This week’s episode, as Perry has already pointed out, was so chock full of material that felt like a gift to the fans, that I hardly know where to start, or how to frame my “review”… if review is even an appropriate word for the gushing that I feel is about to proceed forth from my buzzing brain and my heightened sense of arousal and my almost overwhelming sense of pride in the accomplishments of my favorite actor.
Yes, this episode delivered all of that and more for me, and was so rewarding that immediately upon viewing it during my
new 2 hour lunch break with the Do Not Disturb sign implied by my firmly closed office door Friday lunch hour, where I blocked off an extra hour so I’d have time to jot some initial impressions after watching, I discovered not the slightest available self-discipline and instead consumed it twice back-to-back and even then found myself at a loss to form coherent thoughts, so I fell back on musing about why it was I was suddenly inundated with desire to touch and trace the hitherto somewhat ignored scar on Francis Dolarhyde’s face.
Now I’ve watched the entire episode 5 times, enthralled and probably displaying the same level of intensity and big puppy-dog eyes as Francis Dolarhyde displayed as he stared at Reba in what is sure to become a classic Armitage scene, The Tiger Scene. It was Just That Good. Perhaps another measure of how good it was can be taken by the fact that Hubby, who is decidedly NOT an avid fan of Hannibal due to its disturbing content and general “sick as shit”tedness (his words), also watched it twice, despite himself.
The final moments of the previous episode lead directly into the first of many incredible sequences in episode 10. To review, in S03E09, this was the telephone conversation we heard just before the credits rolled:
FD: Hello, Dr. Lecter. I wanted to tell you that I am… delighted… that you have taken an interest in me. I don’t believe you would tell them… who I am… even if you knew. The important thing… is what I am Becoming. And you… you alone… would understand this.
Hannibal: What are you Becoming?
FD: The Great. Red. DRAGON!
In S03E10, the opening sequence is a gift to both the Fannibals and the Armitage fandom. How shall I count the ways? For anyone critical of the somewhat unrealistic nature of simply picking up the phone and getting through to the incarcerated celebrity psychopath, the creators gave us a plausible sequence of events that not only satisfies how it was done, but gives any Armitage fan a gorgeous flashback to characters past, channelling Lucas North in a way that was probably lost on the average Fannibal. However, for the purposes of this show, it illuminated for me just how crafty, competent, and deliberate Francis Dolarhyde is capable of being, adding a new dimension to the character that has only been touched upon previously. Yes, we know that his atrocities have so far confounded the FBI, indicating that they were carefully planned and executed… but much of the footage we’ve had up to now has shown him in the grips of his delusions, while this sequence shows him in coldly calculating, methodical mode, which heightens our respect for him as an adversary. He ruthlessly practices every syllable of the name of Byron Metcalf, Dr. Lecter’s lawyer, in the mirror. He changes his licence plates, drives to the lawyer’s building, breaks in and reroutes the exchange like a covert operative so as to hijack the caller ID for his purposes.
What follows was a feast for Fannibals and Armitage Admirers alike. After successfully connecting to Dr. Lecter himself, an extended version of the conversation ensues, and to be honest, I’m still not completely sure how to interpret the conversation between Francis Dolarhyde and Dr. Lecter. Was it in Francis’ head, Hannibal’s mind palace, or some supersensory amalgamation of the two? Whatever it was, it gifted everyone with a scene that could only be fantasized about, given the source material: a physical scene between Mads and Richard… and it was absolute performance perfection from both of them. Suddenly, the one-sided conversation from the previous episode becomes an exchange that seems to feed the egos of both killers:
FD: Hello, Dr. Lecter. As an avid fan, I wanted to tell you that I am… delighted… that you have taken an interest in me. I don’t believe you would tell them… who I am… even if you knew.
Hannibal: What particular body you currently occupy is trivial.
FD: (gasps with relief and triumph): I knew!… that you alone… would understand this. The important thing… is what I am Becoming.
Hannibal: Tell me…. what are you Becoming?
FD: The Great. Red. DRAGON!……
I’ve admired you… for years. And I have a complete collection of your… press notices. Actually…. I think of them as… unfair… reviews.
Hannibal: As unfair as yours? They like to sling demeaning nicknames, don’t they?
