[Review] - Hannibal Series Finale, Season 3 Episode 13, "Wrath Of The Lamb"

Courtesy of Sony Pictures
I've been trying, these last half dozen weeks or so, to find the reason Hannibal will live with me after it's gone. Why, as Hannibal requests, when my life becomes too maddeningly polite, I'll think of him. With other shows that I consider my favourites, there are a variety of reasons they remain in my mind. With shows like Firefly or The Simpsons, it's the dialogue. Nary a day goes by where an innocuous conversation does not illicit a remembrance of a pitch perfect line written with exact grace. With shows like West Wing or Parks and Rec, it's the totality of characters rather than specific moments that fulfill me. That a situation causes me to summon up Toby Ziegler or Ron Swanson as a lump rather than a series of sums.

Hannibal has poetic, delectable dialogue. In the mouths of the likes of Hugh Dancy, Mads Mikkelsen, Laurence Fishburne, Caroline Dhavernas, and Gillian Anderson, Fuller's already lyrical and fairy tale style prose was full bodied. But it was so purple that it transcends the pedestrian and mundane. A line from Hannibal is a slice of the whole, rather than a life of it's own, and cannot live in a vacuum. Likewise is the case with the characters. These were the deepest, most engaging and seductive versions of these characters ever adapted. And my sentiment from three years ago, that Hannibal Lecter was over explored and needed no further plumbing, is now aggressively true. These performances and these depictions have ruined any future attempts by benefits of being the best of all possible versions. Any other Hannibal, past or future, is a shadow compared to this Hannibal.

But I know now for certain that this show will live on in me in a visual way. That the artistry and the methodical sense of visual presence will play in my mind like a screensaver. And that the two final shots of the series will linger in my eyes and in my gut and in my heart for years. Of that, I have no doubt.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that can't live with him, and can't live without him.

If Red Dragon had disappointed me in any substantial way (and it would have been on the macro level rather than on the micro, because the devil was in the details of this show, and like Vermeer, this show excelled in fine detail) it was in the very straight forward way the novel was adapted. The translation of novel to screen went about with less of the interpretation I had hoped, and was much more a translation. So it made me giddy with excitement when, at the hour of the show's becoming, they went off book hard and fast. At the literal final hour, the show reemerged in its truest form and delivered us a climax befitting both the story it was telling at hand and at large. Seven episodes ago, I declared that Digestivo was the ideal finale, but I was wrong. This is how series should end. It was conclusive in every way possible, without feeling like a wrap up. It felt like natural progression, that nothing was forced or manufactured to behave because of when it was occurring. It felt like the way things would have gone had this just been a season finale rather than a series finale. And that is entirely due to Fuller's insistence that there is still life in the show, in some form. But I am now questioning whether I want it to continue. This is leaving on a high, and while I have no doubt the writers could surpass their own achievement again, I'd be happily content with this being the finale end of Hannibal Lecter.

But before I go on much further, I have to make a correction. Last week, I asserted that Fuller must hate the character of Chilton because of the torture that he continually visited upon him. By Fuller's own admission, the exact opposite is true. He loves the character of Chilton, and especially as performed by Raúl Esparza (with this I will agree - Esparza has been consistently fantastic throughout the series run, and always a highlight of episodes in which he appeared). It was because of this love that Fuller kept the character alive long past when he should have rightfully died. In fact, Fuller revealed that Chilton was to have an even more substantial roll should they have adapted Silence of the Lambs. The torture was more a side effect of keeping the character involved in the story in a meaningful way. A horrible, skin peeling way.

Any discussion of this episode will centre on two things: the revelation and admission of Will and Hannibal's feelings for one another, and the ending. We'll focus on the former first. This show has, for three years, featured one of the complex and realistically demented love stories ever put to screen. The maturity of the love, the subtly and organic way it grew between these characters in a way that neither realized until it was too late - a truer statement than "my affection for you is inconvenient" this series has not spoken - and the fact that the writers never allowed it to be demeaned by fashion or extremity. They could have generated a lot of buzz and a lot of scorn by making a big prancing deal of Hannibal Lecter being gay, but that wasn't what this was about. This was about two men whose relationship was infinity complex, and that complexity was never attempted to be dumbed down or belittled. They began as colleagues, formed a mutual respect, were manipulated and abused by one another, and the more time they spent with one another, the more they realized that as self destructive as it was to be together, they were a better whole than they were halves. They loved each other for what they were, not what they could be, but wished better things for each of them. And they did it in a completely asexual but hyper-sensual way.

