Nick Antosca, Steve Lightfoot, Bryan Fuller
Mads Mikkelsen, Hugh Dancy, Caroline Dhavernas, Laurence Fishburne, Raul Esparza, Nina Arianda, Richard Armitage
NOTE: REVIEW CONTAINS POSSIBLE SPOILERS
Last time, I mentioned how “Digestivo” felt like the official ending to Season 2. A week later that feeling remains because “The Great Red Dragon” could easily work as the first episode of a completely new season as Hannibal changes gears from a globe-trotting thriller back into an exciting police procedural. Plus, the inclusion of Francis Dolarhyde—aka The Tooth Fairy—ensures that things will be far from repetitive.
Three years have passed since the events of the previous episode. In that time, Will has gotten married to a woman named Molly (Nina Arianda) and achieved some well-deserved peace. Well-deserved, but short-lived when Jack Crawford comes to him begging for assistance in tracking the aforementioned Tooth Fairy, whose begun massacring entire families. Will is naturally reticent until Molly persuades him to lend a hand. The gifted empath begins his investigation, quickly realizing that he’s going to need guidance from the last person he wants to see: Hannibal Lecter!
As much as I’ve enjoyed this season so far, I’m glad everything has returned to “normal” and that the characters are together again. Their interactions are what keep the show infinitely entertaining. Hannibal might be incarcerated now, but it does nothing to diminish his involvement. Mentally speaking, he’s not even in prison. Several scenes juxtapose reality with fantasy to reveal that Hannibal is coping with his predicament from inside his “memory palace.” This is a callback to something he one told Will: “If I’m ever apprehended, my memory palace will serve as more than a mnemonic system. I will live there.”
Initially, I couldn’t decide how to feel about Francis Dolarhyde’s debut. He doesn’t say a word throughout the entire episode and spends most of his screentime doing very little (besides acting creepy). Now, that’s not a slight against Richard Armitage, he is perfectly cast both in terms of physicality and acting chops. After seeing him as Thorin Oakenshield in The Hobbit Trilogy, I knew his natural intensity would lend itself to the role. I guess I was just expecting more backstory. However, that’s when I realized that my ambivalent reaction was actually the point!
Other characters like Will Graham or Jack Crawford engage the viewer and provide a relatable viewpoint. Francis Dolarhyde, on the other hand, gives us absolutely nothing. He is barely human. He alienates the viewer in the same way that he is alienated from the rest of the world and we experience the frustration of trying to understand such a deranged person. Like a beast in a cage, Dolarhyde can only be observed from the outside as he snarls and paces behind the bars.
Lecter and Dolarhyde are opposite sides of the same coin, calculating elegance versus wild savagery. Like Dr. Chilton tells Hannibal: “…you with your fancy allusions and your fussy aesthetics, you will always have niche appeal, but this fellow, there is something so universal about what he does.” It’s humorous the way he describes the two psychopaths as if they were film directors or musicians. Human beings are strangely compelled to romanticize everything, even the worst parts of life.
That bizarre phenomenon explains why Hannibal Lecter is such a popular character. He is a “commercial mass murderer.” Yes, he might cannibalize his fellow man, but he’s also educated, classy and attractive. Plus, unlike our villain: Dolarhyde, Hannibal never kills children. He mainly targets the rude and that makes him endearing in a twisted sort of way because, let’s face it, nobody likes rude people! Those details cause us to forget that Hannibal is a soulless monster wearing what Bedelia calls a “person-suit.” He doesn’t just manipulate characters in the show, he manipulates our perception too! And in spite of knowing all that, we still love him anyway!
Right now it’s uncertain which side Hannibal is going to be playing for. Will he help out his gaggle of assorted frenemies or the budding serial killer? If had to take a guess, I bet the good doctor is going to end up playing both ends against the middle!
OUT OF 5
Season Three changes gears nicely with “The Great Red Dragon,” featuring new characters and the return of old favorites. It’s not a terribly eventful episode, but the tragic slaying of the Leeds family lends substantial narrative weight to the proceedings.
+ Crime-related drama
+ The Tooth Fairy
+ Ingenious visual effects
– Primarily build-up