FD: “Tooth Fairy.”
Hannibal: What could be more inappropriate?
FD: It would shame me… for you to see that… if I didn’t know that you… have suffered the same distortions in the press.
Hannibal: You’ve read Freddie Lounds’ latest?
FD: It’s not a good picture of you.
Hannibal: Your speech is bent and pruned by disabilities, real and imagined, but… your words are startling.
FD: I want… to be recognized by you.
Hannibal: As John the Baptist recognized the One who came after?
FD: I want… to sit before you, as the Dragon sat before 666 in Revelation. I have… things… I would love to show you. Some day… if circumstances permit… I would like to meet you… and watch you… MELD… with the strength of The Dragon.
Hannibal: See how magnificent you are. Did He Who Made The Lamb, make Thee?
This exchange was brilliantly conceived, and fascinating. After the revelation of who he is Becoming, The Great Red Dragon suddenly sits across from Hannibal in Hannibal’s office, composed and sophisticated to a degree that seems to astonish the Francis still seated at the desk, who looks on in silence, and I felt he was experiencing a bit of a break in his psyche here, almost gaping as he finds himself watching his Red Dragon persona converse intelligently with Hannibal, who as always, seems to tailor his responses in such a way as to draw forth exactly what he most likes to explore… the killer’s ego. Armitage’s performance here was so beautifully nuanced… with my personal favorite moment being the Dragon’s reaction to mention of his press moniker, “Tooth Fairy”… It causes the Dragon to flinch, avert his gaze in shame, and visibly collect himself before responding to Hannibal. I loved the voice that Armitage used in this entire exchange, especially the sinister and gravelly tones he used on certain words… Dragon… Meld….
See, here is where I don’t know where to go next! I don’t really want to go scene by scene, but maybe a quick break from Richard’s incredible performance to touch on the other main player in this episode, Bedelia, as she has the first scene after the opening credits. Unlike last week, when I certainly did not welcome the return of Abigail Hobbs, this week saw the return of a character we haven’t seen for several episodes now… the lovely and mysterious Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier, played by the exquisite Gillian Anderson. She’s been a source of confusion for me for a very long time… is she on the side of good, or is she just perhaps the smartest villain on the entire show? This episode illuminates her in a series of sequences… we learn that her well-designed method for covering her tracks to explain her time in Europe with Hannibal has profited her, and she is now giving lectures describing her journey into the belly of the beast, implying that she was abducted, drugged and induced to lose her very identity by Dr. Lecter, and now she uses this experience to explore the concepts of “self” and “identity” with her audiences.
Through a couple of conversations with Will and some flashback sequences, we finally learn that Bedelia is, indeed, a villain. In a rather illuminating exercise with Will in which she asks him to describe his reactions to the idea of an injured bird he happens upon in the grass, she reveals that her own initial impulse, when confronting such vulnerability, is to crush it. Perhaps this is a truth about herself that she has recognized from childhood, and has endeavored to suppress through the intellectual knowledge that to pursue it would undoubtedly result in eventual consequences. Yet, when Dr. Hannibal Lecter became her patient, and she recognized an essential likeness between them… two highly cerebral individuals, each with a streak of cruelty, though one has endeavored to suppress it, and one has turned it into a lifestyle and an art form… despite the inherent danger, she could not help but finally indulge herself by observing and making an in-depth study of Hannibal, who covertly and elegantly pursues his deviant urges. Clearly she has enjoyed her access to Hannibal, using their doctor-patient relationship to explore her own identity, without ever desiring to make any effort to assist him in overcoming his tendencies, and at times taking steps to protect Hannibal and shield him from potential consequences of his fascinating actions.
In this way, Bedelia is exactly like Hannibal, coolly facilitating the exploration of the dark impulses of each patient. Although I don’t think Bedelia is the predator that Hannibal is, she undoubtedly is capable of a crime of opportunity… when that fragile, vulnerable bird crashes to the floor in her office, evidently choking on his own tongue… she watches raptly, shocked but unable to stop observing his death throes, never making any move to call for an ambulance… and then she falls upon him and finishes him off in a moment of ecstasy that was chilling to watch. As we know from earlier episodes, Hannibal helped her to hide this crime, and their strange relationship has progressed from there. One thing is very clear, as Bedelia says… she has been “behind the veil” all along, with Hannibal, because she and Hannibal are essentially variations of the same psyche. Not a moment of time with Gillian Anderson as Bedelia was a wasted moment in this episode, even if she was competing with one such as Richard Armitage. And that is saying something.
