Hannibal Recap: Is This Art?

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HANNIBAL -- "The Number of the Beast is 666" Episode 312 -- Pictured: Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal Lecter -- (Photo by: Brooke Palmer/NBC) Photo: Brooke Palmer/NBC/=
Hannibal
Show
Hannibal
Episode Title
The Number of the Beast Is 666
Season
3
Episode
12
Editor’s Rating
5/5

“I look at my wife,” Will says, “and I see her dead.”

After chastising Bedelia for conspiring with Hannibal, Will now confides in her, answering Dr. Lecter’s question an episode late.

Bedelia probes deeper: “Do you see yourself killing her?”

“Yes,” Will says. “Over and over.”

Hannibal gave Will confidence. He gave Will a family. He was Will’s confidence, his family. He was Will’s confidant. Now that Will has acquired these things on his own, has made a life for himself, Hannibal seeks to take it all away. He still has his fingers embedded in Will’s spine, as if working the wooden rod in a puppet. Hannibal, like God, gives and takes, collapsing churches and destroying lives.

Director Guillermo Navarro slowly roves the camera around Will's and Bedelia’s faces, pushing closer, leering away.

Does Hannibal have any control over Bedelia? Is she afraid he’s going to eat her? His opportunity to eat her has passed, she tells Will. Like Will, she has gained confidence on her own, has carved out a life for herself in the wake of Hannibal’s incarceration; unlike Will, she’s under the illusion that she’s no longer under Hannibal’s influence.

“Bluebeard’s Wife,” Will says, referencing Charles Perrault’s folktale from the late 1600s. Perrault depicts a nefarious man who murders his first wife, for reasons that remain abstruse, and quickly develops a penchant for marrying and murdering young women. He stores their corpses in a forbidden room; as each wife betrays his instructions to stay away from the forbidden room and discovers his heinous secret, they, too, become part of his carrion collection, until one woman attempts to thwart him. In this situation, Bedelia is that valiant woman — or at least she thinks she’s that woman. The story concerns a male’s perspective of feminine curiosity and draws from the story of Eve’s manipulation by the snake in the Garden of Eden, as well as its correlating tale in Arabian Nights

Hannibal is Bluebeard in this story. But Bedelia isn’t the tenacious wife.

“Is Hannibal in love with me?” Will asks.

Bedelia seems to take pleasure in his query. Does Hannibal have those diurnal stabs of hunger? Does he crave Will, take nourishment in the sight of him? Yes, Bedelia says, before posing the question, “But do you ache for him?”

Physics and fairy tales, wrath and retribution, the Devil and God — “The Number of the Beast is 666” delves further into the theological than any previous episode. Hannibal has always been concerned with Lecter’s God complex and his fascination with Good and Evil and the vast umbrage betwixt in which Hannibal operates; yet, this episode flat-out poses questions only insinuated previously. Does Hannibal love Will? Is Hannibal evil? Can Will save his family, let alone himself? It’s as if the show is pondering its own meaning in its final moments of existence. 

Hannibal discusses the Devil and God and the Lamb with Jack, exchanging cryptic lines in a poetic spat that harks back to Wordsworth and Coleridge. Navarro, on whom I’ve been harsh this season (and I stand by my grievances), deserves a lot of credit for keeping this scene compelling, even as Hannibal and Jack pontificate in poems and riddles for three minutes. It could’ve easily devolved into self-parody, but Navarro finds the right tone, and Mikkelsen and Fishburne play their parts with precision.

Francis has the Devil and God raging inside him. He arches his back and claws at his replica of Blake’s painting; flesh and canvas coalesce Cronenberg-style and blood streams down the painting, down his back, visually recalling the mingling of blood and ink on Francis’s tattoo from his introductory episode. It seems that Francis has finished his fight with the Dragon. He lost.

Will and Jack need to trick and ensnare the Dragon before he kills again. Time is not on their side. Will wants to bad-mouth the Dragon to Freddie Lounds. In the novel and subsequent film adaptations, this trick ends with the male version of Lounds being immolated and rolled through a parking garage on a wheelchair. Since Hannibal used that scene to fake Lounds’s death last season, you can’t help but wonder what Fuller & Co. will do with Lounds this time, how they’ll keep her death fresh. (This whole season has played with viewer expectations wonderfully; the writers and directors seem to take great joy in messing with us.)

Alana points out that Will needs a professional voice to verify his statements in The Tattler.

“Are you volunteering?” he asks her.

“No. I’d have to be a fool.”

Cut to Frederic Chilton throwing a hissy fit.

Hannibal has penned an article refuting his own insanity defense, for the sole purpose of spiting Chilton and making him look stupid.

“This was quantifiably bitchy,” Chilton says. (Esparza bites into that line with relish.)

