Saturday, 1 August 2015

HANNIBAL, 3.9 – 'And the Woman Clothed With the Sun...'

Saturday, 1 August 2015


Just to remind readers, this review is scheduled alongside the Thursday night broadcast in Canada. This episode airs tonight in the U.S, and Wednesday in the UK, so proceed at your own risk of spoilers...

I love how season 3's developing the Red Dragon arc with utmost respect to the source material (it's so great hearing the book's memorable lines quoted by this cast), and the writers have found a way to keep things fresh by virtue of the added complexities they've brought to proceedings, thanks to their more elaborate background for Hannibal Lecter.

Francis Dolarhyde (Richard Armitage) is a faithful interpretation of the book's serial killer, played with a tricky balance of sympathy and revulsion by Armitage, but in this version his savage family slayings are reverberating around the narrative much louder because of the show's deeper groundwork. Specifically, the television's Dr Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) genuinely sees Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) as family and loves him; he just expresses that love in unorthodox ways few can understand because he's a sociopath. The investigation into the Tooth Fairy's murders feel personal to Will not only because of his preternatural gift for empathy and visualisation, but in how his real-life emotional ties to his wife and stepson fuels a desire to see this killer caught. It's more personal than ever with Dolarhyde, particularly because Will's ability is enhanced through discourse with Lecter; a man who's good for his talent, but bad for his soul.

"And the Woman Clothes With the Sun..." was all about human bonding, which can have a positive or negative effect on those pairing. There were some unexpected and excellent flashbacks to scenes with Lecter tutoring Abigail Hobbs (Kacey Rohl), which plugged a few gaps in their storyline (primarily how they faked her death), while stirring the idea that Lecter once desired the "perfect family" and may find Dolarhyde's destruction of them a little unsavoury, too. Or perhaps not, because his mind's so twisted it's difficult to fathom.

Half this episode was focused on the pairing of Lecter and Will, which was good to see. I've been slightly nervous this Red Dragon story's naturally going to tip the weight over to Will and Dolarhyde, with Mikkelsen becoming a gloried guest-star in the show that bears his character's name. But no, it seems the writers have found a great way to keep Lecter an active part of the narrative without leaving his luxurious cell: through flashbacks to his recent past, the 'memory palace' sequences where folk in his presence aren't aware he's visualising them somewhere else, or the moment when Will and Lecter discussed a crime scene and director John Dahl placed the actors at the real locations. Lecter may have four walls to contain him, but Mikkelsen's role isn't as claustrophobic as Silence of the Lambs was for Hopkins—which I'm happy about. It was once said that Hopkins' version of Lecter was never as scary outside of his cell, when he was a fugitive from justice, but this show seems to prove it more the fault of the writing. It's working just fine here.

The other half of the episode focused on Dolarhyde and introduced a significant person into his tortured, lonely life: Reba McClane (Rutina Wesley), a blind co-worker who develops photographs. Dolarhyde feels moderately comfortable around Reba because she can't see the (relatively minor) disfigurement to his mouth (which he still hides with his hand through force of habit), and speaks to him with a compassion he's clearly unaccustomed to. Hannibal has crafted a lot of crazy killers over its three years, but Dolarhyde's the only one who feels nuanced and believable to me—although Abel Gideon was also rather good, admittedly. Not that I'd say the show has done a poor job writing its villains, just that they've mainly existed as freakish sideshows to the Lecter/Graham dynamic it's tough to rationalise. It's refreshing to now have a character you actually feel sympathy for, and just want to find peace by giving himself up and getting therapy before it's too late. The chances of that, now he has a direct line to Lecter's cell, posing as his attorney? Zero. I'm sure Lecter's going to screw with the poor man's mind even further, to help him achieve his transformation into The Great Red Dragon.


  • Great to see Freddie Lounds (Lara Chorostecki) of Tattle Crime back on the show this season, which was to be expected because her character has a significant role in the novel. I'm interested to see what happens to her on TV, however, as the writers already visualised Freddie's fate from the books as a winking in-joke during season 2.
  • Loved the scene where Alana exercised her power over Lecter, by threatening to remove his cell's books, drawings, and toilet. She's dead on the money about the way to control Hannibal: threaten to remove his dignity.
  • Speaking of Alana, interesting to note she's still with Margot Verger three years later, and they have a son, the "Verger heir" that she carried to term. I wonder if we'll ever see Margot again. It would seem likely, as they're a family unit I'm guessing Lecter will be helping Dolarhyde ruin.
  • I wasn't a fan of Rutina Wesley during her six years on HBO's True Blood, but that was down to her character Tara being a gigantic pain in the neck and she was a victim of weak writing. Wesley was a lot better here as sweet Reba, and I look forward to seeing her ill-fated romance with "Mr D" continue into heartbreaking tragedy.
written by Jeff Vlaming, Helen Shang, Bryan Fuller & Steve Lightfoot • directed by John Dahl • 1 August 2015 | NBC