And The Beast Returns: #RichardArmitage in Hannibal Episode 11

Moonlight Dragon

The Dragon must rise.

In last week’s episode, Francis Dolarhyde was at his most sexy and most empathetic. This week… well, it’s Richard Armitage. The sexy never goes away completely, especially the more time FD spends in his skivvies… but this week, we spend a good deal of time with The Great Red Dragon, and while his methods may serve to douse the flames of my attraction, he doesn’t disappoint. He scared my pants off, and not in a good way. In quite a departure from the norm, there really wasn’t anything gory. Violence, yes. But mostly, the finest sort of suspense.

With Hannibal

Top: Hannibal speaks to Francis. Bottom: Hannibal speaks to The Dragon.

It was yet another superb performance by Richard Armitage. Through his use of facial expressions, body language, and voice alterations, there is a distinct separation forming between the times when Dolarhyde’s “Francis” persona is present, and the times when his “Dragon” emerges. The acting! Unbelievable! The further we go, the more I am able to appreciate what an incredible role this has been for Armitage.

Early in the episode, we are treated to another scene in Hannibal’s office. As it turns out, something I didn’t catch in the previous episode was that Dolarhyde wasn’t in Hannibal’s mind palace. He was  physically in Hannibal’s office, using some sort of computer software to change only the caller ID to the lawyer’s office.

The conversations they are now having are, in both their minds, taking place from a doctor-patient perspective, but Dolarhyde, at least, is really in the room. I love these scenes between Mads and Richard. Dr. Lecter is quite adept at “handling” Francis Dolarhyde, manipulating him as easily as he always manipulates anyone in his sphere of influence. It seems that Francis seeks advice, the ear of a respected idol, as he tries to work through his conflicting emotions, and the new frightening division he’s experiencing between “his” will, and The Dragon’s will. Hannibal obliges him, to an extent, but always with his own agendas, and he is able to maneuver “Francis” out of the way and draw forth The Dragon in this early scene. Suggesting to Francis that he need not sacrifice Reba, Hannibal steers him in the direction of Will Graham simply by proposing that he can “toss The Dragon to someone else”… and immediately, The Dragon responds. The transformation is immediate, and I find the experience of watching this transformation unbelievably fascinating.

Screencaps of “Francis”

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In the gallery above, I’ve put some edits of screencaps showing Francis, when he’s Francis. This one is often agitated, distraught. He is more earnest in expression. He frequently glances over his shoulder, watchful and paranoid that The Dragon might overhear him. His brow is often furrowed, almost perplexed. And his voice is higher, and far more timid. To my ears, his voice is rather sweet, and can sound intensely emotional, especially as he describes his life-changing experience with Reba, when he touched her, felt her heart beating, and the realization dawned that he was with a living, breathing woman.

Same Scene, Screencaps of The Dragon

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Contrast the images of “Francis” with the images in this gallery. The Dragon. The Dragon sits tall, with his chin up, and an occasional slight tilt to his head, which puts me in mind of a predator. There is a gleam in his eye, an intensity in his gaze, sometimes delivered with a slight smile that I find bone-chilling. This one has a sinister confidence in his demeanor as he converses with Hannibal that Francis never shows. This one’s voice drops to a lower, more guttural tone that never fails to ratchet my fear and foreboding. Hannibal has just dropped a hint that The Dragon might focus elsewhere, and immediately the monster comes to the surface, with a picture of Will Graham in his mind.

Stalker2This sets the stage for some remarkable suspense-building. Soon we see The Dragon in action, stalking Graham’s family. Amazing imagery, with some beautiful night shots of rushing water transitioning to the moon shots and then to the tree on which the predator carves his calling card as he lurks in the woods outside Will’s cabin, watching. Then the moon is shown again, waxing gibbous, eerily rotating … nearing full. And we know what is going to happen when the moon is full.

 
Francis Reba 11The romantic elements continue, but with an ominous new development. Last week, I was relieved that the sexy and emotionally riveting scene on the sofa was not polluted by Francis’ disturbing film footage. In Harris’ book, that scene actually had Francis taking advantage of Reba’s blindness by watching footage of potential victim-families, during Reba’s first visit to his home.

