Aaaaand things have escalated in a big way.
Not that it can be said this was a big shock, really. A lot of this was things that had been set up in the previous episode, but it’s still surprising to see them come to a head in this episode to the degree that they do.
This marks arguably one of the biggest shifts this part of the series has made from its source material, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t actually pretty happy with how it’s worked out so far. In many ways it’s provided a new level to the character conflicts that has made for some strong moments out of these episodes.
The big thrust of this episode is, of course, based on what was established last time – Hannibal knows where Walter and Molly are. As Dolarhyde wrestles with his murderous impulses weighed against his feelings of affection towards Reba, Hannibal offers up Will’s family as an alternate target. It’s the kind of cold-blooded move we’ve come to see as normal for Hannibal, but honestly, there’s still something about it this time that feels particularly despicable.
In part, I think it’s the fact that the show has made this one a touch personal for him. I’ve joked in earlier entries about how Mikkelsen has played Hannibal this season like a scorned ex-lover towards Will, and this episode certainly doesn’t let up on that. When he responds to Will’s questioning about the possibility of Dolarhyde killing another family with “They’re not my family,” it’s hard not to sense the bitterness in his delivery. Especially given he knows who the next target is and Will doesn’t yet.
For a character who so often operates with a detached, cold nature, there’s something fascinating about seeing the emotions peeping out from under the surface on Hannibal in this arc. It also makes him somehow a bit more contemptible in his actions, but it’s still a nice touch.
The attack itself is another case of the strong direction and editing in this series. From the scenes of Will’s dogs being admitted to the vet up until Molly and Walter’s narrow escape from the house, director Michael Rymer and his editors do an impressive job ramping up the sense of dread. It actually speaks to their effectiveness, as well as this season in general, that even having read these books and having a sense of who was and wasn’t safe, I have frequently found myself dreading for the well being of characters I should know to be not in danger. This sequence is no exception to that rule.
While this sequence may be the high point of the episode from a directorial standpoint, the rest of the episode is still quite strong besides. A later sequence of Dolarhyde literally wrestling with himself over his failure, for example, is a great piece of editing that manages to take a concept that could have looked silly and makes it downright visceral.
I know I spoke of Caroline Dhavernas’s work as Alana last time regarding her attitude towards Hannibal. It was good I laid out that groundwork when I did, because she is in top form this week as it’s revealed he’s been talking with the Dragon. Incidentally, I do have to hand it to the writers in this episode – the callback to the original book when Lecter suggests that he’s been contacting Dolarhyde through personal ads and letters written on toilet paper was a great tip of the hat to an element of the novel that time has ruled less tenable.
But back to Dhavernas here. Her confrontation with Lecter at this point is something that’s been overdue for a while now. She’s had the opportunity prior, to be certain, but ultimately she seemed willing to try and meet him part way without forcing the issue. Here, she has him up against a wall and dead to rights and is fully prepared to make the most of it. The attempt to force compliance from him makes for an interesting gamble – especially as she and Jack likely both know he won’t comply, but it’s interesting to see him on the losing end of a deal. Particularly as Alana seems to gain almost a level of triumph from making good on her threats to take away his dignity – an insult made all the more pointed by her reminder that they take away his toilet.
Will, on the other hand, is considerably less satisfied with all of this. This isn’t to say the least because of the circumstances going in.
The hospital aftermath of the attack is a subdued, but still fairly powerful scene for the show. Not much has been made of how the family feels about Will’s past before this – Molly has known of it, but that’s been the extent of it. When Walter confronts Will about it, his response is an interesting one – despite having had that kept from him, his anger isn’t at Will – not directly, anyway – but at Dolarhyde, who he argues Will should kill rather than capture. Given how Will’s been trying to avoid that path, it’s not hard to see the unintended slap there, and Dancy plays the response well. This is the kind of moment that could have been overdramatic in the wrong hands, but they had a sense of where to keep the line.
Despite being the one injured, Molly’s part of this scene is the less volatile, though that also speaks to her character in a big way. As Will agonizes, Molly admits she had a feeling this was possible. She isn’t blaming him or laying guilt on – she is simply stating as a fact that she was braced for this possibility. Again, it’s one of those moments where we really see why Molly and Will work well together, and it speaks to her in a more understated way.
Of course, this all makes Will’s meeting with Hannibal feel much more justified in his anger. Even as he admits to advising Dolarhyde to kill the family, Lecter’s calm is back in place. The conversation itself is a brief one, but it invites more perspective to what Dolarhyde is seeking, as well as laying clues for the next episode.
It honestly kind of hurts that there’s only two episodes left of this now. This arc has been some of the strongest work the series has had so far and it’s a shame to see the end coming soon, even as I look forward to the big conclusion.
But first, we have the penultimate episode and the events of “The Number of the Beast is 666…” and based on the previews, this is going to be delving into one of the more infamous events of this story. With the show’s track record, I’m already looking forward to it.
-Tense direction and editing a high point in this episode
-For as reserved as many of the players are, it’s interesting to see tensions running high in this episode
-The speed that Hannibal goes from ‘on probation’ to ‘take the toilet too’ is a bit abrupt
-The dragon effects are still a bit iffy, though the editing makes up for that