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Hannibal: The Great Red Dragon

“Congratulations, Hannibal. You're officially insane.”

I die over this show. It's so pretty, awful, effective, twisted, scary, rich and psychologically upsetting. Knowing this, I still was not prepared for 'The Great Red Dragon.' These adjectives come into tight focus this week in one of the most well-oiled versions of this show. Good god this episode blew me away. Behold. Shii, WHAT OTHER CHOICE IS THERE?

You know what I love about Bryan Fuller (well, besides pretty much everything)? He religiously practices one of the my favorite rules of screenwriting: steal from the best. It didn't occur to me until last week's re-watch of Manhunter that, of course, Fuller was going to pay homage to it, over the 2002 Brett Ratner film, (oh, I watched that one, too!) because Manhunter is stylized within an inch of its freaking life. At the recent SDCC, when asked about the Hannibal formula, Fuller said that it's roughly a 30/30/30 blend of Thomas Harris, psychology and their own special sauce. (I really love that breakdown.) Lucky for us, one part of that sauce is a re-imagining of some great visual storytellers in film: Stanley Kubrick, Davids Lynch and Cronenberg, the brothers Scott (The Hunger has been big Season 3 influence), all referenced in mirrored ways. On a personal note, the essence of these visual artists running through Fuller's projector is a huge reason I'm enamored with this show. He madly respects and understands the art of an iconic image. I just think that's so special and also really fun. (Hell, the man can turn a memorable phrase, too, just as well.)

Betrayed by good taste.

You guys, Bedelia was totally right. (Of course she was.) Whimsy. That is how he will get caught. Ugh. Can you imagine seeing Doctors Chilton and Bloom every day on their rounds while they gloat full tilt? Perish the thought! No wonder Hannibal beckons for Will at the earliest possibility. Several viewings of the first act reveal how much of the imagery of le good taste are only in Hannibal's head, which is to say most of it. And what's not is Chilton and Bloom keeping him in the style to which he became accustomed because black mail. Plus they need him cooperative. Did you see that little dance Alana did when Hannibal threatened her again? It mirrored Bedelia's in 'Sakizuke' when she steps backwards away from him in his office as she tells him she's ending their therapy. How can you be sure he’s not goading you? I gotta say, I love the thought of Frederick and Alana sharing an office. You know when Will shows up they're both on the couch, headphone splicer in the AV jack in the computer, bowl of popcorn between them, listening, gripped by the boys' hushed conversation.

More of a shy boy, this one.

Did you ever wonder what schizophrenia looks like? And I mean through the lens of scrupulous arthouse horror auteurs? (Brian Reitzell, I mean you, also.) It's almost too powerful to reconcile -- between that crime scene and Dolarhyde's attic, there are oceans of rage. We bear witness to someone's descent into psychosis. The Dolarhyde imagery, well, it's always been particularly haunting but given the Hannibal treatment, with noise and clarity, horrific revelations about this man's kind of crazy now have their own visual and aural lexicon. Mirrors are smashed because Francis is trying to break though its dimension to reach something beyond himself, something that's more him than him. The auditory hallucinations are within and without, inescapable, mocking, alarming yet soothing. Jesus, even the tattoo needle looks like a dragon licking his skin with a pronged tongue. Back to Brian Reitzell for a moment, god, he really went for it, didn't he? His sound design was every bit as vital as the creepy visit to the Chinatown dentist for a set of suitable teeth. It's diegetic at this point.

If I go I'll be different when I get back.

Your bad luck you're the best, pal. I bought into Will's new life -- from A to Z. I think it's fair to say we all want to see him up to his ears in cute adopted dogs, retaining whatever normal life he's afforded at this stage in his tragic life. I also believe that he would keep a secret letter from his therapist in a drawer unopened, poised to read at 'the right time' whatever right time that is for him. The adventure will be yours and mine today. Jack's visit revealed he can take the edge off of his forceful quasi-manipulative peremptory manner when need be. And I liked Molly (Nina Arianda). She has an earthy straightforwardness that can only be helpful to someone like Will. Did you notice the antlers in the cabin? Nice touch, production design.

This is my design.

I can't think of anything to say here because by the time Will got to this line, I was weeping. So here's a picture.

It's a mindset I need to recover.

Because Will sure as shit doesn't have it at the Leeds' house. I mean he's holding a file folder in his hand to guide him. Paperwork. Now, that's certainly a protective and earnest measure even Will only had a half-assed foothold in, one that went out the window as soon as he did the thing with the thing, but three plus years later, tucked away in a log cabin with a real nice lady and her son, he doesn't have access to this side of himself like he once did. And frankly, for all the shite it caused him, this skill set was positively soaring when in Hannibal's company. Speaking of which, who among us doesn't want to see these two tango again? Of all of the Red Dragon lore, it's only this one that has 33 hours of build up. In time, this will be the only story any of us cares to tell.

Odds and Ends:

Le inspiration.

There are so many 'Faces in Things' in this piece of art. 

The newspaper clippings, i.e. Kitchen Nightmare.

Plastic spoons.

I die, I tell you, I die.

