Well, it’s over. “The Wrath of the Lamb” served as Hannibal’s third season finale and, in all disappointing likelihood, the series finale of the show. It’s plain to see that Bryan Fuller & Company designed this episode to serve the dual purpose of a season finale and a potential series finale. Yet, it’s equally plain to see that Fuller couldn’t help but leave a trail of breadcrumbs to Season 4/the follow-up movie/whatever future incarnation will herald Hannibal’s eventual return to media.
I had not read the Thomas Harris novels on which the series was based, but I did skim a brief synopsis of Red Dragon in preparation for the finale (for comparison purposes, and also because the curiosity was just really killing me). While there was obvious overlap between certain elements of the novel’s ending and the season’s ending, the show went the more sensuous/poetic route, which I think was really fitting for the series’ overall tone.
But first, let’s back up a bit and look at the opening scene.
I have to give serious props to Rutina Wesley. Her terror was completely palpable. As an actress, she’s proven to be immensely emotive in a way that doesn’t come off as insincere or over the top. I mentioned, at her first appearance in the season, that I wasn’t a particular fan of hers (having only ever seen her as the very ‘meh’ Tara on True Blood) but boy, was I proven wrong.
I was seriously cheering for Reba as she barely even hesitated over her crazy-ass boyfriend’s apparently dead body, brushing past the bits of shotgun-blasted face to pull the key off his neck and hightail it out of the burning house. This expression is overused to the point of it being almost completely meaningless but honestly, in this case: you go, girl.
Also: super-ominous burning stag head on the wall of Dolarhyde’s house. Talk about foreshadowing.
I also loved Reba’s brief conversation with Will, as she was recovering in the hospital. Will tried to explain to Reba that Dolarhyde’s seemingly legitimate love for her seemed to indicate he had been trying to stop killing, trying to overcome the dragon, and that lives were likely saved due to that struggle.
Reba: I drew a freak.
Will: You didn’t draw a freak. You drew a man with a freak on his back.
I thought this was beautiful phrasing on Will’s part, in its dual meaning. Dolarhyde did have a freak (the dragon) on his literal back (in tattoo form), while he was also bearing the more figurative burden of his mental illness/dual personality.
I also really enjoyed Will’s conversations with Hannibal when he visited him initially, when they thought Dolarhyde was really dead, and after, when Will had to ask Hannibal to “pretty please” go along with their faux-escape plan. Both scenes showcased all the very best parts of Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen’s bizarro chemistry: the sensual undertones of their dialogue, the barely stifled aggression on Will’s part, the smugness of Hannibal always thinking he knows best/better than Will.
Immediately after, Dolarhyde made his abrupt reappearance. I knew he wasn’t dead, because of that synopsis of the novel I’d skimmed, but even if I hadn’t spoiled that for myself I think I would have expected that he would show up again. There was no logical way that the main antagonist of season 3B would bite it by his own hand in the first four and a half minutes of the episode.
I felt weirdly proud of Francis for having overcome the Dragon. When he smugly stated to Will that he chose not to “change” Reba, that he shared enough with her such that she could still survive, that he was stronger than the Dragon, now, my heart broke for him a little bit. The man is so damaged. He is not like Hannibal. He is not like Will. He’s closer to that season two animal savant played by the physicist from Lost than to anyone else on the show, I think.
He’s screwed up, from events beyond his control. Which doesn’t make him any less culpable, obviously. It just makes him a complex, difficult, yet sympathetic character. Richard Armitage played all aspects of the role so well. If he is not nominated for an Emmy (guest-starring, at least, if he doesn’t qualify for Best Supporting) this would be a travesty.
Granted, Hannibal has disturbingly somehow been nominated for nothing in its entire run — but Armitage ate a freakin’ painting. I mean, obviously not really, but the man still deserves an Emmy, alright?
By the grace of the Almighty Bryan Fuller, we also got to see Jimmy and Brian for (probably) one last time. And it was an adorable, short, funny little scene; perfectly emblematic of the two as recurring characters.
Will’s plan (to use Hannibal as bait to capture Dolarhyde, who’d faked his own death) was a bad plan. We can all admit it. The funny thing is, I don’t think there was a single character who did seem to think it was a good idea. That made it a little more believable for me; it would have been entirely absurd if the team had been walking around all “Yes, this plan will absolutely work, nothing can possibly go wrong based on our collective history with Hannibal Lector.”
Alana, for one, looked completely uncomfortable with the whole situation. She smartly packed up her wife Margot, their son, and got them the hell out of dodge, looking the very picture of a stylish, wealthy family as they left. (Seriously, though, was that shot of the Verger-Bloom family on their way out not the most gorgeous family portrait you’d ever seen?)
