“Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is 666.”
As we grow closer to the end of Hannibal‘s third season, the show is becoming increasingly apocalyptic. This episode opens with the Dragon’s tail curling around Molly Graham, who is lying prone with mirrors on her eyes and mouth. Will is speaking to Bedelia about this image, which is his own and not Dolarhyde’s. Bedelia asks if he sees himself killing Molly and his answer is, “Yes, over and over.”
When Bedelia notes that Hannibal has found a way to take away Will’s family, Will wonders what Hannibal will take from her. The fancy cannibal’s emotional lover and his former physical lover are still competing for his affections as they try to understand him. Will thinks that Hannibal “has agency in the world,” presumably through the Dragon while Bedelia assures him that she’s safe from being killed and eaten because Hannibal is in prison. Will bristles at the idea that she is unscathed and reminds her “if you play, you pay.”
Bedelia explains that “it excites Hannibal to know you’re marked in this particular way” and Will asks why, but she only throws the question back at him. He accuses her of being Bluebeard’s wife, with “secrets you’re not to know but sworn to keep.” Then the big question, the one we have been waiting to hear for three years:
Will: “Is Hannibal in love with me?”
Bedelia, channeling Hannibal’s thoughts towards Clarice Starling in Hannibal (which were themselves inspired by Dante Aligheri’s first sonnet), asks, “Could he daily feel a stab of hunger for you? And find nourishment in the very sight of you? Yes.” She pauses. “But do you ache for him?” Will has no answer.
Hannibal, speaking to Jack, explains that Will’s thoughts “are no more bound by fear or kindness than Milton’s were by physics. He is both free and damned to imagine anything.” Jack asks about “God, the Devil, and The Great Red Dragon” and Hannibal says they shouldn’t forget “the lamb.” Jack interprets Hannibal’s words to mean that Will is the Lamb of God. Hannibal: “The lamb’s wrath touches everyone who errs, and his retribution is even more deadly than the Dragon’s… the seals are being opened, Jack. The lamb is becoming a lion.”
Hannibal: “For the great day of his wrath has come, and who shall be able to stand?” (Revelations 6:17) Hannibal continues: “In righteousness, the lamb does judge and make war… against the Great Red Dragon.”
This is some heavy New Testament stuff. From Revelations 6: “In John’s vision, the only one worthy to open the book is referred to as both the ‘Lion of Judah’ and the ‘Lamb having seven horns and seven eyes’.
Jack thinks Hannibal is implying that the Dragon is the Devil, but doesn’t agree. “He’s not the Dragon; you are… the Devil himself, bound in the pit.” This makes Jack God, and as Hannibal points out, “all gods demand sacrifices.”
Dolarhyde is kneeling before his Red Dragon framed print, clawing himself, and drawing blood. It’s intriguing to note the similarities between Dolarhyde and William Blake who, “believed that his own visions, which included end-of-the- world images and sometimes a sense of cosmic oneness, prefigured this, and that his art would help raise others ‘to the perception of the infinite’.” As for Will being the lamb, in Blake’s world, “the Lamb is supposed to complement the Tiger.”
Back in Jack’s office, Will is irritated that Jack has him “dangling on the hook to catch a bigger fish.” The idea that Jack, Will, and Alana are pondering? To get Freddie Lounds involved and draw the Dragon out, so he’ll attack Will and they can nab him. This did not go well in the last season of the show, as Alana is quick to point out: “You once fooled yourselves into believing you were in control of what was happening.” Will glances at her and sees her eyes dripping blood and covered by shards of mirror. Alana thinks this set up will feel like a trap to the Dragon “unless you have a professional voice to legitimize what you’re saying.” Alana demurs when Will asks if she’s volunteering: “I’d have to be a fool.”
Enter the fool, Frederick Chilton, who is outside Hannibal’s cell, furious about Hannibal’s most recent piece for the Northern Medical Journal of Psychiatry. “I have seen a lot of hostility but this was quantifiably bitchy!” Hannibal makes no attempt to hide his amusement. Chilton barks that Hannibal refuted his argument and Hannibal quips, “it didn’t hold up to scrutiny.” Chilton: “Of course it didn’t! I was lying! On your behalf! To save your life!” Hannibal notes that Chilton “doesn’t have the proper stuff” to become famous, unlike wood, which has the proper stuff to burn. (Foreshadowing!)
Disgusted, Chilton insists Hannibal has been “overshadowed by another creature” and that his byline is only coveted for “freak value.” He predicts a future after Alana Bloom’s “reign” when Hannibal has lost his teeth and his strength, “when the young ones will push you around for sex.” Hannibal’s face grows dark and deadly indeed.
Now Jack, Will, and Chilton are meeting with Freddie Lounds to bait that hook via Tattle Crime. Chilton provides an accurate profile of Dolarhyde but Will keeps adding incendiary comments after each statement. Freddie photographs Will standing by the window with D.C. landmarks in the background to help the Dragon find him. He puts his hand on Chilton’s shoulder, and the psychiatrist looks thrilled by the attention. Later, Jack confides to Will his opinion that this approach is “too passive.”