 

CreepThis week, the creators gave us that scene, and it was perhaps even more chilling than it was in the book, simply because in the book, this was the first time Francis had ever invited a woman over, and it was almost as if he didn’t know what else to do with himself, so he decided he’d roll the film. Yet, in this version, we know damn well what can happen when these two get a martini and settle on the couch, yet Francis chooses to watch his creepy footage rather than to focus his attention on Reba. The full moon is approaching, and The Dragon must be appeased. I suppose that one could make the argument that on the previous visit, there was time enough to explore the emerging romance, while now, with fewer days remaining before the moon reaches its zenith, Francis is feeling the pressure to, as Hannibal put it, give the Dragon something to focus on other than Reba. Whatever his reasoning, his impulse to watch his footage with his beautiful girlfriend relaxing trustingly against him, disturbed and sickened me.

 

DocumentsOnward, the plot moves, building tension with each scene. Although I’m planning to confine most of my remarks to the Armitage scenes, as a veterinarian myself I was a bit amused with the immediate jump made by the onscreen vet to the “canned dog food from China” as the source of the dogs’ illness, though she did redeem herself by asking for a sample to test. Yes, there have been confirmed incidents in recent years of melamine and other compounds added to some brands of food and treats manufactured in China or using ingredients imported from China… but there are so very many other possibilities, from the dogs consuming some rotten nasty thing they found in the woods to some form of malicious poisoning (which should have been brought up and might have saved everyone a great deal of terror had the possibility been entertained!) Anyway, I understand they didn’t have the time to devote to a thorough veterinary consult, but I had to just comment that my B.S. meter went up a tick during this scene. And while we’re on this topic, one other thing that bothered me was why they didn’t have Will sit down with a sketch artist, after his elevator encounter, and get a poster circulating!? Tsk, tsk.

These, however, were minor concerns, and easily forgotten as the episode moves through a scene between Hannibal and Will in which Will confronts Hannibal about intentionally throwing him into the direct path of the unsub, not realizing how much more that Hannibal has already done! He implores Hannibal to help him stop The Dragon from harming an unsuspecting family, and Hannibal replies, with his classic mixture of candidness and obfuscation: “They are not my family, Will. And I am not letting them die. You are.” And without further ado, the episode enters one of the most tautly thrilling sequences that Hubby and I agreed we have ever had the pleasure of watching.

Creep2“Holy hell! I think I just held my breath for too long!” was Hubby’s comment, and I realized that even after having already watched the episode twice the day before, I’d done so as well. Every aspect of Dolarhyde’s home invasion, from the opening sequence, as Dolarhyde inserts his biting dentures with a throaty hiss, then dons a black nylon-style mask in a nod to the Manhunter/Noonan version of the character, to the cut to the now full moon, ratchets up the terror. Despite having some assurance (from the source material) that Will’s family would evade the brutal murder intended by Dolarhyde, I know that occasionally Hannibal writers change things up. And while I knew from Richard’s own comments that there wouldn’t be an overt scene of violence done by his character in the series, I wasn’t completely sure that Will’s loved ones weren’t about to die. I could well imagine Dolarhyde entering the room, the camera cutting to a scene of the outside, and blood suddenly splattering the window in slow motion, or some such.

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I loved this scene- the mounting dread as he steps purposefully, slowly along the floorboards, and the wood creaks, alerting Molly to the intruder. Nice footwork, Mr. Armitage! Every carefully placed step screams his menace; every pause as he stops to listen sings their peril. After his stealthy approach, the killer discovers empty beds, and the action picks up, his movements now rapid yet every bit as chilling as he searches the house, checking under beds, then moving quickly along as he now begins to hunt for moving prey. The scene direction, as he steps outside, with Molly directly under his position, crouching under the deck, and Walter in a precarious position hiding behind the car that the predator is now assessing, was thrilling, and his immediate and ruthless response to the car alarm, firing rapidly shot after silenced shot while advancing upon the car, showed the character in a chilling new light. Ultimately, the mother and child make a narrow escape, and I loved the final images as the beast stands alone in the road. It’s a cold night, and his breath fogs the air around him like smoke, in yet another visual Dragon reference. Dolarhyde, chest heaving, lowers his gun and then howls his fury at the moon. No matter Francis’ struggles, when The Dragon is upon him, he’s all business. A formidable adversary, whether to his victims, his pursuers, or to Francis himself.

