they deserve – Reba safe, Chilton forever in pain, Alana on the run, Bedelia in the lurch. (Whatever will happen to Crawford and Molly, though?). And the viewers got an hour of breath-taking plot twists, diversions, blood-dripping action, stunning visuals courtesy of the Red Dragon, the triumph of good over evil – and the satisfaction of seeing Will and Hannibal finally and forever in each others’ arms. In terms of ending this show, the makers could not have finished any better. This was a true finale, and they did well, so congrats.
The Bloody-Mindedness of the Fangirl
But against all reason and against better judgment, this fangirl was not happy about the ending. I firmly rooted for Dolarhyde, and despite Dolarhyde’s ruthless killing of so many people in the story, I just cannot shake the impression that there was a redeemable human behind the Dragon, who saved Rebba very cleverly and who admitted that he loved. I wanted the Dragon dead and Dolarhyde saved. And that really threw me off kilter. It disturbs me that I am feeling sorry for Dolarhyde and that I wanted him to survive when there was no chance. I probably would’ve preferred an ending where Dolarhyde does not die but is simply caught, locked up, and thrown away the key. Anything would’ve been better than see him succumb to Lecter and Will. It kind of doesn’t fit my image of him – he was so clever, but in the end he is simply butchered by two morally questionable men of whom at least one is worse than him. It felt unfair, I suppose. Why should they survive and he be dead? Because they were the protagonists and he was not, stupid! Mind you, at least Dolarhyde was not a pawn like so many other characters in this part of the show. He was his own agent, and he followed through with clever ideas and consistency.
But let’s face it – I am as blind as Reba, and as “demonstrably guilty” of refusing to give up the fantasy of a happy ending. What has blinded me is the actor who infused Dolarhyde with humanity and magnificently acted his character’s demise with dignity and drama. He gave Dolarhyde nuances of human-ness as well as other-ness, a balancing act that required a clear vision on his part how to distinguish the two different beings in the *one* character. Over the course of the season, Armitage’s effortless switching between the two personas was impressive, as was the consistent characterization through voice, body and gesture. And let’s not forget – in this last episode, he was just delicious to look at, in his tight Belstaff jacket and all dressed in black. With his hair a tiny bit longer than at the beginning, he looked less sharp and defined by lines, but softer around the edges. Maybe because he was dishevelled, not quite in control, injured. Or maybe because he was not the monster, but the man. And what died at the end, was the monstrous creature, and not the man. I prefer to think that. The Red Dragon is dead. Long live Dolarhyde.
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