It goes terribly wrong when Dolarhyde abducts Chilton (yakking on his cell phone about his next book Blood and Chocolate), glues him to a wheelchair, and covers his eyes and mouth with a panty liner and an unwound tampon. Chilton panics and thinks that because he hasn’t seen Dolarhyde’s face that he can just let him go. Dolarhyde throws the Tattle Crime quotes back at him, towering over Chilton while clad in his kimono and sock cap mask. He turns the chair around and Chilton gets hysterical, but Dolarhyde threatens to staple his eyelids to his forehead unless he looks him in the face. Suddenly, the doorbell rings; it’s Reba.
Dolarhyde threatens to kill her if Chilton makes a sound. She says she won’t stay long, but she heard D. was sick and she brought him some chicken soup. “You shouldn’t be here,” he says. She admits she is “guilty of liking you” and that she’s learned “withdrawal can be a strategy to avoid pain.” It’s like she’s apologizing without actually saying, “I’m sorry.” She leaves.
Now Dolarhyde asks Chilton, “Do you want to know WHAT I am?” Chilton, blubbering like a child, answers in the affirmative. Dolarhyde shows him slides, asking, “Is this art?” These are images of Blake’s paintings, plus family photos of Mrs. Jacobi and Mrs. Leeds, both pre- and post-mortem. In a booming voice he asks, “DO YOU SEE?” each time, to which Chilton can only reply “yes” repeatedly.
Finally, the chummy Tattle Crime photo appears and Dolarhyde demands to know why Chilton lied. Chilton blames it on Will Graham. Dolarhyde is pontificating now and becoming more impassioned by the second: “You are privy to a great becoming.” He pulls off the mask and shouts, “Fear is not what you owe me. You owe me awe!” He drops the kimono and poses in front of the Red Dragon slide as Chilton gawks in horror.
Then, he tells Chilton he wants to “tape for a little while,” presumably so that Chilton can make some kind of apology/confession. We don’t get to see that (yet), but with his finger on the record button, Dolarhyde muses, “There is one way that I can help you better understand and remember.” He turns away from Chilton and on goes the sock cap and in go the teeth. Chilton, fearing the worst, screams as Dolarhyde crawls over the settee and tears Chilton’s lips off with his teeth. This is the best visual interpretation of Harris’s original text yet.
Alana delivers an envelope addressed to Hannibal to him personally (after we see that it’s been X-rayed). He opens it and discovers Chilton’s lips wrapped in tissue. Later, when Hannibal is suitably restrained and Jack and Alana are both there, we see a handwritten note from Dolarhyde: “With these he offended me.” Jack holds up only one lip and in a hilarious quick flashback we see what happened in the interim: Hannibal slurping up one of the lips on his side of the plexiglass.
Hannibal is almost giddy with joy. “I’m sorry, Jack, but the tragedy of what happened to Frederick has put me in an excellent humor.” Jack notes that Chilton is missing. Hannibal is unfazed. “You pretended to burn Freddie Lounds in a wheelchair to flush me out. What were you pretending to do with Frederick Chilton?” Jack and Alana explain but Hannibal wonders why Alana didn’t volunteer: “It would have been your lip I was tasting. Again.”
Alana, infuriated, hisses that Hannibal orchestrated Chilton’s abduction by proxy but Hannibal argues that she did. “That’s professional discourtesy.” She is not amused. In Jack’s office, he, Will, and Alana, watch Chilton’s apology tape, including some choice words about how the Dragon will “snap Will’s spine.” When Dolarhyde bites off Chilton’s lips, Will looks like he’s having a heart attack.
In another much-needed therapy session with Bedelia, Will says, “The divine punishment of a sinner mirrors the sin being punished.” Bedelia quickly brings up contrapasso: “you play, you pay.”
Some background: “Contrapasso is one of the few rules in Dante’s Inferno. It is the one “law of nature” that applies to hell, stating that for every sinner’s crime there must be an equal and fitting punishment.” Bedelia adds that “we’re all Dante’s pilgrims” but Will refutes this, saying “we’re pets… the Great Red Dragon kills pets first.” Bedelia wonders why Will put his hand on Chilton’s shoulder in the photo. Will says it was for “authenticity” but she thinks differently. “Maybe you wanted to put him at risk… just a little.” Will realizes this is true. Bedelia: “You were curious what would happen.” Will’s face turns hard: “I can’t say that I am surprised.” Bedelia gloats: “That’s participation. Hannibal Lecter does have agency. He has you.”
This is intercut with scenes of poor Chilton, lipless and terrified, being set on fire and traveling down a garden path in a flaming wheelchair. Will sees himself striking the match. At the hospital, Jack tells Will that Chilton said his name when they brought him in and that he should “get ready.” Behind the curtain, Chilton looks like Georgia Madchen after Hannibal put a plastic comb in her hyperbaric chamber. He gurgles some words and Will interprets them for Jack. “You set me up.” Chilton also mentions a “black woman who was blind” and Jack realizes that must be the Reba who Dolarhyde spoke of to Hannibal on that phone call.
Sure enough, Reba is bound and gagged in Dolarhyde’s windowless van. He takes her to his house and carries her in. Trying to diffuse the situation she says that she didn’t know Dolarhyde “cared that much about me.” But he tells her to shut up and reveals that he is the Great Red Dragon. He drops hints about the Leeds and Jacobis until she figures out what he’s done.
There’s only one episode left of this season, and perhaps the series as a whole. Get ready, people. The apocalypse is coming down fast, and it’s going to be far worse than a flaming wheelchair ride.