The Love Story Hasn’t Started, And Dolarhyde Already Breaks My Heart

dolarhydemirror1Was that as amazing for everyone else as it was for me? I still can’t say whether it was despite the fact or more because of the fact that there was essentially no dialogue involved, but wow- I couldn’t have been more impressed with our introduction to the NBC Hannibal’s version of the character of Francis Dolarhyde.

When I first listened to the source material, the audiobook version of The Red Dragon by Thomas Harris, I knew that this role would be unlike anything Richard Armitage has ever done. It all comes down to the little boy, the small Francis, known to himself as “Cunt-Face”, born with a severe cleft palate and whose mother promptly abandoned to an orphanage, left to the mercies of an apathetic system and the cruelties of the pack. Young Francis Dolarhyde, whose Grandmother later retrieved him not to offer him unconditional love and a home with family, but as a means to torment her daughter and flaunt the imperfect child as a failure, a fly in the ointment of the new “perfect family” life his mother hoped to have. The boy’s story is both infuriating because simple human decency would have made all the difference, and terrifying, as you experience Grandmother’s methods… I think this excerpt from the book illustrates nicely the type of villain we have in the evil old woman, who Francis sees as his saviour and strives so ineffectually to please:

Francis Dolarhyde, five years old, lay in bed in his upstairs room in Grandmother’s house. The room was pitch dark with its blackout curtains against the Japanese. He could not say “Japanese.” He needed to pee. He was afraid to get up in the dark.
He called to his grandmother in bed downstairs.
“Aayma. Aayma.” He sounded like an infant goat.
He called until he was tired. “Mleedse Aayma.”
It got away from him then, hot on his legs and under his seat, and then cold, his nightdress sticking to him.
He didn’t know what to do. He took a deep breath and rolled over to face the door. Nothing happened to him. He put his foot on the floor. He stood up in the dark, nightdress plastered to his legs, face burning. He ran for the door. The doorknob caught him over the eye and he sat down in wetness, jumped up and ran down the stairs, fingers squealing on the banister.
To his grandmother’s room. Crawling across her in the dark and under the covers, warm against her now.
Grandmother stirred, tensed, her back hardened against his cheek, voice hissing. “I’ve never sheen…….”
A clatter on the bedside table as she found her teeth, clacket as she put them in. “I’ve never seen a child as disgusting and as dirty as you. Get out, get out of this bed.”
She turned on the bedside lamp. He stood on the carpet shivering. She wiped her thumb across his eyebrow.
Her thumb came away bloody.
“Did you break something?”
He shook his head so fast droplets of blood fell on Grandmother’s nightgown.
“Upstairs. Go on.”
The dark came down over him as he climbed the stairs. He couldn’t turn on the lights because Grandmother had cut the cords off short so only she could reach them. He did not want to get back in the wet bed. He stood in the dark holding onto the footboard for a long time. He thought she wasn’t coming. The blackest corners in the room knew she wasn’t coming.
She came, snatching the short cord on the ceiling light, her arms full of sheets. She did not speak to him as she changed the bed.
She gripped his upper arm and pulled him down the hall to the bathroom. The light was over the mirror and she had to stand on tiptoe to reach it. She gave him a washcloth, wet and cold.
“Take off your nightshirt and wipe yourself off.”
Smell of adhesive tape and the bright sewing scissors clicking. She snipped out a butterfly of tape, stood him on the toilet lid and closed the cut over his eye.
“Now,” she said. She held the sewing scissors under his round belly and he felt cold down there.
“Look,” she said. She grabbed the back of his head and bent him over to see his little penis lying across the bottom blade of the open scissors. She closed the scissors until they began to pinch him.
“Do you want me to cut it off?”
He tried to look up at her, but she gripped his head. He sobbed and spit fell on his stomach.
“Do you?”
“No, Aayma. No Aayma.”
“I pledge you my word, if you ever make your bed dirty again I’ll cut it off. Do you understand?”
“Yehn, Aayma.”
“You can find the toilet in the dark and you can sit on it like a good boy. You don’t have to stand up. Now go back to bed.”