Handstand3This becomes all too clear the next time we see Francis Dolarhyde. The battle in the attic! This scene had to be one of the finest performances by Armitage of the entire series, if not his career. While watching, I was blown away by the physicality and brutish violence done to himself, as The Dragon comes across Francis, who is again to be found stirring my reproductive juices by doing a lovely handstand in the attic. We have a glimpse of The Dragon using his tail to knock Francis’ hands out from under him, then the Dragon circles, though we can’t really see him. But we know The Dragon is there, from Francis’ counter moves, alert and panting, as he springs to a crouch, turning around as he waits for The Dragon’s next strike. 

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I thought the scene was brilliant, from a performance standpoint as well as cinematography. I did my best to get some screencaps of this scene, but the action was so fast and intense that most of the screencaps were blurry. The Dragon pummels Francis, but of course he’s the same person, and sometimes we have brief glimpses of the Dragon, or the battle from Francis’ perspective, while other times we step outside of that perspective and see glimpses of what’s really happening… Dolarhyde is leaping around, rolling, dodging blows and simultaneously pummeling himself. The footage was certainly shocking to me… I wondered if this was the instance that caused the crew to gasp, or if that is yet to come. At the end of the scene, Francis lays on the floor, exhausted, broken and bloody.

 

New LookThe next time we see Dolarhyde, he appears with cuts and bruises on his face, wings behind him, and appears to be the victorious Dragon. He is waiting in Reba’s dark room, with an air of sullen menace about him. There is a way he is holding his lips that was an entirely new look for Armitage, and I immediately thought he looked like a young Michael Douglas for a few moments.

I was terrified for Reba when she came in, because Dolarhyde appears to be in Dragon mode, and remains silent and still when she greets him. When he does finally speak, it’s in the guttural, low register of The Dragon. He asks her, “Do you remember… the light? Is it worse to have seen it, and lost it?” I loved this line, because his threatening tone and sinister demeanor indicate it is the Dragon speaking… and it occurred to me that the question may have been posed as much to Francis as it was to Reba. This scared me, and Reba also immediately picks up on the strangeness of this address, and asks him what’s wrong. As she approaches him, seeking to comfort him and reassure herself, he suddenly seems to snap out of it, and a completely distraught Francis emerges, a tortured look coming across his face as he crumples over, starts to cover his face with his hands. He confesses that he doesn’t know what’s happening to him, that she threatens him, and she cradles his head against her for a moment, before he gasps and jumps backward as if she’s seared him. She moves forward again, this time reaching to caress his face.

BreakupI loved these moments between them. The chemistry is palpable. He is completely torn, frightened of her, frightened of himself. He’s just lost a battle with The Dragon, been completely humiliated, and The Dragon is always there, lurking in the periphery of his mind. The only way he knows how to protect her is to break it off, yet part of him is so drawn to her, still so fascinated and in love that he steps toward her inadvertently as if he wants to hold her again. When she lifts her chin and tells him to go, I felt as if another battle is wrought on his face, and the sinister aspect begins to return. It’s as if neither Francis nor The Dragon is really ready to let her go, each for their different reasons. Francis still craves and desires her, and The Dragon still hopes to eliminate the threat she poses.

LashesIn the next scene, a tormented Francis calls Lecter. After the incident at the museum and Dolarhyde’s attempt on Will’s family, the investigators finally cued into Hannibal’s involvement and have decided to try to use the relationship between Hannibal and the Red Dragon to get a trace on his location. Alana and Jack Crawford have arranged for a wire tap/phone trace and have advised Hannibal to keep The Red Dragon on the line for as long as he can. When Hannibal answers the phone, there is silence on the line, so Hannibal speaks a few lines about his Becoming, and about how The Dragon is his “higher self”. Instead of drawing out the Dragon, though, it’s Francis who finally answers. “If… I am not as strong as The Dragon… she will die. I have to think. I need to think. I… told her… that I can’t be with her.”

NeckHannibal smoothly adjusts, and now addresses Francis. “You are almost blind to your own true feelings. You are no more able to express them than a scar can blush.” Francis relates his fear that Reba might come to the house, and what will happen if The Dragon, who he seems to believe resides in the attic, “comes down” while she is there. Then, in a moment that gave me chills, a tendon pops out on Dolarhyde’s neck, and the low, awful voice of The Dragon answers Francis’ question. “You KNOW! How easily she would TEAR!” Francis glances fearfully over his shoulder, and Alana’s eyes widen a fraction at this vocal transformation. It’s another incredible moment for Armitage. Moments later, Hannibal ends the call abruptly with “They’re listening!” Dolarhyde’s eyes flare, and he leaps into action, narrowly escaping before the FBI team reaches Hannibal’s abandoned office.

