Hannibal‘s penultimate episode pushes Will Graham further into Dolarhyde’s mind as the hunt for the Dragon gains momentum.
For two seasons the push and pull of the Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham’s relationship has served as the driving force of Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal narrative, but as the Italian chapter fades into a distant memory, the focus of the show has shifted. The series, for better or worse depending on how most fans want to see the series end, has become Richard Armitage’s show. Mads Mikkelsen, Hugh Dancy, and the rest of the Hannibal core are simply playing the supporting roles.
The plan to lure the Dragon out of hiding requires three components — a celebrated liar, an antagonist worthy of the Dragon’s attention, and a salacious mouthpiece. Dr. Chilton, Will Graham, and Freddie Lounds, respectively, craft a disparaging piece that reduces Dolarhyde to a perversive, sexual animal. The final touch is a photo of Chilton and Graham looking chummy with an identifying mark of Graham’s hideaway in the background.
As the Red Dragon narrative unfolded, it seemed unlikely that Fuller would recreate the flaming wheelchair that supposedly ended Freddie Lounds’ life. But even with repetition, Fuller crafted the Dragon’s capture and torture of another Fred, this time a Frederick, by binding him with adhesive to a wheelchair and covering his eyes with a pantiliner. The benevolent man seeps through the Dragon facade as Dolarhyde offers the weepy, terrified Chilton a blanket to ease the chill of the air on his exposed body.
The Dragon, in this moment, transitions from a beast that consumes Dolarhyde’s psyche, to a god using his chosen subject as a mouthpiece. This greater being believes there is an opportunity for Chilton to learn, a chance for him to redeem himself in the eyes of the Dragon. Trying to appeal to Dolarhyde, the man, Chilton makes the mistake of using his fear as a means to connect to another human being. Dolarhyde, the man, is no more. The Dragon sees Chilton’s fear as a distraction. There is only one way that will force Chilton to recognize the magnificence of the transformation. He must look into the Dragon’s eyes and see his purpose.
But before the Dolarhyde can expose the Dragon, Reba knocks at the door. Unaware, or unconcerned with the presence of anyone, aside from D, she admits her rashness in throwing him out of her lab and hopes that he has not given up on her just yet.
With Reba safely back in her cab, Dolarhyde returns to the task at hand asking Chilton, “Do you want to know what I am?” He turns his attention to the films of the families he killed, the woman before and after the Dragon took them into safekeeping. He ends on a picture of Chilton and Graham, his next victims. Chilton’s pleas throw Will, the FBI, and everyone he can think of up for sacrifice. Anything to save himself.
The Dragon’s work, his art, is not insanity. Chilton should not feel fear, he should feel honor to have an audience with such a great being. Yet he sits before the Dragon and does not recognize the greatness of his becoming. Before he decides to let Chilton go, he wants him to redact all of his lies in front of the camera. When they are through, the Dragon is still not satisfied with the scared man’s lack of awe and revelation. A memory of the evening simply will not do, but a physical mark will. Pulling down his mask and donning his dentures, Dolarhyde crawls across the room, and bites off the lips that spoke the lies.
Hannibal, stripped of everything, still holds onto one thing Alana, the FBI, or the hospital can never take from him — the fascination and love he harbors for watching Will Graham struggle to keep himself sane. The Dragon has one final correspondence with Lecter, sending him the lips of Dr. Chilton with a note that reads, “These offended me.” Jack arrives to inspect the lips, or should we say lip, as Hannibal ingested half of the pair.
Chilton mentioned to Hannibal earlier in the episode that the world will no longer be afraid of the man who disproved his insanity plea through an article. His time of relevancy is slipping away faster and faster as new and more threatening forces lurk on the other side of the glass. But Hannibal knows that at least one of those forces is driven in part by his influence.
The Dragon’s message to Will Graham, delivered by Chilton in his final moments, tests Will’s ability to block his feelings of empathy that draw him under the Dragon’s influences. Will tries to navigate the current hell he is traveling through with Bedelia. Chilton’s desire for the spotlight was stripped from him when the Dragon felt offense. He may deal with Hannibal discounting his tales from behind bars, but some betrayed demons feel more satisfaction sending a burning corpse into a fountain.
How much was Will participating in that moment? Or was he simply watching? Does it really make a difference? Will only has as much agency in his life as Hannibal is willing to give him. He is not as free as he believes. Touching Chilton’s shoulder in their Tattler photo expressed a type of intimacy, a way to show the Dragon how closely the two were connected. Chilton was the pet the Dragon silenced before closing in on his prey.
Will’s apologies to Chilton’s burnt corpse seem halfhearted as he draws out the final clue to Dolarhyde’s identity — the blind visitor.
Dolarhyde’s final movements are set in motion after he kidnaps Reba and exposes her to the Dragon. Though she may not be able to physically see his becoming, Reba cowers in the presence of a being that no longer resembles the man she let into her life a few weeks ago. D vanishes as he stands before her with wings breaking free from his back.
Watch the series finale of Hannibal season 3, episode 13, “The Wrath of the Lamb,” Saturday, August 29 at 10:00 p.m. ET on NBC.