Early on into “And the Beast from the Sea,” the latest episode of Hannibal Season 3, there’s a shot from the perspective of the inside of Hannibal’s cell that is lit to make the holes in the separating shield at the front of his cell look like the phases of the moon. It’s a quick moment that stuck with me throughout the episode, one of the routine moments in Hannibal where the viewer is reminded just how visually attentive and expressive Bryan Fuller‘s series is, especially when compared with the glut of script-first programming that dominates television. And to be fair, “And the Beast from the Sea” was arguably one of the more story-centric episodes of the season, and maybe the series, thus far, moving the narrative forward with visceral plot turns, beginning with the Red Dragon’s plotting and attack on Molly (Nina Arianda) and Walter before moving onto Reba (Rutina Wesley) breaking up with Francis Dolarhyde (Richard Armitage) and Hannibal’s new living situation.
Unlike the last two episodes, which luxuriated in the tangled emotions and vulnerable relationships that these characters are either building or testing, the eleventh episode of Hannibal Season 3 moved purposefully through some major parts of the story, and is one of the finest examples of how not to let story bog down the creativity of imagery and editing. When Dolarhyde fails to kill Will’s family, it would have been easy enough to just present the character as brooding, only lashing out for a moment, to catch the eerie plainness of what such a scene would look like in real life. But rather than just insinuate the internal ferocity and lacerating conflict that’s going on inside Dolarhyde, the sequence risks absurdity and preposterousness to give us a bracing, frightening visualization of his battle with the Red Dragon, which could so easily be labeled silly through a cynical lens. The one thing this show has never been, however, is cynical or calcified in its grotesque subject matter, which it has always balanced with moments of stirring intimacy.
As stunning as Dolarhyde’s fight with the Red Dragon was, and that astonishingly effective home-invasion sequence when he goes after Will’s family, the more potent scenes were surprisingly anchored more to talk, thanks to a script penned solely by Fuller. Wesley and Armitage built such magnificent tension during their break-up in Reba’s dark room, clearly outlining the confusion and conflicting feelings in each character, but there was also a palpable vulnerability to the scene, which actually made Dolarhyde into an empathetic figure. Invoking such feelings is not an easy task considering Armitage’s character shot Molly and gunned down an innocent bystander a few scenes beforehand. Later on, however, the discussion between Molly and Will in her hospital room offered one of the most human and heartfelt exchanges perhaps in the show’s history, especially in that elegant “got mad there for a second” moment. In only a handful of scenes thus far, Arianda has given a full sense of what Will was attracted to in Molly, the simple care, forgiveness, and understanding that is the basis of her iron-clad persona, which has never tipped over into sentimentalism. Even as the Red Dragon’s tail slinks around and wraps around these characters, Hannibal remains a show about the want of becoming a progressive human, an elevated animal, and the inherent dangers and difficulties that underline such a deadly forge.
★★★★★ Excellent — Awards material