Just to remind readers, this review is scheduled alongside Thursday's broadcast in Canada. This episode airs tonight in the U.S on NBC, and Wednesday in the UK on Sky Living, so proceed at your own risk of spoilers...
I loved this episode's examination of human senses, mental states, and our primal instincts, which can all be corrupted with relative ease given the right circumstances. Francis Dolarhyde's (Richard Armitage) romance with Reba (Rutina Wesley) became sexual, which seemed to surprise him with its suddenness; but whereas blind Reba's under the misapprehension she's found a soulmate nobody else understands, her sweet "Mr D" is later seen imagining her as the 'Woman Clothed in Sun' (a figure snared by the tail of William Blake's 'Great Red Dragon' in his painting), and consequently just a component of his unhinged fantasy-world. I particularly loved the moment Dolarhyde took sleeping Reba's hand and nuzzled it as they lay together the next morning; echoing an earlier moment he surprised her with a trip to the zoo to feel an anaesthetised tiger, when her fingertips touched the the big cat's mouth and teeth—parts of the body Dolarhyde's self-conscious about, and, judging from his silent reaction, very excited by.
By the end of this hour, we arrived at the famous scene where Dolarhyde tricks his way into a museum for a private viewing of Blake's original 'The Great Red Dragon' watercolour, and uses the opportunity to literally devour the art (sans his false teeth, which made him resemble the monster he believes himself to be—or, maybe more accurately, the predator that's just caught and ate the object of his infatuation). It's an intriguing parallel to Dr Hannibal 'The Cannibal' Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen), whom you might also describe as a predator naturally going about his business... eating those who, evidently, are below him in both the food chain and social pecking order.
Away from its magnificent Dolarhyde scenes, "And the Woman Clothed in Sun" also delivered unexpected insight into Dr Bedelia Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson), three years after her twisted European vacation as Lecter's courtesan. It appears her alibi about being brainwashed by Hannibal passed muster with the authorities, and she's now considerably more famous and giving sellout lectures about living and dining with the notorious serial killer. Will (Hugh Dancy) naturally doesn't believe her story, and thankfully Bedelia's willing to concede the truth's more complex—to the only other person to get as close to Lecter as she managed. Although Bedelia pointedly reminds Will that she was 'behind the veil', whereas he was always on the other side.
Will and Bedelia's tete-a-tete was a fantastic scene crammed with memorable dialogue, and it finally gave us definitive answers about Bedelia's state of mind and weird relationship with Lecter. Answering her own hypothetical question, Bedelia tells Will that her first thought upon noticing a vulnerable hatchling on the floor would be to crush it, not protect it. And while she's not a sociopath who'd act on that first impulse, she doesn't believe people who do are inherently "monsters"—they're just different to those whose instinct is to nurtyre, but still part of the natural world.
I also loved the interwoven flashback to the moment Bedelia's client, Neal Frank (Zachary Quinto), was murdered during a session with her. We already know Lecter helped cover-up his death, to her eternal gratitude, but this episode's details put a memorable spin on things—as it was revealed Neal actually began choking on his own tongue during a heated discussion and, while trying to clear his airway to help, Bedelia instead found herself momentarily compelled to do something extraordinary: force the majority of her arm down the poor man's neck? Why? Why not? It was just a twisted impulse she indulged in the heat of the moment, and clearly a behaviour that endeared her to Lecter—whose company she perhaps kept because, well, how endlessly fascinating to be around someone like Lecter, who acts on the immoral instincts she has without any sense of guilt.
This was a wonderful episode, and one which didn't even feature Lecter a great deal, or Jack Crawford at all. What's amazing is how well Hannibal's writers continue to mix the original storyline by Thomas Harris (very faithfully) with aspects of their own inventions for the series, and how that's managing to elevate the material to a sublime level. I particularly love the way Lecter's becoming a father figure to Dolarhyde, who envisages himself curled up by Lecter's side once transformed into the Great Red Dragon—making it clear he perceives Lecter as 'The Beast' from The Book of Revelation. I also like how Will sees Dolarhyde as a similar monster to Lecter, but someone he can perhaps catch and help before his crazy masterplan reaches fruition. And poor Reba's caught up in this madness, oblivious to the danger she's in with her "Mr D"; and now Lecter has the address of Will's wife and stepson. It's not going to end well, is it?
written by Don Mancini & Bryan Fuller • directed by Guillermo Navarro • 8 August 2015 • NBC