I don’t doubt that Hannibal would have killed Alana had he had a free moment. That scene, the last interaction between Drs. Bloom and Hannibal, was utterly chilling.
Hannibal: I might escape in earnest. And come to kill you.
Alana: First chance you get, I assume.
Hannibal: You died in my kitchen, Alana. When you chose to be brave. Every moment since is borrowed. Your wife. Your child. They belong to me. You made a bargain for Will’s life. And then I spun you gold.
I suppose Bedelia was just a notch or two higher on his list, in the end, but we’ll get to that later.
The scene between Alana and Chilton also probably cemented the decision Alana made to get out of town. I didn’t expect to see Chilton again, but I’m glad we did, albeit briefly. His speech to Alana, his blaming her and Jack and Will and Hannibal, moreso than Dolarhyde himself, for his current status, was really enlightening (and also pretty on point, not gonna lie).
Jack, in all likelihood, knew that that the whole Hannibal faux-escape thing would implode, but hoped that the implosion would manage to take out at least one (ideally all three) of his problems — his three problems being Hannibal, Dolarhyde, and Will. At least that’s how I read his last appearance: standing amid the carnage caused by Dolarhyde’s attack on the police convoy, not looking particularly surprised or agitated (to say the least).
The immediate aftermath of Dolarhyde shooting out the convoy and freeing Will and Hannibal was amazingly done. Hannibal shoving the dead officer out of the passenger seat and charmingly leaning over to cutely ask Will if Will is “going [his] way” was everything I didn’t know I always wanted. Just marvelous.
As soon as Hannibal and Will discussed the bluff, how it was eroding, and how Hannibal had been there with Abigail and Miriam Lass, I knew that one or both would end up going over that cliff. The ending shot was not a surprise to me. Regardless, I thought it was truly beautiful, poetic, and the perfect ending to their relationship. I’ve said before, in no less words, that the only way for one of the two leading men to die would be for the other to die as well. And behold.
The Dolarhyde-kill scene immediately preceding the tumble-hug, was completely gorgeous. I expected no less of the Hannibal team, but the convergence of the sensual music, the three incredible actors in the scene, and the visual of Will finally cutting loose and going all stab-happy was perfect. The scene was weirdly kind of sexy too, particularly the point where Hannibal jumped on Dolarhyde’s back and Will stabbed Dolarhyde (the death shot) and “Love Crime’s” vocals got kind of hot and breathy; but again, I expected no less of this show.
Dolarhyde’s death shot: seeing the wings of the Dragon momentarily fully stretched as he died, fading into the incredibly lit and incredibly framed scene of Dolarhyde burning his Red Dragon accoutrements, fading again into Dolarhyde dying on his back with his blood fanning out beneath him, wings-style. It was all lovely. I kind of want that shot of Dolarhyde standing before the burning, waving strands of film as a poster.
Hannibal: See? This is all I ever wanted for you, Will. For both of us.
Will: It’s beautiful.
The way Will hugged Hannibal right before he purposefully tumbled them both off that bluff — I don’t think that was feigned. I do think Will was acknowledging, finally and definitively, that he and Hannibal were kindred souls. That’s really everything the show was about, and I think, if Bryan Fuller & Company were able to truly admit this was the end, it could have safely and satisfyingly ended there.
But nope. We get the coda: Bedelia at the dinner table, one-legged, her missing leg roasted and sitting at the table. My initial reaction was that she had completely snapped and she’d served up her own leg as a sort of macabre “Welcome home, Hannibal!” meal for when he’d inevitably (in her mind) come for her. But then the logistics of that didn’t quite make sense.
Then, the fork grab cemented it for me: that was a defensive move. Someone else was certainly there, just off-screen, about to return. Or perhaps two someones? That table had not two seats, but three.
Did the coda scene take away from the power of the cliff-tumble? In my mind, it didn’t. The intent was there, regardless of the outcome. Even if Will and Hannibal did manage to survive that fall and trek over to Bedelia’s for some Du Maurier leg stew, Will almost certainly thought he was killing them both, ending the whole wicked game once and for all. Maybe it doesn’t matter whether he succeeded. Maybe we’ll never know if he did succeed. And so what?
What did you all think of this finale? Specifically, what did you think of the (tentative) resolution of the main Will-Hannibal relationship, and of the coda scene? Did both scenes work for you? Neither? Sound off in the comments below!
Caralynn is a freelance entertainment writer. She also writes about all things television for TV Fanatic, Tell-Tale TV, HelloGiggles, and New York Observer. In her spare time, when she's not writing about TV, she's tweeting about it over at @caralynn_marie.