Saturday, 22 August 2015

HANNIBAL, 3.12 – 'The Number of the Beast is 666...'

Saturday, 22 August 2015


Once again, to remind everyone, 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'm surprised this is the penultimate episode of Hannibal's third season, which in some ways has felt like an abridged version of what the fourth might've been if the producers had more confidence they'd reach that point. Not that doing the Red Dragon story in six episodes has undercut the idea, because that's still four hours longer than either previous version we've seen on film. I guess I've just been enjoying this storyline so much, it feels like a pity it's coming to an end, and is likely going to put a cap on the series as a whole.

We've spent previous episode getting to know the inner turmoil of Francis Dolarhyde (Richard Armitage), but "The Number of the Beast is 666" was the episode where his perceived transformation into the Great Red Dragon has reached a critical juncture—and now he's not very sympathetic. Here, he kidnapped Dr Chilton (Raúl Esparza) after reading his intentionally inflammatory article in Freddie Lounds' (Lara Jean Chorostecki) true crime magazine, and subjected him to an elucidating slideshow before biting off his lips and immolating him while glued to a wheelchair.

It was a particularly nasty sequence, made all the more sickening because Chilton has, frankly, been something of a heel for the show. He's the intellectually arrogant type who's always being sneered at by the monsters he governs (whose notoriety earns him his status), and having already survived having his stomach cut open by Abel Gideon, and being shot in the face by a traumatised Miriam Lass, there was something truly heartbreaking about seeing this suave and loquacious man reduced to a lipless human-ember who's speech is barely comprehensible. And yet, he's still alive! Is there no killing this guy? I hope he's put out of his misery soon, and his survival here was purely because of the storytelling need to pass on some vital clues about the Dragon's whereabouts.

Dolarhyde himself became a much scarier force on the show, dressed in a dressing gown and his black mask while talking to Chilton and trying to make him reconsider his opinion of him. His voice and body language just seemed a lote more unhinged throughout this episode, and very imposing. I wasn't very keen on how rushed the final scene felt, however—with Reba (Rutina Wesley) suddenly bound and gagged in his van, and being told her quirky, withdrawn boyfriend is a psychopath, but it set things up nicely for the finale. I just would have preferred a bit more time spent on that abduction, as Reba and Dolarhyde's relationship has been at the forefront of the half-season and perhaps deserved more focus in the penultimate episode.

And huge credit for the moment Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) received a parcel from Dolarhyde, and opened it in front of Alana (Caroline Dhavernas) to reveal Chilton's bitten off lips. Or, specifically, the way the next scene revealed with a blink-and-miss flashback that Lecter quickly sucked down one of Chilton's lips, only leaving one for the FBI to identify. Getting to eat part of Chilton seemed to cheer him up immensely, having recently been on the receiving end of Chilton gloating about Lecter's future as an old inmate being sexually abused by the younger fiends at the hospital, forced to endure eating stewed apricots.

Next week, the finale. While the story of the Red Dragon is somewhat conventional by today's standards, and on past form I doubt the writers are going to do something completely unlike Thomas Harris' ending... there's potential for lots of surprises and clever changes. Did the writers know this may be their final season at the time of writing? Or suspect it strongly enough to write a conclusive ending? Are they brave enough to tee up the Silence of the Lambs storyline, despite not having the rights, to use as a tease that'll never be fulfilled? Or will they do something completely unexpected, to make fans all the more upset NBC have cancelled the show and put its future in serious doubt? I cling to a mild hope Mikkelsen and Dancy are passionate enough about Hannibal to reconvene for occasional feature-length reunions, or something along those lines, but the logistics of getting enough of the behind-the-scenes crew back to make it worthwhile is quite low.


  • Chilton's fiery fate was a clever way to stick to the source material, while giving things a twist. In the book, it's Lounds who is glued to a wheelchair and killed that way, which the show already paid homage to in season 2 with the show's female Freddie. Having the story instead utilise Chilton worked very well, and managed to still astonish us with its differences to what book-readers have been expecting.
  • It makes sense that Bedelia (Gillian Anderson) is now Will's therapist, sort of. I mean, for the purposes of the show having those two characters pick each other's brains about Lecter makes for great dialogue and intrigue. I loved the moment when Will pondered the idea that Lecter is in love with him, which is how the audience have been treating their relationship for a long time. But, in the real world, I doubt the professionalism of a therapist who's as unbiased as Bedelia psychoanalysing Will.
written by Jeff Vlaming, Angela Lamanna, Bryan Fuller & Steve Lightfoot • directed by Guillermo Navarro • 22 August 2015 • NBC