Hannibal, Season 3, Episode 9, “And the Woman Clothed with the Sun…”
Written by Jeff Vlaming & Helen Shang and Bryan Fuller & Steve Lightfoot
Directed by John Dahl
Airs Saturdays at 10pm (ET) on NBC
Despite spending plenty of time with Will and Hannibal, “And the Woman Clothed with the Sun…” focuses on the women of Hannibal, fleshing out Molly and post-“Digestivo” Alana, resurrecting Abigail and Freddie, and introducing Reba McClane. Will’s clearly shaken by his re-entry into the world of profiling and with his psyche in such a fragile state—the image of Will already seeing himself falling to pieces is foreboding, to say the least—it’s a good thing he has Molly in his life, to ground him and give him distance from his work. As in last week’s episode, Hugh Dancy and Nina Arianda’s chemistry is fantastic here and seeing Will laugh and relax a bit is wonderful. Over three seasons, Will has very rarely laughed with any sincerity and while his respite is short-lived, the difference in Will when he’s with Molly is marked. Hopefully showrunner Bryan Fuller has something besides pain and death planned for Molly; her warmth and humor go a long way towards counteracting the despair of Dolarhyde’s crimes.
Nearly as warm, though perhaps a bit steelier, is Rutina Wesley’s Reba McClane. Her generosity towards Frances, offering to develop film for him and serving up a bright red slice of tasty-looking cherry pie, is hard to enjoy, however, as an ominous wash of gloom hangs over every moment they’re together (more on this in Kate’s Classical Corner). It’s unclear if we’ll ever get to enjoy Reba without the weight of dramatic irony souring the scene—if Hannibal has taught viewers anything, it’s that it’s not a good idea to become friends with a serial killer—which is a shame, as Wesley makes Reba such a delightfully ordinary, yet determined and good-hearted individual. Both Reba and Molly lack the layers of artifice and reserve, either intentional or not, that define so many of the characters on this series, a refreshing change of pace for this final stretch of episodes.
Similarly straightforward, though decidedly less inviting, is Freddie Lounds, who returns after taking the first half of the season off. Without Abigail to play off of, Freddie is disappointingly one-dimensional, little more than a plot functionary (her coverage of the Leeds’ murder prompts Dolarhyde to reach out to Hannibal). It’s odd to see a print edition of TattleCrime, considering Freddie’s always been an independent entity. It would appear she’s grown her site into a larger publication over the past three years, or merged with a paper, but the notion of Freddie with a boss or underlings feels somehow wrong, a contrivance to explain how the decidedly low-tech Dolarhyde comes across her writing.
A far more welcome return, and a much more surprising one, is Kacey Rohl as Abigail. It’s unclear if what we’re seeing is a flashback or Hannibal revisiting the moment in his memory palace, but either way, the episode fills in a few gaps, giving viewers a taste of Abigail’s time with Hannibal. The purpose of these scenes is not immediately clear. While it’s neat to finally finish the conversation so ominously cut off in “Relevés”, and the visual of embalming fluid rushing out of Garret Jacob Hobbs’ neck is somehow much more disturbing than blood would have been, these scenes mostly answer questions the show had already put to rest. Abigail’s response to Hannibal about her feelings for her father, “He was as good to me as he knew how to be. Hunting with him was the best time I ever had” could speak to Hannibal’s feelings towards Will, but aside from this, these exchanges merely reinforce connections the audience is already well aware of. It’s possible the coming episodes will provide context and add relevance to these scenes, considering how serialized this second half of season three appears to be, but at the moment, they’re a distraction from the Dolarhyde storyline.
