Hannibal: 3.12 The Number of the Beast Is 666

Poor Frederick Chilton. He's been disemboweled, shot, super-glued to a chair, had his lips chewed right off and then barbecued in a wheelchair until he was extra crispy. As soon as he agreed to Will, Alana and Jack's plan to bait the Red Dragon with a rage-inducing trash-tabloid article from Freddie Lounds, his days were numbered.

It was an interesting choice to give him Freddie's violent fate from Red Dragon - I wondered if would have seemed a step too far having her strapped naked to a chair, assaulted and burned alive - but it also perfectly suited the tragedy of this self-deluded character. The most shocking part of all? That he survived. I imagine if the show had run for ten years, Raúl Esparza's Chilton would have kept coming back, brutally beaten but always surviving each and every horrific incident.

As for what awaits Freddie Lounds? Perhaps nothing. She might actually make it out of the series alive - unlike her book counterpart - but the same is probably unlikely for others in the show. Take Alana, she might be self deluded in the fact that she has every lock and key to keep Hannibal imprisoned but I wonder if all her cold, brash bravado is hiding the fact that she knows he will find a way to keep his promise and kill her. The same can be said for Bedelia who, in a rather surprising, unethical manner is now counselling Will. She is just as deluded as Alana that her fate is not sealed; she won't be killed and eaten by Hannibal because he is imprisoned but I suspect that next week we might see her days numbered too.

At this point in the show, the stakes are raised higher than ever, not just because everyone is desperate to catch the great Red Dragon, but because everyone's moral centre is in jeopardy. For someone who spends his time in his cell, Hannibal is pulling the strings of every character, so much so that it isn't clear who the heroes are any more. Jack, Alana and Will are so corrupted by Hannibal that they are willing to risk lives in their pursuit of the dragon. They still believe that they are fighting crime but their methods grow more dubious. Jack was always ready to push Will to achieve results but there seems to be little remorse when tragedy unfolds.

Hannibal himself seems to be having a lot of fun at everyone else's expense, the loss of all his belongings last week have little effect. He gloats at Chilton before his grizzly fate, taking great pleasure at the second-rate psychiatrist's frustration that Hannibal is getting great attention for his work in psychiatric journals that have discredited his work. When Francis Dolarhyde delivers Chilton's lips in a package he is almost playful as he swallows half of the evidence, joking to Jack that "this one can provide you anything the other one can." Even in the space of four walls, Mads Mikkelsen can still steal the show.

With the finale next week - and I still hold out hope it isn't the finale - I wonder just what Bryan Fuller has in store for us. This week, the brutal imprisonment of Chilton reminded us that Hannibal can stick shock and amaze its audience. The entire scene where Chilton faced the dragon was riveting, with Richard Armitage delivering a phenomenal portrayal of madness as his character finally embraced the dragon, ending with the gruesome moment he leapt upon Chilton and ripped off his lips with his teeth. Seeing a disfigured Chilton screaming in the chair reminded audience's of Mason Verger's equally horrific fate in season two. As for the moment when Reba arrived to deliver some soup, I watched with bated breath. She walked away that time, but with Francis losing the battle between his humanity and the Dragon, she looked set to become his next victim at the episode's end.

For me the biggest question going into the finale is not if they will capture the Red Dragon but what will happen to Will Graham. Bedelia clued into the belief that he and Hannibal cannot live apart - the homoerotic element of their relationship aside which seemed forced, almost sensationalist - and hit the nail on the head. Will was responsible for what happened to Chilton. "That's participation." she told him (oh the huge irony in that statement). "Hannibal Lecter does have agency in this world; he has you.

I so desperately want Will to escape the darkness, to return home of Molly and Walter and live happily after. But the events last week might have put a fracture in that relationship, while the visions Will has of Molly as the Dragon's victim suggest he is spiralling back towards the darkness. Will Will Graham end the series as a hero or villain? Hannibal calls him the sacrificial Lamb of God, suggesting a truly biblical finale and because we're almost at the end of his participation in Thomas Harris's novels, what happens next is truly open-ended. Will Hannibal season three, and possibly the entire show, end in utter tragedy? We'll know soon enough...

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