Hannibal delivers its second somewhat scattered episode in a row with Season 3, Episode 10 (“And the Woman Clothed in the Sun”). This episode meandered, but not in the hypnotically compelling way Hannibal so often pulls off. It is a fine line, perhaps one dependent on novelty.
Here, the novelty has worn off.
We cared about the backstory with Bedelia’s patient a season or maybe even a half-season ago, but not now. Now, it feels a distraction from the plot, themes, and characters that most propel the current arc. Why is Will visiting Bedelia when he should be focusing on Dolarhyde? What purpose does their conversations serve in the world of the narrative? The episode didn’t sell us on the relevancy of this plot.
The story of Francis Dolarhyde falling in love with Reba McClaine worked much better. It was sweet, scary, intense, beautiful, and nerve-wracking all at once. Hannibal has always been able to pull cognitive dissonance off well in its viewing experience, and that was never felt more prominently than in the moment when Reba was reaching for the mouth of a sleeping tiger as Dolarhyde looked on or when, in a compelling parallel, Reba reached for dangerous creature Dolarhyde in the same way later in the episode.
“How can you have compassion for one killer and not another?” Hannibal asks this question with the comparison between Hannibal and Dolarhyde. One is much more unhinged than the other, and seems to kill from a kind of compulsion rather than as sport or at.
Should this matter? For Will, perhaps it does not. He has empathy for all things, which I suppose is different than compassion. He is able to understand them, if not sympathize with him. Does he sympathize with Dolarhyde? Do we?
Whatever the answers to these complicated questions, the real plot developments come in how these characters finally come together. At the beginning of the episode, we see more of that conversation between Hannibal and Dolarhyde. At the end of the episode, Will inadvertently stumbles upon Dolarhyde in the Brooklyn Museum, both pulled there by “The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Who Clothed the Sun,” a watercolor by William Blake that has helped inspire Dolarhyde’s madness.
Their meeting is brief, and ends with Dolarhyde easily throwing Will out of the elevator and escaping back into the city. The brief, kinetic interaction left me wishing we have seen more plot development or better meandering — especially with only three episodes left in this season and, probably, show.