Far more successful are Alana’s scenes. Her interaction with Will is lovely, time having healed most of the wounds of their relationship; it’s nice to see them talking together as peers and old friends. This exchange does a lot of work in regards to Alana: she and Margot are still together (this critic’s favorite reveal of the episode) and have a son, “a Verger baby”. Also cemented is what many may have inferred after the previous episode: Alana is running the hospital to ensure Hannibal remains locked up. Having released him at Muskrat Farm, she feels responsible for his still being alive, still a potential threat. Every day she goes to work and sees that he is still there, and she can rest a little easier knowing that he is contained. But while she may not admit it to Will, that’s not her only motivation: her scene with Hannibal belies an enjoyment of her power over him, a bravado that is incredibly foolish, much more foolish than anticipated. Viewers expect this behavior from Chilton, we expect more from Alana. Very few people can intimidate Hannibal, and Alana is certainly not one of them. She should absolutely know better than to try, even to curb his scheming. Apparently the past three years have made her feel too safe, too comfortable. The look on Hannibal’s face as Alana threatens him is chilling—if her previous actions hadn’t already, this posturing from Alana has secured her a painful, prolonged death should Hannibal ever get out.
Which leaves the men. Dolarhyde continues his Becoming this week, flexing his back and feeling a tail sprout and slither out behind him. We also get a glimpse of a far-from-idyllic memory of a family dinner that feels straight out of Roald Dahl, the grown-ups grotesques peering down at the young Frances. Jimmy and Z are back, however briefly, to pick up on the thread of the Leeds’ pet being at the vet as well as generally be entertaining. Their back and forth is yet another fun meta nod to the segment of the fanbase that are much more vocal about the pets on the show being in danger than the people—so far these meta moments have worked, but we’ve had three in the past two episodes; hopefully this won’t become a staple of the arc. Jack also comes to visit Hannibal in a stand-out scene. There is no love lost between the men; Hannibal immediately looks to taunt Jack, to guilt him over his potentially moving on from Bella, but these barbs are just as ineffectual as Hannibal’s attempts in “Contorno”. There’s more than the standard, “You tried to kill me, I tried to kill you” tension between the two: Hannibal seems genuinely upset with Jack for drawing Will back into the world of profiling. It’s a fascinating touch of characterization. Hannibal should be happy to have Will back in his circle—he turned himself in to open up that very possibility—yet he remains somewhat detached when speaking with Will and is curt with Jack. Only when Dolarhyde reaches out courteously does Hannibal smile and engage.
With Will, Hannibal is reserved, trying to bait him as he does with Jack, to equal (lack of) effect. It’s only when the pair are back in Hannibal’s office, in one of their mind palaces, that they start cooking with gas. The transitions between locations, as Hannibal talks Will through elements of the crime, are effective and seamless, carrying the audience through the Leeds’ house from the incredibly grisly crime scene—Will’s reconstruction last episode cut away before we saw whatever led to so much of the bed being soaked in blood—to the sanitized kitchen to the peaceful backyard. We’re only two episodes into the story of Frances Dolarhyde and already, Will is having night terrors and seeing himself chip apart. And this is without Hannibal fully invested. What will happen now that he’s actually interested?
—Director John Dahl does a wonderful job throughout the episode, his evocative framing and use of focus in the Hannibal/Will and Hannibal/Alana scenes adding depth and style to the conversations. The recurring visual motif of Hannibal and Will as cutouts held against a black frame of their experience versus memory is particularly striking, tying the two together while calling to mind the image of paper dolls or the newspaper cutouts so common in serial killer fiction.
—The costuming department continues their fabulous track record with Alana’s Hannibal-inspired wardrobe; her suit here is gorgeous.
—Now that we can see it, credit to whoever found or designed the Leeds’ house! It’s another beautiful location/set in a show full of them.
—There are several fun lines and deliveries in this episode. While Scott Thompson and Aaron Abrams’ exchange about Kate the cat is in close contention, the line of the episode has to be Will’s incredulous, “You called us murder husbands!”
Kate’s Classical Corner: After the bombast of the score for “The Great Red Dragon”, composer and music supervisor Brian Reitzell pulls things back for this episode, but what we get is still effective, if not as immediately memorable. Click here for my thoughts on the soundtrack and scoring for “And The Woman Clothed with the Sun…”
For even more Hannibal talk, check out the podcast I cohost with Sean Colletti, This Is Our Design!