Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) envisions killing his wife and so consults the second-deadliest therapist in Baltimore. Supposing this is only his dragonic killer-empathy in overdrive, nonetheless, I didn't want to believe he'd seek the advice of Dr. Bedelia DuMaurier (Gillian Anderson) in her dispensary of smug.
The two spar over who is hurt more, who is more vulnerable, who is more beloved, who means more to Hannibal as object of affection or menu item. A pathetic sort of competition between two intimates who each chose to bend to Hannibal before breaking. Will sells out his new family as already lost to him—how loyal and kind, when they haven't even died. Molly's wounded and anxious and Walter's angry, but to consign them away rather than digging in with loyalty and love seems pretty conveniently cowardly. (Jack's no angel, but he didn't desert Bella, even though she betrayed him by trying to kill herself.)
Anyway, here are these two with their shining eyes, neither able to help each other or to capitulate. Bedelia, aka Bluebeard's wife, says Hannibal's in love with Will, provided that love equates to insatiable hunger. An accurate enough description of some relationships, but does Will ache for him, she asks? That's the question, because Will is the feeling one, not the hungering one.
At the institute for the criminally insane, Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) is busy bandying allegories with the FBI's Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne), identifying Will as the Revelatory Lamb of God, who will become a lion and whose retribution and wrath, therefore, all should fear. Including The Great Red Dragon. Hannibal and Jack further snipe over which of them is God and which is the Devil, who of them will deserve sacrifice or be sacrificed. It's all by way of setting up the big showdown between oppositions, polarities along vibrating lines of force whose central fulcrum, Will, seems at this moment to be a hub made of gooey marshmallow.
Jack pushed Will into this, so it's Jack's fault, Will says. Get ready, because blame will be like the hot potato this episode. Will lets himself get snippy with Jack in a way he doesn't with others, kicking Dad's shins perhaps. Dr. Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas) calls them both on their B.S., though she's hardly proved immune to Hannibal's coercions, and Will's petulance reveals itself as a vision of her bleeding, mirrored eyes. It's as if he's been infected with the dragon's desire, but no knowledge has come along with the freight. If deeply understanding the killer doesn't yield actionable information, it's hard to see the point in Will's subjecting himself.
The triumverate of What Now? eventually decides that Will should draw out TGRD, who they never call the Tooth Fairy anymore, by bashing him in TattleCrime. Alana points out there ought to be a professional fig leaf, so Will's ploy to draw TGRD into attacking him is less nakedly overt. When one needs an insincere, but pompous professional opinion, call Dr. Frederick Chilton (Raul Esparza), of course!
Chilton has become very upset with Hannibal, who, for giggles as always, academically refuted his own insanity as laid out in Chilton's book. Chilton's been embarrassed, when he expected (only Odin's raven knows why), that Hannibal might be grateful for his lies on the cannibal's behalf. This hypocrisy aside, Chilton is at his most fun when he decides to punch back. Unlike Alana, who reclaimed Hannibal's toilet, Chilton promises to take Hannibal's teeth and his specialness, treating him with no special wariness at all, leaving him at the mercy of young sadists and stewed apricots. In practice, this would be beyond dumb. Hannibal is a seasoned monster in a game where experience counts. But threatening his vanity is always delightful.
Now that snarky muckraker Freddie Lounds (Lara Jean Chorostecki)—yay!—and Chilton are in the room with Will and Jack, creativity and snark abounds. Forget what's true. What will sell? What will drive TGRD to recklessness? The humiliating “Tooth Fairy” moniker is back, and Chilton and Will speak over each other while demeaning the serial killer, calling him out as an impotent sexual failure and the product of an incestuous home. Chilton so adores being consulted that he isn't even concerned about posing with Will for Freddie's photo, designed to tip the location of Will's hideaway.
As Jack and Will strategize Will's outdoor exposure to danger, Chilton's guard and driver get gacked, and Chilton ends up captured, blindfolded with a panty liner. Also naked and glued into a wheelchair. TGRD, in a silky something and netted mask, rouses him and gives him a blanket. All the better for atonement, somehow. Chilton tries to weasel his way into psychiatric alliance with TGRD, who's more interested in burning away the blubbering Chilton's every denial. But nothing harshes the toke of satin-robed sadism like
Mom's calling through the bedroom door ex-girlfriend Reba (Rutina Wesley) knocking at the front door of the family manse.
