It’s the end of the line for Hannibal as the Red Dragon arc, and the series itself, comes to a close.
Let’s bitch it out…
Having spent the last few days preparing a series of send-off posts celebrating the best Hannibal episodes, I can unequivocally state that this is a series that knows how to end a season and deliver a cliffhanger. Twitter – as expected – exploded with puns about the very literal delivery of the latter at the end of ‘The Wrath Of The Lamb’ in what might be the most emotional homoerotic send-off of an ill-fated pair ever.
In hindsight, the moment that Will (Hugh Dancy) proposes a faked jailbreak involving his non-sexual life partner Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen), it almost had to end this way. Pretty much every character aside from Will understood the severity of what he was proposing when he suggested allowing Hannibal out from behind the glass. After all this is a serial killer unlike any other and the sole reason he is behind bars is because he let himself be captured, which he did expressly so that his buddy Will knew exactly where to find him when life with his wife* in the stix gets dull.
*Molly is noticeably absent in the finale…which basically tells you everything you need to know about who is truly important in Will’s life.
Hannibal has been, over its three wonderful seasons, the love story between these two men. In some ways I’m reminded of narratives by Wilde and Highsmith where relationships between same-sex couples could only be inferred, not explicitly stated. There are fewer limitations on Hannibal, but the series is not an explicit love story, either. It was meant to be a pre-packaged crime series that could garner big ratings for NBC because it features a popular character from books and movies. What it ended up being – what its legacy will undoubtedly end up being – is an unconventional love story, draped in sensuous, confronting and surreal imagery wherein the body is refashioned as both an object of beauty and the site of horrific violence.
Take the opening scene, for example. Initially it appears that the Red Dragon arc has come to a quick end rather quickly when Francis Dolarhyde (Richard Armitage) commits suicide rather than offer up Reba (Rutina Wesley) to his demon. It’s a plot device (albeit a well-designed one); there’s no way that a character of this stature would disappear before the opening credits of the finale. The faked suicide, in hindsight, is a emblematic of the whole episode. Dolarhyde seemingly sacrifices himself for love, demonstrating his affection by blowing off his head with a shotgun and leaving physical evidence of his feelings in the form of brain on Reba’s face.
Dolarhyde’s resurgence later at Will’s house suggests that Fuller and company will adhere to the structure of the book (this is the pinnacle moment in the novel when Dolarhyde scars Will), but rather than follow that path, ‘The Wrath Of The Lamb’ embarks on a journey of its own. Seizing upon the opportunity to take our two birds with one stone, Will, Jack (Laurence Fishburne) and Alana (Caroline Dhavernas) plot to fake Lecter’s escape so that the Red Dragon will pursue and kill him. Of course, the last few episodes have done nothing if not prove how these well-conceived and ill-executed plans have failed and that’s without bringing the esteemed cannibal into the mix.*
*The surreal, less-than-reality approach adopted this season has meant that Jack, Will and Alana are seemingly free to operate in any way they like without oversight. In some other version of the series, Kate Parnell is stalking Jack for allowing Hannibal out of his glass cell.
Dolarhyde’s attack on the police transport is swift and brutal, edited tightly to accentuate its speed and reinforce the awesome power of the man. It’s almost comical how nonchalantly Will and Hannibal respond, picking up a cruiser, shoving the dead bodies aside and journeying on to Hannibal’s Cliffside home. It’s here where the series takes a turn as the gravity of the final minutes take their toll: Hannibal mentions bringing both Abigail and Miriam here and Will admits that he’s orchestrated the whole escape so that he can watch Hannibal die, which we know is a lot of jive considering how possessive both men are of each other.
