It has long been said that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat and looking at the current state of affairs in Hannibal it is baffling how little the characters have learned from their previous dealings with the character of Hannibal Lecter. With two episodes to go until the series’ conclusion, ‘And The Beast From The Sea’ brings the action closer to home than any of the character, saving the titular antagonist, saw coming – Dolarhyde is given the address of the Graham residence and, with some encouragement from his thoroughly despicable psychiatrist, goes to pay Will’s new, unsuspecting family an unwelcome visit. This third season of Hannibal has featured some of the most complete, and best, episodes of the series thus and this week’s episode is no different; from Armitage’s ongoing, breath-taking performance as the Red Dragon to how well director Michael Rymer is able to escalate the tension in the episode’s atmosphere when needed. Yet, what stands out more than anything else is how the character of Hannibal Lecter has never been as far from sympathy and decency as he is in this episode and with his dignity taken from him. It’s not that the past seasons of this show have given Hannibal Lecter a more positive depiction than the character deserves, but rather that the entertainment value of his actions, in the past, provided at least partially compensation for their heinousness.
While Hannibal, rightly, receives the lion’s share of the blame for the attack on the Graham household, the blame cannot be laid at his door alone. Jack Crawford needs to step up and accept the blame for this particular turn of events, especially given that he knows just what is at stake and considering the promises he made at the beginning of this arc. Yet, Jack himself doesn’t provide us much food for analysis at this point; disappointingly, he comes across as desperate and perhaps even naïve. He knows how Will functions, he knows how his best profiler tends to get too close to his targets but in his desperation, he proceeded to drag him out of retirement. Jack also knows how Hannibal likes to toy with his prey but seems content to let Hannibal run unhampered. Did Jack think he (Jack) was on top of things, that he had it all under control? Even in this episode, Jack seems content in using Hannibal to lure Dolarhyde out of hiding but seems surprised when Hannibal doesn’t follow through as he was supposed to. Is that desperation or naiveté? It seems like the latter more than the former in this case but either way, it seems the character who will suffer most for this is Will. Jack comes across as selfish for dragging Will, who by any metric available has suffered more than enough, back in this mess but he appears downright incompetent for not being nearly as careful as he could have been. Will himself seems thoroughly fed up with the whole situation. His marriage is suffering both from the time he is spending on the job and from the fact that a massive, masked man just entered his wife’s home with the intention to kill and mutilate his wife and son. These aren’t the kind of problems you can just fix and given Will’s own spotty history with the law and sanity, he doesn’t have nearly as much of a ledge to stand on as he’d like. His conversation with Hannibal at the end of the episode seems to make it clear that he’s had enough and that whatever rules he had in the past about how he was going to deal with the two psychopaths in his life have been discarded.
It won’t be enough, however. Of those two psychopaths, both have considerable reason to despise him. Hannibal’s actions in this episode are beyond deplorable. Yet, as evil and twisted as those actions are, we should not forget that above all else, they are petty. In this particular adaptation of the story of Hannibal Lecter, Hannibal is the spurned suitor, the angry ex-boyfriend whose scorn and jealously knows no bounds. How are Will Graham be happy with his new family when Will rejected the family Hannibal would have given him? It is just happy circumstance that a killer fascinated with killing families happens to put great stock into the advice he receives from Dr Lecter. Yet, we should not be accepting Hannibal’s actions and motives without question – is this petty inability to move past Will’s betrayal even in line with what we know of the character thus far? Sure, there are some additional dimensions to Hannibal’s character that that question omits but is pettiness really something we can associate with this version of Dr Lecter? It seems like it – where previous iterations of the Hannibal mythos left the question of just what is going on under the hood of Hannibal’s head up in the air, this particular series seems to imply that there are some aspects of Hannibal’s psyche that might be comprehensible to the ordinary human mind. There is a desire for relevance, a self-importance that manifests itself in how difficult it is for him to stay out of the whole Red Dragon affair. There is also a sense of self-satisfaction at being able to successfully coerce Dolarhyde into doing exactly what he wanted him to. In the end, though, what are all these emotions aimed towards? As always, the answer is Will Graham –Hannibal is no longer able to drive him to murder and his dark side in person and so he uses the tools at his disposal, tools like Francis Dolarhyde to continue to exert his corrupting influence on Will. If the end of the episode is any indication, it might be working; Will is out of touch with resisting Hannibal and after an extremely upsetting encounter with a Red Dragon, he just might be craving the kind of change Hannibal is suggesting. The Red Dragon, meanwhile, has realized that change does not come easily. As he tells Hannibal, he is torn; where at first, he and the dragon were perfectly in sync, they are now uncoordinated and Reba McClane is to blame. Essentially, Dolarhyde once wanted to become the Dragon, wanted to become something, anything, that wasn’t himself, and eventually, the dragon manifested itself as a separate persona within him. However, now they are no longer so perfectly in sync, what they desire no longer aligns. The result is the monstrosity we see infiltrate the Graham household and the same creature that Hannibal is able to talk to on the phone. Armitage is absolutely amazing as Dolarhyde, from his stony facial expression to how he captured the Dragon’s voice.
Unfortunately, the CGI let him down again; two weeks ago we saw him in an awful position as the Dragon from the Blake painting and while the CGI this week wasn’t quite as gaudy, the wings and the tail feel like too far a departure from the show’s tone. A more subtle method could have really saved those scenes – wings made of shadows or something of the sort, for example. The CGI ultimately ends up making explicit something that was quite illicitly clear; that Francis Dolarhyde’s madness has not stopped or even slowed. All in all, this was a good episode, even a great episode but not quite a perfect Hannibal episode – for all the work that Armitage has put into the show and his character, I still don’t feel like Dolarhyde has meshed well into this Hannibal universe. There are still episodes left to change my mind, but as of right now, I find that this final arc is excellent television but it doesn’t quite feel like Hannibal.