So yes, as we are drawn into the past by Harris’ narrative, it is impossible not to empathize with this tormented child. I was absolutely confident that Armitage would feel it, too, as he prepared for the role, and I have known that we would have an opportunity to feast upon psychological nuances heretofore not seen in other characters portrayed by Armitage: a deeply damaged child.  What was so rewarding to me, then, was that without any actual dialogue, Richard Armitage’s portrayal of Francis Dolarhyde was unbelievably spot on in bringing that vulnerability out to play.ω

Not that peristalsis really pertains to an essentially solid anatomical part, like a THIGH, but damn, that comes close. Gif fromω

Like anyone else watching, I was mesmerized by the opening sequences that show Dolarhyde deep in his own skin, twitching and flexing and undulating as he indulges in his inner tumultuous transformation, seeking respite from the inadequacies of a lifetime by creating something fierce and powerful and otherworldly in the form of The Great Red Dragon he will unleash.




Not sure when I’ve been so transfixed on a ripple of muscle traveling down the side of a torso. Absolutely serpentine… I could feel The Dragon under there, and it elevated my apprehension in just the way that I imagine well-done horror is intended to do…

These scenes were fascinating, and breathtaking in their way, and very effective in inspiring the sort of fear and awe that the monster requires. They also very adeptly set up the paradoxical situation in which we are meant to view Francis Dolarhyde- that despite a craniofacial defect, a fractured psyche, and decidedly abhorrent urges, he still possesses attributes that we can find alluring. He has a beautiful body that he hones, and as we will see later, he has at least a corner of decency and even innocence somewhere on the inside, a part of him that abhors what he is “Becoming” when it threatens to destroy the one beautiful and wholesome thing in his life.


Richard Armitage channels the vulnerability and self-loathing of the young boy who grew into Francis Dolarhyde.

Yet, as gorgeous as those scenes were… for me, the true brilliance in our introduction to Francis Dolarhyde took place in front of the broken mirror, as Francis stood with a heartbreaking combination of determination and self-contempt, practicing speech sounds. There in front of the mirror, visibly gathering his resolve to try again, we see little, almost involuntary helpless gestures with hands. We see him lift his chin a notch. We see his chest rising and falling. We see him flinch, and scowl, and viciously smack himself with brutal committment as he repeatedly tries to say something, though what it is he tries to say, I’m still not sure. Armitage beautifully channels the damaged, chastised child here, and it was mesmerizing to behold.


And may I just say… eyelashes!

Again I saw the little boy in the scrapbooking scene. Something in the way Francis hastily cuts out the article, then carries his book with almost child-like reverence, to the table. I loved how he takes a moment to view the picture of himself as a young boy with Grandmother, then turns it over/brushes it aside with impatient disgust, and begins slapping the glue and articles into the scrapbook almost haphazardly. Quite the contrast from Hannibal’s treatment of the same article, so precisely and elegantly handled as he prepares to send his greetings to Will Graham. Francis, on the other hand, is comparatively clumsy in his work, knocking over a container of pens, and scribbling over the moniker “Tooth Fairy” with the messy desperation of a frustrated youth. Here is this 40-something man, but he just channels that which is unschooled, leaving his vulnerabilities on the table.

Anyway, if a few short scenes, some tortured noises, some postures of damaged psyche and child-like behavior patterns can have already softened me toward this monster, it’s looking like the introduction of the love story with Reba will be that much more difficult to “square with reality” when it comes to Francis Dolarhyde. Richard Armitage has nailed it so far, and absolutely left me craving more.

