Monday, September 28, 2015

RECAP: Hannibal 3x12 and 3x13 - This Is How I Go

Quick reminder that Kyla Furey of Feedback Force did Hannibal recaps for us because she is awesome.

I’m sorry everyone. I know I’ve owed you these last two recaps for a while. To be honest, I think I’ve just been bummed out that the show ended. I went through something similar at the end of the second season, and this time it’s so much worse because there’s no season 4 to look forward to (at least, not as it currently stands).

There has never been anything else on television like this show. It’s pretty much a miracle that it lasted as long as it did, given the current state of network television. And while there is a vague hope still for a movie some day or something along those lines, the fact of the matter is that my very favorite show has ended, and the world of fictional narratives is a less interesting place for it.

If you’re reading these recaps to get a general idea of what NBC’s version of Hannibal is like, I encourage you to go back and watch from the beginning. The first two seasons are on DVD already and (I believe) Amazon Prime, and it’s worth your time to check it out. The show is haunting, beautiful, bizarre, and a reminder of what true creativity and talent look like when they come together.

In the end, I’m not going to pretend that season 3 was the show’s finest hour, that it ended at its peak - I think it was about on par with the first season, but not as good as the second. It suffered a lot from pacing issues, such as when they didn’t have the budget to do the European segment as long as they wanted, or when they tried to cram the entire Red Dragon story arc into the back half of a single season. And I think the Red Dragon arc in particular could have benefited from sticking less closely to the book. 

But even at its worst, I would still pick this show above pretty much anything else. Even at its most awkwardly-paced, its most cheesy effects, this show was still unlike any other. Even its mistakes were generally better than other people’s mistakes, and often better than other people’s best efforts. (Can you tell I’ve gotten pretty cynical about the state of modern television?)

But enough gushing. You’re here for a recap, so let’s recap. The final two episodes of NBC’s Hannibal, here we go:

We begin with Will in therapy, trying to cope with his upturned life after Hannibal set the Red Dragon on Will’s family. He discusses the events with Bedelia. His old life is tainted with death now, as Hannibal taints everything. They discuss their respective relationships with Hannibal, and the unspoken truth finally becomes spoken:

“Is Hannibal in love with me?” Will asks.

Yes, Bedelia assures him. But the true question remains: is Will in love with Hannibal? He doesn’t answer.

A plan comes into focus in this episode, albeit a terrible one - use Chilton and Freddie Lounds to bait the Red Dragon into the open. They’ll write an article badmouthing the Dragon in an attempt to get him to strike. Chilton agrees because he’s a self-obsessed idiot*, and pays the price for it.

So they write an article. Chilton holds forth in a Chilton-esque manner, and Will embellishes as only someone whose superpower is getting under the skin of others could. Freddie takes a picture of the two of them together, and Chilton’s fate is sealed. You don’t antagonize a dragon without expecting to get burned.

The plan, theoretically, was for the Dragon to go after Will, but of course he attacks Chilton instead, killing Chilton’s protection detail and kidnapping the man himself. Dolarhyde is, well, basically in the state they wanted him to be - incredibly pissed off. He intimidates the hell out of Chilton, ranting and carrying on, but they’re interrupted in the middle of said intimidation by the arrival of Reba McClane. 

The scene is interesting and incredibly tense (since Chilton is in the room with Reba but has been scared into silence, and she can’t see him because she’s blind), and it indicates to the audience that Dolarhyde has not yet completed excised that part of his life.

Unfortunately for Chilton, however, the respite is brief. Dolarhyde continues as soon as Reba leaves. He glues Chilton to a wheelchair, rants at him, forces him to record a video recanting what he said, bites off the man’s lips, and then sets him on fire.**

Yup, literally sets him on fire. And then sends off his wheelchair to crash into a fountain, so he doesn’t burn to death, exactly, but he’s in pretty atrocious shape when Jack and Will interview him in the hospital later. He doesn’t exactly have much skin left, for instance.

