I’ve finished Red Dragon, and it’s provided much insight into the potential greatness of the character of Francis Dolarhyde in Richard Armitage’s very capable hands. The series Hannibal on NBC creates a very different atmosphere than anything I’ve yet seen Richard do, and this is likely to be his darkest role yet. However, aside from his psychopathic tendencies, in many ways, the character of Francis Dolarhyde is not completely different from characters that Armitage has portrayed in the past.
He’s tortured and conflicted.
He’s sick in the mind and soul.
He’s crafty and devious.
He’s capable of great atrocities.
He seeks transformative glory.
He’s capable of finer feelings.
He’s capable of grand and even tenderly romantic gestures.
He’s at war within himself.
He seeks redemption, but ultimately fails.
Sounds a bit familiar, right? Based on comments about the character that I have read, I was not alone in my unsettling feelings for Francis Dolarhyde. I never grew to trust him, and many of his actions and thought patterns horrified me. At the same time, I felt that I could at least begin to understand him, and I felt the ability to empathize with him on his journey. Although I knew that the depth of his mental illness, and the atrocious nature of his sins would ultimately make him irredeemable, there were still times when I had the hopeless desire to see him find reprieve from his demons and escape the madness that consumed him. This character has been one of the most memorable and richly drawn villains of the crime genre for me, and he’s all the more frightening because of the unpredictability of his emotional responses and his conflicting desires.
If I know one thing about Richard Armitage, it’s that he knows how to portray inner conflict and how to elicit sympathy from his audience no matter where the script takes him. This particular character will give him the opportunity to explore much more than just a methodical serial killer. He will be able to explore the themes of self-loathing and simultaneously emerging delusions of grandeur and narcissism, which is one very interesting aspect of the character’s pathology: the attempt to leave behind the fearful, pathetic and powerless “Cunt-Face” by virtue of Becoming the all-powerful, fearsome “Red Dragon”. He will be able to explore what happens to that dynamic when a woman enters the picture, and he experiences for the first time the attentions of a woman who is frankly appreciative, and kind. He will be able to tackle the portrayal of a schizophrenic un-coupling of the character’s diverging personalities into Francis Dolarhyde, who finds himself bewildered, in love, and desirous of protecting what he knows is precious in Reba, and The Red Dragon, who believes she represents only weakness, and demands to devour her.
I really can’t wait to watch it all unfold.