Hannibal 3×12 ‘The Number of the Beast is 666’: “You owe me awe”

Hannibal 3x12 Cover

Countless television shows explore the struggle within a person as they fight against their worst impulses.  Breaking Bad was entirely about Walter White trying to assert that his actions were for his family, when he kept leaning closer and closer to his darkest impulses.  Mad Men was about Don Draper trying to find his way in the world, when he continually self-destructed through his womanizing behavior.  The Sopranos was about those closest to Tony Soprano desperately trying to evade dark impulses that were fostered by his presence.  And Hannibal works the same way, with Will Graham trying to push back against his darkest impulses, only to have them unhinged by the manipulation of those around him.

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Source: NBC

“The Number of the Beast is 666” shows Dolarhyde and Graham escalating the stakes, with Dolarhyde lashing out after being insulted and Graham feeling the pressure to embrace his darker tendencies after Dolarhyde’s vicious attack.  Will has spent the majority of the season’s second half trying to quell his violent side, putting others in harm’s way in order to divert attention from him.  In an attempt to draw Dolarhyde out of hiding, the FBI decides to enrage him with an article in Freddie Lounds’s TattleCrime site.  Chilton is decided as the mouthpiece of the article, with the unspoken agreement that he would be best as collateral damage if something were to happen.  Alana could have been the mouthpiece, but she knew it would put her in danger.  And Will provoked Dolarhyde with vicious and degrading comments, putting his hand on Chilton in their picture in order to tag him as the inferior one, the target.

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Source: NBC

Will’s subtle manipulation here functions on two levels, as discussed within his conversation with DuMaurier.  He wants to evade the wrath of the Red Dragon, simply because he doesn’t want to have to respond by unleashing his violent self as well.  As he gets closer to the Red Dragon and closer to Hannibal, he sees his family dying, and he sees himself committing violence.  He’s been Jack’s tool for the duration of the series, but never before have we seen him so impacted by that manipulation.  But more than that, Will throwing Chilton in the line of fire satisfied his sick curiosity to see what the Red Dragon might do.  Will has had this curiosity for the entire series, and even though it was most thoroughly explored in the second half of the second season, here we see him even more excited about the viciousness and brutality that another killer can create.  With Will described by Hannibal as the “Lamb”, and with Dolarhyde coming at Will next, the finale looks to contend with whether Will completes his transformation as well, becoming the lion he knows that he is.

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Source: NBC

The bulk of the episode dealt with Dolarhyde nearly completing his transformation after being pushed by Lounds’ story, and it was one of the most satisfying sequences the show has had to offer.  Chilton is punished for his lack of respect for the Red Dragon, first through a re-education of sorts that has Chilton seeing images of the Dragon’s victims.  The iconic image of Dolarhyde standing in front of the projector as the Red Dragon illuminates his back is haunting, and Chilton’s fear is played up for maximum effect.  Lastly, after Chilton records a message for Graham, he has his lips bitten off (in graphic detail) and is lit on fire and rolled down a hill into a fountain.  And, of course, because Chilton is the cockroach of the series, he survives the ordeal, even though he has third degree burns all over his body.  Before I go on, I want to emphasize how extreme that lip-biting scene was, not only because it was one of the most graphic scenes the series has had to offer, but also because it was immensely effective after fifteen minutes of Dolarhyde psychologically torturing Chilton.  Their scene together was the highlight of the episode, and a great way to showcase Dolarhyde’s near-complete transition into becoming The Great Red Dragon.

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Source: NBC

If anything, the FBI’s failed plan to draw Dolarhyde out of hiding (as they thought they he would go after Will) helped to solidify his transition into The Great Red Dragon.  In having to assert his identity and defend his name in front of Chilton, he embraced his identity as the Dragon and was able to commit the violence necessary to move forward towards his destiny.  However, he still wasn’t able to kill Reba, even though he kidnapped her and revealed himself to her.  There is still a part of him that clings to his humanity, though it shouldn’t be for long, now that the FBI knows exactly who Reba is and can use her to find him.

With one episode left until what seems to be the show’s series finale, Hannibal is on one amazing hot streak.  The Red Dragon episodes have been some of the best of the series, expertly using all of the characters in a way that adds to the overall picture and showcases Armitage’s incredible talent as Dolarhyde.  Now, the hope is that this final episode can wrap up the show in a way that closes the entire series, leaving it in a way that feels satisfying.  And considering how pristine this season has been so far, we should be in for an amazing finale.

What did you think of “The Number of the Beast is 666”?  How awesome was the lip-biting scene?  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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