“Your book didn’t hold up to scrutiny,” Hannibal says.

“Of course it didn’t, I was lying!”

Despite the pensive, melancholic tone of the cold opening, this is one of the funniest episodes of the series. It’s also one of the most disturbing. Writers Jeff Vlaming and Angela Lamanna (as well as regulars Fuller and Lightfoot) weave some wry lines into the show’s moribund fabric. Mikkelsen, Fishburne, Esparza, et al, deliver their lines with exquisite timing, and Navarro maintains an undulating rhythm that encompasses gags and gore in careful measures. He uses match cuts and transitions as visual quips. In his final outing as director, Navarro has finally found the perfect balance between absurd and awful, quarrying the humor underlying the show’s darkest moments.

It’s also worth noting that the first ten minutes are rife with gay undertones. The homoeroticism of Hannibal and Will’s relationship has been a prominent theme this season, to say nothing of the unexpected turn Alana and Margot’s took, but less obvious is Hannibal’s reimagining of Frederic Chilton. Esparza has played Chilton far more effeminately than Anthony Heald (whose Chilton discomfortingly hit on Clarice Starling within moments of meeting her in Silence of the Lambs); his calling Hannibal “quantifiably bitchy” stands out as a moment in which Chilton is unfiltered, his emotions overcoming his calculated demeanor. And Francis fighting his Becoming shares some uncomfortable similarities with someone struggling with repressing their sexual orientation. There’s way too much here to unpack in this recap, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t say something about it.

Chilton agrees to do the interview with Will and Lounds. He profiles the Dragon while Will reiterates his observations in crass, mean statements like “He’s ugly and impotent” and “He’s the product of an incestuous home.” Lounds takes their picture. Will puts a hand on Frederic’s shoulder, like they’re old chums. It’s sort of precious.

Will acts as the bait. Jack tells Will they’ll swaddle him in body armor, and Will reminds Jack that 7 out of 11 times, the Dragon has gone for the head shot.

“Yeah … ” Jack says before walking away.

But the Dragon doesn’t go for Will. He doesn’t go for Lounds, either. He goes for Chilton.

Chilton wakes up, his mouth gagged, his body bound to a chair.

“Would you like a blanket?” Francis asks him. “I’ll get you a blanket.”

Navarro keeps the camera lingering on Chilton, his face wrought with terror as Francis stands behind him, out of focus.

“My back,” Chilton says. “My skin … did I get burned? Oh God … ”

Francis dons a black mask and approaches Chilton, to talk. He wants Chilton to rectify his lies about the Dragon. Chilton asks if they can talk “man to man.”

“I am not a man,” the Dragon says, refuting what Reba told him last week.

Chilton, speaking in auxiliaries, without contractions, says, “I am scared.”

The Dragon asks if he’s praying to God.

“We mostly pray to God when we are scared,” Chilton says.

The Dragon approaches Chilton as the doorbell rings. “D?” Reba calls from outside.

“If you make a sound,” the Dragon tells Chilton, “I will kill her.”

Reba comes inside. She heard Francis was sick, so she brought him soup. As Chilton watches in horror, Reba confesses to Francis, “I guess I’m guilty of liking you. I’m not so scarred by life that I’m incapable of love. I hope you aren’t either.”

After she leaves, Francis slips back into his role as the Dragon. He turns on his projector and clicks through a series of images for Chilton. His art portfolio.

Click. A woman, alive. “Do you see?”

Click. A woman, dead, reborn. “Do you see?”

Click. “Do … you … see?”

"Oh my God ... "

“You are privy to a great Becoming,” the Dragon says. “Do you see my Becoming? My art? Is this art?”

The Dragon turns on his video camera. “Repeat after me.”

Francis puts the jagged set of teeth in his mouth. He turns, faces Chilton, approaches him swiftly and pounces on him. He puts his mouth over Chilton’s, taking in his lips, his tongue. He pulls away and a string of viscera dangles between them as Chilton shrieks inhumanly out of what’s left of his face.  

Hannibal receives a package in the mail.

“May I open it in private?” he asks Alana.

“No.”

He opens it, revealing two lips wrapped in paper. He eats one and lets Jack Crawford have the other.

Hannibal says Alana, Jack, and Will orchestrated Chilton’s demise. They used him, not unlike something Hannibal might do.

Chilton’s body burning, rolling through the night.

Chilton wanted the world to know his face. Now he doesn’t have one.

Will and Jack visit Chilton in the hospital. The man who survived a disemboweling and a bullet to the face now lies in a bed, a charred mess. Through his remaining teeth he gabbles something to Will.

“Can you understand him?” Jack asks.

Will understands him.

“He said, ‘You set me up. You know it. You put your hand on me in the picture. Like a pet.’”

Like Hannibal did to Will. Now Will sees.