Dolarhyde mails Hannibal Chilton’s ripped-off lips in prison. Hannibal eats one of them immediately upon opening the package, resulting in him being restrained, but he still looks inordinately pleased with himself about it regardless, positively giddy really.***

Will watches the video that Chilton was forced to record, where the Dragon threatens Will very specifically via Chilton as a mouthpiece before performing the aforementioned lip-biting-off. Will takes it quite poorly, obviously more inside the moment of Chilton’s disfigurement than he wants to be. Once again his angst brings him to discuss his pain with Bedelia, and she forces him to admit what he already knows; that he knew what would happen to Chilton (or at least what might), that he was curious and did it anyway. That he is as at least as much Hannibal’s agent in the world as Dolarhyde is.

Chilton’s burned near-corpse is fortunately still aware enough to share information about Reba with Jack and Will, pointing them towards the Dragon’s true identity. But it’s too late - Dolarhyde has already kidnapped her. He reveals his true nature to her, and on that terrifying note episode 12 ends.

Episode 13 picks up where 12 left off, with Reba in the Dragon’s lair. She’s terrified, and he’s crazy, and at first it plays out basically like you would expect it to. He gives her a test to see if she can be trusted, she fails by trying to escape, and he sets the house on fire. Then he shoots himself in the face with a shotgun, killing himself rather than watch her burn, which is very much not the way I had expected the episode to begin.

Of course it turns out later that he actually faked the whole thing to make her think he was dead. But it was still pretty damn startling at the time. She survives the ordeal, making it out of the burning house, and the next (and last) we see of her she’s in a hospital bed, talking to Will Graham. They commiserate over what it’s like to be in relationships with psychopaths.

Overall, I’m pretty disappointed with how Reba’s story ended, to be honest. I would have liked for her to have a little more agency, a little bit more to do. She was still an interesting character, but I think woefully underused. Unfortunately there wasn’t time in the rushed pace of the Red Dragon arc to do anything more with her.

Will and Hannibal meet again to say goodbye, but it seems somewhat bittersweet. Hannibal was hoping there’d be more death involved. He knows that Will can’t really go home again, much as he’ll try, that this experience has permanently stained his relationship with his wife, and says as much. In a frankly pissy retort, Will drops a bombshell as he’s leaving - he knew that by rejecting Hannibal, Hannibal would turn himself in. It’s hard to tell what Hannibal’s exact reaction to this news is, but I imagine he must be proud of Will for his skillful manipulation.

The Dragon, of course, is not as dead as one might have hoped, and attacks Will in his hotel room that night. He doesn’t kill him though - just knocks him out and threatens him. Will, however, utilizes his great experience in speaking with psychopaths to quote Hannibal and relate himself to the Dragon. Eventually he talks Dolarhyde around into going after Hannibal. Because Will’s persuasive like that.

Once again, the FBI hatches an incredibly stupid plan. They’ll use Hannibal this time to draw out the Dragon, pretending he’s escaped. Because Dolarhyde wants Hannibal, and they want Dolarhyde, so...****

We get a final scene with Will and Bedelia. She is aware that Will wants to bring Hannibal back out, and is furious. It’s not perfectly clear what Will’s intent here is. “I don’t intend Hannibal to be caught a second time,” he says to Bedelia. His plan with the FBI is to use Hannibal to draw out Dolarhyde and capture them both. His plan with Jack and Alana is to kill first the Dragon and then Hannibal. But his real plan, his plan for himself? What exactly is Will’s endgame?

Alana comes to speak with Hannibal about this faked escape. He has always intended to kill her, and they both know it. He makes sure she knows it - threatening Margot and their son along with Alana. In the end though, Hannibal agrees to the plan, but only if Will comes to ask him in person. Will agrees, and the two of them dance around each other in the same dance they’ve always done, Will’s motives as questionable now as they’ve been since the beginning of the season. The plan is set in motion. Which one, exactly, remains to be seen.

They escort Hannibal away in a cage in the back of a police van, along with Will, and a number of police escort vehicles, but of course they don’t get very far. Dolarhyde ambushes the convoy, kills all the police, and tips the van. Hannibal and Will stumble out, alive and surprisingly alone; Dolarhyde is gone. And Hannibal is, it seems, freer than was intended.

