Hannibal 3×08 ‘The Great Red Dragon’: The beast awakens

Hannibal 3x08 Cover

This may be the most excited I have ever been for Hannibal.

It’s not to say that “The Great Red Dragon” is the show’s finest hour (even though it is one fantastic episode of television), but the episode really does function as a pilot of sorts.  It’s as if the series completely rebooted after “Digestivo”, which took all of the series’ disparate storylines and congealed them into a satisfying conclusion.  And instead of manufacturing more story based off of the show’s content to date, this episode kicks off what is essentially a six-episode miniseries about Francis Dolarhyde, or the Tooth Fairy, a new killer that breaks the uneasy peace among the characters and brings Will back out into the field.

Hannibal 3x08-1

Source: NBC

The reason that this is so exciting stems from the fact that we’re nearing the finish line.  After the season finale, there won’t be any more seasons, any more episodes.  And so this miniseries of sorts feels more like a fond sendoff of the characters rather than a bridge to something new.  It’s entirely self-contained, and as a result, the series feels fresh.  But along with that sense of new comes elements of what we’ve seen before.  As Will explores Dolarhyde’s latest crime scene, we see him recreating the murders, feeling the sense of excitement that Dolarhyde himself experienced when committing the act.  He tells his new wife, Molly, that he won’t be the same when he returns, and it’s true.  Will is already slipping into the grasp of evil, as he’s more vulnerable to it than before.  And he needs Hannibal to help him.  “The Great Red Dragon” features an entirely new storyline that is even temporally removed from the rest of the series, and yet it still connects itself to the pieces of the show that we remember and love.

Hannibal 3x08-2

Source: NBC

What also helps is the extremely tactful way that Dolarhyde is approached as a serial killer.  We know that he is targeting entire families and that he kills on the full moon.  We know that he targets the women by placing mirror fragments over their eyes, mouth, and genitals.  And we know that he is in some way trying to take the beast-like component of himself and merge that with his identity.  He’s constantly grappling with a psychosis that causes him an immense amount of discomfort, as his inhumanity is constantly battling his human form.  He’s presented in a very subtle way, never speaking a word, further emphasizing his disconnect with reality and humanity.  And his characterization instantly makes him worthy of interest, a killer wrestling with something that isn’t simply insanity.  He’s a person that wants to become what he feels inside of him.

Hannibal 3x08-3

Source: NBC

We get quick reintroduction to the rest of the show’s characters as well.  Dr. Chilton and Alana both see Hannibal, who is locked up in a psychiatric ward, clinically deemed insane.  Hannibal is able to enter his memory palace at will, his mind effectively free while his body lies imprisoned.  He’s still portrayed as a menacing figure, as he is really only imprisoned of his own accord, and he promises to exact violence against those around him.  Will, on the other hand, has forgotten about Hannibal, living his new life with Molly and his step-child, straying away from the world of evil and violence that Jack still involves himself in.  But when Jack forces Will back into that world, and Will sees for himself the level of evil he’s involving himself with, it’s decided that Hannibal should be consulted.  Will is looking for a way to reconnect with his darker side in a way that allows him to harness it rather than be controlled by it, and he knows that he might be able to use Hannibal as a resource now that he can engage and disengage from him at will.

This is a great starting point for the second half of the season.  The Red Dragon storyline has an abundance of source material to draw from, and the beauty of the violence is still a focal point that is mined for great returns (that shot with Will and the blood splatter strings as wings was remarkable).  With only five episodes left in the series, instead of drawing out the Italy arc, Hannibal is pressing forward and starting something entirely new.  And the end of the series is so much better for it, feeling fresh and invigorating instead of drawn out.  Bring on the Red Dragon.

What do you think of the Dolarhyde plot?  Is it as interesting as the first half of the season?  Let me know in the comments!

Michael St. Charles

is just a Michigan State University grad who loves a good story. If he’s not off teaching the young ones how to solve quadratic functions or to write an expository essay, he’s watching old-school HBO shows, indie horror movies, or he’s playing Resident Evil 4.

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