not in our stars, but in ourselves
Thus, neither of us is alive when the viewer sees this episode. But while the blood still throbs through my writing hand, you are still as much part of blessed matter as I am, and I can still talk to you from here to Alaska. Be true to your Molly. Do not let other fellows touch you. Do not talk to strangers. I hope you will love your baby. I hope it will be a boy. That wife of yours, I hope, will always treat you well, because otherwise my specter shall come at him, like black smoke, like a demented giant, and pull him apart nerve by nerve. And do not pity F.D. One had to choose between him and H.L., and one wanted H.L. to exist at least a couple of months longer, so as to have him make you live in the minds of later generations. I am thinking of aurochs and angels, the secret of durable pigments, prophetic sonnets, the refuge of art. And this is the only immortality you and I may share, my Will.
– Hannibal, probably, in a deleted voiceover, before Dolarhyde breaks up their party (apologies to my Volodya)
We have to hope, and pray, and delude ourselves, that the Devil will agree to let us have a bit more time with Hannibal before taking it away from us for good – to maximize suffering, if for no other reason. (For this scenario, too, apologies to Nabokov.) The finale of the third season was a perfect culmination of everything that has happened up to now, but damn it all, I want more. Tragedies are five acts, not three. We need at least another couple of miniseries, if not proper seasons. Please, television Devil. Make it so.
I say “perfect culmination,” and I mean it, but it was, in addition to perfect: gory, gorgeous, operatic, over-the-top, romantic, repugnant, erotic, esoteric, wistful, wanton…. In short: dear god, what a show. There’s never been anything like it; unless and until it comes back, there never will be again. The singular alchemy between Thomas Harris’s characters and Bryan Fuller’s genius is never to be repeated anywhere else.
When we last left our heroes, villains, and others, Dolarhyde had just kidnapped Reba. She mistakenly interprets it as the action of an obsessive ex – but she doesn’t know both how right and how wrong she is. Basically, he intends to use her blindness – for the first time in their relationship – to trick her. He fakes his death by setting his home on fire and using another hapless victim to make Reba think he’s blown his own brains out. Reba escapes, and tells Will what happens. He tries to comfort her by assuring her that there’s nothing wrong with her: she found a man with a freak on his back, and she made him want to stop. Reba, for her part, gives Will some uncommonly sage advice: blind people often draw people who foster dependency, and that’s dangerous. Who, besides Reba, knows this better than Will Graham? When the latter returns to his dingy motel room, Dolarhyde ambushes him. He doesn’t kill him, however. He tells Will that Hannibal betrayed him. He wants to show Will what he sees. He wants to change Hannibal (i.e., “change” him the way he changed Mrs. Leeds and Mrs. Jacoby). Will therefore proposes a cockamamie scheme to Jack Crawford. Let’s pretend we’re transferring Hannibal to federal custody, and let him pretend to escape. It will draw out Dolarhyde, who will kill Hannibal, and thus let us kill Dolarhyde. What could go wrong? Well. Plenty. Dolarhyde – who, by the way, has military training – pulls a Joker and poses as a cop to break up the motorcade with Will and Hannibal. He kills all the police escorts and FBI agents, frees Lecter – and leaves. This, Lecter says, is because Dolarhyde wants something more private. Hannibal Lecter, lovelorn cannibal, throws some corpses out of a cop car, and asks Will, “Going my way?” They drive to one of Hannibal’s old lairs, a midcentury modern home overlooking the sea. While Will and Hannibal share a bottle of wine, Dolarhyde shoots the latter through the window. When Will makes a tentative movement to draw his gun on Dolarhyde, the erstwhile Red Dragon takes a knife and jams it into Will’s face. From there, the badly wounded murder husbands team up to slay the Dragon. After poor, crazy Francis Dolarhyde has been savagely beaten and bloodied to death, Hannibal says, “This is all I ever wanted for you, Will. For both of us.” Will considers the thrill of murdering with Hannibal, and says, “It’s beautiful.” They embrace – and Will topples the two of them over the cliff.
The Great Red Dragon arc has explicitly included Revelations as a thematic element all along – that is, Revelations as interpreted by granddaddy Romantic William Blake – and here, the Wrath of the Lamb has certainly brought about the end of one world and (perhaps) the beginning of another. The Dragon represents the forces of Satan; the Lamb represents Christ. Even the Wikipedia synopsis of Revelations is, frankly, absurd, but the point is that Satan tries to take control, and is defeated by Christ. The Lamb doesn’t win out by instituting another big love-fest, however. He wins by embracing his rage, his darkness, his wrath and furious anger. So must Will rely on his innate empathy to dole out immense cruelty, all to prevent Dolarhyde from slaughtering any more families. He has to become more like Hannibal. And it’s beautiful.
