Saturday, August 29, 2015

REVIEW: 'Hannibal' - Will and Hannibal Express Their Love While Battling the Red Dragon in 'The Wrath of the Lamb'

NBC's Hannibal - Episode 3.13 "The Wrath of the Lamb"

In a desperate bid to slay Francis Dolarhyde, Will engineers a cunning ploy utilizing Hannibal. Upon learning of his plan, Bedelia voices concerns that his actions may put the lives of those around him in peril. Will remains unflinching in his game with Hannibal - even when it means coming face-to-face with his own darkest fears.

Hannibal has always been a series about change. As soon as Will Graham started getting into the heads of serial killers in order to help the FBI, he became a different man. He held onto those thoughts until they became all consuming and nearly destroyed his life. All of these characters have been in near-death situations so many times over the course of the three seasons. No one is the same now than they were in the beginning - not even Hannibal.

This final story arc with the Red Dragon has been phenomenal because it has bought into the idea of change as a main story engine. Francis Dolarhyde sees himself as becoming something great. He views the Red Dragon living within him as the monster capable of such horrific acts while he is simply the man fighting for his love with Reba. He can't stop this change. Part of it is of his own making while another comes from Hannibal manipulating Dolarhyde into action. Dolarhyde has proven to be just as resourceful and cunning as Hannibal. He is able to fake his death early in this finale that is able to fool everyone for a little while. That's very impressive. As is his ability to consistently track Will and Hannibal down when they make they big move to try and bait him.

The Red Dragon has forced everyone into action. Sometimes that hasn't been all that pretty. Will, Alana and Jack are aware of how severely Hannibal manipulated them in the past. They believe they understand him now in a way that keeps him from doing it again. But they also understand just how dangerous a threat Hannibal continues to be. They can't consider releasing him as a ploy to trap Dolarhyde without caution or concern. It's dangerous to allow Hannibal back in the world. In the asylum, they know where he is at all times. Sure, that doesn't mean he can't keep insinuating him into their lives to their detriment. But Will, Alana and Jack have power over the situation as well. When Will believes Dolarhyde to be dead, he is able to confront Hannibal with the truth that he only turned himself in because he rejected him. Will never expected to see Hannibal again after that - even though his own future with Molly is uncertain.

Francis Dolarhyde forces Will to act once again though. He continues to be a threat terrorizing people. He was able to save Reba. But the Red Dragon has taken over. He is more cool, calculated and dangerous than ever before. He wants to change Hannibal next. The plan to fake Hannibal's escape is the only move Will, Jack and Alana think they have left to do. Sure, it creates a situation that Dolarhyde, Hannibal and Will all want - at least on some level. Dolarhyde is able to be with his idol while Hannibal and Will are together seeing the beauty and monstrosity of their love.

Everyone had a right to be wary of this latest plan. Their last gambit with Frederick Chilton didn't go so well. In fact, Will, Jack and Alana may have hurt Frederick much more than Hannibal ever did. Despite the physical disabilities, Hannibal still allowed Frederick to publish a novel and operate as a part of normal society. Will, Jack and Alana physically changed Frederick all in the hopes of capturing a man who was more elusive than they thought. Frederick does have a point to bring this up in his conversation with Alana. She has lived a life of comfort since Hannibal's capture. And yet, how much of that was real and how much was just living on borrowed time? Both she and her family as well as Bedelia flee in order to avoid being hunted and eaten by Hannibal. That's their choice. It is also very understandable given just how dangerous they know Hannibal to be.

Meanwhile, Will noted that it wasn't good to see and interact with Hannibal again. It has been many things but "good" wouldn't be a word to describe any of it. The attraction between the two is still actively pulling. Will understands everything that Hannibal has done. He uses that in order to escape Dolarhyde and stage the prison transfer. And yet, he still gets into the police car with Hannibal and flees to the house where Hannibal once kept Miriam Lass and Abigail Hobbs. That's a location filled with monstrosity that Will didn't even know about until much later. They both know that Dolarhyde is coming for them. But they still get to enjoy the beauty of the landscape with each other. The night soon turns murderous. But they had that moment of peace before the devastation.