Congratulations, Richard! It was a stunning debut on U.S. Network television. =)

On All The Ways I Loved The Red Dragon Trailer…

It’s official. I’m completely bugged out. And how do I know I’m bugged out? Because earlier, after waking up and needing another “fix”, I found myself glued to the Hannibal trailer again, on my laptop using my earbuds, with the sounds of kids and TV and tablet in the background just fading out. I was once again mesmerized to such a degree that when Hubby tapped me on the shoulder to ask if I’d like some bacon and eggs, I jumped out of my skin and yelped! Much to the amusement of Hubby and kids, LOL.

Last night, when I first watched the exquisitely done trailer for the 6 episode Red Dragon Arc that will conclude Hannibal‘s run on NBC, the closest word to describe my initial reaction was electrified. Although it was past 10pm when I first watched the trailer, and prior to watching it, I was exhausted and intending to go to bed early, this incredible footage of Richard Armitage embodying the complex character of Francis Dolarhyde acted like a triple shot of espresso into my system and suddenly, there was no question of me going to bed early. I watched it repeatedly, reveling in it, really, just addicted to everything about it.


That “Look”…. that intensity, and the cinematography of the entire scene… color me #mindblown!

As I said after viewing the first 2 episodes of Hannibal S1 the same day that Richard’s Dolarhyde casting was announced: “stylistically, the show is very different from anything I’ve seen Armitage do, and it will be fascinating to watch not only his portrayal of the sick fiend that is Francis Dolarhyde, but the incorporation of Armitage into the overall composition and feel of this series is going to be completely new and different.” Well, based on what I’ve seen in this trailer… I’m not going to be disappointed. I loved the musical accompaniment to the footage, especially in the initial series of shots as they introduced Dolarhyde- the cinematography and quirky percussion-driven soundtrack was simultaneously beautiful and jarring, just drawing me into the character, conveying his unique dichotomy of shyness/vulnerability and fierceness/intensity that makes the character so compelling and so terrifying. “Do you see me now? Yes. Do you feel me now? Yes.” I see him, and feel him, in the gut. In an instinctual way that Hannibal is so brilliant at accomplishing through some voodoo combination of artistically irresistible visuals and visceral musical score.


This little startle, this endearing vulnerability, as Reba reaches out to touch his face. Remember, this is the man whose earliest knowledge led him to believe his own name was Cunt-Face when he was at the orphanage. And here it is. This. A brief glimpse of that back story in a facial expression. A perfect little taste of that Armitage brilliance.

So unable to sleep, I decided to start making Francis Dolarhyde gifs (I did THIRTY!) last night, and when I started studying the gifs, and playing with the light settings, I was blown away by the subtleties of facial expression and body language. If I didn’t know by now that Richard Armitage can inhabit a character and become that character completely, just several minutes of footage of his work here would have convinced me, and should convince anyone, of his astounding “immersion” capabilities. I can’t tell you how eager I am for more of this, despite the dark and creepy atmosphere and the knowing I have that the journey is likely to be both heartbreaking and terrifying. If the trailer can have me on the edge of my seat and bugged out completely, what will 6 full episodes be like? Prepare to be overwhelmed!

Another wonderful thing about this trailer was that we were able to hear shy and taciturn Francis Dolarhyde’s voice for the first time (!!!) in a few moments of dialogue. Having read the book, I’ve been aware that this would be what could make or break the character, because it’s so critical to the “vulnerability” aspect and the empathetic response that we are supposed to experience. The character was born with a severe craniofacial birth defect, and though later in life he has reconstructive surgery to repair the cleft palate, he has a persistent mild speech impediment and is extremely self-conscious about it. He is acutely aware of and feels such embarrassment over his speech patterns, especially with the “S” sounds, that he will pause and consider ways to rephrase his dialogue so as to avoid “S” sounds whenever possible. We didn’t have a lot of dialogue in this trailer, but what I did hear was absolutely spot on for my expectation of what this type of speech impediment would sound like. Only three lines of dialogue, yet I found myself falling a bit in love with that voice, because I’ve never heard Richard Armitage sound so… fragile.