HorrorThat about sums it up. The Beast was never completely out of the picture in the previous episode, but he was subdued enough to draw me in and make me care for Francis. This has not changed, but Episode 11 brings The Beast again to front and center. This battle being waged internally in Dolarhyde is at the center of the story, and as it was what I found most gripping and fascinating when I read the book, I couldn’t be more impressed with how it is unfolding onscreen. I love the writing, cinematography, and most especially Richard Armitage’s performance. Another brilliant episode.

My biggest complaint is that there are only two chapters left.

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27 comments

  1. suzy · August 17, 2015

    Very interesting and detailed review, thank you! Your screencaps are great – the comparison of the dragon and the man, impressive!

    Like

    • jholland · August 17, 2015

      Thanks, Suzy! It really is fascinating to watch and listen to Armitage in this role… he handles these transitions so adeptly, as if the role were specifically written just for him.

      Like

  2. linnetmoss · August 17, 2015

    I almost feel as though I watched it! And yes, I definitely see the Michael Douglas thing! Very unexpected, but it’s there in the mouth.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jholland · August 17, 2015

      I’d never seen a big resemblance until then. His mouth just a bit fuller, and down-turned. For a brief second I almost couldn’t recognize him!

      Liked by 1 person

    • crystalchandlyre · August 17, 2015

      I think you could easily watch this one, and 3.10 (Oh 3.10!) But once you did, you’d want to see the previous episodes. 3.8 and 3.9 have some aftermath gore, but are nothing compared to that of previous seasons.

      Liked by 1 person

      • jholland · August 17, 2015

        I agree. Too bad we can’t have a “Squeamish Armitage Admirers” cut, cutting out the scenes with Abigail, Bedelia, etc. and focusing only on the Dolarhyde storyline…. =)

        Liked by 1 person

      • linnetmoss · August 18, 2015

        I don’t think I’ll ever fall under Hannibal’s spell, but Francis is a different matter 🙂

        Liked by 3 people

        • crystalchandlyre · August 19, 2015

          Ironically these episodes (the last two at least) were much more suspense thriller than gruesome. There really isn’t any gore in the last two. The next episode, however, I have a feeling will change that. We were somewhat “warned” by the crew and Richard a bit that something rather shocking was coming.

          Liked by 2 people

        • jholland · August 19, 2015

          Yes, I suspect you’re right. It is Hannibal after all, so I can’t expect too long of a departure from gruesome material. And while I did find the last 2 episodes refreshing, I admit I’m incredibly curious to find out what it was that so shocked the crew that they inadvertently gasped and it had to be edited out!

          Liked by 1 person

        • crystalchandlyre · August 20, 2015

          Was it edited? I hadn’t heard that. But if it was w

          Like

        • crystalchandlyre · August 20, 2015

          Sorry, cell phones and WP commenting don’t mix. Meant to say sounds like whatever he did was pretty gory and probably wouldn’t get past the censors, no matter how much Fuller tried.

          Like

  3. Perry · August 17, 2015

    Another terrific review. Great catch on the Dragon breath. Like you, I was distracted ( but less distracted than you) by some elements of the plot, or explanations, that my professional experience told me were false. The whole story about how Francis and Will turned up at the museum at the same time, for example. This was an episode that took me a view viewings to really get into, and now, I can’t stop watching it. Like you, I bemoan the fact that it’s almost over. I think something may have been used on his lips in the Reba scene, but I agree, there is a certain full, poutiness that brings to mind Douglas.

    Like

    • jholland · August 17, 2015

      Not for me- I was so caught up in the suspense I loved it right away. When Saturday night came and it was time to watch with Hubby, he was really tired from the day’s activities and warned me he might fall asleep. Then he was on the edge of his seat and too wound up for sleep afterward. For him, it was the best episode of Hannibal he’s ever suffered through on my behalf! =) I always thought Michael Douglas was good-looking, but had never seen a resemblance in Armitage before that moment.

      Like

  4. crystalchandlyre · August 17, 2015

    This is wonderfully detailed and perfect if someone is on the fence on whether they should see Hannibal. Reading it was watching it all over again, and I have done that three times already.

    This, and the plethora of high-praise reviews, has been very refreshing.

