If last week’s “The Great Red Dragon” was centered around the two killers who now share the villainous duties on Hannibal, “And the Woman Clothed with the Sun…” has a broader focus. As much as the titular character has managed to steal the show throughout its run (thanks in no small part to Mads Mikkelsen’s menacing performance), Will, Jack, Alana and the rest of the crew have been equally vital in the development of the series’ conflict. Although the invincible, almost mythical villain makes for a compelling force (even when he’s in the background), the more human characters give the show a different level of psychological depth. These are their stories. (Cue Law and Order sound.)
This shift in focus begins in the first scene of the teaser, which finds Will visiting “Dr. Lecter,” as he refers to him. Hannibal calls Will out for trying to distance himself, and tells him that he’s “family.” Unlike last week’s confrontations between the two, there’s no imagery during the conversation to situate the scene inside Hannibal’s head, allowing the viewer to concentrate more on Will’s reaction to the situation. Their second confrontation is even more explicitly from Will’s perspective, as the change in settings suggests his extreme empathy at work, but even the opening one is clear about not being inside Hannibal’s mind. During the close-ups on Hannibal’s face, we see Will’s reflection in the glass, allowing the horror of being called “family” by a brutal killer to register.
But once Will leaves and the lights go out, we’re back firmly inside Hannibal’s mind. I thought I was sick of seeing flashbacks to the end of Season 2, but seeing Hannibal’s interaction with Abigail sheds new light on both characters. When he expresses his intention to cut her like her “father did,” he reveals a desire to be a father figure in her life. Abigail looking for a replacement for Garret doesn’t register as much of a surprise, but Hannibal wanting to be the one to fill that role does. As his fantasies of being elsewhere in “The Great Red Dragon” reveal, Dr. Lecter is far less confident than he suggests through the collected persona he exudes.
His weakness can also be seen in his meeting with Alana, which director John Dahl shows through two long takes (with one brief shot of her interspersed in between). The lack of cuts allows the tension of the scene to mount, and the relationship between the two gets put on display with minimal distraction. We can clearly see what the show has been hinting at over the last two episodes: Hannibal is desperate. There’s a sense of jealousy in his asking Alana about Margot, just as his need to be a father to Abigail comes from a desire to want something he can’t have.
And on cue, we get another Abigail flashback, and it’s another one which emphasizes Hannibal’s desperation. As menacing as his presence is, there’s something pathetic about a man who blindfolds a teenage girl and brings her face to face with her dead father’s corpse. Again, the paternal connection suggests a void in Hannibal’s life, and he comes across as being as sad as he is terrifying. You almost feel bad for him, at least until he drains her blood or goads her to cut her father’s throat.
Still, he’s not quite as pathetic as Francis Dolarhyde, whose insecurity about his speech impediment and envisioning of dragon tails give him quite a bit of anger to take out on others. Reba McClane does manage to foil him for at least an episode, and their scene in her house beautifully toes the line between terror and flirtation. The sexual undertones in their interaction are just as present as the violent ones, making for a compelling and multi-faceted exchange.
It’s a scene which is ripped fairly straight from the Harris canon, as is the final phone conversation between Lecter and Dolarhyde. Seeing scenes such as these interspersed with Fuller’s unique touches (i.e. the flashbacks to Hannibal’s relationship with Abigail, another one of which we get right before the call) is a joy, and it’s just a shame we’re not likely to see it happen for much longer. But getting to understand the psychologies of a variety of characters, as we do in “And the Woman Clothed with the Sun…,” makes for a satisfying way to spend whatever time Hannibal has left.
Max Bledstein (@mbled210) is a Montreal-based writer, musician and world-renowned curmudgeon. He writes on all things culture for a variety of fine North American publications. His highly anticipated debut novel will write itself one of these days, he assumes.