Hannibal 3×09 ‘…And the Woman Clothed With the Sun’: Family ties

Hannibal 3x09 Cover

These final six episodes of Hannibal are focusing on the one most important theme of the series: family.  Family consists entirely of relationships, of the connection between people, and while we are related by blood to them, familial bonds are really forged from emotions, from the long-standing ties that family members are forced to make.  And, inevitably, family members hurt each other, as being so close to another person means knowing exactly what weaknesses they have, knowing exactly how to exploit them to your benefit.  Those who love the most, hate the most in equal measure.  And those who help the most, hurt the most in equal measure.

Hannibal 3x09-4

Source: NBC

And this is what “…And the Woman Clothed With the Sun” asserts, that family is built on pain as much as it is built on happiness.  Alana and Margot are still together, Alana having had a “Verger baby” by using Mason’s sperm to produce the Verger heir.  They seem content, though their relationship is built on the pain that they had to incur on Mason and on others at Muskrat Farm.  Interestingly, and somewhat admirably, Alana’s bisexuality is never something that is dwelled upon or even really discussed, and it points to the way that Fuller really wants to create an equal standing for women and men.  But that small detail about Alana’s life three years later goes to show how family, no matter the closeness, has a history in pain as well as love.

Hannibal 3x09-1

Source: NBC

Dolarhyde’s existence is defined by family as well, by the closeness that he wants so badly in those he calls family as well as the distance that his desire brings him.  Dolarhyde kills families, Will says, because those families are happy, and it makes sense that the murders are meant to destroy that which he desires so intently.  Last week, I talked about the humanity that Dolarhyde is trying to shed in order to become the Great Red Dragon, and this week continues to show his agony in that shedding.  He experiences a great deal of pain when the beast in his mind contorts him into wanting to commit more violence, but as we see from his desire to be closer to his blind co-worker Reba, his humanity isn’t something he wholeheartedly wants to shed.  He wants to experience the happiness of connection as well, even if he denies himself the fullness of that connection because of the beast that courses through him as well.  These conflicting forces are quickly taking an already fascinating character and making him even more compelling, and Dolarhyde’s final conversation with Hannibal makes it clear that he’s going to continue to sink further into his beast-like state.

Hannibal 3x09-2

Source: NBC

But for all this talk about family, the most compelling relationship is still Will and Hannibal, who operate as a family in that they once cared deeply about each other and are now so closely connected that there’s really no separating the two.  They’ll be close forever, and even when one of them dies, their memory will live on in the other.  The dialogue between the two of them is still fascinating in that it constantly recalls the dynamic between them, Hannibal poking and prodding about Will’s personal life and Will trying to put up defenses only to constantly have them shattering faster than he puts them up.  Hannibal’s help is certainly assisting Will in understanding Dolarhyde, but it also places Will in a vulnerable position, as he constantly has to take on Dolarhyde’s point of view in order to retain any sort of insight.  It hurts Will so much that he wakes up sweating in the middle of the night, trying to breathe through the panic of his desire to commit violence again.  He and Hannibal have committed so much violence together that the history of that violence can never be extricated from the relationship, and it shows in the pain Will feels from their connection.

Hannibal 3x09-3

Source: NBC

Most interestingly, though, is the connection that the episode draws between Will’s new family and Hannibal’s relationship with Abigail.  Hannibal tells Will of his desire and attempt to give Will a family, and how Will threw it away in not embracing the makeshift family that Hannibal tried to create for them.  Here, we’re treated to flashbacks that aren’t necessary for the plot, but do a great job taking the theme of family and showing how much family can cause pain.  Hannibal’s relationship with Abigail, while built on Hannibal’s desire to give his gift to her, is also built around taking from her, piece by piece, until she’s a shell of a human being to be discarded at his whim.  He takes her blood, her ear, her freedom, and then her life, doing all of it under the belief that he’s helping her.  The connection of family ties can be seemingly loving and pure, but can also quickly morph into abuse and pain.  Nowhere is that more evident than the way that Hannibal uses and discards Abigail, even if he believes that he loved her like a daughter and wanted Will as a part of their family.

Hannibal only has another four episodes left in the series, and while these back six episodes don’t quite feel like the end of the series, they’re working wonderfully to explore a new dynamic for the characters, showing how they both help and harm each other in equal measure.  What makes these final episodes feel especially important is that they’re exploring the theme of family with more emphasis than ever before, which is a great way to tie up the purpose of the series.  Hannibal has always been a show about relationships, about the way that people care about each other, but use that caring to exploit the other for their ruthless means.  Love and hate operate in equal measure.  Selflessness and selfishness operate in equal measure.  And as much as we would love to divorce the two, purity and corruption have to co-exist in all that we see,

So what did you think of “…And the Woman Clothed With the Sun”?  Do you think that the series will end on a relatively definitive note?  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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