"He ate the painting," Will says.
"He ate it?" Jack responds.
Will intones, with a verbal shrug, "He ate it up."
Jack Crawford, fisher of men (Manfisher?), sounds surprised by this scenario. Apparently he's the only person who hasn't seen Manhunter or Red Dragon.
Will's irreverent demeanor, juxtaposed with Jack's typical straight-faced severity, suggests someone amused by the absurdity of the situation in which he finds himself, but who is unable to do anything about it. This opening conversation is indicative of the entire episode's wry attempt to twist the various moments from Red Dragon and its subsequent adaptations into something new, or at least something self-aware enough to acknowledge its own redundancy, a sort of perverse play on Ezra Pound's famous line.
Hannibal interprets Ezra Pound literally: He’s helping to make a man new. Francis is scared; he doesn’t want to hurt Reba. Francis is losing his struggle with the Dragon, that malevolent beast lurking within him (and Hannibal has routinely suggested that we all have a Red Dragon lurking within us). Hannibal advises Francis to pass the Dragon off to someone else. Someone like Will Graham. “Odd-looking,” Francis says. “Not very handsome, but purposeful.”
“He has a family,” Hannibal says. “Save yourself. Kill them all.”
We’ve seen this scene four different times now, between Thomas Harris’s novel and the various adaptations, all of which retain basically the same dialogue. It’s an integral scene, but Bryan Fuller and Steve Lightfoot could’ve changed the line “Kill them all” to something else. They could’ve changed most of the scene to something else and kept the essence. That they kept the line the same, particularly in an episode that constantly plays with itself, suggests that Hannibal knows its own needs better than anyone else. There are so many winks, nods, and jabs in “And the Beast From the Sea,” you might feel bruised by the end. But it works.
Now Francis looks at the moon with resentment. He’s torn between two clashing, co-existing selves. (Picture Hannibal and Will inhabiting one body together.) The moon dances around Francis as wings and a tail protrude from his back, appearing more painful and less triumphant than before. He feeds film into a projector and sits on the couch with Reba. “I have some homework to do,” he says. She nestles with him, feeling safe and secure, as Francis watches footage of Molly and Walter recorded from afar.
“Are these your nocturnal animals?” Reba asks innocently.
“Yes,” Francis mumbles.
“Do you think they know they’re being filmed?”
Francis doesn’t look at the Grahams predatorily, or with any relish. He views them as his salvation, killing them as a way by which he can expunge the Dragon and feel like a man instead of a monster. The scene, a slight alteration of similar scenes from Red Dragon and Manhunter (his refusal to go digital in an earlier episode was a nice joke about the show’s modernization of Harris’s story), has a tragic air that eluded previous versions. Francis really doesn’t know if he wants to be the Red Dragon anymore, but the Dragon certainly isn't done with him yet.
Molly takes the dogs to the vet. They’ve been poisoned, but she doesn’t know how. Maybe they ate something they shouldn’t have, or maybe they got sick from the canned food from China (Will usually makes their food from scratch, Molly explains, but while he’s away chasing serial killers, she’s been feeding the dogs canned food). Maybe something more sinister happened. As she and Walt exit the vet’s office, the camera pans to a notice pinned to a board advising people to report any pet mutilations. Did Francis poison the pets instead of killing them, as he did the others? It would be, comparatively, an almost altruistic display of empathy, and another minute detail of his internal struggle.
Will flat-out asks Hannibal if he’s spoken with the Tooth Fairy. Hannibal thinks the killer has earned the right to be called by his desired name, the Red Dragon, an upsetting bit of identity commentary from Doctor Lecter.
“How would he have contacted me?” Hannibal asks. “A personal ad? Toilet paper?” Again, mocking the redundancy of the arc, again riffing on the show’s modernization.
Will wants to know how he’s choosing his victims: “Social media, I’d imagine,” Hannibal taunts.
Hannibal doesn’t care what family the Dragon hurts next. “They’re not my family, and I’m not letting them die. You are.”
Will is Hannibal’s family, and the Dragon disposing of Will’s wife and son would bring Hannibal and Will closer again. This is, in his own way, Hannibal showing his love for Will.
Francis visits the Grahams. With crooked teeth in his mouth and a hat pulled over the top of his face, leaving only the Dragon half-exposed, Francis carefully, quietly prowls the house. Francis moves vigilantly, his feet pressing into the wooden floors in measures. Molly sits up in bed. Her eyes widen. Francis traverses the darkened hallway, approaching the bedrooms. Molly gets out of bed, wakes Walter, and helps him out of the window as Francis draws his gun, hearing Molly at the end of the hall and quickly approaching her, pushing the bedroom door open, raising his gun at an empty bed.
