Well, as far as mic drops go… this one was worthy. But oh! For the first time since Hannibal started airing the Red Dragon arc, I find myself having trouble getting motivated to blog about it. It wasn’t that the series finale didn’t inspire me. It’s just that I’m feeling rather devastated that it’s over.
So, Spoilers ahead, of course. And toward the end, some graphic images. Be forewarned. The first time I watched the finale, I was gripped with suspense. The final battle scene exhilarated me, even as my heart shrieked in denial. A series of gorgeous final images of Francis Dolarhyde left me breathless. The music was beautiful, the embrace between Will and Hannibal somehow moved me, and then the plunge over the abyss… perfect!
I watched the entire episode again immediately, and then watched Ep. 12 and Ep. 13 together with Hubby, who was behind by a week, later that evening. Again on Saturday, live-tweeting. So obviously I was into it. Yet still I find it hard to write about. I suppose it’s because in my mind, the summer of The Dragon is really over, and I just don’t want it to be done yet!
The opening scene begins immediately where Episode 12 left off… Dolarhyde has abducted Reba, and revealed to her that He. Is. THE. DRAGON. In previous episodes, I have had little difficulty determining which persona- Francis or The Dragon- was in the driver’s seat at the moment. During this scene, I believe that the two have reformed into one, for the most part. Francis is in control, and he doesn’t intend to kill Reba, yet there is enough Dragon present to willingly subjugate and terrify her.
I was very emotional during this scene, especially on the re-watch with Hubby, because we had just watched Episode 12 and I noticed a few things about the way Francis carries her through the house that I hadn’t picked up on last week. He almost slows down as he passes close to certain reference points, allowing her time to assimilate the ticking clock, the vase of fresh flowers. I loved that. Now he proceeds with his carefully laid plans, directing Reba to stand up and approach him. He isn’t rough with her, but he doesn’t spare her the implicit threat of violence, either. He speaks calmly and slowly, and every word he says is deliberate, intended to both scare her and reassure her, to build her foreboding and expectation of disaster, yet to keep her calm enough so that she is able to navigate herself out of her hellish predicament, all the time unaware that he has his own devious objectives. Her achievement, will be his achievement. She is to survive, but because her name is known to the FBI, she is to serve a very specific, premeditated purpose. In these early moments, he displays very little emotion, though his intensity is formidable. I loved how his voice would change from harsh to gentler tones, continually keeping her guessing without causing her to completely panic and lose her head. “Get up. Stand by the bed. Do you know where you are in the room? And you know where you are in the house? Then you know… where the front door is, don’t you.” He directs her to take a key from around his neck, and go down to the front door, and lock it. He indicates that he is testing whether he can trust her, and he lies, saying he’ll wait for her in the room.
Poor Reba. She does as he commands, but upon reaching the front door, she pauses for a moment, listens over her shoulder, then decides to make a break for it. Opening the door, she rushes through, and headlong into his arms, where he has circled around and waited for her on the outside.
No matter the menace, I couldn’t help but notice how incredibly gorgeous he looks in this doorway scene. And the velvety low tone as he backs her through the door, saying only, “Oh, Reba.” Although she’s proven that she’s not to be trusted, he remains completely calm. Repeating his directive to lock the door, he tells her to put the key around his neck, and go back to the bedroom. “You know the way.” (OK, I know this is totally inappropriate, but in a different context, this whole scene could be very, very hot. Fanfic writers, are you paying attention?)
Now the scare factor increases exponentially, as they return to the bedroom and he seats her on the bed, looming over her. “Sit down. And sit still. Or I can’t keep him off you.” A shotgun muzzle appears in front of her face, and he directs her to feel it, ensuring that she forms a picture and an expectation for exactly what is about to happen. He begins to allow her fear and despair to get to him, and emotion enters his voice, as if he is about to become tearful himself. “You know what it will do? Take your hand down.” Reba releases the weapon, and he withdraws it. “I wish I could have trusted you. I wanted to trust you. Y-you… felt so good!” He backs away, telling her it’s all over for him, and she hears and smells the sounds of him splashing lighter fluid around the room. “I can’t give you to him. You know what he will do? He will BITE you! Better you go with me.” Reba does now panic, as he lights a match and flames whoosh across the floor. He looks on with distress, a tear running down his cheek, and as the flames go higher, he cries, “Oh, Reba. I can’t bear to watch you burn!”
