Hannibal: S03E08 “The Great Red Dragon”

We open on a hand. The view moves to a face – a new one – sitting alone in a café. There is no dialogue here, only percussive music, as we follow this new face – F. Dolarhyde, as per his name tag – and get to know him.

Francis – I’ll use his name here – is complicated. He is alone, motivated, physically fit. He has interests, but nothing conventional. He is very into William Blake. There are fake teeth. There are two paths here, one of reality as it is, and one of reality as we present it for ourselves. Francis is trying to change his reality – to become his idealized reality.


Two things explain Francis to us. The shattered mirror tells us everything we need to know about how Francis views what is. And the Blake painting – which Francis has inked upon his body – is what he hopes to be. This is a becoming. And on a moonlit night, we see what Francis has become.

Time has passed since Hannibal was apprehended, enough that he has become forgotten. But not everything has changed. Jack Crawford is still working, and there is still a dangerous killer out there. This new killer does not perform or express himself like Hannibal the CannibalTM. But he is no less a monster.

Hannibal - Season 3

We spend some time with Hannibal. Like Francis, he also experiences two realities – one, where he retains his great wardrobe and lords over an immaculate sanctuary, and the real one, where he has a haircut and a prison jumpsuit. He still has friends, though.

Alana Bloom, now in charge of the BSHCI, visits with him. So does Frederick Chilton, looking no worse for wear, but professionally having sold his credibility along with many tawdry books. But Hannibal, having been declared insane and spared the needle, waits.


(Caption: hot damn)

Hannibal also follows the news, taking notice of the young Turk. There is interest, and some correct speculation – the “Tooth Fairy” does not like his press-given nickname. Both he and Francis are following the media coverage of this killer, clipping newspapers in the traditional psychopath style. They have much in common, after all – both are savage murderers, and both are unhappy with their realities.

Hannibal is not the only one interested in the Tooth Fairy. We cut to a snowy rural home, where Will Graham cares for several dogs. Some things have not changed. But many have – there is a wedding band on Will’s finger. Will is allowed nearly a full show minute of peace before the FBI arrives, and we already know who will step out of the SUV.

There is some conversation, and we’re allowed to meet Will’s new wife and her son. What happens between this point and the end of the episode feels like a foregone conclusion. Will tells Molly “when I come back, I won’t be the same.” And soon, he is lying awake at night, like the old Will Graham, haunted by memories of the victims.

The old Will Graham walks through the crime scene. This is one of the harder segments of the show to watch – I have some tolerance for gore, but seeing a child pulled from under a bed is not a visual I can easily shake. If there is any doubt that the Tooth Fairy – the Red Dragon – is a monster on par with Hannibal – this ends it.

And here, we get clues as to who the Red Dragon is. He is a biter. He kills and then he arranges things. The mirror shards are the most telling, though. This is where he wants to be seen – in the eyes of his victims – and how he wants to be seen. As a great beast, bringing judgment. This is his ideal reality, and there is no mercy for those that stand in its way.


The episode closes with Will talking to Jack about recovering a mindset. Like Hannibal and Francis, Will is caught between two realities. Unlike them, he is living his idealized reality – a family, a cabin, far too many dogs. But like them, he is pulled back to the actual reality he hopes to escape, one of gruesome murders and sleepless nights. And so, we return to the BSHCI. “Hello, Dr. Lecter.”

Stray Thoughts:

  • It’s good to see some old names in the credits. We don’t get much time with Frederick, with Jimmy and Z, but it’s still welcome. Jimmy is a special agent now! He and Z are bickering as usual.
    “I’m going to need one reasonably intelligent assistant. Cancel the reasonably intelligent part – my own assistant has just arrived.”
  • There is talk of “an obnoxious flame-haired woman”. Be still, my beating heart.
  • The fashion in this episode is great. Alana’s red suit is impeccable, and Hannibal’s suits in his mind palace are everything we’ve come to expect from him. Frederick is dressed well as he comes to visit (with an enormous tie knot), and even Will has a great sweater at the cabin.
  • I give this episode three Husserls. It’s basically a one except for the scene where Will becomes the Tooth Fairy and walks through the house.

Next: “And the Woman Clothed With the Sun”