Kate’s Classical Corner: Hannibal, Ep. 3.13, “The Wrath of the Lamb”
As a classical musician, I can’t help but be influenced in my interpretation of Hannibal by its amazing score and soundtrack, composed and compiled by music supervisor Brian Reitzell. This is not intended to be a definitive reading of Reitzell or showrunner Bryan Fuller’s intentions in regards to the music, but rather an exploration of how these choices affect my appreciation of the given episode. Read my review of “The Wrath of the Lamb” here.
Classical pieces featured:
La fille aux cheveux de lin by Claude Debussy (1910): Reba crawls to safety
The last in this season’s series of repeated and re-contextualized classical selections, Debussy’s La fille aux cheuvuex de lin, first heard in “…And the Beast From the Sea” when Reba sat on the couch with Dolarhyde as he watched video of Molly and Walter, returns to accompany Reba’s escape from Dolarhyde’s burning house. Reitzell incorporates the piece among the scene’s crackling fire and the score’s keyboard, wash of cymbals, and other percussion, building to its introduction and layering sound over it. The Debussy comments on Reba, detached, but the scoring complementing it keeps the audience in her perspective. Whereas the first use of the piece showed Dolarhyde’s split focus, his mind on his prey rather than Reba, its use here ties Reba further to Molly, the Dragon’s previous intended victim. Though Molly thwarted the Dragon then and it’s Dolarhyde that stops him now, Molly and Reba’s strength under extreme duress and clear thinking provide a through-line connecting these tough, yet somehow not hardened, survivors. Returning to Debussy also highlights how far we’ve come from the tiger scene and the couple’s first date, accompanied by Debussy’s Arabesque No. 1.
Goldberg Variations, Aria by Johann Sebastian Bach (1741): Hannibal and Will share a final toast
In the end, we had to come back to Bach’s Goldberg Variations. The piece is intrinsically tied to Hannibal Lecter, prominently featured in Thomas Harris’ source material as well as Silence of the Lambs, and was first used in Hannibal during the pilot’s wordless introduction of the character. Reitzell first returned to it in season one, episode eight, “Fromage”, when Hannibal plunks himself down at the harpsichord after dispatching Tobias and re-centers himself before calling Jack and the police. Then it came back in season two’s “Ko No Mono” and “Mizumono”, in the post-credits tag that sees Hannibal and Bedelia fly off to Europe. Then of course there’s “Bloodfest”, Reitzell’s adaptation of the piece that so gorgeously accompanied the Red Dinner before being rescored and reinterpreted for season three’s “Dolce”, as Hannibal and Will make up sitting in front of Botticelli’s Primavera, and “Digestivo”, as they break up in Will’s house in Wolftrap.
Hannibal and Will’s relationship has changed tremendously over the series’ run. The proper precision of the original would not be appropriate here, nor would the more romantic, quasi-choral “Dolce” version of “Bloodfest”. Instead, we get something new, another adaptation that shares the clarity of the original Bach with greater freedom and familiarity, a statement on where Will and Hannibal find themselves in the finale’s final scenes. It’s a great selection and a lovely performance by the musician who recorded this version, a final touch of the sound that has fueled so much of the series before the fight brings one last call from the Dragon and the strains of Will’s Becoming.
Not-classical piece featured: First time for everything
“Love Crime” by Siouxsie Sioux and Brian Reitzell (2015): Will Becomes
Rather than ending on yet another orchestral or classical piece, as the season one and two finales have, Bryan Fuller and Reitzell end Hannibal season three by giving Fannibals a theme song for Will’s Becoming, “Love Crime” by Siouxsie Sioux and Reitzell. I have little familiarity with and absolutely no expertise in this kind of music, so I can’t offer much insight to the piece, other than that it’s cool and very fitting with the tonal shift in the finale (I’m not a fan of that shift, but it’s clearly what Fuller and co. wanted to go for, and if they were going to, “Love Crime” is an excellent choice). For more on how Reitzell and Fuller brought Siouxsie Sioux on board, and how the song developed, check out this post-finale EW interview with Reitzell.
While the style of the song is a far cry from “Savoureux”’s closing piece, Patrick Cassidy’s “Vide Cor Meum”, or “Mizumono”’s “Bloodfest”, all three share a slow tempo and contemplative feel. Putting “Love Crime” beneath the final fight scene, rather than a more visceral, percussion-based score, distances the audience from the action, removing the visceral energy of the Tobias and Hannibal fight in season one or the Jack and Hannibal fights in season two. It’s not dissimilar to the use of Rossini’s La gazza ladra overture in “Contorno”. In both instances, the intent is to focus in on a desired tone, rather than the physicality of the action. The Rossini makes the fight in “Contorno” comedic, a victory lap for Jack. The Siouxsie Sioux song makes this fight dark and brooding, not a battle to survive, but Will’s descent into the person Hannibal always hoped he could be. Many have called “Love Crime” a Bond song, and that feels appropriate. I’m not interested in Hannibal as a Bond movie, but as I said earlier, if that’s what the show wants to be, this is a great way do it.