It’s also bloody. I cannot allow the squeamish among you to think that this episode has anything like network-appropriate amounts of violence – because the knock-down, drag-out fight with Dolarhyde at the end is brutal. There are knives. There are axes. There are torn-out throats. It is NOT for the faint of heart. And yet, this is what the show has built towards, all along: Will and Hannibal, murdering together like they’re Fred and Ginger attacking a tap solo.
I don’t know much about religion, and I know even less about Luciferianism (distinct from, but not unrelated to, Satanism), but my understanding of Luciferianism is that it’s much more about standing up for yourself, asserting what you want and need, giving in to pleasure, and not denying yourself anything out of the hopes of a heavenly afterlife. From the beginning, Mads Mikkelsen has described his portrayal of Hannibal as that of a fallen angel, like Lucifer: someone who’s fascinated by humans, determined to learn all he can, and committed to a moral code that we mere mortals can only dimly understand. In its way, Hannibal has tended toward this conclusion from the start. We want Will and Hannibal to be together, and that will necessarily involve a refutation of all the morality and dogma we’ve been imbued with as a Western audience.
All philosophical revolutions aside, “The Wrath of the Lamb” was a thoroughly romantic finale. Throughout the show’s run, Fuller has explored the deepest and darkest depths of love* (and its shadow self, obsession). He’s taken Harris’s characters – who aren’t exactly one-dimensional stock pieces – and examined every aspect of who and what they are. What would it take for someone like Hannibal Lecter to fall in love? What would it take for someone like Will Graham? When two people who’ve been terribly lonely all their lives finally meet, what will happen to them? If the most unusual, complex person in the world makes it clear that he chooses you, how can you help feeling a little in love with him? If he tries too hard to possess you and you reject him, in no uncertain terms, how will each of you function without each other? I don’t mean to make this personal, but I know from my own experience as someone who is (sometimes!) difficult to love and understand that it’s intoxicating to meet someone who does seem to love and understand. (The third ingredient, necessary for any functional relationship, is happiness. Find someone who loves and understands, and who makes you happy: there’s my unsolicited advice to the rest of you.) It’s not hard to see why both Will and Hannibal would find each other’s presence, consciousness, and physicality, to be addictive. And it’s suitably beautiful, in the fucked up way we’ve come to know and love, that their final act (for now, until some other platform comes to its senses and revives the show) is a consensual murder-suicide.
Back to more concrete matters, it will be interesting WHEN the series is picked up elsewhere (please please please please please) to see how the other dangling plot threads are tied up or woven into other things. Based on the numerous interviews Fuller has given since the finale aired (see here, here, here – and here for one with Hugh Dancy), Will and Hannibal would survive the plummet to the sea, Reichenbach Falls-style. However, we have no clues as to Alana Bloom’s fate. Hannibal tells her that he will, if and when he’s truly free, kill her and her family. When he does escape, the Verger-Blooms do get the hell out of Dodge, but it’s tantalizing to think of her occupying the role that Chilton (poor bugger) occupies in the film version of Silence of the Lambs: the old friend Hannibal will have for dinner someday. And of course, there’s the brief glimpse of an undisclosed point in the future, with Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier: dressed to the nines, distinctly petrified, seated at a table with three place settings and her own roasted leg as the main course. She had told Will that she’d prefer to be Bluebeard’s last wife; it seems she won’t get that wish. (Does that make Will the last wife? Is Clarice going to be the last wife? SO MANY QUESTIONS!)
In short, “The Wrath of the Lamb” was the most perfect possible ending for season three. If the show must end now, it will have ended on the kind of high note sustained by Jessye Norman. Let’s hope, however, that the opera has a few more acts in it yet.
*Greg Cwik includes this apt passage from Herman Melville in his review/eulogy:
Consider the subtleness of the sea; how its most dreaded creatures glide under water, unapparent for the most part, and treacherously hidden beneath the loveliest tints of azure. Consider also the devilish brilliance and beauty of many of its most remorseless tribes, as the dainty embellished shape of many species of sharks. Consider, once more, the universal cannibalism of the sea; all whose creatures prey upon each other, carrying on eternal war since the world began.
The sea: symbolizing the unconscious, love, sexuality, and more. When Hannibal says the bluff is eroding, he’s not kidding.