When Dolarhyde unexpectedly attacks, the action escalates swiftly, even as the series slows down to a slow-motion crawl. It’s as bloody and violent as anything the show has delivered, with blood liberally spilled from all three men. It ultimately comes down to Will and Hannibal working cooperatively; separate they don’t stand a chance against the dragon. It is only when the pair team up against Dolarhyde like a pair of wrestlers, taking savage swipes at his legs with knives and axes that the Great Red Dragon is finally subdued, his blood pooling out in the form of the dragon he both fought and embraced.
As the final moments close in, Will and Hannibal find themselves at the edge of the precipice. It’s an emotionally charged moment: a reconciliation between two foes who are incomplete without the other. There’s nothing particularly sexual about their interaction, but it’s hard not to interpret the resigned hug between Will and Hannibal as the pinnacle of their relationship. Hannibal’s comment – “This is all I ever wanted for you, Will. For both of us” – confirms as much. And then, with without a word, the two plunge over the edge and into oblivion.
As far as final moments, it’s stunning. Beautiful, evocative, atmospheric and absolutely appropriate. While I’ve lamented the loss of one of TV’s best series in the wake of Hannibal’s cancellation, it’s hard to argue that the pair went out in anything other than top shape. Whether you’re shipping #Hannigram or not, this was a thrilling end.
- The cute puppy dog way that Will asks Hannibal to please indulge his plan is kind of adorable. The way that Will sips his wine after Lecter is shot is almost as adorable, were it not so mean.
- Bedelia (Gillian Anderson) does not approve of Will’s plan to release Hannibal to bait the Dragon, suggesting that his desire to manipulate the situation to his satisfaction is foolish. The ever chilly therapist is noticeably upset and it’s easy to see that she fears for her own safety should Hannibal escape (which she believes he invariably will). It’s actually a bit cruel of Will to taunt her, though the dialogue certainly crackles with wit.
- Bedelia’s fearful interaction with Will nicely sets the stage for the final coda. Once again Bedelia gets the #MicDrop moment of the finale as the series closes with her preparing to eat her own amputated leg. It’s quite the sight
- Alana’s (Caroline Dhavernas) big moment involves her conversations with Frederick Chilton (Raúl Esparza) and Hannibal. Chilton, suffering through a series of skin grafts in the tube that echoes Georgia’s from 1×12 ‘Releves’, accuses her of being “the roper” – the one who ropes in the target of Will and Jack’s (Laurence Fishburne) plans. While I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest that Alana is a patsy, over the course of the third season she has certainly become much more assertive and dominating. Interestingly it is unclear whether or not Alana struggles with the moral quandaries that consumed Jack throughout the first two seasons. Regardless, she plays her part in the plan, even going so far as to make the pitch to Hannibal herself despite the inherent risk of ending up on his “Must Eat” list. It’s a chilly negotiation – a chilling one even – as Hannibal reminds Alana what he’s capable of by threatening Margot (Katharine Isabelle), the baby and her. The final evocative shot is the three of them escaping their mansion in the wake of Hannibal’s escape…
- Will (when Reba laments the man she drew): “You didn’t draw a freak. You drew a man…with a freak on his back.”
- Lecter (baiting Will about his boring home life): “When life becomes maddeningly the same, think about me. Think about me, Will. Don’t worry about me.”
- Bedelia (hearing Will’s plan): “Can’t live with him. Can’t live without him. Is that what this is?”
- Will (departing with a flourish): “I’d pack your bag if I were you, Bedelia. Meat’s back on the menu.”
- Hannibal (to Alana): “Do please tell Frederick, if you see him, I wish a speedy convalescence and hope he won’t be very ugly.”
- Hannibal (threatening Alana and her family): “You died in my kitchen when you decided to be brave, Alana. Every moment since has been borrowed.”
- Hannibal (commenting on both the cliff and Will’s plan): “The bluff is eroding.” Zing!
Your turn: what did you think of the finale? What are your thoughts overall on the final season? Do you hope that the cast can reconnect to continue the show at some other time or in another form or was this a satisfying send-off? Sound off below.
Hannibal has now finished airing its third and final season.