Mark Watches ‘Hannibal’: S03E08 – The Great Red Dragon

In the eighth episode of the third season of Hannibal, NOW I KNOW THINGS AND I THINK I’M READY BUT I’M PROBABLY NOT. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Hannibal. 

Trigger Warning: For blood/gore, discussion of mental illness and ableism, abuse.

Since this show has always been willing to toy with the canon universe, I still find the introduction of the Red Dragon story to be invigorating. I read the book long before the film came out, though I never got a chance to watch Manhunter. (I’ve heard it’s quite good, so maybe one day I’ll get around to it.) But I’m so fascinated that this show is putting the events in Thomas Harris’s universe into a new order, with Red Dragon coming last. It’s such a cool idea! Lecter is now imprisoned for his murders as the Chesapeake Ripper, but Freddie Lounds has a new role in the story. Will Graham can still seek out Lecter for help in catching the Tooth Fairy, but there’s now two-and-a-half seasons’ worth of material to build Graham’s characterization. When he expresses reluctance to get involved again, it means SO MUCH MORE.

I know the general story. I know why Francis Dolarhyde does what he does. (Does that mean Reba needs to show up at some point?) And I know how this will affect Will’s life. EXCEPT I DON’T. There are five episodes left after this one, and that means that the show can do whatever the hell they want. I don’t know if Molly Graham will play the same role or if she has a different fate. The presence of Alana Bloom as the head of the hospital where Lecter is kept is a HUGE change, one I’m eager to see play out. AND WHAT OF FREDDIE LOUNDS? Or Chilton??? The possibilities are endless!

So for me, that’s where part of the excitement comes from. I’m familiar with canon, and I’m curious to see if this has the same story beats as Red Dragon. At the same time, there are probably a lot of people who haven’t read any of the original novels or watched the many films that make up this universe. Does the story still work? Is it still creepy and upsetting? Does this allow the writers to change things to suit their needs, and how does that affect our perception of these characters?

I ask those questions because I’m really interested to see if this show follows Dolarhide’s story. Now, I’m largely going to avoid outright stating what I know to happen in the original canon, both here in these reviews and on video. I want newbies to be surprised! But Dolarhide’s character always made me feel weird because I thought Harris had done a disservice to mental illness and to victims of abuse. This character hits so many ableist tropes all by himself that it made Red Dragon my least favorite of the Hannibal Lecter novels. That’s not to say that mental illness can’t come out of abuse because HELLO, WELCOME TO ME, HI EVERYONE. But Dolarhyde is a character who does monstrous, horrible things as a response to his abuse.

How much of that will still exist here? Richard Armitage’s portrayal of Dolarhyde feels more pained, and we get a sense of how badly he’s suffering. At the same time, Fuller and company don’t ignore the horrific things this man does. That first crime scene sequence is SERIOUSLY INTENSE, though I’ll address another reason for its intensity in a bit. Dolarhyde destroys families through his acts. But why? Will his grandmother be here, too?

I don’t know, and whatever issues I might have with the text, I’m also fine admitting that this episode was an exciting surprise. Once I saw the cover of that TIME magazine that Dolarhyde read, I KNEW I WAS IN FOR A TREAT. I was certainly curious about how much time had passed since “Digestivo” (three years) and what all the characters were up to. (Jack’s still at the FBI, Alana TOOK CHILTON’S JOB, Chilton is still sleazy but he’s published, and ZELLER AND PRICE ARE INDEED ALIVE. We have no idea what they’ve been up to but I MISSED THEM A GREAT DEAL.) Yet the glimpse of Will Graham’s life that we get is the most crushing thing here. He has a wife, an eleven-year-old son through marriage, and LOADS OF DOGS. People leave strays at his house. That’s how well-known he is for his dogs! He’s far from everything on purpose, and when Jack Crawford shows up to drag him back into the world of profiling, he understandably refuses. Why would he want to return? Why tempt himself again? And really, that’s how I saw this. Will knew how bad things got when he immersed himself in that kind of thinking before.

I got why Crawford needed Will, I understood why Molly rationalized that need, and I think there wasn’t much of a choice here. Will most likely would have been consumed by guilt if he’d not taken the case. But that doesn’t make this experience less unsettling. Watching Will return to what he used to do was disturbing, sure. The murder scene was a bloody nightmare, y’all! But the very thought that he’ll have to play Hannibal’s mind games in order to track down the Tooth Fairy scares me. I don’t know that Will can resist him again, not after what he’s been through. Are we gonna get a ton of Silence of the Lambs vibes from their scenes together? PROBABLY.

I love how not ready I am for this.

The video for “The Great Red Dragon” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

– I will be at numerous conventions in 2016! Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches will be Death Note and Neon Genesis Evangelion. On Mark Reads, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series will replace the Emelan books.
- Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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