Hannibal 3.08: “The Great Red Dragon” At Last Descends

With Hannibal resident, the Baltimore State Hospital budgeted for extra restraints and gilding. /Photo: Brooke Palmer for NBC
Stray dogs and more Englishmen! Once Hannibal was captive, I felt safe vacating, so “The Great Red Dragon” is a late write-up. This episode had a dash of everything I love and may mourn if alternate media saviors don't intervene to #SaveHannibal.

The Baltimore State Hospital has inherited Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen), and Dr. Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas) seems to have inherited his taste in furnishings—check out her swanky, antiquified office. That's hardly possible with stony-broke state budgeting. Perhaps Margot Verger made a donation or endowment or something. I witnessed a variety of bad ideas, from giving Hannibal apparently crystal stemware from which to drink wine (while everyone in the group TV room gets juice boxes, I'm sure), to the fact that apparently Dr. Frederick Chilton (Raúl Esparza) lets the ghoulish chef prepare blood-based desserts. A kitchen…Hannibal….what could possibly go wrong? The legally-demented doc must be using knives, because there were adorable plate garnishes, too. He's also made clear that he still intends to polish off Alana at the time of his choosing, so that Lucite doesn't look thick enough to me.

The only thing more impressive than Chilton’s make-up is Alana’s recovery from a broken spine. / Photo: Brooke Palmer for NBC
All these comforts seem so very unwise, but what the heck? I was glad to see it. The Baltimore State Hospital would be no darned fun without capricious standards and institutionalized hubris! As long as Hannibal's happily locked up, enjoying the heavenly concerts of a boy soprano (Aiden Glenn) in the timeless grandeur of his memory palace, he'll stay put. Probably.

Hannibal's right where Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) can always find him, and that's handy, because only a scant few years have passed before the FBI's Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) once again has a crazy casefile that defies conventional killers' logic. Two families have been slaughtered en masse in nighttime home invasions, and someone like the Tooth Fairy calls for a profiler like Will Graham. 

You give Jack coffee, he gives you victims. / Photo: Brooke Palmer for NBC

Will has settled back into a rural setting—say hey to the dog pound!—but he's not alone. Not anymore. He's got a wife, Molly (Nina Arianda) and a stepson. It's a life of log cabin glow and nature sounds and warm smiles that don't precede a gutting. But it's families being killed, and as Jack's become a true graybeard, he cannily knows this is the leverage point to use on Will. On Molly, too. Will gives in as we know he must, and Molly promises to be his anchor in the storm, or the Krazy Glue in his teacup, whatever.

She’ll take Will back, regardless of his innocence or experience. / Photo: Brooke Palmer for NBC

Meanwhile, we've gotten to see the evolution of The Great Red Dragon, inspired by poet and visionary artist William Blake. The killer's meat-world name is Frances Dolarhyde (played by Richard Armitage, another Englishman like Hugh Dancy and Blake, too, for that matter). He is diminuitively nicknamed the Tooth Fairy, an insult as Hannibal intuits. I don't know how well spelled-out it would be for someone unfamiliar with the underlying story, but we see Dolarhyde's cleft palate and hear the trouble it causes him, and I adored all his weird screeching noises, counterpoint to what's in his head. I also enjoyed the way they visually worked in his job with films, the process of getting his tattoos and weird teeth. I'm also sure many, many people appreciated the extended development of his freakish strength through wholesome sweaty exercise in tiny shorts.

Not mention the king of dwarves who fought a dragon playing a giant who becomes one? C’mon! / Photo: Brooke Palmer for NBC

When Will returns with only an FBI file folder to an apparently unsecured scene of a family's recent massacre (on this show, such is always the way), we got that lovely, golden pendulum flash which took me right back to the series premiere. Back when we first saw Will Graham do that thing he does. “This is my design.” I needed to hear it. Thanks.

I was also tickled to see, if in abbreviated format, the return of the monster of the week format, just for sentimentality. Forensic specialists and quipping geniuses Jimmy Price (Scott Thompson) and Brian Zeller (Aaron Abrams) returned as part of Jack's investigative team. I'll miss you forever, Beverly, you impossibly brave and brilliant carpaccio. She proved how Hannibal loves working with Lucite. Alana should really recall that he doesn't see it as a barrier, more as an aid to plating.

But despite Will's empathetic recreation—he's still got it after all!—he can't predict what will happen at the next full moon without very special assisstance. He's not going to wait either, not for Dolarhyde once again to drip with a family's blood in the dark of night. So, Will Graham puts away his spectacles and says “Hello, Dr. Lecter.”

And because I was so happy to get back our geeks, here's the episode's digital post-mortem with Scott Thompson, Richard Armitage, and episode director Guillermo Navarro.

Just a handful of episodes left now. Let's savor, shall we?

Clare Toohey is a literary omnivore, admirer of lax psychiatric standards and outsider art. Aside from editing The M.O. and site wrangling here, she freelances as an editor, writes short, surreal crime fiction, blogs at Women of Mystery, and tweets @clare2e.

See all posts by Clare Toohey at Criminal Element.