Hannibal nonchalantly dumps some corpses out of one of the police cars and offers Will a ride. Will gets into the car, and they’re off. We cut briefly to Alana and Margot, grabbing their son and getting the hell outta dodge - the last we see of them. At least as far as this incarnation of the series goes, they made it out alive. Good for them.

Will and Hannibal end up in what is apparently one of Hannibal’s hideouts; a beautiful glass house on the edge of a steep cliff overlooking the ocean. The place where he brought Miriam Lass, and Abigail. As soon as it comes into view, that bluff becomes Chekhov’s cliff. Someone, at some point, is going over the edge of it. There’s no chance of any other outcome.

The two men open a bottle of wine that evening and discuss their past, their future, and what to do about Dolarhyde, who is watching them at that very moment. Before they can even drink, Dolarhyde shoots Hannibal in the side, climbing in through the now-broken window in front of the cliff. For a moment it seems Will is just going to watch Hannibal die. But then Will goes for a gun, and Dolarhyde stabs him in the face, into his cheek. 

Thus begins an epic battle, blow after blow, Hannibal and Will versus the Red Dragon. Will is stabbed in the shoulder at one point, Hannibal and Will slice open Dolarhyde’s legs with an axe and the knife respectively, and finally it ends when Hannibal rips out Dolarhyde’s throat with his teeth while Will guts him, leaving the Dragon dead on the stone patio, bleeding out wings of crimson.*****

The scene that follows is poignant and heart-wrenching in its own way. The fight is the consummation of everything Hannibal and Will have been dancing around for three seasons. Everything Hannibal wanted Will to become, and everything Will was afraid to accept from Hannibal. Everything he was afraid Hannibal saw in him. It’s like we’ve been watching a will-they, won’t-they romance for years and finally the main couple gets together.

And so they embrace, on the edge of the cliff. “This is all I ever wanted for you, Will” Hannibal says. “For both of us.”

“It’s beautiful,” Will replies, resting his bloody face against Hannibal’s chest. And then he tumbles them both over the edge of the cliff and into the ocean.

The end. No really, that’s where the credits roll. There’s a brief post-credits scene of Bedelia sitting at the dinner table in front of the lavishly-prepared main course of her own leg and two empty chairs. Which leaves open the implication that the two men not only might have survived, but may be hunting together. It would have made for an amazing fourth season, if we were to get one.

Regardless, this is where the show left us, and where I must leave you. I’ll continue to maintain that this has been one of the best shows on TV, including HBO and other premium channels. This was a work of passion, driven by artists who clearly cared deeply about what they were making. 

I can only hope it inspires others to be as bold, as daring, and to take such creative risks. If this show could make it three seasons on network TV, then what else can we do? What other heights can we achieve, if someone is only willing to undertake the climb?

So I return you to the rest of your lives. Goodbye, my friends, and bon appetite.

* Also he’s in the throes of anger and jealousy towards Hannibal, more or less because Hannibal is just better than him. He’s trying to goad Hannibal by taking the spotlight off of him and focusing it elsewhere. Because Chilton is, as previously mentioned, a self-obsessed idiot.

** Kudos to Raul Esparza’s performance in this scene. He’s believably terrified out of his mind.

*** Possibly my favorite part of the episode. It’s so disturbing and ridiculous at the same time. Mads Mikkelsen can be really hilarious when he wants to be.

**** It’s unclear here if Will mentioned that he was attacked or not. He could easily be keeping it secret from the FBI, but I don’t think it actually makes a difference to the plot one way or another.

***** The end of this fight and the aftermath are underlaid by a custom-written pop song, which honestly felt rather out of place to me. I didn’t mind the song itself, and I get what they were going for with it, but it suddenly made the show feel much closer to what I’m used to on TV, which was somewhat disappointing. Pop music in the background is not this show’s style, and I’m a bit miffed they chose to end on that note.

Our favorite power couple gets away safe! Yay!
Kyla Furey is an independent game designer and writer. She is also one of the hosts of the game-analysis podcast, Feedback Force, and hosts a weekly Saturday night game livestream on Twitch TV. She enjoys the surreal and the moody in her media, hence her great love of NBC’s Hannibal. You can follow her on Twitter @Kyla_Go.