The shotgun fires, she is splattered with gore, hears a body hit the floor, and screams. Wonderful acting on the part of Rutina Wesley. But he has prepared her with careful forethought for what she must do next, and she rises to the challenge, launches into action, finding the body, removing the key from his neck, and crawling through the house, past the flowers and the clock and back down to the door, making a safe escape.
Will visits Reba in her hospital room, where she tells her story, visibly heartbroken. He attempts to comfort her. “In the end, he couldn’t kill you, and he couldn’t watch you die.” She begins to cry, shaking her head, distraught. She feels as if something must be wrong with her for having fallen in love with, and drawn to her, a freak. “You didn’t draw a freak. You drew a man, with a freak on his back.”
Will’s next stop is Hannibal, where he updates his old “friend” about The Dragon’s death. Hannibal asks, “Are congratulations in order?” Hannibal is sorry to hear that The Dragon evidently committed suicide, telling Will that he was rooting for him. “It’s a shame. You came all this way and you didn’t get to kill anybody. Only consolation is Dr. Chilton. Congratulations for the job you did on him. I admired it enormously. What a cunning boy you are.” Will denies, annoyed, and Hannibal goads him further, asking him if there’s any point to going home, and implying that his life of normalcy will never be the same. Will becomes fed up with these mind games, and approaches the plexiglass, placing his hand on the glass, and leaning toward Hannibal, he tells him, “You turned yourself in, so I would always know where you were. But you would only do that… if I rejected you. Goodbye.”
Back in his hotel room, Will is blindsided by… Francis Dolarhyde! Not dead! We have seen before that he is cagey, and now we see just how cagey he has been. Every moment with Reba was choreographed to stage a suicide that never occurred. And now he has the jump on Will. In his video message through the hapless Chilton, The Dragon had promised to snap Will’s spine, so upon regaining consciousness in the hotel room, Will’s first words to Dolarhyde are, “You didn’t break my back.” Dolarhyde cocks his head, staring at Graham. “Your face… is closed to me.” A short exchange ensues, in which Dolarhyde patiently allows Will enough of an opportunity to establish some level of rapport, which has always been Will’s strong suit in his ability to empathize with deranged thought patterns, and Will successfully directs Dolarhyde’s attention toward Hannibal Lecter. Will says, and we hear his voice echoed and overlaid with Hannibal’s voice, ” ‘I understand that blood and breath are only elements undergoing change to fuel your radiance’… Hannibal said those words… to me.”
FD: I wanted to share with Lecter. And Lecter betrayed me.
Will: He betrayed me, too.
FD: I would like to… share.
Will: You shared… with Reba.
FD: I shared with Reba, a little… in a way that she could… survive.
Will: But you didn’t change her.
FD: I chose not to change her. I am… stronger than The Dragon now.
Will: Hannibal Lecter… is who you need to change.
FD, leaning forward, eyes sparking with intensity: I want to meet Lecter…. How would I manage that?
I must point out that this was the point where it became really clear to me that there was no longer such a distinctive separation between “Francis” and “The Dragon”… While I’d noticed it before, as he interacted with Reba, he confirms it here. It’s Francis speaking, but he’s very much in tune with his Dragon. In some ways this pleased me; I was glad that Francis had enough of a foothold that he made a decision not to “change”/murder Reba, and I was almost proud of him for coming up with a plan that was good enough to fool the FBI. And I can admit that the notion of a meeting between Graham, Lecter and Dolarhyde did give me an immediate thrill of equal parts delight and terror. On the other hand, my romantic side was disappointed that even when “Francis” has apparently won this internal battle, his love for Reba and her love in return was nowhere near strong enough to give him the desire to stop his quest, or to seek normalcy. He is as driven as ever to transform himself, and has chosen to continue this transformation by “changing” others. He was never capable of understanding that another powerful force might transform his life, and I admit, I always wanted that for him. Sigh. Alas, this is Hannibal. And the Hannibal finale, no less. Francis Dolarhyde must seek his glory in the goriest way possible.
The next scene establishes how the FBI learns The Great Red Dragon is not dead, after all. And it’s not by any mention from Will concerning his discourse with Dolarhyde at his hotel! No, Will is to be seen in the background, listening along with Crawford as if this is all news to him. Further testing of the remains from Dolarhyde’s burned down home are related to Crawford and Will in a comedic routine that I very much enjoyed between forensics techs Price and Zeller. They eagerly detail their discovery of two pairs of dentures on the body that Reba had mistaken for Dolarhyde, a newly manufactured pair in the pocket, and “Grandma’s old yucky pair” was found in the mouth. Oh, and I admit I was sincerely delighted to hear Dolly had left those ugly things behind, and this fact no doubt made his final scenes far more visually appealing.
