No unfinished business allowed. With the previous instalment of the Hannibal Re-watch basically four weeks in the past, and the con in preparation of which I decided to watch this, long over, I could’ve just ignored the missing final review. But neither my conscience nor Michele *waves* would let me get away with it. Mostly because someone is very keen on starting on Into The Storm for the next re-watch.
A clue: it’s not me. The wind film never really took my heart by storm, so to speak… Anyway, so important bits first:
If you would like to continue the Re-watch Series, I suggest we call a watching deadline of mid-March (15-3-2019) for Into The Storm.
And now I want to tie up the loose end, the last episode that seals the fate of the Red Dragon. Having watched this several times at this point, I always wonder whether Francis really thinks that he will get away with it all. I suppose he does… But it is definitely to his credit that he makes a – very successful – attempt at somehow saving Reba. From the Red Dragon, but also from any guilt. He truly loves her – otherwise he wouldn’t provide her the way out that he does. So, I loved that RA played Francis as an unpredictable dichotomy. There we have him at the beginning of the episode. He has kidnapped Reba and she lies tied up beside him in the van – and he soothes her by stroking her head softly. Arriving at his house, I love how the scene was done: Francis carries Reba up the steps and into his house – like a man would his bride. Yet everything is black and dark, the opposite of the innocent white of a wedding day… (Aside: I do feel sorry for male actors, though… Always having to carry their women up and down stairs and across thresholds. Thankfully Retina Wesley really was a wisp of a girl for this role, but it can’t be easy carrying 50 kg. Mind you, RA in his hunky chunk shape as FD looks as if he has no problems whatsoever with this load…)
Anyway, the dichotomy continues – there is Francis with Reba in the bedroom, asking her about the topography of the house , telling her to take off the key off his neck, all in a soft, careful voice, and then at times with the menace of the Red Dragon… It is interesting to me how close seduction and threat are – just observe how he says “you are going back to the bedroom” once he has caught her trying to escape to the front door. The dark undertone in his voice could give you shivers – of anticipation or of dread… Well, surely he is meant to come across as a deadly dangerous threat right there. It’s probably only the dirty fangirl mind playing tricks on me… Or maybe not. Because we then get back to said bedroom where Francis then proceeds to threaten Reba with his weapon. When he says “Feel it, don’t grab it” – I can’t believe that is entirely innocently written by Mr Fuller. I am sure he wanted the innuendo…
The whole scene between Reba and Francis was definitely my personal highlight of the episode. The extreme emotions in this scene are difficult to convey at the best of times, and I would’ve hated it if Armitage had been paired with an actor who didn’t match his own abilities here. He is just magnificent – threatening, merciless killer one second, blubbering mess the next. Conveying cruelty and dominance, then love, tenderness, fear, weakness… he is just absolutely frighteningly good. And Rutina Wesley can definitely keep up with him. The horror, the hope, grappling with understanding what is happening – the panic and fear for her life. Absolutely frighteningly scary.
Anyway, the whole ruse invented by Francis is pretty convincing. If I hadn’t read the book prior to watching Hannibal for the first time, I would’ve totally fallen for the distraction of the suicide. Again, the (admittedly darkest shade of black) humour with which the scene is filmed, is hilarious. The camera angle through that “hole”… and the sound effect *thud* inspired!
Then, of course, it all goes downhill pretty quickly. I mean, yeah, Francis Dolarhyde is a serial killer and all that. But grah, knowing that he is going to get what he deserves, just doesn’t make for great viewing. So I’ll say this instead: The whole last episode is at least redeemed by the fact that Francis looks rather hot in his tight Belstaff jacket. I am still wondering who made the costume choices here? Did Mr A “build the look” himself, just as he is currently doing with Adam Price for The Stranger? A surprising idea, after all he has always said that he isn’t really that au fait with la mode… The costume choices, however, were interesting in all of Hannibal – with a very straight-laced, grandpa-styled Francis at the beginning of the series and then gradually getting more and more stylish over the course of the following episodes. That also extended to the hair cut, by the way, with Francis initially looking as if he had his hair *painted* on, yet in the end he had slightly longer hair – and looked all the more gorgeous for it. So here is the question – was that deliberate? And what was it meant to signify? Was the evolving wardrobe part of the characterisation? But how so? In the end, Francis dies as the Red Dragon, not as himself, so the evolved wardrobe to me would have signified that Francis had emancipated himself from the internalised dragon. If the gradually more fashionable clothes were meant to represent Francis’s falling in love with Reba (or the influence of a woman? or merely looking after one’s appearance because of a love interest?) then why would he look best at the point where he gives up his love? Or is that the actual culmination of his love – saving her from the dragon – and his subsequent death is in fact unplanned, unforeseen, a mistake?
The finale of the show remains an area that I really don’t like to revisit. Not only because I dislike seeing RA die – again – but also because it is rather violent. The show has always been rather sanguinary. And even in the aestheticised way that Francis’ demise is depicted, the blood is not just flowing, it is pouring. But that is Hannibal – the morbidity, the shock value of it all. It does so in a stylised way that is rather unique on current TV – especially on linear TV, which is where this premiered. It feels as if three years ago is now aeons in the past, a time pre-Netflix, Prime etc, and in that sense Hannibal was a true avantgarde show, pushing the limits of what was permissible on TV and challenging the viewers to go on a journey to places only ever seen on the silver screen. Or video. With the distance of several years, I have to say that I nowadays actually find the whole show groundbreaking in many ways. In visualising controversial themes, in hinting at homo-eroticism, in playing with stereotypes and taboos. The cinematography – although often annoyingly dark – was gorgeous and beautiful. The attention to detail – the food styling! – was stunning. And even the fan involvement in the show – through social media use – was something I have never really seen elsewhere. I wasn’t really a massive fan back then. And I cannot deny that my opinion has been influenced by my own encounter with the Hannibal fandom and the Hannibal cast. But I have to say that I think Hannibal is a totally underrated piece of television, a milestone even, that should’ve been given more attention and more accolades. I never thought I would say this, but I do think that Richard made a good call when he decided to play Francis Dolarhyde. And I am glad I watched him.
This is an Armitage fan blog, so I’ll end with what I wrote about RA as Francis Dolarhyde back in 2015: Armitage 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 characterisation 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.