Ok, back to Hannibal. I watched the third instalment of the Red Dragon arc this week, and there is a good bit in there that is worth discussing.
1. Humour is in the detail
For starters, I do enjoy the little visual jokes that the makers continue to pepper the show with. It’s almost like an extra level inserted into the show, for those viewers who watch again and again, and for those who watch very attentively. Previously, for instance, there is the hilarious bus shelter ad for dental hygiene that adds some humour to the scene where Francis picks up Reba and gives her lift. Yep, as if the Tooth Fairy was getting ready to bite again…
This time, there is the uniform Francis has stolen in preparation to breaking into Hannibal Lecter’s solicitor’s office. Look closely at the screen shot below:
The fun continues later when Dolarhyde signs into the Brooklyn Museum as ‘John Crane’… Well, at least from the perspective of the Armitage Army. We are well-versed and familiar with RA’s body of work (*waves at Kate and winks*) and know that there is a bit of an insider joke of RA having played many a character who was called John… Whether that was a script decision or something RA himself made up as he went along, we don’t know.
But maybe that is a question that should be asked at the next opportunity… RDC5 attendants note! However, it is noted – and appreciated!
2. Eyelash porn trumps everything
Anyway, let’s go back to that first scene in Hannibal 3×10, though. I have to admit that the best thing in that scene *for me* is the overwhelming eyelash porn.
And I find it noteworthy how expressive Francis suddenly becomes – for someone who has little opportunity and experience with expressing himself, he articulates himself really well. There is something old-fashioned and reverent when he expresses his admiration for Lecter, as if he has long studied and practiced what he wants to say. Well, in fact he has – as we saw in the intro where he is practicing words in front of his broken mirror. – But otherwise I still amn’t a fan of this whole scene. Particularly the end of it. Sure, Lecter goads him on into disclosing his dragon kink, but the way Armitage says “Great – Red – Draaaaaagonnnnnn” just makes me scoff and laugh every time. Like a little boy playing a big old monster. “Catch me mummy, I am a great – red – draaaaaaagonnnn!!!!” Similar hilarity ensues when I see the image of the Red Dragon beast sitting inflamed on a mound and spreading his wings. I just don’t know whether that is deliberately meant to be funny, or whether it was meant in all seriousness. Because I think it is hilarious. That stout little imp is just weird in his cloak of gold-speckled velvet. The whole thing is obviously also not helped by the fact that someone circulated that BTS picture of RA in costume… (which I unfortunately can’t find right now. But unfortunately I cannot unsee it, either.) Cinematographically, however, the scene is done really well, panning out from Francis making that sneaky phone call, to a therapy session between Francis and Lecter, blurring the line between reality and wishful thinking. Again, an original way of realising the scene on film. And Armitage is great, making Francis truly scary in the scene – not in what he says, but in what he does. Those small little smiles in his monologue are the most terrifying thing… The physical details are where Armitage truly excels – the minute details of characterisation that are almost unnoticeable, and yet they are the cherry on the cake.
Moving on to the Zoo scene.
Observe the puppy eyes in my screen shot, the way Francis pleads with Reba that he would like to show her the tiger in the zoo – just adorable… honestly, if she could see him, could she resist him? In fact, the whole gesture is incredibly elegant, as Reba says herself. Allowing a blind person to “see” a tiger through her sense of touch, is an amazing gift. And once again he is extraordinarily expressive in his way of describing the whole scene for her. The radiance of the tiger, “almost bleeding into the air”. Where does this poetic, observant way of articulating himself come from? How can this repressed man/monster see and sense such lyrical beauty? Of course, Francis is doing it for ulterior motives. Or is he? I find it unclear. He is creepy in his intense observation of her reactions to the tiger. The way he stares and leans in to see exactly how her emotions play out on her face, is strange – a mixture of terrifying, naive, and plain weird. What is this weird obsession? Why does he want to see her reaction? How does it gratify him to do this? Through imagining that she is touching him, that much is clear. But is he already contemplating the “change”? Does he want to “change” her by killing her?