Later, Will plays out his deception with Crawford. His goal, evidently worked out with Dolarhyde in return for his release with spine intact, is to set up a way for Dolarhyde to meet with Hannibal. Will suggests to Crawford that the one “bait” that might be an even more tempting draw for The Dragon than Will himself, would be Hannibal. He suggests that they take Hannibal into federal custody, and fake an escape, providing Dolarhyde his target. Crawford is skeptical. “Why in God’s name would anyone want to meet Hannibal Lecter?” But as it turns out, Will has an answer that turns out to be absolutely true. “Why, to kill him, Jack. The Dragon could absorb him that way, engulf him, become more than he is.” The more they talk about it, the more they begin to like this idea, and I believe they intend to let the killers battle it out, and then kill whoever is left standing. However, the viewer is not sure, from this point forward, where Will’s loyalties really are. After all, it seems reasonable that he could have told Crawford about his hotel room ambush, the bargain with Dolarhyde. As willing to play outside the rules as Crawford has always shown himself to be, I would imagine that Crawford could have been convinced. So why does Will keep Crawford out of the loop? His motivation, perhaps, can only be understood by Bedelia.
When Will makes his final visit to Bedelia’s office and relays the plan, Bedelia is incredulous, and visibly nauseated at the very idea. As well she might be. She knows that she has long been on the menu. As she pours herself a strong drink, her usual composure is tested to the limits. Her hand jitters at her side. “What you propose is…. so thoughtless!” She returns to her seat, warns Will that “Who holds the devil, let him hold him well! He will hardly be caught a second time.” Will now whispers that he does not intend Hannibal to be caught a second time. She stares at Will with dawning horror. “Can’t live with him, can’t live without him. Is that what this is?” Disgusted, Bedelia is unable to sit still and begins to pace the room again. Will’s words echo the desires of The Dragon, when he tells her, “This… is My Becoming.” This caused me to wonder just how much passed between Will and Dolarhyde in that motel room. How much of an understanding passed between them? Does Dolarhyde know he is being used to solve Will’s Hannibal problem, or does he care?
After a visit with Chilton in his hyperbaric chamber, to remind herself what Hannibal is capable of, Alana eventually comes around to Hannibal to offer him the deal with the FBI. In return for his cooperation in Crawford’s plan, Hannibal’s privileges will be restored. Hannibal knows intuitively that this is not Crawford’s plan, but Will’s idea. “Yes, and that worked out so well for Frederick Chilton,” he says sarcastically. “You trust Will with my well-being?” She pauses, then says, quite candidly, “As much as I trust you with his.” Hannibal returns her candor with candor. He muses that he might escape in earnest, and come to kill her. “You made a bargain for Will’s life. And then I spun you gold.” A reference to The Brothers Grimm, in this dark fairy tale.
All that remains to gain Hannibal’s consent is for Will to ask him in person. Politely. With a “Please”. When Will arrives, Hannibal eggs him a bit about their previous parting, telling him he believed it was a parting worthy of a “mic drop” exit. Except, it turned out that The Dragon was not dead after all, and now Will must return, and pick up the mic. “To the devil his due.” Will complies, and runs the plan past Hannibal, who points out, “It sounds weak to you, even as you say it.” Will ignores these jabs, and steps closer. “You’re our best shot, Hannibal. Please.” Hannibal only smiles.
The best laid plans… well, what follows is certainly a clusterf**k for everyone involved in Hannibal’s “Federal Custody” adventure except for Will and Hannibal. Instead of a staged escape, Francis Dolarhyde ambushes the FBI transport van using a stolen police cruiser. Lights and sirens blaring, he pulls up along side the lead cruiser, efficiently shoots the driver, and maneuvers the transport van off of the road. While everyone is still dazed from the impact, he shoots every member of law enforcement, leaving only Graham and Lecter alive in the back of the van, then drives away. Now Lecter is a free man, and The Dragon will pay him a visit at a time and place of his own choosing.