Without further deviations, then, I’ll return to my impressions of the rest of this episode with emphasis on the performance of RA as Francis Dolarhyde. And, heavens, was it an episode. The long-anticipated Tiger Scene was next, and I was captivated. It met every expectation. I loved Richard’s handling of the combination of fumbling suitor and disturbing fixation in those early moments in the van, when Francis shyly asks Reba if she’s ever seen a tiger, and awkwardly explains his planned surprise… “Did you ever… see… a tiger? They’re working on its tooth… and they have to put him to sleep…. if you want, you can touch him.” This tugged on my heartstrings, to be sure… but then suddenly he is overcome with the intensity of his desire, his face suddenly reflecting an infatuated and eager anticipation, as he waits to see if she would be interested in touching the tiger. Just before he adds, “Do you want to do it?” it’s absolutely clear that the idea of Reba touching the tiger is of utmost interest to him, and we realize that Francis is now exploring whether she might be interested in touching another beast… in touching him. And it is equally clear, from the small smile that crosses her face, that Reba intuits the underlying question.
In the next sequence, which required multiple re-watches to catch all the nuances of performance, Reba does indeed touch and explore the tiger. There was an interesting choice of cinematography here. When we first see the tiger, it looks decently realistic. There is a moment when the veterinarian interrupts Francis and Reba, and Francis clearly resents the other man for drawing Reba’s attention away from Francis and the tiger, and he turns away, brooding. (Brooding! We all know nobody gets his brood on quite like Armitage!) Then Reba, as if she senses his discontent with the intrusion into their intimacy, asks Francis, not the veterinarian, to describe the tiger for her. Here is where it gets interesting in terms of cinematography, because as Francis gives a description of the tiger, (“He’s… striking. Orange. Black Stripes. The orange… so bright… is almost bleeding into the air around him… it’s… radiant.”) and they begin to show nothing but Reba’s hand caressing the tiger’s coat, the coat changes from its formerly realistic appearance to an exaggerated, radiant orange hue that is indeed so bright that it bleeds into the air around them, almost as if they are showing what Reba “sees” in her mind as she strokes the tiger.
The idea that Francis is imagining himself as the beast under her fingertips becomes very clear as we see how he hones in on her, fixating with a slightly ominous intensity on every stroke; his breathing becomes agitated, he shivers, his immersion culminating as he gasps and covers his own mouth, overcome with a potent mixture of captivation and repulsion as he imagines her hand approaching his own mouth. Armitage absolutely could not have captured the essence of this scene any better… I loved it. It was the perfect mixture of romantic gestures, both on Francis’ part in having this idea to provide his date with something so unique and so intimate, and on Reba’s part in recognizing the undercurrents, and lovingly exploring then laying her head against the tiger to listen to its heartbeat. I believe she wants to show him that the tiger does, indeed, attract and draw her in. And yet the courtship continues to have an underlying sense of foreboding… one can’t help but realize that, however enthralled he appears to be, gazing at Reba with a look of innocent wonder on his face as the tears slide down her cheek, there does remain a risk. However beautiful he might be, all bets are off… should the tiger awaken.
Richard Armitage totally brings sexy back in the next scene, which takes place in Francis’ living room. Here is where I became aware of my attraction to the scar, but really the whole package is enticing. The snug, stylish shirt and jeans. The sharpness of his features, the muscular frame. Although we’re intimately acquainted with his beautiful body from previous episodes, here he is presented in a very alluring atmosphere, with intimate lighting and classical music, and its effect on me was an immediate quickening. Reba tells him that he has a “kind of hard, clean, neatness that they like” and I couldn’t help but think, Yes, Yes, Yes! at this description. But then as she approaches him, I was struck by the beautiful vulnerability, the muscles working in his amazing neck, as he waits for her approach. It’s clear that he’s torn between wanting to be touched, and completely fearing to be touched, and I became simultaneously choked up and turned on by this incongruity. He initially flinches, but submits to his first kiss, his breathing irregular with the force of his emotions, then I found myself completely aroused just by imagining what comes next, as she lays her cheek against his thigh and reaches across to stroke his other thigh. I found that moment incredibly hot, my heartbeat racing as I imagined initiating this incredibly attractive man to the pleasures of intimacy. He’s so overwhelmed with sensations and competing emotions that he drops his martini, the glass shattering on the floor, and soon after, the beast emerges and he grabs her up and clomps off with her in a way that at least to Hubby, who doesn’t have any familiarity with the storyline, feared was indicative that the monster had taken over.