Molly sneaks out a door behind him and descends the stairs as Francis stalks from room to room, looking for her. He grows desperate, worried — this is the first family he has to kill, the family for which he’s been searching. His salvation is escaping out the front door.
Walter crawls behind the car, and Molly ducks below the front porch. Francis stands on the porch, gazing out into the darkness. He moves toward the car; Molly makes a sound, and Francis pivots, heading toward her. The boy scampers to her, and she hits the car alarm, triggering the car into a fit of flashing lights and shrieking sounds. Francis turns back toward the car and unloads his gun with deft precision into the empty vehicle. By the time he realizes his folly, they’ve made it to the road. Molly runs in front of an oncoming car, which swerves and spins out, just missing her. The driver gets out and starts to yell, only to be cut down by Francis. Molly and Walter get in and she hits the gas. Bullets whiz by, punching holes in the window, in the seat, in Molly’s chest. She leans into the blood-spattered steering wheel and straightens out the car, leaving Francis behind in the dark.
In the hospital, where Molly is recovering, Will has the conversation with Walter. In Manhunter, the famous scene happens in a grocery store aisle; here, it’s in a waiting room, and the outcome isn’t a loving embrace and "That Folger's stuff." Walter asks Will if he really spent time in a mental hospital after killing someone; Will says yes. Walter asks if Will is going to kill the Dragon; Will says, no, he’s going to catch him. Walter says, “You should kill him,” and walks away to watch a baseball game.
Will can’t go home. Not now. Resentment’s raising a blister in him.
Alana has figured out that Hannibal’s lawyer wasn’t the one calling. “Would you have told me the truth?” she asks him.
“In my own way, I always have,” he says.
Hannibal, Alana points out, is relevant again now. He’s manipulated his way into the spotlight again, a ventriloquist of men and murderers. Jack wants Hannibal to talk to Francis on the phone so they can track him. “I can’t refuse him a sympathetic ear,” Hannibal says.
Francis needs that sympathetic ear. He's hurting. He’s been hurt by Hannibal, by himself, but mostly by the Dragon. Exercising in his room, toning his body, he abruptly slumps to the floor as the Dragon overtakes him. Francis's futile attempt to wrestle with the Dragon manifests as a Fight Club–style fight with himself; pulling a Tyler Durden, he punches himself in the face, over and over until he falls, quivering in a heap, his fist banging the floor in vain. It may be as subtle as ... well, a punch to the face, but Hannibal's scenes of Francis struggling with the monster skulking within extrapolate the tragedy of his situation. Tom Noonan, for all the looming anxiety he instills, couldn't make Francis a real person with real emotions. Noonan has great presence, something you can't teach, but his persona is rooted in a sense of emptiness, like there's a void behind those eyes. Armitage is the opposite, creating an entire indiscernible person hiding behind the flesh-and-bone one we see on-screen.
Francis visits Reba at the photo lab. He asks her if it's worse to have seen the light and lost it. He's confused, afraid. He doesn't want to hurt her, so he breaks up with her.
“She called me a man,” he tells Hannibal on the phone, his face swollen. “A sweet man.”
He’s looking for help, for a friend. Jack watches Hannibal, tracking the Dragon’s location on a computer. Hannibal looks up at Jack and tells Francis, “They’re listening.”
Hannibal is having his fun.
While this episode is maybe the most visually restrained of the season, failing to conjure any shocking images that will linger (despite its occasional tonal gaffs and the miscalculation of William Peterson's quote-unquote performance, Manhunter is rife with moments that stay like a splinter in your mind's eye), "And the Beast From the Sea" is a clever, subtly amusing episode. The self-referential jokes and nods to its own retreading of well-known material feels like Fuller & Co. are letting the episode slap itself in the face, not unlike Francis kicking his own ass. It's a dangerous, daring move with only a couple of episodes left, to tone down the insanity instead and give us an episode of inside jokes and elusive nods.
Will visits Hannibal. “Ugliness is found in the faces of the crowd,” Hannibal says. He confesses to Will that he sent Francis after his family, that he told him to “kill them all.”
“When you look at her,” he asks of Molly, “what do you see?”
“You know what I see.”
Francis, Will realizes, didn’t “kill” those families. He changed them, transformed them. Francis craves change, and Hannibal is more than willing to help him. The question remains: How badly does Will crave change?