    Like

    • jholland · August 17, 2015

      Thanks! Some of the readers aren’t watching, so I try to be detailed. Plus, I just find it easy to go on and on about RA! =)

      Liked by 1 person

  5. sparkhouse1 · August 17, 2015

    I was sickened as well when he took advantage of Reba’s blindness to play the movie. But the look in his eyes when she asked if his ‘night creatures’ knew they were being filled was kind of painful and remorseful and as though he felt sorry for them, sorry for the fate that awaits them from the dragon. And I am probably going to burn in hell, and don’t really understand why, since being a Canadian we aren’t into guns…but when he was striding so purposely on the deck of the house and started firing while raising the gun and the look of the muzzle flash in the dark and the sounds of the silencer…that was strangely sexy. I am a horrible person!

    Like

    • jholland · August 17, 2015

      Well, if you are a horrible person, then so am I. I thought the way he took those shots was pretty sexy, too. I suppose it’s because he was just so commanding as he did it. Yes, I’d prefer if he was shooting at say, a terrorist, or a zombie, rather than an innocent mother and child… but, details. LOL

      Like

  6. Servetus · August 17, 2015

    Great review. I still think I’m in a different place from you on how I read Dolarhyde’s relationship with the delusion, i.e., I think it’s essentially no serious problem for him to watch that film with Reba there because both the man and the delusion are present at all times — he reconciles that through the preceding conversation with her in which he more or less makes it okay for her to be there. He snuggles with her even as he watches the film and there’s no division there at all. Just that at certain points one is more in evidence than the other.

    Like

    • jholland · August 17, 2015

      I know, but I have this uncontrollable affection for Dolarhyde and part of me just wants the delusions to stop. I want him to have himself a martini and a good woman and a couch session that does not involve predatory behaviors! Because on some level I just find it wildly romantic- the idea of love and gentleness and passion breaching so damaged a man, and maybe even saving him. Yet… yet! I agree- the delusion is always there. And I actually loved the scene because of course the entire series would be something of a let down if this doesn’t all spiral further and further into a conflagration of his madness.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Servetus · August 22, 2015

        For me one of the issues in portraying mental illness is this whole question of how badly the mentally ill person wants to be not mentally ill — which seems to be especially complicated for schizophrenics. A lot of them have a hard time staying on their meds because they feel “not themselves” when they are delusion-free. In some cases this is because the illusions are entertaining or pretty, but a lot of times it’s not so much that they per se enjoy the delusions as that they recognize them as a part of themselves that they miss when it is not there. So, yeah, there’s the idea of “curing” or “fixing” the subject but there’s a real question as to how permanent / all-encompassing the desire on their part to be “normal” really is and if we are not robbing something essential from these people (as they see it) when we medicate them. Having had personal experience with old-style anti-depressants (before the advent of SSRIs) I have a sort of dim sympathy with the schizophrenics I’ve known.

        Liked by 1 person

        • jholland · August 22, 2015

          I don’t know whether I’ve ever spent any significant time around a schizophrenic, but that’s certainly the case for the manic depressives I’ve known.

          Like

        • Servetus · August 22, 2015

          I’ve known two well (would have called them very good friends). Unfortunately, schizophrenia is hard on a person, and they are both gone now.

          Like

  7. Hariclea · August 20, 2015

    They certainly packed a lot of detail into this episode. And i’m enjoying the break from the gore and the move towards thriller, much more up my stream. I am guessing we’re comfortable with Dolarhyde with a gun because everything about his physicality in that scene actually subconsciously reminds us at least of Lucas 🙂 That i think is so ingrained that emotionally we feel like he can’t be that bad even if we are very afraid for Molly and son 🙂
    The lips… hm the upper one is enhanced due to the prosthetics for the scar and i strongly suspect he suffered some minor bruising from the bashing scene which must have been shot before, his whole face is a tiny bit swollen, he probably gave himself quite a few punches as i can’t imagine the movement in that scene was a short or easy shoot.
    It was incredibly distressing because i couldn’t quite separate R from the character in that instance.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jholland · August 22, 2015

      Yes, I have to agree it looks like his face was a little swollen. At first I thought it was his “dragon look” but having seen ep. 12 now, that’s not it. Though can we assume that the dark room scene was filmed after the attic pummeling scene? It was shown next, but not necessarily filmed next. Hmmmmm.

      Like

      • Hariclea · August 24, 2015

        at first i also wondered if i wasn’t interpreting as what would be the likelihood of those being filmed in that sequence, but maybe it was the case.. who knows.. he could have also been just slightly tired from all those night shoots 😉

        Like

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