Sunday, 16 August 2015

Hannibal - ...And the Woman Clothed in Sun

Wow. What a stunning episode of television.

Hannibal deals with human psychology in ways that no other show even comes close to, and with the characters this show has on offer that's all it needs to place it head and shoulders above anything else currently on air. For the first time in the show's run, we're treated to two psychopathic serial killers and the show has managed to define them fantastically well, allowing us to understand their similarities without them feeling too identical. Hannibal Lecter and Francis Dolarhyde have similarities, sure, but they are very different people, and, in that, very different psychopaths. And the Woman Clothed in Sun opens with Dolarhyde practicing his speech before phoning Lecter, and then ultimately visualising a psychiatric session between the two while Dolarhyde himself watches. It's a powerful sequence, and one that uses the Lecter's intellectual dialect to the scene's advantage, his use of long, intricate wording contrasts nicely with Dolarhyde's stuttering murmurs. But then the camera cuts back to Dolarhyde one more time and we see him in what he believes to be his truest form; as the office begins to glow orange, Dolarhyde transforms into the Great Red Dragon.

This episode also took great pride in representing Dolarhyde's psych in terms of sexuality. William Blake's original painting (entitled The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun), shown at the top of this review, depicts the Red Dragon with the Woman Clothed in Sun tangled in his tail as he treats her as his sexual conquest. This episode did a terrific job of reflecting this in Dolarhyde's moments of screen time this week, as he grows closer to Reba McClane by taking her to feel and touch a sleeping tiger (one of the most visually stunning sequences this show has ever offered) we begin to watch his mentality towards what he does unfold. After they have a sexual encounter that night, Dolarhyde has a hallucination the next morning and is made to believe that McClane should be his next villain. But he breaks away from this by simply taking her home and, presumably, leaving her unharmed. Armitage sold his performance as the Dragon to me last week; here he took it to another level.

Where this episode, so similarly titled to last week's, improves so much on its previous installment is in its pacing and structure. Whilst last week's episode fell victim to a predictable narrative structure and too many characters to fill in, And the Woman Clothed in Sun brought Hannibal back to its wildly unpredictable roots, particularly in its final sequence in which a rather quiet, dialogue driven episode suddenly became very loud and very very fast. But the fantastic unpredictability of this episode was best demonstrated in Will's psychiatry session with Bedelia, which suddenly cuts back in time to that session Bedelia had with that patient all those years ago. We learn that her patient never attacked her, and that he was not killed by her in self defence, but rather he swallowed his own tongue after he accused Hannibal of worsening his psychological condition. The intercutting back and forth between the two sessions was seamlessly edited, and showed more than ever how well written this show is. Some dismiss Hannibal's writing as pretentious, but to me it is bloody genius.

This was the best episode of the show since it used its seventh as a sort of mid-season finale. Hannibal has never really put out a bad episode, but it is almost always at its best when it focuses on dialogue and has a central theme running at its core. This episode ten focused heavily on the idea of duality and human perception; the fact that people can be perceived differently to how they perceive themselves. Dolarhyde perceives himself as a deformed monster, yet Reba tells him his colleagues believe his self-consciousness is unwarranted. Bedelia has always been perceived by others as a damsel in distress, yet she perceives herself as someone who is strong enough to stand alone. Hannibal is perceived by others as an inhumane monster, yet he knows unquestionably that he wouldn't dare ever be seen as rude. Hannibal has spoken of these themes before but never in such psychological depth as it did in this episode. If the three following, and final, episodes are anywhere even near this standard, I'm going to be an emotional wreck when we bid farewell to this show for the last time.

Notes - 

  • That tiger sequence really was intense, but so breathtakingly beautiful. Dolarhyde watches in horror as Reba's hand near's the tiger's mouth, but it does not bite. Will Francis, though?
  • On the opposite end of the spectrum, that sudden shot of Dolarhyde in his Red Dragon form was a horrifying moment, but brilliantly visualised. 
  • It was good to finally see the moment Bedelia's patient died, that's been a recurring character trait for her for a long time. 
  • The sequence of Dolarhyde eating the painting to try and consume and banish his damaged psych was one of the most shocking things this show has done in a while. When Will got into the lift to go down to see the painting too I think my heart stopped. 
  • "The next time you have an instinct of helping someone, you might consider crushing them instead". 

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