We began this journey around two and a half years ago–winter of 2013–and now it’s over. Stories, particularly ones for television, are often judged on their endings: for example, the (perceived) weakness of Lost’s finale has surely contributed to the loss of the show’s glow over the years.

Hannibal has it particularly tough with its final two episodes, as Bryan Fuller chose to adapt Red Dragon as the series’ final storyline. It’s a familiar story, yet (as I’ve said before) the differences between the show’s structure and the novel’s require radical changes to the story we think we all know. The Lecter of Red Dragon is a ghost, a manifestation of Thomas Harris’s thesis (expressed in the final paragraphs of the novel) that it’s not places that are haunted, but minds. By contrast, the show’s title character is a more vital presence, a fixture in Will Graham’s mind made all the more potent when he’s not physically present.

How will events play out for these versions of Will and Lecter?

Laurence Fishburne and Raúl Esparza star in "The Number of the Beast is 666."

Season 3, episode 12: “The Number of the Beast is 666” (Aug. 22, 2015)

“Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.” —Revelation 13:18 (KJV)

Guest stars: Richard Armitage, Rutina Wesley, Nina Arianda, Raúl Esparza, Lara Jean Chorostecki.

So I was kinda wrong in my last post, when I said we would see no more of Molly Graham. Nina Arianda has the briefest of cameos at the beginning of the penultimate episode of Hannibal, with shards of glass over her eyes. Will admits to Bedelia du Maurier–who he’s seeing for therapy now, because let’s face it, it’s the closest he’s gonna get to Hannibal Lecter–that he dreams of himself killing his family, and arranging the bodies like the Red Dragon’s victims. Stern stuff, that. Then he asks Bedelia if Hannibal is in love with him, to which she responds, “Are you in love with him?” except not in so many words. This is Hannibal, after all.

Anyway, on to this week’s cockamamie scheme to draw out the Red Dragon, and it’s one more thing that will be familiar if you’ve ever stood downwind from the original novel or one of the films it inspired. Will grants Freddie Lounds an interview badmouthing the Tooth Fairy to the gates of Hell and back: impotent, ugly, gay, the whole nine yards. The idea is to provoke the Dragon into attacking Will, and have the FBI capture him when he does.

Now, canonically, Dolarhyde doesn’t do that, he goes after Freddy Lounds instead: captures him, glues him to a wheelchair, gives him a big speech, and forces him to denounce Will Graham on tape. Then, for a finale, he bites off Lounds’s lips, sets him on fire and rolls him down Michigan Avenue or something at five in the morning.

In Red Dragon and Manhunter, it’s a poetic end to the opportunistic and amoral Lounds, whom Thomas Harris conceives almost as a background character from a film noir. The Freddie Lounds of Hannibal, while just as ethically ambitious, is a bit more sympathetic than her counterparts; anyway, Will pretended to set her on fire last year.

Luckily, Hannibal has a character ready to step in for Freddie. Will suggests Freddie’s piece will carry more weight if accompanied by a professional opinion. Alana Bloom declines, on the grounds that she’s not stupid. Cut to Hannibal Lecter’s quarters, where he’s engaged in a verbal fencing match with Dr. Frederick Chilton, who, as luck would have it, is in fact stupid.

Chilton does the interview, gets his photo taken with Will Graham, and ends up in Francis Dolarhyde’s sitting room in what could have been the silliest scene in the entire series but somehow manages to possibly be the strongest sequence the final season offers. Having ceased to fight the Dragon, Dolarhyde shifts into full-blown messianic mode, leaving Chilton to cravenly whimper and cower. It’s a testament to what Raúl Esparza brings to the role: Fuller’s conception of Chilton is an ambitious, incompetent, cowardly fool, but not one so entirely amoral that we can’t sympathize with what he does. So often Hannibal plays him as comic relief, only to have him suffer the tragic consequences of the machinations of others.

Lecter gleefully predicts his fate (well, almost–Chilton survives, barely), but Will can’t bring himself to feel bad for the man. In Red Dragon, when Lecter credits the death of Freddy Lounds as Will’s “first murder,” he’s doing it to psych him out. Here, it may not be necessary: Will near-as-damnit admits to it in conversation with Bedelia du Maurier. Either way, Chilton knows exactly who to blame for his current condition.