I loved the way they shot this scene. In Episodes 11 and 12, Dolarhyde impressed me despite myself with his confidence and deadly accuracy with firearms, presumably gained from his time in the military, and although it was a brutal scene, I couldn’t help but be impressed with his methods in this episode, as well. As Hannibal predicted when he made the comment about the FBI’s plans not working out so well for Chilton, Dolarhyde once again proves himself to be one step ahead, and a highly effective operative. Shades of Lucas North, or rather, John Bateman, I suppose. I loved how when Will is thrown forward and bashes his head, we see a flash of Dolarhyde’s face in the elevator in his vision, and then all is blurry. I’d recognise that tall, lean silhouette of Dolarhyde opening the back of the van anywhere. Hannibal and then Will climb out of the van, and I loved Hannibal’s cheerful attitude as he divests himself of the straight jacket, enjoying the sun on his face and the wind ruffling his hair for the first time in years. Hannibal wastes no time commandeering the other police car, and pulling up to Will, he opens the passenger door, shoves out a body, and asks Will, “Going my way?”
We see a few shots of Jack Crawford, looking helplessly about at the chaotic wreckage of the FBI transport detail, now a crime scene. Jack’s troubled visage fades out as the whir of helicopter blades is shown, and we see that Alana and Margot have wasted no time, and are preparing to board a helicopter in front of the Verger estate with their little Verger child. And finally, we see footage of tall, scenic cliffs, waves crashing at their base, and Will and Hannibal standing side by side in front of Hannibal’s gorgeous, modern, remote getaway home atop the bluff, overlooking the ocean.
Later that evening, inside, Will stands looking out the plate-glass window toward the ocean at the moon. Hannibal is now sharply dressed, and busies himself opening a bottle of wine and pouring for the two of them. As usual, Hannibal understands more about what has brought them here than Will has given him credit for. “It wasn’t surprising that I heard from The Great Red Dragon. Was it surprising when you heard from him?” Hannibal asks if Will intends to watch The Dragon kill him, and Will now admits that “I intend to watch him change you.” Hannibal’s feathers are not overly ruffled even by this admission. Conveniently forgetting the time he gutted Will, and the other time he started to saw into his skull, Hannibal tells Will that his compassion for Will is inconvenient. “No greater love hath man, than to lay down his life for a friend.” Will sighs, and warns Hannibal that The Dragon is probably watching them as they speak. A split second after Hannibal responds that he is well aware of this, a bullet penetrates the plate-glass window behind Hannibal, the bottle of wine he is holding explodes, and as he crumples over, it becomes apparent that the bullet went through Hannibal before striking the wine bottle. As Hannibal falls in slow motion, the glass window shatters, and the figure of The Dragon walks in from the darkness.
Oh, after such an entrance, I’d have liked to have seen it go differently. Dolarhyde has the weapon, Hannibal is down, and the ball is in Dolarhyde’s court. For whatever reason, he doesn’t incapacitate Will right off the bat, merely warns him not to run. Will is absolutely calm, giving no indication to either Hannibal or Dolarhyde that he will step in to help either of them. He appears to be an impartial observer. Hannibal, with his customary politeness, says “Hello, Francis” from his position on the floor. Dolarhyde stands over him, and replies, in the softer tones of Francis, “Hello, Dr. Lecter.” This moment brings back their first telephone conversation, and I was fascinated to see whether Hannibal would endeavor to manipulate Dolarhyde again. He does. Of course he does! Panting and holding his abdominal wound, Hannibal begins by complimenting Francis on choosing not to commit suicide. “You were seized by a fantasy world, with the brilliance and freshness and immediacy of childhood.” Francis stares down at him with that fantastic gleam in his eye, and Will merely sips his wine. Soon Dolarhyde kneels down and places his weapon on the ground. I immediately began to fret that this was a mistake! He doesn’t reply to Hannibal’s rather esoteric abstractions, merely sets up his camera, and says, “I’m gonna film your death, Dr. Lecter. As dying, you meld… with the strength of The Dragon.”
Hannibal continues to converse with Dolarhyde, but as the filming begins, he glances up at Will. Their eyes meet, but Will continues to placidly observe. Hannibal catches a subtle motion, the glint of a blade in Dolarhyde’s hand, and again he looks at Will, with more urgency. Whether Will is responding to Hannibal’s cue, or to his own perceptions, I was not sure, but he starts to reach for a weapon, a moment too late. With stunning violence, Dolarhyde is upon Will, simultaneously plunging his blade into Will’s cheek and lifting him off his feet. From a vantage outside the home, we see Dolarhyde once again throw Will like a rag doll out into the night.
[Warning: gallery below contains image of the battle between Will, Hannibal and Dolarhyde, and though I did not include the goriest sights, several images are upsetting.]
