Robert Tiemstra ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
“One must show some consideration for the neighbors.”
The most unsung strength about Hannibal thus far has to be its use of physical versus imagined space. There is a scene in this week’s episode during which Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) talks to his wife Molly (Nina Arianda) over the phone. In any other show, it would be a charming and nonintrusive scene in which we cut back and forth between their hotel rooms as they sweet-talk each other over the many miles that separate them. This show starts off in that direction, but as they talk, it places them in the same room together, allowing them to share their phone call as if they’re lying in bed together (interestingly, a similar tactic is used when Hannibal and Will explore the case file of the Tooth Fairy murder). Molly is a relatively new face in the show, having only been introduced one episode ago, but this type of scene magnifies the marriage between her and Will, allows us to see a fully grown relationship between the two of them. And after this scene, we finally understand how difficult it is for Will to return to Jack Crawford’s employ as the most morally questionable method actor the world has ever seen.
“…And the Woman Clothed with the Sun” (an episode title that has given many TV reviewers headaches this week) is an episode of two halves—one centered around Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) in his cell, and another around Francis Dolarhyde (Richard Armitage), the serial killer known to the public as the Tooth Fairy. The structure isn’t entirely clear until they come together at the end—a concept that appears to be a staple of this show as a whole—which is why this week is a perfect week to sum up why the structure of Hannibal works so well.
During one scene in “…And the Woman Clothed with the Sun,” Will Graham stares at himself in a mirror, and he starts to crack and shatter as if made of glass himself. Hannibal Season 3 is like a piece of fine china that has been smashed and is slowly being reassembled in front of our very eyes. Some pieces don’t come back until we’ve almost forgotten they were missing—this particular episode contains a series of flashbacks that detail exactly how Hannibal taught Abigail Hobbs (Kacey Rohl) to play along with his series of deceptions throughout the second (and latter half of the first) season, leading up to the fateful night in “Mizumono” when he cuts her throat. As he remembers these, Hannibal gives no indication—facially or through dialogue—how he feels about brutally murdering his surrogate daughter.
Many of the scenes in this week’s episode are lifted directly from the novel Red Dragon, particularly the scene in which Will and Hannibal meet for the first time in years. Like the best scenes with the characters, the camera makes tactful use of reflections in the glass to keep both subject and interviewee in frame as much as possible. The end result is two characters who can’t get out of each other’s heads, visually-speaking. As Hannibal faces down a parade of visitors, he makes his contempt for each of them known in a way that only he can, with condescending witticisms and sly compliments. These scenes alone would be enough to sustain the whole episode, but there is another serial killer who requires development, so to speak.
Fans of Red Dragon will be pleased to find that Francis Dolarhyde’s job as a courier to a film lab remains unchanged, despite the updating of the series’ time frame. The real heart of this episode is the interactions between Dolarhyde and Reba McClane (Rutina Wesley), a blind woman who works in the darkroom that supplies him with the film on which he shoots his murders. Although there are many logistical questions as to why a serial killer would prefer to use film rather than digital (Dolarhyde simply states that he doesn’t like the format), the series brushes it off in favor of fidelity to the source material, as well as interesting character setup. Rutina Wesley is an absolute delight as Reba, finding a heart in this emotionally stunted man that of which he is is barely aware. The scenes between her and Armitage strike a remarkable balance between sweet and suspenseful, playing to the best of both actor’s talents.
Richard Armitage in particular is a revelation here—last episode didn’t give him much of a chance to do anything else besides stare ominously and writhe in emotional agony—because he starts to peel back the layers of this character and reveal some glimpses at the insecurities that drive him, which Reba keenly points out, since she worked as a speech therapist. Without a wasted word, Armitage is a magnetic presence, matching an iron stare with a stuttering mumble of a speech pattern to great effect. This may prove a relief to some who thought this version of the Tooth Fairy would be simply a psychotic Thorin Oakenshield with a fiendish overbite. Throughout his half of the episode, we get inside Dolarhyde’s head in a way we haven’t with any other character in the show, save Will. Paradoxically, Dolarhyde demands both sympathy and fear from the audience to work as a character. He is a torn monster that Thomas Harris couldn’t recapture in any of the antagonists in his following novels. According to series creator Bryan Fuller, we have already seen one of Dolarhyde’s murders before—the very opening scene of the series, in fact. Time will tell if this little detail comes back, but as this episode proves, Hannibal is not a show that wastes its crime scenes.
Episode Grade: A-
“Trust me, I’m smiling.”