This review contains spoilers.
3.13 The Wrath Of The Lamb
There are some who want to label Hannibal a love story. And maybe they are right about that. But inevitably, they want to add the proviso “Not your average love story” or some other qualifying statement. And that’s where I have to part company.
When we talk about love stories, we inevitably mean stories about falling in love, those first twinges of longing that build into a need that seems to overwhelm both parties. We almost never mean stories about loving someone. The two are not the same, and difference is pretty basic. In the film Creator (1985), Peter O’Toole’s Dr. Harry Wolper gives us the “Love Formula.” Count the number of times in a day that you think about yourself and then the number of times you think about the object of your ardour. Compare the two. If it’s less you and more him/her, then it’s love. And I suppose that’s true—I certainly believed so in the eighties when I was experiencing love for the first time.
But the problem with Harry’s formula is that it fails to account for what kind of thoughts you are having about the other person. When we are falling in love, for instance, we tend to think of the other person quite a lot. But what we are thinking is: I want to see her. I want to call him. I want to sleep with her. I want to wake up next to him. These aren’t really thoughts about the other person. They are thoughts about our own desires. Loving someone, I would argue (and like all metaphysical reflections, all anyone has is opinion), is not about a desire for them but about a concern for their well-being. Had Wolper’s formula instead asked us to compare how often we thought about our own happiness and that of the other person, I think we’d be a lot closer to defining enduring love rather than the transitional (and wonderfully exciting) state of falling in love.
But yes, falling in love is essentially a fairly selfish experience, and that does describe what we have seen happening all this time between Hannibal and Will Graham.
Neither party, for instance, has had, at any point really, a desire to make the other happy except for the most selfish of purposes, although there is a chance that this was rationalized, something also quite common to early romantic relationships. Hannibal may have tried to provide Will with the family that it was clear that Will wanted with Abigail, but the truth is that he only did this in order to try to create a situation that would want to make Graham stay with him. His easy murder of the young girl once it was clear that his lover had betrayed him made this quite clear.
Not that Graham is innocent in any of this, however. His own desire to explore that portion of him that all too easily empathized with serial killers may have been nudged awake by Lecter, but there can be little doubt that it was already there. For someone who not only deeply understands everyone he meets but cannot avoid doing so, not knowing oneself must be an unimaginable frustration. To get a taste of that knowledge is dangerous because it is then so difficult to let go of, much as Hannibal found it impossible to release an intellect that he believed to be, finally, an adequate mate for his own.
The danger with this form of love, however, is that that egocentrism doesn’t exist just in relation to the object of one’s desire. It often negates our concern for practically anyone or anything else. Even, and especially sometimes, when that love is at an end. The Wrath Of The Lamb is an excellent example of exactly how dangerous that selfishness can be to the rest the world, because unlike last season’s finale Mizumono, where the violence was the active reaction to betrayal, in the series finale, a good portion of the damage is purely collateral.
Will’s plan (ostensibly to take out Dolarhyde, but really to eliminate Hannibal) is a dangerous one and not one that Graham would have proposed during the first season. His concern, back then, would not have been for himself—Will’s concern for his own safety has never been particularly keen—but for those around him. There is no doubt in Alana Bloom’s eyes, nor in Bedelia du Maurier’s, that “faking” Hannibal’s escape will inevitably lead to Hannibal being at large again. “You righteous, reckless twitchy little man,” Bedelia tells him bluntly “You might as well cut all our throats and be done with it.” Jack undoubtedly knows it as well, though with Bella gone, he’s past caring about his own safety and had little else to lose.
The fact that the plan puts everyone in danger, however, allows Fuller to give us a bit of a curtain call in the episode. Chilton, who should be dead by all rights, gets to express his glee that Hannibal will soon be dead, while taking Alana to task for her sins. We see Dr. Bloom and Margot stealing away with their son to escape Hannibal’s inevitable calling upon them, while Bedelia stands her ground (temporarily). That Fuller intended this curtain call is evident in the return of Price and Zeller in the (as always, very entertaining) flesh as well as Miriam and Abigail resurrected in Lecter’s seaside memory. Fuller has always said he planned each season finale to be the series finale and it’s never been clearer than in The Wrath Of The Lamb.
But with all the Christian imagery in the second half of this season and the identification of Will as Jesus—the Lamb—what is truly shocking is just how little Graham cares for the others to be touched by the impending violence. Alana, Margot, Bedelia, and Jack are covered in sins at this point. But Will has to know, understanding the motivations of men like Dolarhyde and Lecter as he does, that there was an excellent chance that with two killers on the loose and in close proximity of each other, innocent people were going to die. Graham’s lack of concern for them is mirrored in the way the scene on the road is shot. The men killed are faceless, their deaths short and barely noticeable on a show that has raised murder to an art form, literally. Will’s desire—to end the man who hurt his family and the one who butchered his soul—are all that matter.
We can have no illusions going into the final conflict that Will, at least, is driven only by his own needs. If he had not made it clear to Hannibal that their affair was over with his “mic drop,” then certainly the way he gazes down at the bleeding psychiatrist after Dolarhyde shoots him, and calmly drinks his wine, should tell us everything we need to know. Will in not even in love anymore. He’s over it. Only Hannibal still carries a torch, one which will allow Will to throw them both off the cliff.
Before that, however, we get the fight with the Dragon, and despite all of Armitage’s great physical work in previous episodes, it is this scene which most solidifies the image of Francis as the mythical beast. Even the CGI is more hindrance than help in this case. What really sells it is the way that Hannibal and Will fight him. It might as well have been a scene from a film with an actual dragon in it, the way it was framed, with the great beast in the middle and the two men circling ‘round, darting in to wound it, taking the resulting hit and rolling away, distracting the monster so that the other one could attack it from behind. When Lecter jumped on its (his) back, the images from everything from classic Ray Harryhausen to the fight against the Cave Troll in The Fellowship Of The Ring came to mind. It was a brilliant way to finally bring the dragon to life…if only to kill him.
And as with many love stories, there is the also-ran. The final scene was perhaps a strange twist on the usual theme of the rejected candidate eating her heart out, but it certainly ended the series on exactly the right note. After everything we’ve seen thus far, the final image of Bedelia sitting, gorgeously prepared (seriously, how does Gillian Anderson continue to get more beautiful, year after year?), one leg on the table—dressed to perfection, as Hannibal might point out—the rest of her waiting nervously but still with du Maurier’s icy demeanour (tough to pull off, but Anderson isn’t just a pretty face, after all) for Will and Hannibal to join her. Whether the meal is meant to be an offering as part of a plea for mercy or just an open acknowledgement of the inevitable is unclear. What is, however, without doubt is that this is the worst instance of being stood up (pun unavoidable) known to cinematic history.
So there it is. Another love story about desire, deceit, betrayal, occasional redemption, and a suicide that has as much Thelma and Louise as Romeo and Juliet to it. As the ratings show, it may not be a romance for everyone, but perhaps that’s fitting for a show about a man like Hannibal. After all, he is an elitist, a connoisseur of the very best. Thanks to Bryan Fuller, his cast, directors, and excellent crew, we have been able to enjoy something as rarefied and sensual as any of Lecter’s feasts—and even suffer moments of disgust at what we were ingesting. Hannibal wouldn’t want it any other way.
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