The hitch is, of course, Reba, who shows up in the middle of Dolarhyde’s “sermon,” with an offer of reconciliation. (Chilton, ever the good boy, doesn’t make a peep.) The episode ends with the two sharing each other’s company again, although it’s less than consensual on Reba’s part…

“666” is a fantastic episode that stands well on its own, particularly for the Dolarhyde/Chilton scenes, along with setting things up for the finale.

Mads Mikkelsen stars in "The Wrath of the Lamb."

Season 3, episode 13: “The Wrath of the Lamb” (Aug. 29, 2015)

“…Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” —Revelation 6:16-17 (KJV)

Guest stars: Aaron Abrams, Scott Thompson, Richard Armitage, Rutina Wesley, Raúl Esparza, Katharine Isabelle.

In many ways, “The Wrath of the Lamb” is about faking it. It starts with Dolarhyde staging his own suicide–that’s what the whole laborious thing with Reba is about. Later, he pays a visit to Will, expressing an interest in meeting Hannibal Lecter, and not to get his autograph. The cannibal betrayed him; he wants revenge. Lucky him, he found someone with that in common.

This is the point where Will decides it would be a capital idea to fake Lecter’s escape to draw Dolarhyde out. Astonishingly enough, Jack and Alana agree to this. Of course, things don’t go entirely as planned, even if the showdown between Hannibal, Will, and Dolarhyde at le maison Lecter is preordained.

In between are a lot of great little bits: final appearances from Price and Zeller (as always, impatiently waiting for the other to finish his sentence) and Chilton (who blames Alana and Lecter as much as Will for his misfortune–and possibly implying he might be a future antagonist), not to mention one last fleeting glimpse of Margot Verger, although sadly Katharine Isabelle doesn’t get any lines.

The last session between Bedelia and Will is also priceless, easily one of the best sequences of the entire season, with Gillian Anderson demonstrating how little she needs to change her facial expressions to go from “detached” to “pissed.” She also gets the line of the season: “You righteous, reckless, twitchy little man,” perfectly summing Will up in six words, going on to say that he might as well let Hannibal “slit all our throats and be done with it.” It’s enough to make any sane woman skip the pink wine and head straight to the whiskey.

And, of course, there’s the final moments with Will and Hannibal together before Dolarhyde shoots out the window and everything turns to shit. “Save yourself, kill them all,” Hannibal says, repeating his instructions to Dolarhyde as if he were proposing a toast. Will responds that maybe saving himself isn’t that much of a priority anymore, and that informs what happens after the two take care of the Great Red Dragon: Will admits that his Becoming–his transformation into what Hannibal wanted him to Become all along–is beautiful, and then goes over the edge, taking Lecter with him.

All to the sounds of the first new Siouxsie song in seven or eight years, specifically commissioned for this episode.

It’s the perfect ending to the story, and while Fuller leaves some ambiguity as to the pair’s survival, I like the idea that they died that night, Will understanding that it was the only way to stop Hannibal–and stop himself. As for Bedelia du Maurier, whom we see getting the Abel Gideon treatment in the post-credits sequence, it tickles me to believe that Hannibal screwed her up so much she would serve herself up to a prodigal son destined never to arrive.

But that’s just me.

Also, it means Catherine Martin, wherever she is, is probably completely screwed.

Season 3 episode ranking

  1. “The Wrath of the Lamb” (3.13)
  2. “Digestivo” (3.07)
  3. “Dolce” (3.06)
  4. “The Number of the Beast is 666”
  5. “Contorno” (3.05)
  6. “Antipasto” (3.01)
  7. “…And the Beast from the Sea” (3.11)
  8. “Aperitivo” (3.04)
  9. “…And the Woman Clothed in Sun” (3.10)
  10. “…And the Woman Clothed with the Sun” (3.09)
  11. “The Great Red Dragon…” (3.08)
  12. “Secondo” (3.03)
  13. “Primavera” (3.02)

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