In her forthright way, she's come to bring Dolarhyde soup, because he's called in sick to work. Her taxi's waiting, smart girl. She still cares, though he was a jerk to her. She reaches out lovingly to Dolarhyde, so emotionally brave, this one, but seems to sense there may be someone else present. Perhaps she shouldn't turn her head toward the Chilton in the corner, who is not speaking, but as of yet, still breathing. She leaves, and we may think, leaves broken-hearted.
Chilton is forced into playing the “Do you see?” The Great Red Dragon game and offers his awe, also his teary confession on tape. A moment of respect for Raul Esparza, who made this scene unexpected, in a good way. I felt like I could see his thoughts pinballing from calculation to panic to hopelessness, the fear and dread finally dissolving whatever had been him. After that subjugation, it seems for a moment, that Chilton may be released physically intact…oh, c'mon, you didn't buy it either…but then, TGRD puts in his specially-designed killing-night teeth and bites off Chilton's lips. Eeeew. Across town, did Hannibal suddenly feel an electric thrill through his coveralls?
Ooh, it's even less vicarious and more visceral than that, because TGRD remarks upon Chilton's offending lips, which he delivers to Hannibal, who has coincidentally also been offended by them. Hannibal manages only to suck one crescent lipwich down before the straightjacket's back on him.
“Where's the other one?” Oh, Jack, you card. Hannibal's jovially blissed on long pig and harassing Alana, as if Chilton's fate were her fault. All these scheming characters attribute to each other perfection of understanding and of manipulation, so as to allow them to blame each other or themselves later. Without the suspension bridge of guilt connecting them to every crime scene, why there'd only be bizarro monsters to revile.
Will's demise is foretold in Chilton's filmed confession and he witnesses TGRD eating Chilton's words. Somehow, after his collapse, he returns to therapy with the very consonant-aware Bedelia (such a great idea, super, and in the middle of everything?). Now that we're past the last-seed bracket-fillers into the super-semis of the blame game, Bedelia accuses Will of having tagged Chilton for TGRD's attention by posing with him. “Then you may as well have struck the match. That's participation.” (With its flashbacks and context, this scene must've originally been placed after we'd fully seen the Chilton fire and Will went to the ER. Would make more sense actually.) Misery adores company, because Bedelia projects and skewers Will with the same attack Hannibal leveled at her in Florence. If she knew what he'd do and didn't stop it, that was tacit participation. Therefore, Will did this to Chilton. Right, of course.
They're playing around the edges of the poet Dante's infernal conception, in which sinners are punished in hells tailored to their sins. Where is the hell for creatures of lost perspective and inflated self-importance who are supposed to catch bad guys but skip shoe-leather investigating, say, figuring out the commonality in the targeted families? Instead of being guided by Virgil, I'd like to see damned souls like that led by the ghost of Columbo, who gives them the glowing end of the cigar to remind them of the difference between rationality and indulgent rationalizations. Anyway…
In a vengeful reprise of the faked death of Freddie Lounds, the wounded Chilton is covered in flammable liquid, set ablaze in his wheelchair, and rolled into what looks like the fountain square where we saw Will and Jack earlier. Bedelia has accused Will of being Hannibal's agent, but not TGRD. Oh, no. Not even though he's the one blatantly attacking Hannibal's enemies and courting the cannibal's approval.
The appallingly-scorched Chilton, who appears not to be getting top-notch burn care, accuses Will through his ruined mouth, explaining how Will's hand on his shoulder in the picture made him a pet to be victimized. Oh sure, he sees it now! Like a couple of other things, this conclusion's too-neatly repeated for me, but perhaps this close to next week's finale, they're not taking any chances with audience misunderstandings. Finally, the FBI has learned there's a black, blind woman named Reba involved… that seems investigatable, no? There wasn't shoe-leather at work, but Chilton's leather-faced delivery. Reba is, meanwhile kidnapped and bound by TGRD. She tries to negotiate around his craziness, but he confesses himself, boasts to her, citing specifics of the murders in Chicago and Buffalo. And for this very brave woman, this is a very bad thing.
Next week, all of it must come to a climax, because the Season 3 finale, “The Wrath of the Lamb,” may also be the series finale. That's a lot of pressure for one episode, but we're boiled down to the essential players and the essential conflict: Hannibal and anyone he can manipulate versus Everyone Else Alive, most especially Will Graham, who is yet denied peace or even an identity of his own.
Clare Toohey is a daytripper through genre gutters and appreciator of silk robes in tall sizes. 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.