Saturday, 29 August 2015

HANNIBAL, 3.13 – 'The Wrath of the Lamb'

Saturday, 29 August 2015


For the last time, a reminder: this review is scheduled alongside Thursday's broadcast in Canada. This finale 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 watched the season finale with a bittersweet feeling, because we've been increasingly aware there's little chance of another broadcaster picking up the show now NBC have washed their hands of it. And having seen "The Wrath of the Lamb" through to the end, one has to wonder if we haven't been tricked all along—because this episode ended on such a conclusive note that, surely, any potential fourth season is a ridiculous notion. So maybe NBC didn't "cancel" Hannibal, it had simply come to its end... but saying it'd been axed drew some welcome attention to it? Or maybe there was an alternative ending originally filmed before NBC's decision, where Will (Hugh Dancy) and Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) don't embrace and topple over the edge of a cliff to watery graves?

Whatever the realities of how Hannibal arrived at its conclusion, I'm just grateful Bryan Fuller and Steve Lightfoot gave us a proper ending. One that wrapped up the peculiar Will/Lecter "romance" in an hour underlining how Hannibal has served its original agenda: enlightening us about these character's lives pre-source material, and cleverly adapted two of Thomas Harris' novels while weaving them into its own unique narrative. That we didn't get an adaptation of Silence of the Lambs is a little frustrating for completists, but introducing Clarice Starling into this TV series would perhaps be more trouble than it's worth—as Will's relationship with Lecter effectively echoed Clarice's strange arc, while improving it.

This final episode itself was excellent, and I will admit to being hoodwinked by the pre-credits scenes of Dolarhyde (Richard Armitage) faking his own death to Reba (Rutina Wesley) by convincing her he'd blown his own head off with a shotgun after setting his house ablaze. I spent a good five minutes wonder what on earth the rest of the finale would entail, until realising the show had managed to outmanoeuvre me and Dolarhyde was still alive. And yes, I do know the original story contained this same twist, but it's been awhile since I've seen either of the previous versions and was perhaps lost in the moment and completely forgot.

And then came a number of brilliant touches and flourishes to Harris' original story, with Will kidnapped by the Dragon (who now wants to "change" Lecter to punish him) and double-crossing the FBI by arranging to have Lecter fake an escape to lure Dolarhyde, while actually telling the Dragon about the deception and arranging for a private three-way showdown between Dolarhyde, Lecter, and himself at a cliff-side hideaway.

It was a simple storyline actually, but with welcome twists and turns to keep matters spicy. Plus it was just nice to how everything concluded; especially the final sequence with Lecter and Will working in tandem to murder The Great Red Dragon on the moonlit veranda. An act that filled Lecter with glee when the deed was done, as having a "young cub" like Will to kill with is all he's ever wanted from their strange relationship, and manhunter Will admitted that the savage moment was "beautiful" before forcing his friend/enemy over the side of the cliff and down to the unforgiving rocks below. A decision that finally put an end to Will Graham's unique, tortured soul: the man gifted with an ability to understand and therefore catch despicable killers, who consequently found himself beguiled by the wickedest because of that empathy.

After the cliff-side fall (anyone else reminded of the Reichenbach Falls ending for Sherlock and Moriarty?*), it seems that any kind return for these characters isn't possible now—unless you subscribe to the idea their fall was purely symbolic, because the show's slippery reality could justify that being true. Therefore, the post-credits scene of Bedelia (Gillian Anderson) waiting at the house's dinner table, with her left leg freshly-cooked as the entrée is either a grim joke (nobody's coming to eat her limb), or supposed to make you ask this question: did Lecter remove and cook Bedelia's leg before the Red Dragon takedown, or sometime after his fall with Will? Hmmm. I guess it depends on how much you want to believe another season or occasional specials are possible. Me? I think season 3's ending was so perfect in its dark, twisted romanticism that I'm satisfied if Hannibal is definitely finished.

It was the show it wanted to be, with surprisingly few concessions made along the way, that gave most cable drama's a run for their money, and we're frankly very lucky to have been given this many episodes on a mainstream U.S network.

Hannibal was a delicious three-course meal. Any more and we may get indigestion.


  • Interesting that Dolarhyde disfigures Will (which happens in the book), but in this version of the story death quickly followed.
  • Many characters had a final moment on-screen, which was nice. I particularly loved Alana (Caroline Dhavernas) going to see the severely burned Dr Chilton (Raúl Esparza) in his oxygen tank, and their chat about being comfortable in Lecter's skin—which Chilton now desires literally, whereas for Alana it's symbolic. CSI experts Jimmy (Aaron Abrams) and Brian (Scott Thompson) also had a funny scene, enthusiastically explaining how Dolarhyde faked his own death. I was a little surprised Molly and, particularly, Jack (Laurence Fishburne) didn't get a big moment to cap their work on the series, however.
  • Rutina Wesley's been good on the show, but I was a little underwhelmed by her performance in this hour. Reba discovering that her sweet "Mr D" is actually a psycho serial killer didn't feel like enough of a blow to her sweet soul, and she didn't look close to as frightened or confused as I'd imagined she would be. But it was a choice the actress and filmmakers decided on, so I'm sure others thought it worked fine because Reba was also a strong woman.
  • If there is more to come from this series, somehow, it's amusing to me that Dr Chilton could theoretically return after some full-body skin grafts. You just can't kill that guy!
  • * An ending in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's books that weren't as conclusive as readers imagined, although it's very hard to see any wriggle room for this show's fall.
written by Bryan Fuller, Steve Lightfoot & Nick Antosca | directed by Michael Rymer | 29 August 2015 | NBC