Will's realization of this, which he has been oblivious to for two seasons, and in denial of for one, was where the episode turned into something else entirely. This was no longer a way to end the Red Dragon storyline, this was a way to bring absolute clarity to his life. We all know what we really want, in our hearts. We just have to admit it to ourselves. Will blustered and railed against Hannibal, insisted on his hatred, and said goodbye over and over. That was so much noise to drown out the truth. Once he heard the truth, all he had left was stunned silence. The plan was never to catch Dolarhyde; that was a side effect. The plan was to orchestrate a confrontation with Hannibal. In the real world, this would be an honest conversation. In a movie, it might be holding a boom box over your head. In this show, it was a fine meal and a shared murder. There are many interpretations to what Will's intent was with orchestrating Hannibal's escape. Jack certainly intended on Hannibal's death, but I don't think Will did. Perhaps Will hoped that Hannibal and Dolarhyde would kill one another and force him not to make a decision. Hoped that one would kill the other, and that Will would pick off the survivor. Hoped that either would kill him first and relieve him of his burdens. Personally, I don't think Will had a plan. I think he wanted time alone with the man he loved, and would play the rest by ear. I certainly don't think that he intended to be stabbed in the face and chest. And I don't think he planned to die in his lover's arms. I think he planned to do what felt most right in the moment, and suffer the consequences later.

Apparently, the filming of the final fight between Hannibal, Will and Dolarhyde was plagued with fraught, and that Fuller had to salvage what he could in the edit. Which is a shame. It is fine the way it is, and remarkable for what they had to go through to make it, but had they the time, the money, and the confidence from on high, it could have been more. As Will lay, bleeding on the ground, and he looks to the monsters in his life and sees the Dragon unfold, I had hoped that Hannibal would take the form of the Wendigo and Will's demons would do battle. Sadly, that was not the case. In fact, Dolarhyde's roll was largely done the moment he faked his death. After that, he took on the form of a force of nature rather than a character. A precipitation that forces the characters to shelter. He appears, derails the caravan, and leaves. He appears, wounds Hannibal and Will, and forces them to confront their truer selves in a moment of catastrophe. Fuller bemoans the lack of coverage in that fight, in that Richard Armitage is largely invisible and his face shadowed, but I think it works well. It removes Dolarhyde as a person and casts him as the shadow that stands between Will and Hannibal. A shadow that, in their final moments, they hack to pieces until there is nothing between them but blood and each other.

As they went over the cliff together, not only did that seem immensely fulfilling and satisfying, it seemed the right way to end things. I sat, as Siouxsie Sioux sang her ballad, and thought to myself, I am uproariously content. I am unadulteratedly satisfied with everything that just happened, in three years, 39 episodes, and 1 hour. A calm came over me as the waves crashed against the cliffs. And then the real final scene came, and I was reminded why Hannibal Lecter is consisted a horror icon. That final silent scene, of Bedelia waiting was in microcosm an example of everything that made this series of brilliant success. And I had an entirely different interpretation of it than Fuller. Which is what is brilliant about silent scene that give you only so much information: the rest comes from who you interpret what it does give you. Fuller wrote it as a promise, that there was still something yet to come. That there was still a force alive and at work in the world, keeping up Hannibal's work, and that Bedelia had been "invited" to join in. I saw it entirely differently. I saw it as a sad postscript, a love letter from Bedelia, an invitation that will never be answered.

Fuller saw a woman presented. I saw a woman presenting. Fuller saw a woman captured. I saw a woman enraptured. Fuller saw a woman preparing. I saw a woman prepared. All season, I've been grappling with the idea of who Bedelia is, and what she wants. Last week I thought we'd had a breakthrough, as she all but admitted that she had resolved herself to her fate, and was looking forward to it. That her time with Hannibal was a fulfillment of desires that she, like Will, had slowly come to dawn on her. She was scared, but less scared of her fate, and more scared of what they meant of her. And she despised Will because he had Hannibal's attention in a way that she never could. To him, she was just another meal. She wanted to be more. Even if that was her destiny, she wanted to be his meal. So, I saw that final scene as her offering to Hannibal. That, knowing he was out there, and that he would come for her, would have a meal prepared. The meal he wanted, but prepared in a way that showed him what she was capable of. And to give him something that will never would: herself, entirely, in exactly the way Hannibal liked best, on a silver platter. Fuller saw her taking the fork as resistance, preparing for a fight. I saw it as her preparing to dig in. And that desperate, distant look of shock in her face was not the look of a woman who had been assaulted. It was the look of a lonely heart sick woman who prepares a meal for two but must eat alone. That finale shot was of a meal Hannibal will never eat.

And neither will we.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


  1. I got a satisfying sense of closure from this episode too even though it wasn't meant to be the end.

    BTW I just want to point out that what Hannibal said was "my compassion for you is inconvenient" and not "my affection for you is inconvenient."