The bluff is eroding.
Though Bryan Fuller's version of Red Dragon is a thoughtful, effective adaptation, my fear was that, because of it, Hannibal would end its run in Harris' world instead of Fuller's. For most of the latter half of this season, probably Hannibal's last, the story has hewed so closely to Red Dragon, surrendering a bit of the series' singular, haunting narrative to do so. That's not how I wanted Hannibal to end - and I needn't have worried.
"The Wrath of the Lamb" wraps up the sourced story of Red Dragon quickly, in the first twenty minutes or so, and though this conclusion is both scary and sad, there is a bit of the perfunctory about it, as if Fuller and episode director Michael Rymer are rushing to get us to the good stuff. But from above, taking the episode as a whole, it's an hour of everything we love about Hannibal. It's stylish and poignant and very, very funny. It gives us a glimpse at Alana's happy life with Margot; it returns Brian Zeller and Jimmy Price to the lab where they belong. It gives us a grotesque and suddenly quite wise Frederick Chilton, who has survived so much on this show, and survives even this. And even the quick conclusion to Reba's storyline is thematically tied to the rest of the episode, as Will tells her a true thing that is also true of himself: "You didn't draw a freak. You drew a man with a freak on his back."
Because of course what "The Wrath of the Lamb" really gives us is the most perfect conclusion to the love story between Will and Hannibal. These two men scheme throughout the episode, their loyalties and motivations always unclear, but when Hannibal is free and he and Will are standing on equal but eroding ground, when their lives are both threatened by The Dragon, one thing remains manifest and unequivocal: their love for one another. There are plenty of cheeky moments of flirtation between the two, coy nods to an audience who wants this ("Going my way?"), but when it comes to their final moments together, there is nothing cute about this love that has damned them both.
Will and Hannibal have always been at cross purposes, making their compassion for each other inconvenient. Will is a dark man who wants the light; Hannibal rejects all that is false and artificial. Only once do those two paths converge, and that is as they work together to slay the dragon, leaving Francis Dolarhyde dead on the ground with a wingspan of blood spreading from under him. "It really does look black in the moonlight," Will agrees, finally. "It's beautiful." He and Hannibal embrace, at last, and then Will pulls them both into the sea, freeing Alana from Hannibal's dark promise, and freeing Bedelia, too, though she doesn't know it. "Meat's back on the menu," Will warned her, and she fulfilled that prophesy herself, sitting at an impeccably set table, waiting for the arrival of the man who has kept her imprisoned even as he's been in prison, waiting to share her own leg with him.
Hannibal told Francis that "suicide is the enemy," and in the end, it was his enemy - but what a lovely betrayal, one Will shared with him, taking them both away from the world that does not understand them to a place where they can never be reached or pursued or separated. This is how Hannibal should end, and though we will miss it, we were saved from seeing Hannibal's love for Will supplanted by someone new, a Clarice Starling stand-in who will never understand him the way that Will does, and who will make for a far more conventional romance than this show deserves.
Writing about Hannibal every week has been a pleasure and an honor. Thank you for that, Hugh Dancy, Mads Mikkelsen and Bryan Fuller. When life becomes maddeningly polite, I will think of you.
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