Thankfully, rather than whisking her clumsily away to do violence, instead they next make love in a very intense and artistically rendered love scene, in which I couldn’t help but admire the rhythms of his body and the contours of his muscles as he takes his pleasure over her. I especially loved the transformation of Reba in his vision of her as The Woman Cloaked In The Sun… stunning visuals. But what took my breath away the most was the incredible sweetness of the aftermath, as Reba sleeps next to him, and Francis gently explores her, listening now to her heartbeat, and taking her hand, using it to caress his head, and his disfigured, sensitive mouth.
Then he lays his head on her shoulder, looking so much bigger than her, yet somehow so vulnerable. I definitely choked up here, and it’s a scene I can watch again and again for all the subtleties of performance by Richard Armitage, who despite being right there in bed with his lover, is alone in his discoveries of these new, tender impulses coursing through him. As for me, I believe this scene almost rivals the amazingly tender train station kiss, at least when measured by my own wish to insert myself into the scene in place of the actress. And speaking of the actress, I bet it has been fun for Rutina Wesley to see these scenes, as she had to act with that blank stare or with her eyes closed, so she probably hasn’t had the opportunity of seeing her co-star in action even in the scenes they performed together.
Gosh, this is getting long. There are so many moments to comment upon- no wonder I was so overwhelmed after the first viewing. How can I review Episode 10 without commenting upon the very exciting pleasure of watching
Richard Armitage Francis Dolarhyde run so athletically through the house, and charge up long staircases in his glorious boxer briefs? Whew! But in all seriousness, I did love the hunted look on his face as he finally finds Reba, holds her protectively as he listens to The Dragon rattling around “upstairs”, and breathlessly tells her he’ll take her home, all the while looking around with watchful wariness as if That Other One could be lurking anywhere, ready to destroy her. Loved it, and hope to see more of that as the separation between Francis, who is falling in love with Reba, and The Great Red Dragon, who demands that she be offered up in sacrifice to His Becoming, begin to wrestle with one another inside our character.
Which brings me to the final scene… at the Brooklyn Museum, which I also just adored every moment of. From Dolarhyde’s entrance, dressed sharply in a long-coated suit and tie, where he alertly watches every aspect of his surroundings, taking note of the armed guard, using his own pen to sign the register, speaking brusquely with the curator. I couldn’t help but become almost giddy with amusement at the absurdity of his next behavior. The curator warns him that he’s not allowed to touch the painting, but, oops… he accidentally went and rubbed his face all over it then stuffed it in his mouth. I don’t know why that tickled my funny bone, but I was overcome with hilarity when he did that. I saw a live tweet Saturday night from one of the Fannibals that made me laugh out loud: “As a museum professional this may be the most horrific scene ever to appear on #Hannibal #SwallowedWhole Nightmares, @BryanFuller”… LOL. Of all the horrific material to be seen on this show, and the devouring of a priceless painting was the worst!
And of course, that wasn’t the only ridiculous moment… for who should arrive to interrupt Francis’ feast, but Will Graham, there to view the painting but just a moment too late. The painting is down the hatch, Will… you’ll have to make do with a reproduction! *Snickers* I loved the expression on both Will’s and Francis’ faces when they made eye contact and recognized one another in the elevator. Then… the coup de grace… though it seems there was quite a bit of indignation on Twitter amongst the Fannibals when their hero was bodily lifted and slammed into the wall of the elevator then tossed like a lightweight out the door… I loved it! I guess that confirms it… I’ve gone to the dark side because I was clapping and cheering inside to see Francis so easily dispatch his adversary.
All in all, this episode was hands-down my favorite episode to date. It simply had everything. I’d be hard-pressed to pick my favorite moment.