It is just so beautiful seeing how the creative team captured the violent art of Dolarhyde attacking both Will and Hannibal and the two fighting back. It's a bloody mess. But one that also brings an end to this tale of three monsters. Will doesn't try to run and escape from Dolarhyde once he emerges and shoots Hannibal. He is not like Reba. He wants to see the change despite knowing his fate is equally dim. However, he says that but that's not what his later actions mean. He pulls a blade on Dolarhyde before he can inflict anymore pain on Hannibal. Sure, it leads to getting several wounds himself but he put in the effort to save Hannibal from undergoing such a violent transformation like Frederick and the two other families. Will and Hannibal together are able to conquer the Red Dragon. Working together and seeing the beauty in the murder is what Hannibal has wanted all along. And now, that moment has come. Will and Hannibal fight and win. The beast has been slain. Both of them were active participants in his murder. It was exciting but not without change. Both gave into these urges to stay alive and keep the other that way as well.

Hannibal and Will are both aware of how much this echoes the plans both have dreamed about. The love they share is unlike anything else in the world. They understand each other in a way no one else can. They are equals. They are both damaged - as well as facing several major wounds. But they have each other. The act of killing Dolarhyde is Will surrendering himself to the love of Hannibal. It felt great. Their embrace was the purest form of love despite the horror that has just taken place. But Will still has his own free will and thinking. He understands that this is something that he wants just as much as Hannibal. The push and pull going on inside him has been a huge story over the course of the entire series. He knows that this kill won't be the last for the two of them. So Will chooses for this moment of love to be the final one for both of them. He doesn't know if he can ever come back from this. He has before but now he's even more connected to Hannibal. Taking that dive off the cliff and forcing Hannibal down with him ensures that this is the end for both of them. An incredibly beautiful moment between the two characters as well as the show.

Of course, that's not the end for the finale though. The credits roll but the action doesn't cut to black like it usually does. As the names appear on screen, the image of the ocean eroding the bank is still onscreen; the fate of Will and Hannibal uncertain. It then fades to Bedelia alone at an eloquent dinner table. The meal is her own leg. She is being killed in the same way that Gideon was. And yet, her dinner companion - or companions - is nowhere to be seen. Many people have escaped death despite the increasingly unrealistic circumstances on this show. So it wouldn't be that surprising to learn that both Will and Hannibal survived their wounds as well as the fall down the cliff. The mystery of it all maintains that there still is so much interesting story left to tell with this series.

NBC is airing "The Wrath of the Lamb" as the series finale of Hannibal. A fourth season is not being produced at the moment of this typing. The production company hasn't been able to find it a new home for another season, the actors contracts have all expired (with Hugh Dancy moving on to a new drama on Hulu and Mads Mikkelson joining some very high profile films), and series creator Bryan Fuller has moved on to his next project (Starz's adaptation of American Gods). The future does look bleak. This would be a very satisfying ending to the series though. It leaves things open enough to justify more episodes being made. But it also thrives in the mystery, uncertainty and beauty of that final act. So much great closure happened in the story and the characters. This episode works as a series finale. Of course, I would always enjoy watching more of this show. But if this is it, then I'll be happy too.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Wrath of the Lamb" was written by Bryan Fuller, Steve Lightfoot & Nick Antosca and directed by Michael Rymer.
  • The parallels between the Dolarhyde-Reba relationship and the Will-Hannibal one in terms of needing someone to be dependent on is a very interesting little tidbit here. It shows that true love can still happen amongst violent acts and transformation.
  • Did Bedelia try to flee like Will told her to? Or did she continue to live her life and hope that Will's plan would lead to Hannibal's death? She was upset at the thought of Hannibal being free. So I think she ran and was captured again.
  • Hannibal: "I believe that's what they call a mic drop. You dropped the mic, Will. But here you are having to come and pick it back up again."
  • That's all for Hannibal everyone. It has been such a fun ride. This show produced great imagery that was truly stunning to look at every week. This season certainly had its problems but this is still one of the best dramas on TV.
  • If Hannibal does miraculously find a way to continue on, what capacity do you want it to be in? The cancellation news broke early in the summer. Enough time to somewhat come to terms with this being the end. I've gotten to the point where I would be happy if it just came back as a series of made for TV movies. Or if it wanted to make the jump to the big screen, I wouldn't object either.