Love the eyelashes. They seem to flicker over words that are most difficult to enunciate.

The first line we hear is Francis speaking to Hannibal over the phone. The dialogue itself, when written, could be delivered in so many ways. “Dr. Lecter, I am… delighted… that you have taken an interest in me.” But Armitage’s delivery, using a very soft voice, stumbling lightly over the word “delighted” and with the slight hesitations of a deeply timid person, perfectly captures  the tentative hopefulness in his voice that what he is “Becoming” would be of interest to one he admires and aspires to be… the way one might speak to a deity with whom one someday hopes to acquire equal footing.



Francis does something he’s never dared to do before in his adult life… reach out to a woman.

I deliberately closed my eyes to listen to “Miss McClane, can I give you a ride home?” so as to experience it as a blind woman might… this line was delivered flawlessly when I shut my eyes and listened. He asks her so politely, yet so awkwardly, perfectly embodying a man who is entirely uncertain of himself, and completely inexperienced in any sort of attempt to engage with another human, and particularly with a woman he likes. And yet, just listening to the endearing sweetness of it as he slightly lisps over her name, I could almost feel how she would feel in that moment, because you can tell, just by his voice, that he’s overcome a struggle to get up the nerve to ask. For me, anyway, it would be very difficult to say no to him after he’s tried so bravely to overcome his own discomfort with even the idea of gallantry.



OK, so maybe there is a smile there at the beginning… but it’s definitely no kind of reassurance to see that kind of smile on a… biter.

Then came “Trust me. I’m smiling.” It starts with a whisper… and I know from the book that he was battling his inner darkness and an impulse to be vicious… so that whisper of “Trust me” is imbued with shades of darkness and internal struggle. Then his voice breaks slightly over the word “smiling” and again, that slight speech deficit. I can’t WAIT to see the rest of this scene. I was gripped in the book with fear for Reba’s safety, alone in her house with this psychopath who is more than capable of savaging her. Any woman alone with him would be in mortal danger… but her blindness, her inability to see his facial expressions as he considers his options… it’s the finest sort of suspense.


Really. Those underwear don’t leave much to the imagination. That’s artistry. *Wipes chin*

And speaking of things I can’t WAIT for…well, I couldn’t make a post about the brilliance of this trailer without acknowledging its effects upon my ovaries. WOW. The team that put together this trailer certainly didn’t stint us on drool-worthy material, did they? It’s almost as if they suspected a large contingent might be, er, anxiously awaiting an eyeful, and by all that’s heavenly, they delivered. Let’s have a grateful round of applause, shall we? For the producers, for Richard, for the slow camera panning and the quality of the footage, down to each drop of sweat and each jaw-dropping moment of the bodybuilding routine that was lavished upon us… yeah. WOW. More of that, please! I think Richard has surpassed all former levels of buffness for this role, and I we can probably all agree that there promises to be a tremendous amount of eye-candy for those willing to venture over to the dark side. =)



But if this is anything to go by, this flash of hideous monstrosity… we will be visiting a very dark and terrifying place when we go on this journey with Francis, indeed. The gif above, showing the man, is all that is attractive. Which makes this… the stuff of nightmares…. all the more discordant and repelling. What a contrast between the tentative and awkward man with the hesitant speech, the intense and powerful man with the muscular physique, and this, the repulsive face of The Dragon… all I can say is that the makeup effects and the absolute commitment to inhabiting evil by the actor here are amazing. It’s awful, and it’s awe-inspiring. He’s going to scare my pants off, and I’m not exactly sure if I’ll like it.

It looks like these last six episodes have the potential to be a tour de force by Richard Armitage. It’s entirely new ground for him, and though it’s not without trepidation, I’m entirely eager to experience it. *Gulps*

Is Falling for Francis Dolarhyde Out of the Question?


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.