I’m going to be honest – I had initially planned to have this writeup up last night, using the rips from Canada. Then I watched the episode. After that, I needed to sleep on it and unpack what I’d just watched.
Suffice it to say, some spoilers ahead.
I will admit, this surprised the Hell out of me. Yes, even having read Red Dragon. The first act is pretty faithful to the source material, but then it diverges sharply. Not that I’m complaining, honestly. The direction this finale takes still falls in line with the setting as Fuller has set it up.
With regards to the part that was faithful, one thing I’ll say now – even knowing the twist regarding Dolarhyde’s ‘suicide’, I was impressed with the execution of it within the episode. The entire sequence is shot in a way that there’s no room for a tell that it’s all a bluff. We know exactly as much as Dolarhyde wants Reba to know, and that’s it.
Speaking of, the performance between Richard Armitage and Rutina Wesley this week is a high point for both of them, the latter in particular. The scenes as Dolarhyde explains to a terrified Reba what’s happening are downright heartbreaking to watch thanks to Wesley’s acting in the scene.
Once she escapes from the carnage, the show jumps back off into its own territory. Then things get REALLY interesting.
One last note before getting into that territory: the way the show chooses to reveal the information is a a great little curtain call for Price and Zeller. It’s the kind of scene that could have played as much more of a transmitted ‘this is how he did it’ scene, but the rapid fire delivery from Scott Thompson and Aaron Abrams keeps the scene from feeling too arbitrary.
Still alive, and feeling betrayed, Dolarhyde comes looking for Graham to settle things. As the episode plays out, however, it becomes clear that the threat of the Dragon has now become secondary to this episode turning on the big conflict that has been driving this series from the start – ultimately, it all comes back to Will and Hannibal.
With that in mind, and given the reports that Bryan Fuller may have made this episode knowing that this would be the end of the run for him at NBC, it feels like there may be something to that idea. Like the third season finale of Community before it, it’s an ending that feels like it’s meant to be an END ending. After the cliffhanger finales of the first two seasons, this feels, while still ambiguous, much more definite.
With that in mind, just about everyone involved in this gets their own chance to get a curtain call of sorts – Jack, Alana, Margot, Chilton, even Bedelia…oh GOD, does Bedelia get her own final bow. But I’ll come back to that one later.
The idea Will, Jack, and Alana decide to run with – using Hannibal, under the guise of federal capture, to flush out Dolarhyde, then killing the both of them – is a surprising turn for everyone involved. It’s an idea that, had it been proposed at the start of the series (naturally with two random killers instead of Hannibal) they all would have balked at the prospect. Here, there’s no hesitation from any of them. It’s a very telling sign of just how much Hannibal has changed all of them – a sign even more interesting considering, despite being in just as much of a position to want him dead – Bedelia is horrified at seeing what the three are resorting to.
Hannibal, to their surprise, is game to play along – so long as Will asks him to himself. Will, meanwhile, starts showing signs he may not be as game to murder Hannibal as he lets on to Jack and Alana. In light of the previous appointments with Bedelia, he’s re-evaluating his stance on Hannibal, laying the foundations for the final act.
The plan, as one would expect, does not go down at all as planned. Dolarhyde attacks the FBI convoy, but leaves Will and Hannibal alive to seek out the final stage for everything: the house where he had previously kept Abigail Hobbs and Miriam Lass. It makes for a suitable choice for Fuller to end everything at – the place where Lecter made Abigail into his other protege, calling back to the ‘family’ he offered Will that was rejected.
While this finale applies to the series overall, thematically it’s also pretty apt to the arc Will and Hannibal have had this season – with the rift made at the end of last season, much of this season has had the two each trying to reconcile their thoughts on the other.
This makes for the strongest part of this finale, really – it presents a case for reconciliation between the two without really betraying either side. Will, despite the number of horrible things Hannibal has done to him over the course of this season, when faced with the prospect of Dolarhyde finishing the good doctor off, still doesn’t have it in him to let him die – even when it means Dolarhyde turns on him and tries to kill him as well.
What follows is arguably one of the single strongest sequences of the entire series to this point – as a bloodied Will and Hannibal battle Dolarhyde for their survival. Despite their ultimate differences, they’re fighting as one. The sequence is brutal, bloody, and downright beautiful, culminating in the striking scene of a deceased Dolarhyde bleeding out his last, the imagined dragon’s wings now pooling out from his last on the ground as it cuts to the literal image of his photo album – the dragon’s legacy – burning.
In the wake of the scene, Will and Hannibal’s final moment helps further maintain his character arc. Yes, he has indulged his murderous side, especially to save Hannibal, but in the end, he still can’t fight the better part of his nature. Their final embrace, in which Will forces the two of them off a cliff to an ambiguous ending, calls back to middle of the season when Will outlined the difference between the two of them – “I tolerate, you enjoy.” In the end, Will won’t deny what he is, but he also recognizes just how dangerous both he and Hannibal can be.
It’s a downright powerful scene, made even moreso by the decision to set the sequence to the Siouxsie Sioux song ‘Love Crime’, and it really feels like the perfect cap off to the season, and series.
That we don’t know the final fate of the two, even as we learn what happened to the others – including finally seeing Alana and Margot’s child, which, I’ll admit, was a nice little upper to this finale – helps give the end more impact. It leaves the door open for the possibility of the show continuing down the line while also feeling like a pretty conclusive ending.
All this capped off by a last epilogue featuring Bedelia, in a shocking stinger, finding out her assessment of Hannibal wasn’t quite what she expected. That’s all I’ll say on this one to keep the surprise. Just…holy shit. Between the fall and this, this episode is gonna stick with me.
This finale just…it was almost the perfect ending. I’m a little surprised that Molly and Walter just sort of fall out of the story, but otherwise, everything is wrapped up in a satisfactory fashion. I almost wonder where Fuller planned to take things from here, even as there’s a part of me that’s almost contented to just see it end here. It’s been a strange, disturbing, beautiful ride, and this feels like a satisfying place to end it.
Mr. Fuller, to you, your cast, and crew, let me just say – thank you. Hopefully we’ll hear more from you somewhere down the line, but even if we don’t, at least this time we left on an ending that leaves me less hostile to NBC than I would have been had they pulled the plug in either of the two previous seasons.
With that, dear readers, this countdown comes to an end. Thank you all for bearing with me on it. It’s been a Hell of a ride this past week going through this, and I’m glad I ran with it.
Will be getting caught up on The Strain this week, as well as some other things on the burners.
-Phenomenal final act bringing the three seasons of Will and Hannibal to a memorable conclusion
-Almost everyone gets a chance to shine in this final episode
-Top notch directing of the opening sequence and climax
-It’s weird that Reba gets closure while Molly and Walter just sort of vanish
-It’s a pretty satisfying ending, but not without its lingering questions of what could have been