Ohhhh, pretty.

NO. This is not happening.

*Panting* I don't... I can't -- help. Me.
Hannibal’s letter to William:

Dear Will,
We have all found a new life,
but our old lives hover in the shadows.
Soon enough, I fear Jack Crawford will come knocking.
I would encourage you as a friend, not to step back through the door he holds open.
It's dark on the other side and madness is waiting.

(You fucking pretentious calligrapher!)

(Blows many kisses and waves) Heyyyy, Special Agent Jimmy Price and Mr. Brian Zeller!

Will wants to know what happened to the Leeds' dog. No. He really wants to know, because actually can he please have the dog? Please? This might be my favorite Fuller addition to the Thomas Harris canon.

Neil Marshall outdid himself. Have you seen The Descent? It's classified as a thriller/drama. DO NOT BELIEVE THAT. The tagline is 'The Scariest Movie In Earth'.


Chilton: “You, with your fancy allusions and your fussy aesthetics, will always have niche appeal, but this fellow, there is something so universal about what he does. Kills whole families and in their homes. Strikes at the very core of the American dream.”

Alana: “Was that the magisterial 'we'?”

Chilton: “The Young Turk may inspire the Old Lithuanian to keep himself interesting.”

Jack: "You don't want to talk inside? Oh, you don't want to let me inside. I've come too far to let the cold stop me, Will."
Will: "Why should the cold stop what common sense couldn't?"

Jimmy: “I was told you were told I was coming. Were you not told?”
Brian: "I can't help you with your thing. I've got a thing.”
Jimmy: “Well, then, we'll double-Dutch.”

Will: “There is something else I can do. I can wait until I'm driven to it by desperation in the last days before the full moon, or I could do it now, while it might be of some use.”
Jack: “Is there an opinion that you want, Will?”
Will: “I have to see Hannibal.”

Will: “Hello, Dr. Lecter.”
Hannibal: “Hello, Will.”


  1. Great review as ever. Man is snarky Chilton fun. I bet he and Alana have much to discuss about Hannibal. I wonder if we'll see Margot again? I hope so.
    Armitage gave me the chills as Dolarhyde.
    Will's wife is lovely and understanding. I like her. The ending was brilliant.

  2. mazephoenix,
    I hope we see Margot again too! I agree -- Armitage is very very good as Francis.

  3. As ever, Heather, your enthusiasm for this show makes for a very entertaining read. :)

    This was a good step back towards the version of the show that I prefer. (Price and Zeller, woot!) Suitably dark and terrifying, and they actually managed to get Will back to a place where I cared what happened to him. For the show's sake, I knew he'd of course have to step back into profiling, but for his sake, I was rather pissed that Jack showed up and dragged him back in. Just let the deeply damaged man have whatever small slice of happiness he can muster at this point! Hasn't he done enough?

    So far, I love what they are doing with Hannibal in the cage, and am looking forward to catching up with the next few episodes!

  4. Jess,
    Enjoy! This arc is bearing out to be pretty special. What you said about Jack made me realize that this show has pulled something very sophisticated off in this character. It's like there's no room to begrudge him the position he's in, (each time) when he must recruit Will Graham. It's very painful to watch but he doesn't have a choice.

  5. This one was a step back toward the greatness of the previous seasons for me. But I still miss Hannibal in his kitchen in season 1 and 2, still flying under the radar. I suppose there is no going back, but I miss it still. I hope the rest of the episodes are as good.

    I watched Silence of the Lambs after this one last night. I love Jodie Foster and it is still a great moviie. However, it pales beside the first 2 seasons of this show. Hopkins was great, but now there is only one Hannibal to me. Once again, television has eclipsed film. I am glad to be living in this golden age of television. 20 years ago I would have said you were crazy if you told me I would regularly watch TV today.

    Thanks Heather. Even when I don't like the episodes as much this season, your reviews shine another light on them. I know this is a lot of work and I appreciate it.

  6. I just realized I repeated Jess's opening comment. that was not intentional Jess. We are of like minds and mine is evidently very suggestible

  7. Docnaz,
    I was going to respond to a previous comment (on Dolce) until I realized it would just be me encouraging you to hang on. I'm glad you're up to the red dragon material. It is great stuff, imo. The psychology of Dolarhyde is very engrossing! But it's not a substitute for Hannibal in his element. You're right that there is no turning back and there's a sadness that comes with that

  8. Thanks, Heather. I am not quitting. I am in till the end. Glad to hear the Red Dragon material is good. That encourages me to go on.

  9. Don't get me wrong I love Tom Noonan's version of Dolarhyde like nobody's business but it is nice to finally see someone closer to book Dolarhyde's sheer physicality. It's very base but that's a significant part of what really scares me about him.
    Were the subtitles right? Why did Will say This Isn't My Design? Is it referring to unintended acts in the crime scene like Francis eating some of the cheese wheel? Or is he just talking about himself and how he's not fully "in it" yet?
    Loved the music used again to close out the episode... the same one at the end of the season premiere where we saw the flayed and folded man with the antlers and hooves. It's so epic.


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