Re-Watching Hannibal 3/Red Dragon: Finally Farewell [Part 6]

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.


37 thoughts on “Re-Watching Hannibal 3/Red Dragon: Finally Farewell [Part 6]

  1. First Guylty waves and a big hug back to you for indulging in my persistent campaign to watch ITS. I do it for myself and our lovable buddy Zee who adores Gary (I hope it’s ok Zee to say that freely) and all the commenters who want to watch this wind movie or give it a second chance
    Second, I always though Francis and Reba were a love story. A tragic love story but the chemistry between Richard and Rutina was fantastic and the story was heart breaking and bittersweet-unpredictable dichotomy indeed
    Third, this re-watch although I did not partake in it has helped me enormously to see details and images and plot threads that I clearly missed or wasn’t aware of when I first viewed it last year. As a diehard romantic my whole focus was on Francis and Reba. Fuller though is a wonderful story teller
    Fourth, thank you for including your post from 2015 when you wrote your impressions originally. I think to allow us to compare and contrast what you thought then and now at the re-watch is immeasurable and brilliant.
    Finally, I think Francis even more than Proctor really exemplified Richard’s acting prowess and his genius even if he doesn’t always think so.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Bravo! Brilliant essay. We needed this in the collection of ruminations on Dolarhyde, and you’ve made some unique observations/contributions. You’ve made me want to watch the show again, and I thought I would never go back to it. Thank you for writing this.

    Side note: your comments on it having been shown on broadcast American tv reminded me how much I HATED watching it that way. Every 10 minutes, the dark atmosphere was interrupted by too-bright, too-loud, chirpy cell phone commercials. It ruined it for me. Better to wait for these productions to come out on DVDs and binge watch in multi-hour sessions so you don’t lose the flow of things.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Besotted that’s a great point about the chirpy cell phone commercials esp Verizon Wireless. I watched Hannibal last year on Amazon Prime b/c I gulp gulp didn’t know who The Armitage was until January last year.


    • I definitely think the show is worth watching, so I am glad if I made you consider a revisit. I have to admit that I basically ignored all the non-RA stuff for the re-watch. I wasn’t interested in that, I just wanted to concentrate on Dolarhyde.
      Interesting observations re. broadcast on linear TV. I consumed it as downloads and never had the problem of the ad breaks. But I can imagine that that was really disruptive to the whole experience.
      I really like the idea of binge watching, too. My only problem is that I actually do not have time to do that. I can’t get more than two, max. three episode of any show in at any one time. I often wish that I had a weekend to myself where I could basically live on my couch and watch all the shows that I haven’t been able to see so far…


  3. i watched the finale a couple weeks ago, it’s interesting watching the change in Francis. He’s so much harder in this episode. I’m not sure he still cares for Reba anymore-i think hes really just using her to make sure the police believe he’s dead. The way he plays her, he knows he frightens her and uses it t o his advantage-he knows that she doesn’t know who he is anymore


    • I agree that he is changed – although I don’t think that his love for Reba has vanished. I think he is doing it as much to put the police off his track, as he is trying to save her from the dragon. If he didn’t care for her anymore, he could’ve easily sacrificed her for the dragon and killed her. He chooses not to – I think that is significant.


      • Even though starting a fire around Reba wasn’t the most loving thing to do, I’ve always thought that he still cared for her. I didn’t notice it at the time but reviewers pointed out that he showed her where the door key was on his neck, and led her past flowers in the hall so that the scent would lead her to escape.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Jane I think he always loved her and saved her by not killing her when he easily could have several times. Those are great points about the key around his neck and the scent of the flowers
          I love subtleties like that!! 😘❤️😉


        • Yep. I still think he loved her, despite hearing other opinions here. The door key and the whole escape route test is quite clearly his way of making sure that she can get out of there once he has pretended to have killed himself.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for another great commentary, G. You really highlighted so many interesting nuances. I have to say that watching the finale again I found myself not having as much sympathy for Francis as I did the first time. Sure he had a brief glimpse of romance and the pleasure of intimacy and passion with Reba, but he ultimately chose his darker desire– the seduction of power- and of discarding his weaker self in order to fulfill his destiny of becoming The Great Red Dragon. I don’t think he is in love with Reba at this point but has a fondness for her and wants to protect her from the wrath of the Dragon. In his meticulous planning, he sees a way to use her in his elaborate fake suicide scheme. That he was willing to abduct her and put her through that horror so it would buy him the time needed to go on a killing spree lost him a lot of sympathy points with me. Of course it was no surprise that he has to be stopped and gets it in the end but- oh man- what a death! I think this one has to be the most gruesome death of any of his characters and pretty hard to watch, imho.
    You describe his performance so much better than I could, but I agree that this was a great choice of roles for RA. His acting in this series is spectacular and to see him transform himself in looks and demeanor over the 6 episodes was mesmerizing.


    • Interesting – like Rachel you are also saying that Francis had moved on from having any kind of feelings for Reba. Funny, I never saw it like that. I was convinced that he really wanted to save her – from the dragon, from any kind of association with himself – and of course also throw the police off his track. I never really doubted that he still loved her – it would’ve been so much easier to simply kill her, burn her in his house…
      This: “ure he had a brief glimpse of romance and the pleasure of intimacy and passion with Reba, but he ultimately chose his darker desire– the seduction of power- and of discarding his weaker self in order to fulfill his destiny of becoming The Great Red Dragon” I love how you have expressed that!


