Don Mancini and Bryan Fuller
Mads Mikkelsen, Hugh Dancy, Gillian Anderson, Rutina Wesley, Richard Armitage
NOTE: REVIEW CONTAINS POSSIBLE SPOILERS
At first glance, it may seem like I’ve made a mistake and accidentally repeated last week’s title. They are very similar, (much like the William Blake paintings that inspired them), but this one reads “clothed in sun,” as opposed to “clothed with the sun.” It’s obvious that Reba McClane is the titular “Woman” to Francis Dolarhyde’s “Red Dragon.” In a way, that same parallel could be made between Hannibal Lecter and Bedelia Du Maurier. After all, every “artist” needs his muse. This episode, however, finally lifts the veil on Dr. Du Maurier and reveals that she is no damsel in distress!
“…And the Woman Clothed in Sun,” picks up almost immediately where its predecessor ended, with Dolarhyde speaking to Hannibal over the phone. After that, he takes Reba to the zoo so she can pet a sedated tiger which leads to the two of them becoming intimate. Meanwhile, Will seeks out Bedelia and they discuss Hannibal in her office. She tells him about Frank (Zachary Quinto), the unlucky patient that led her to the infamous cannibal. Lastly, Dolarhyde goes to the museum where he gains access to the original copy of The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun… and eats it. Will encounters him there by complete accident and a brief scuffle ensues, but the notorious Tooth Fairy manages to escape.
“I knew that you alone would understand this,” Dolarhyde tells Hannibal during their hallucinatory conversation. Understanding is the crux of the entire series. Serial killers are arrogant by nature, and arrogance feeds on validation to survive. Like a petulant child, they lash out against the world in the most despicable way possible so it will have no choice pay them attention. Their desire to be known—however subconscious—is what allows Will Graham to catch them. Hannibal’s complicated friendship with Will was founded upon their mutual need for understanding.
The scene where Reba touches the sleeping tiger is a perfect analogy for her increasingly physical relationship with the Toothy Fairy. Dolarhyde also wanted Reba to understand him. Of course, he can’t just tell her what he is point-blank, so by taking Reba to the tiger he was metaphorically introducing her to his inner-self. That’s why Dolarhyde reacted so strongly when she got close to the big cat’s teeth. He doesn’t want to kill Reba, and yet by allowing her to get close him personally, he is pulling her dangerously close to his own set of gaping jaws. Something Bedelia says during her lecture on Hannibal Lecter corresponds with this event and becomes a keynote for the entire episode: “Before Dante we spoke not of the Gates of Hell but the Mouth of Hell. My journey to damnation began when I was swallowed by the beast.”
It’s not explained in this episode, but Reba is the reason that Dolarhyde devours the William Blake painting. In Thomas Harris’ book, he believes that eating The Red Dragon’s original source will give him the necessary power to defy his malevolent alter ego and spare her life. I’ve always considered Dolarhyde’s story to be more than a crime thriller, it’s also a romantic tragedy. If Dolarhyde had just met Reba a few months earlier, he might have never transformed into a monster.
Will and Bedelia’s lengthy exchange is the highlight of “…And the Woman Clothed in Sun.” The barbed words they fling at one another are both insightful and frequently hilarious. Bedelia Du Maurier has been a conundrum since her first appearance. Now, three episodes before Hannibal ends, we finally get some answers! At one point, she asks Will what he would think if he saw a wounded bird. His answer is “It’s vulnerable. I want to help it.” Bedelia responds icily with: “My first thought is also that it’s vulnerable. And yet, I want to crush it. A primal rejection of weakness which is every bit as natural as the nurturing instinct. Of course, I wouldn’t crush it, but my first thought is to do just that.”
It would be easy to define Bedelia as a sociopath, but I don’t think it’s quite that simple. Unlike your average sociopath, she is capable of compassion. However, it’s an abnormal variant that causes her to care about someone like Hannibal. “I can’t blame him for doing what evolution has equipped him to do,” she tells Will. To her, Dr. Lecter is no more evil than a lion or a shark. Bedelia Du Maurier may not be crazy, or actively desire to commit murder, but she is broken in some imperceptible way. She has an aversion to the weak and the defenseless.
I think Hannibal sent Frank to Bedelia for the same reason he does anything: curiosity. He wanted to put her in the perfect situation to act on her warped instincts, and see if she would take the bait. Sure enough, instead of trying to save her choking patient, she “crushes” him like the hypothetical bird. This lack of morality comes with a strange wisdom all its own as evidenced when she warns Will not to repeat his mistakes with Francis Dolarhyde: “The next time you have an instinct to help someone, you might consider crushing them instead. It might save you a great deal of trouble.”
OUT OF 5
Hannibal dives headfirst into the dark depths of humanity with “…And the Woman Clothed in Sun” to exhume quality television. Much like one of William Blake’s paintings, it is visually striking and supercharged with eroticism and terror.
+ Gillian Anderson
+ Overarching motifs
+ “Biting” humor
+ Thrilling ending