A gripping finale that provides closure to the entire series…
Reviewing the season three finale of Hannibal is a very bittersweet affair. On one hand, the cancellation of the show by NBC – and no confirmed pick up elsewhere – means that Bryan Fuller’s vision of the story has been cut short. But on the other hand, The Wrath of the Lamb wrapped things up so beautifully I’m not sure I need more.
Don’t get me wrong, if Hannibal is resurrected for another season / miniseries / TV movie, I will happily watch it. But there was such a sense of closure with this season that unlike the shocking events of seasons one and two, I reached the end credits feeling completely satisfied.
So where to begin? Well the pre-titles sequence certainly delivered a twist or two, with Francis Dolarhyde seemingly blowing his brains out in front of a terrified Reba and forcing her to pull the key chain of the bloody stump of his neck in order to get out of the house fire he had set up to ‘save’ her from the Dragon’s wrath. As breaks ups go, that was brutal.
It was a great move that left the audience not knowing what to expect for the remaining 40 minutes; particularly as the season had already done the whole Dragon going after Will’s family a couple of episodes earlier when that had served as the finale of the book and film versions of Red Dragon. And that was made the finale so exciting; more than ever I had no idea how this was all going to end.
While Dolarhyde would dramatically resurface over the course of the episode, the heart of it was the love story between Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter. Not necessarily a homosexual relationship as many have alluded to; I felt there was something different to a sexual attraction between these two – perhaps the connection of two minds who were the only ones that could understand each other? Will almost got the chance to walk away. With the Dragon dead, Will finally believed he can return to his life with Molly and Walter. His final parting shot to Hannibal is particularly cold. “You turned yourself in so I would always know where you are. But you’d only do that if I rejected you. Goodbye. When Hannibal asks if it was good to see him, Will’s dismissive ‘no’ shows that for the second time this season he has escaped the clutches of the man who would pull him into the darkness.
Dolarhyde’s return is the game changing moment and the point that turned this episode from Will’s story of redemption into a beautiful tragedy. Will’s ruthless nature puts his survival at the cost of others, something he wouldn’t have down at the start of the show and proving yet again how much Hannibal has shaped him. Just as it has Jack (a sadly underused Laurence Fishburne) and Alana. Her scene with the recovering Frederick Chilton, tells us everything. She has become as cold and ruthless as the the man she holds prisoner and her and Will’s actions are directly responsible for his predicament.
It was interesting that she ended the series fleeing with Margot and her child after Hannibal’s inevitable escape, particularly after Hannibal’s final scene with her in his cell. “You died in my kitchen, Alana, when you chose to be brave. Every moment since is borrowed. Your wife, your child – they belong to me. You made a bargain for Will’s life and then I spun you gold.” I suspect her fate would have been reserved for a proposed fourth season – the whole “I’m having an old friend for dinner perhaps from the end of Silence Of The Lambs? In this version of the story, she lives to fight another day.
At least she showed concern for Will’s plan to ‘fake an escape’ to lure Dolarhyde out even if she went along with it. Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier was far less agreeable, knowing full well – like the audience – that any fake escape attempt would be enough to allow Hannibal to break free and eat her. “You righteous, reckless twitchy little man,” she ranted against Will, with a far more passionate performance than usual. “You might as well cut all our throats and be done with it.” Gillian Anderson delivered a masterpiece performance to the end and looked stunning in that blue gown in that final post-credits sequence even with half a leg missing.
I’m not sure what to make of that scene and I think audiences will be torn to. Did she do this to herself, resigning herself to her fate by cutting off and cooking her own leg even when she was free of Hannibal? Or did Hannibal and Will survive and they have done this to her? If you look around the internet you might find some clues but for me I’ll take it as the former, no matter how twisted it is. Otherwise it slightly undermines that closure The Wrath of the Lamb brought us.
After the attack on the police transport by Dolarhyde brought Bedelia’s worst fears to light, Hannibal and Will found themselves at the cannibal’s beach house hideaway. By this point, Will’s last chance for redemption was gone. Whether it was by ‘his design’ or a tragic accident, the assault had left several police officers dead. The series came full circle, with Hannibal telling Will this was the place he had kept Miriam Lass of season one and Abigail Hobbs during season two. Now he brought Will. Hannibal’s comment about the eroding cliff face is as much a metaphor for Will’s own eroding mentality and here he has come to kill or be killed as he pits the Dragon and the Cannibal against each other.
The final battle was brutal and poetic, with Dolarhyde’s wings flapping like a Balrog as he savagely cut down both Will and Hannibal. But it was the final turn of events as Will and Hannibal took him down together – hacking and slashing with knife and axe – that was his and Will’s undoing. The story of the Red Dragon ended in a bloody fight on the patio while Will embraced the beauty of the kill even as he looked set to die from his own wounds.
Here the love story ended in true Romeo And Juliet-fashion as Will fell into Hannibal’s arms. “It really does look black in the moonlight.” Will exclaims at the bloodshed around them. “See? This is all I ever wanted for you, Will. For both of us.” Hannibal replies softly, finally fulfilling his dream of making Will into a version of his own. Will’s humanity, his sense of morality is gone. “It’s beautiful.” he exclaims before throwing both him and Hannibal over the cliff into the raging sea below. At the very end, there is a glimmer of redemption; not a chance for a happy family life but to stop him from becoming a killer and taking Hannibal with him.
The assumption of course is that a season four would have seen Hannibal and Will survive – perhaps with Will embracing the darkness and joining them – but I like the ending presented here, the slightly odd post-title sequence aside. It ended a somewhat mixed third season that never really reached the heights of seasons one and two. Even if episodes like Digestivo and the finale were sheer brilliance, the over-abundance of art-house imagery in the Florence arc lost some viewers. Regardless of the third-season flaws, Hannibal continued to be one of the most daring, beautiful, shocking and riveting shows on television. It may have ended on a strong note, but in the absence of a resurrection outside the NBC, it will be sorely missed…
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