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Last week I mentioned that I was a bit worried regarding whether Bryan Fuller would be able to successfully translate the “Red Dragon” story to screen, in light of only having six episodes to develop the Francis Dolarhyde character, as well as introduce several other new faces to the Hannibal canvass. But “The Great Red Dragon” proved that, once again, Fuller has everything under control. Wow. What an excellent episode, with enough exposition to set up the Tooth Fairy as a monstrous villain (and one much better suited to the world of network television, as Chilton aptly points out to Hannibal in a great dig at the suits of NBC) and a look at what the new dynamic between Will and Hannibal will be moving forward.
Having watched both film adaptations of Thomas Harris’s “Red Dragon” novel (and having read the book as well), I’m incredibly excited to experience Fuller’s version of the story. Unlike in the other tellings of the the tale, Hannibal has given us the gift of Will and Hannibal’s deep, emotional relationship. In all other versions of the story, that relationship is barely explored and really only a footnote within the tale. Here, we know Will and Hannibal. We know the murky relationship between them- the love they both share for each other, built on the knowledge that there is no one else in the world who can understand them. Those layers are crucial to this arc, knowing what is to come (which, I presume, a large portion of the viewing audience does at this point).
More importantly, we know how Will has struggled to escape the world of Hannibal Lecter. He has run as far as he can run, started a new life with a family. He doesn’t want to risk his mind, both in empathizing with the victims at crime scenes and in spending time in the world of Hannibal. It’s clear that his wife, Molly, is the perfect woman for him (played by the wonderful Nina Arianda), as she understands the demons he is running from but knows the great heart that lies within Will. Her willingness to let him go and join the investigation, even if it means a broken man returns, provides Will with a touchstone as he reenters the darkness. This lighter, more engaged man we see at the start of the episode is a Will I truly hope doesn’t get lost in the darkness, but we can all feel the weight of the choice he made to get back in the game and we know how badly this could become.
Outside of setting up Will’s internal conflicts, the episode managed to provide another truly masterful stroke of storytelling: Fuller and Richard Armitage (who is playing Dolarhyde) created a full and complex character without a single line of dialogue. Think back on the episode. Dolarhyde does not speak a single word, but by the episode’s close, we know who and what he is. We understand that he believes himself to be the reincarnation of the Great Red Dragon. That he has gone to great physical lengths to become this beast. Sure, the character will be further fleshed out as the season continues, and he will eventually speak, but the silence surrounding this monster makes him all the more formidable an adversary for Will and Hannibal. After all, what makes Hannibal into the monster that he is is his ability to charm those around him with words and wit. This is an entirely new kind of killer. It was a truly inspired decision by Fuller to introduce us to this villain without and speeches or grandstanding (and, even without much exposition provided by other characters discussing who he might be). Kudos all around on this one.
Now that our players are in their places (Will back on the scent of another killer, Hannibal once again working with his other half, Chilton and Alana working side-by-side as Hannibal’s jailors, and Dolarhyde beginning his reign of terror), we have five more weeks of Hannibal to see how this adaptation of “Red Dragon” plays out. Seeing this brilliant start, I have the utmost faith it will be the epic and stunning ending the series deserves.
— There was a foreboding reference to Freddie Lounds. It appears she is sniffing around the Buffalo morgue looking to get a photo of the deceased family. She miraculously survived Hannibal the first time around, I can’t imagine that her luck will hold on this go round.
— Interesting conversation between Chilton and Alana in their office (or, what I presume is their office and not just Alana’s). It appears both lied on the stand to get Hannibal declared mentally incompetent, which saved his life and gave them both the chance to continue trying the understand him. Although, seeing as Hannibal did promise to kill Alana at some future point (and he always keeps his promises), I’m not sure if that was the best choice for Alana.
— After spending so much time with vivid colors surrounding the series, it was a shock to see the new muted colors for Dolarhyde. He was bathed in whites, blacks, and sepia tones throughout. Even the coloring in his tattoo wasn’t as vivid as Hannibal’s personal palette. Very interesting.
— Since it will likely be the last time it will happen, I just wanted to say how lovely it was to see Will laugh. Happy Will is a great Will.