What follows is a tremendous battle scene. First Will and Dolarhyde trade vicious stabs, and then just as Dolarhyde is about to deliver a fatal slash across Will’s neck, Hannibal leaps onto his back from behind. I won’t go into every gory detail, but for quite some time, The Dragon holds his own, throwing first Will, then Hannibal, great distances. At one point, Will is starting to become delirious from blood loss, and looks up to see The Dragon, wings gloriously unfurled, stalking after Hannibal, who has been thrown across the patio and is struggling to lift his head. Now it is Will’s turn to attack him from behind, and as the beautiful song “Love Crime” begins, it becomes apparent that Will and Hannibal will finally succumb to the battle euphoria, for lack of a better word, that killing together brings them. Although it was so very graphically violent, the choreography was fantastic, and as I learned during the live tweeting on Saturday night, the stage directions for the battle called for Dolarhyde to rampage around like a wounded beast, a bull or a bear, too powerful for either Will or Hannibal alone, but ultimately falling when their attacks converge in concert.
I especially loved the Dragon’s outspread wings when he finally went to his knees. Armitage was absolutely tragically beautiful, and magnificent in that moment. Coming as I did into the finale with such mixed feelings for the character, strong empathy tempered by resignation that he must be stopped, I found the moment of his death to be both moving, and somehow fitting. As he falls for the final time, we see images of flames, Dolarhyde’s face in the attic as he watches his painting and his scrapbook consumed by fire.
Just gorgeous, these shots. His face by firelight. His profile. His form outlined with fire wings, and then the shot of his blood spreading out in a radial pattern as he dies, slowly pooling into the shape of his Dragon wings. The only thing I could have wished different in these final images as Dolarhyde breathes his last, was maybe a vision of Reba. But that’s just me. Ever the hopeless romantic. So, for my own enjoyment, I’ve added that vision of her to the “Goodbye, Dolarhyde” gallery below. =)
The Great Red Dragon is slain, and all that is left is the final moments between Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter. Whatever Will’s motives have been, there can be no doubt that a consummation of the dark bond between these men has just occurred. Between the haunting music, the looks of awareness that passed between them as they converged on Dolarhyde, and all of the foreshadowing that has prepared us in recent scenes… “Is Hannibal… in love with me?” …. “Will! Was it good to see me?”… it seemed inevitable to me that Hannibal should now go to Will, who appears quite mortally wounded near the cliff’s edge, and gently help him to stand. Will remains, breathing raggedly, in his arms. “This is all I ever wanted for you, Will. For both of us.” Will lifts his head, with effort, and whispers, “It’s beautiful.” Will then collapses forward, his hand kneading Hannibal’s shoulder as he buries his face in his neck. Hannibal’s face is awash in ecstasy for one moment, and in the next, Graham uses his remaining strength to throw them together over the side of the cliff. Loved that! It was somehow romantic, and shattering, and a perfect climax to both end the series, and leave the smallest possibility of a continuance with the knowledge that the ocean roils below. I thought it was beautiful, and if I would call myself a Fannibal, it would have satisfied me, whatever the future may hold for the show. I hope this was the general consensus, though I’ve not read any reviews just yet.
After the credits have rolled, there is one final moment for the fans… a teaser that hints of their fate. It’s Bedelia, looking at once beautiful and seductive and overwhelmed, seated alone at a beautifully set table. And upon the table, a long leg prepared with every gourmet flourish. Bedelia slowly removes a fork from her table setting, concealing it in her lap, and as the camera pans down, we see that her lap is disfigured with a stump.
As everyone who has read my reviews of the Red Dragon Arc, and prior to my reviews, my eager speculations and discussions of NBC’s Hannibal surely are aware, I’ve had a pretty thrilling ride. I may have had my issues with some aspects of the production, and disliked some major characters along the way, and I’m not a fan of gore or horror in general, but the overall aesthetics, the gorgeous cinematography, and even the character arcs drew me in despite myself, and by the end of Season 2, I was eager for Season 3, with Armitage’s eventual appearance the proverbial icing on the cake. I also read and enjoyed the Red Dragon book, and was drawn to the antagonist from the start. All this to say that I was pretty invested in both the Red Dragon arc and the NBC Series Finale. And it did not disappoint.
And most importantly, Richard Armitage did not disappoint. His Francis Dolarhyde was one of the most compelling characters I’ve ever watched, and his performance was stunning.
Everything I could have wished for, and then some.
I’ll be watching the final 6 episodes in one sitting at my earliest opportunity.