not in our stars, but in ourselves
Even the laziest student of literature, art, or psychology knows that the sea has come to symbolize the unconscious. As life on earth would be impossible without the vast, mysterious oceans, so is our conscious life rooted in our own unfathomable unconscious. And since the oceans are themselves controlled by the moon’s gravity, the moon, too, has become strongly associated with the unconscious: the sun as the ego, the moon as the id. (Students of astrology, especially more Jungian strains thereof, are quite familiar with this comparison.)
For a show that deals so much in psychiatrists and psychological profiling, Hannibal hasn’t employed all that many signs and symbols thereof. This is a strength, of course: it would be campy fun, but ultimately unsatisfying, if Hannibal were some sort of twenty-first century Spellbound. Nevertheless, the purely cinematic shots of a roiling sea, and of a gleaming moon, were effective symbolic reminders. We’re in a nightmare. We’re in some dreadful, intolerable ideas – the madman banging at the door, desperate to be let in; or, in this case, the dragon banging at the door.
“And the Beast from the Sea” is, in short, one of the most purely terrifying episodes of Hannibal. I’m sure that they can up the ante in the upcoming final two episodes – but I’m trying not to think about that too much. Hannibal, bored and jealous, suggests to Dolarhyde that he should “save yourself, kill them all” – “them all” being the Graham family. Will is busy with the FBI, staying in (presumably) guarded hotel rooms. Molly and Walter, however, are still at home. Their dog pack all fall ill suddenly, and Molly assumes it’s because she’s been feeding them canned dog food rather than preparing their meat from scratch (as Will does). It doesn’t register that the notice from the FBI on her veterinarian office’s bulletin board, to treat any mutilated pets as a very bad sign, applies to her. And so the dogs – the early warning system – are gone; and the Red Dragon – after inserting his murder-dentures – approaches the Graham home. Molly is a (fortunately) light sleeper, and a quick thinker, so when she hears light footsteps on her front porch, and the front lock being picked, she knows she has approximately 0.05 seconds to react. She races to Walter’s room, warns him to be silent, and ushers him to the window: wait by the car and count to 100; if he sees anyone except her, he should run to the road. Dolarhyde enters the house, and Molly manages to escape, hiding under the porch. Walter scurries to join her, and they run towards the road. She throws herself in front of an oncoming car, which stops just in time for Dolarhyde to get within shooting range. The hapless driver is shot and killed, and Molly manages to drive away (despite being shot in the shoulder herself). The Red Dragon roars in frustration.
It’s tense. It’s scary. It’s all very straightforward, direct, and dark; it would be exactly right in any horror movie with a home invasion. But because we know the stakes, it’s all that much more horrifying. We see that Molly realizes the stakes as well – thus ratcheting up the tension from 100 to about 1,000,000. Among all the humanizing that Fuller has done with his serial killers, he’s determined not to let us forget that they are, in fact, serial killers. Just because they’d be perfectly decent guys otherwise, we can’t ignore that “otherwise.” Before, we saw Will re-enacting the Dragon’s slaughter of the Leeds family. It was disturbing in its own right – but this time, seeing the methodical and patient way in which Dolarhyde breaks and enters, the ruthless way he stalks through the house, the surety with which he shoots to kill from several hundred feet away; this time, we know exactly what we’re in for. And it’s not good.
Of course, more happened in “And the Beast from the Sea” than the most brutally efficient home invasion since The Strangers. We see that, for all his horrible deeds, Francis Dolarhyde is a deeply tragic figure. He beats himself savagely – imagining that it’s the Red Dragon doling out punishment, when it’s really just Francis pulling a Fight Club on himself. He breaks up with Reba because he’s afraid he’ll hurt her, and they’re both heartbroken. He calls Hannibal, crying, and Hannibal soothes him for a little while before warning him abruptly that the FBI is listening.
On the subject of Dr. Lecter, he’s proving that he’s a very dangerous ex to have. It’s entirely due to Hannibal’s scheming that Dolarhyde targeted the Grahams; even encased in ice, the Devil still plots and plans. At this point, I think it’s safe to say that Hannibal isn’t doing this to amuse himself. That’s how and why he started, but that’s not his motivation now. One wonders what he aims to achieve. A cellmate? Walter reveals that he and his mom saw the copy of Tattle Crime in which it was revealed that Will went to a mental hospital after killing someone; when Will tells Walter that he intends to catch the Red Dragon, and send him to a mental hospital to be treated, Walter avers that Will should just kill him. Hannibal, too, thinks Will should kill Dolarhyde. It’s clear that Hannibal is desperate to regain control of his former protégé/lover/would-be meal. I only hope Will is firmly enough rooted in his happy life with Molly and Walter – irrevocably changed as it is – to resist.
Speaking of change, while this second half of the season has been mostly faithful to Red Dragon the novel, the home invasion was significantly different. In the novel, the invasion still happens – but at the very end, when Will has returned home, and Dolarhyde carves up his face so that he “looks like a Picasso” by the time Molly shoots the miserable Red Dragon. Fuller has exercised excellent judgment throughout his adaptation, and this is no exception: the “clammy” feeling, as Molly calls it, of knowing how unsafe the Grahams are while Hannibal Lecter continues to live and amuse himself, is palpable.
The titles of the episodes of this last half of what had better not be Hannibal‘s last season are all taken from William Blake’s series of paintings depicting verses from Revelations. It’s suitable, if this is the end of the series, that we truly feel the emotional apocalypse that’s coming. Will promised Hannibal a reckoning in season two; we’re all getting a reckoning now. The world is on fire, the seas are rising and splitting open, and the catharsis that’s coming is going to be as devastating as it is cleansing. Go big or go home, you know?