4. First-Time Feeling
In the zoo scenes, Francis appears human for the first time – soft, emotional, sad, loving? He is interested in someone else’s feeling – a new experience for him who has never experienced anyone being interested in him?
The elegance continues in Francis’ house where he has taken Reba after the zoo. I loved that he put Debussy on the record player. Straight from the book, btw – that was specified by Harris! Again, how interesting that Francis should like this melodious, romantic music! Is it a glimpse of his soul – if it were untainted?
The whole scene in the sitting room is very resonant. A lot of it, I think, appeals to women in particular. Such as the scene where Francis asks Reba whether the co-workers have described him to her. When she replies that she knows what he looks like, he retreats back into the shadows – a gesture so relatable for a lot of women, I think, who feel very much defined by their looks, and often react by consciously trying to blend into the background and *not be seen*. So does Francis here, but Reba draws him back out. But is this lack of self-confidence one of the reasons why I feel sympathy for Francis? – There is also the fact that Reba’s “attention” to him looks like an initiation, and watching Francis fight to keep control of his emotions, is quite touching to see. Especially because he fails – and the woman has won 💪🏻
I am still laughing about the fact that Bryan Fuller denied that this scene depicted Reba giving Francis a blow job. Right. Of course not. She just spoke to Little Francis and he started some heavy breathing because he was so annoyed. *snorts* Sure. But ok, the best bit is yet to come. Not just Francis sweeping Reba up and carrying her up to the bedroom *gulps*, but a truly beautifully staged sex scene. Very tastefully done, too, very sensual without showing the naked truth. Francis’ writhing back and Reba’s roaming hands provide enough evidence, and the visualisation of the Woman Clothed in the Sun, is just beautiful. So much feeling in this scene – not just of the instinctive, carnal type, but of sadness and possibly some kind of conclusion and realisation.
And yes, of course we all loved the morning-after scene, wandering tattoo, snug briefs, proper six-pack and all. By that time, I as a viewer felt fully invested in that character and in that pairing. Yep – Franba is my OTP.
5. The Museum Scene
Ha, if it had been me, we could have stopped the whole Red Dragon story arc here – and switched to a “And they lived happily ever after” Hallmark movie 😂. Who needs further complications when there is such a beautiful love story here where love overcomes the worst of instincts? Ok ok, that wouldn’t make for gritty, stylish TV (Message to all stylish TV directors: Maybe that is your challenge? Is it possible to create a non-tacky, uncompromisingly happy love story on film?). So instead the plot is now driven away from the Reba/Dolly storyline and instead intros the resolution of the season: Francis visits the Brooklyn Museum where the original water-colour of Blake’s “Great Red Dragon” is kept. Convincingly talking his way into the (closed) archive, Francis manages to get his hands on the artwork – and devours it.
I ‘ll spare you a picture of the actual eating scene, even though RA put so much effort in it – apparently he made his mouth bleed because he insisted on eating *real* paper rather than the edible paper that looked too artificial. And I applaud Richard for his fantastic acting, as always. The creepiness, the scary monster breaking out from under the unmoved exterior of the man – just spot on! Less on: the dentures.
Again, I thought there was something almost comical about those ill-fitting dentures. They completely change all of Armitage’s physiognomy – so much so that it would be rather unbelievable that no one has noticed Dolarhyde wearing these preposterous dentures… Again, probably not the effect they were going to, but I was laughing rather than feeling ‘in awe’…
But maybe the whole thing was tainted for me, anyway, knowing that this is basically the last scene before everything starts going downhill. With Will Graham hot on Francis’ heels, the plot is going to quickly propel towards the sorry end from here. Extra pity, imo, that they cut the chase scene short in the film. The book has an extensive scene where Will is on Francis’ tracks as he is trying to escape. And it is a really interesting scene – that gives insight in Francis’ meticulous planning and cunning mind. But well, I guess he was not really the main focus here anymore…
Anyway, those were my 2 cent on 3×10 – as usual leaving lots of interesting things out. What did you think? Leave your comments below.