  5. A great thought-provoking final instalment, Guylty. But oh god, drool, this is my favourite Hannibal episode purely because Richard looks so gorgeously cool, masterful and menacing. That’s a really interesting observation about the clothes (drool, that jacket). They seem to reflect his growing power and new autonomy as a slick, streamlined assassin.

    There is definitely an interplay of threat and suggestiveness in the scenes with Reba,”Go to the bedroom, you know where that is” and with the handling of the gun. There is ambiguity too in the way he grabs her neck, like a big cat handling its prey. I always replay the scene where he strikes the match because I love the elegant motion of his long fingers as they nonchalantly flick the match away but what follows, with poor Reba’s terror in the fire is really hard to watch.

    My favourite scene is in the motel room when he tussles with Will Graham, which I find oddly arousing, and where we see close-ups of RA’s face when he is sitting on the bed talking to Will. Dolarhyde is in full command, his voice slow and seductively silky but what evil lurks in those eyes. It’s astonishing that RA can summon this internal force and show it to such chilling effect in his eyes.

    The final scenes are magnificent too, with the slow beginning of Siouxsie’s Love Crimes. I was captivated the first time by Dolarhyde’s death with the spreading blood wings – and still love his beauty here (even having a screenshot as one of my wallpapers) and was troubled to read that a double played some of the close-up scenes as I desperately wanted it to be Armitage lying there. I’m not sure where the double comes in. Do you? Perhaps it is when the three of them are fighting as Dolarhyde suddenly seems to have longer flapping hair.
    Well, Goodbye Dolly!
    (P.S. Looking forward to discussing I.T.S. although I can’t think of it without being reminded of Gary’s smelly damp woollen suit .)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Such an eloquent comment, J. You really should think about blogging on a regular basis! I loved reading your thoughts here. I think I need to rewatch those scenes with Will – I almost fast-forwarded through them…
      But yes, the blood wings had a strange aestheticism about them. And it was certainly easier to watch than what went before that – all that hacking and stabbing. I really hated that, as much as the dragon deserved to be killed.
      Oh, and I actually did not know there was a body double involved… I wonder why? Were there reshoots that RA couldn’t do? It never occurred to me that there was someone else in there than our lovely man.
      As to your PS: Yep, same here. I just can’t really get into Gary…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Richard Armitage tangentially related | Me + Richard Armitage

  7. Thanks Guylty I’m enjoying writing again. and can’t shut-up this wknd! Brian Fuller said somewhere ( maybe in the commentary) they had to use a double for some of the final shots, and couldn’t do close-ups of RA then,because he had to leave for another shoot (Pilgrimage or Urban) .Hannibal over-ran. I’d love to know which shots are bogus RA but suspect it is some of the fight as it certainly looks like our man elsewhere.


  8. Que ce soit dans les rôles de Red Dragon , Lucas North or Gary Fuller à part les années qui passent, il reste le même en personnage interchangeable, quand il est habillé en cuir..


      • C’est une erreur de ma part, j’ai confondu avec un autre personnage habillé de cuir (Heinz Kruger)
        INTO THE STORM wasn’t a great story except for flying planes.


        • Squirrel, I think he played a real guy (pardon the pun) with real life issues and a lot of wind and rain but the film is deeper than a “wind movie” so I hope you partake in our re-watch. Tu me manques (oui?)


      • Guylty, I asked Jane if she thought the jacket was pleather rather than leather. Did you standing next to him for the photo ops get a sense it was leather or pleather, just curious. I know you didn’t reach out to touch him but the rover hand hovered around your back so you seemed pretty close in the Snowman pic. Inquiring minds want to know…


      • 🙂
        Sujet: Comment la garde robe de Richard Armitage peut influencer un fan dans ses achats, pour ses proches. Ou bien comment s’échapper de l’emprise d’une semaine de plus de 64 heures passées au travail.
        Feuilleton en 5 épisodes.
        1er épisode: – les impressionnantes boots à lacets, en cuir marron, automne 2015.
        2 ème épisode: – l’imperméable bleu marine avec doublure moltonnée et capuche , NYC 2016 (LLL).
        3 ème épisode: – les sous vêtements avec formules de mathématiques, marque Slipissimo, Noel 2017.
        4 ème épisode: – les chaussettes avec formules de mathématiques, Lyon été 2018.
        5 ème épisode: – Inspirée par la matière aérée du sweet-shirt noir avec capuche et fermeture éclair, ( porté par Richard Armitage, sous son blouson de cuir noir, lors du 5 ème Red Dragon Con), cet après-midi, j’ai acheté un modèle bleu et gris: “Bissbee Gilet zip à capuche raglan bleu marine”. Ce sweet-shirt d’été devrait convenir parfaitement pour le départ en stage de 5 mois, à Tokyo. (J’ai évité le “Sweat enfilé AOP capitales homme | Bizzbee”).
        6 ème épisode: – trouver une tenue pour le stage de 5 semaines, en aquaculture de pleine mer, à Ajaccio en Corse. Pour l’instant ma jeune étudiante passe son permis bateau… Mais je crois que Richard Armitage n’aime ni l’eau salée, ni les poissons. Il ne pourra donc pas m’inspirer dans le sous marin de “Captain America : First Avenger”, jouant à lancer des poissons dans les barils du “Hobbit” ou sur la plage pour la présentation de “Their Lost Daughters” …

        Liked by 1 person

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