Thursday, 30 July 2015

Hannibal - The Great Red Dragon

After last week's triumph of a finale of sorts, Hannibal slowed things down again tonight by introducing us into the arc that will ultimately see the show to its close. Yes, in episode eight we met the Red Dragon, in an episode titled The Great Red Dragon. So right now it's really all about the Red Dragon. Yet this episode didn't only have that one task to do, it also had to catch us up with each central character as this episode took place after a three year time jump. Somehow, despite slowing the pace down considerably from the last three episodes, The Great Red Dragon managed to not only achieve all of this, but pull it off with style and confidence in a way that no other show knows how.

We'll start by going over the Dragon himself; Francis Dolarhyde AKA The Tooth Fairy. Dolarhyde kills "perfect" families every lunar month on the full moon, and this episode took us into the aftermath of the second massacre. Richard Armitage joins the cast as Dolarhyde and he fits in seamlessly; his essentially wordless performance is outstanding in his debut. He manages to take what could have come across as quite a gimmicky character and add layers of depth to his insanity, coupled with how this episode was gorgeously shot by first-time Hannibal director Neil Marshall (the man behind the camera for Game of Thrones' greatest accomplishment; Blackwater). Marshall clearly took the artsy side of Hannibal on board from the get-go; that opening sequence was beautifully horrifying, and the projector scene mid way through the episode is the most bizarrely wonderful thing this show has done all year. And that's saying something.

But we still need our old characters, so enter Alana Bloom, now the owner of the mental institution in which Hannibal Lecter is being held, whilst Will Graham is now married with a stepson and living peacefully in the countryside. It's apt that Dolarhyde kills families, I mean, how else would Will ever even consider going back to assisting the FBI and entering that mindset again after all that happened during the 33 episodes prior to this one? But Jack Crawford, along with Will's own wife, convinces him to go, and so he does. It's not long before Will is in the house of the second family, seeing their bodies appear only through flashlight before they disappear when his torchlight leaves their bodies. It's been a long time since we had the yellow bars sliding across the screen, with the words "This is my design" closing the sequence, but they made a triumphant return tonight, in arguably the creepiest "This is my design" sequence ever. It was shot terrifically, but Hugh Dancy acted the hell out of that scene. He has been on fire this season.

One of my favourite details about this episode was Hannibal's memory palace taking over his visualisation of the institution he is in. In the episode's first post-credits sequence, he and Alana discuss matters while sitting in an office drinking wine together. But then we cut randomly, without any alterations in the dialogue or in Alana's costume, and Lecter is behind the glass, and only Alana is sat with wine. It's a clever trick to play on the audience, and one that works wonders when used to further analyse the state of Hannibal's mind. It's important to remember that he chose to be there and that he surrendered, so his memory palace taking over his impression of his cell is a smart way of further pointing out that this is what Hannibal wants. The rest of the episode bounces along nicely, it's important to recognise this almost as a pilot episode; if last week's was a finale, this has to be a premiere. But if The Great Red Dragon is anything to go by, it's going to be one hell of a story for the show to end on.

Notes - 

  • Neil Marshall is an entirely welcome addition to this show's director roster. That shot of the blood dropping into the moon was just stunning. 
  • Scott Thompson and Aaron Abrams returned to the cast tonight! I didn't realise how much I'd missed their comic relief until they were back cracking jokes again. 
  • Speaking of jokes, Hannibal's discussion with Chilton about their blood-infused pudding was darkly hilarious. "And when you last made it for me?" "The blood was from a cow, only in the derogatory sense". 
  • The meta stuff worked well too. Chilton telling Hannibal he has "niche appeal" was a nice touch. 
  • Hugh Dancy has been truly excellent this season. I would love to see him get some award recognition when it's all over. 
  • "This is my design". Yay!

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