Other scoring notes:
- There are a lot of neat touches to the score in the opening scene with Reba and Dolarhyde, including the use of an ascending and descending slide motif that recurs throughout the episode, but what most interests me is the way Reitzell pivots between string-based scoring (particularly the bass of the Dragon) and percussion-based scoring. The piano comes in a few times, a memory of Reba and Dolarhyde’s relationship that’s brought to the forefront with the use of the Debussy, Reitzell uses a splash of cymbals to mirror Dolarhyde’s splashing of the gas, and the electric guitar stands in for Reba’s heart, fluttering at the door as she decides what to do and racing as Dolarhyde pours the gas, but for me, the score in this scene comes down to the question of when Dolarhyde (the percussion) is in control and when the Dragon (the bass) is closer to the surface.
- The scoring for Reba and Will’s scene in the hospital has lovely and sad quality to it. Using high percussion to pair with Reba’s ice is neat and bringing back Will’s electric guitar in a comforting way (as compared to the stressful guitar for Reba in the previous scene) works well.
- Hannibal and Will’s first scene together begins in Hannibal’s memory palace but notably, the organ-based scoring for the Norman Chapel and the Italy arc is not used. Instead, we get clustered clarinets and winds. When we cut back to Hannibal’s cell, the score gets decidedly less sumptuous. Percussion eventually creeps into the background towards the end of the scene and when Hannibal implores Will to think about him, there’s a dissonant, subdued flurry of sound.
- The percussion during the brief fight between Dolarhyde and Will is the most similar the score has been to the opening of “The Great Red Dragon” in quite a while. After Dolarhyde splashes water on Will—accompanied by a stressful cymbal cue, giving an aural as well as visual tie to Dolarhyde splashing gas around Reba—the cello repeats a pitch while a line underneath descends. A growl sneaks in as Dolarhyde says, “I want to meet Lecter”, but on the whole, the score is surprisingly spare, percussion and strings staying comparatively light.
- Team Sassy Science doesn’t get much notable in the way of scoring, Reitzell keeping the focus on the actors rather than the score, but there is a nice hit that accompanies the two miming Dolarhyde’s use of the shotgun. Then a wash of sound comes in for Jack’s conversation with Will.
- Far more showy is the score for Will’s scene with Bedelia, and it is wonderful. Bedelia can’t believe what she’s hearing, and that’s reflected in the slippery, sliding score. Up is down, left is right, and someone’s definitely taking crazy pills. (Shout-out to reader Christine: The tambourine pops up in this scene, a delightful, jangly counterpoint to the smooth slides elsewhere in the scoring.)
- The heavy percussion and water sounds that accompany the flashback to Chilton being doused feel like a callback to the scoring for season two and contrast starkly with the soft vibes, winds, and growling bass of the rest of the scene.
- The score is very low in the mix for Alana’s scene with Hannibal once they start talking, letting the echo of their voices in the empty rooms come through. One of my favorite scoring details this season was a three note sting of electric guitar in “Aperitivo” as the camera pushed in on Alana while she talked about getting Old Testament revenge on Hannibal. As Hannibal talks here about Alana living on borrowed time, the camera pushes in on him, and in a lovely bit of symmetry, we get another hit of electric guitar.
- Alana, Jack, and Will’s late night conspiracy planning is set to steady eighth notes in the percussion, the resolve of their intentions offset with an occasional overlaid rattling, their nerves keeping them, and the audience, on edge.
- The second time Will visits Hannibal in his memory palace, he walks down the aisle of the Norman Chapel to an organ, a clear tie to the Italy arc and tease of what’s to come. The score isn’t completely settled, however; there’s dissonance to the sound. Will needs to apologize. Once he does, a steady tapping enters, but not the straight eighths of before. It’s more of a gallop rhythm this time, perhaps the stag running after being set free.
- The convoy sequence opens with a tritone sustained in the keyboard or organ: that’s not good. (A tritone, or augmented fourth/diminished fifth, is a very dissonant interval that has at various times in musical history been known as “the Devil’s interval” or “the Devil in music”.) The string-supported percussion of Dolarhyde is prominent here, as are the ascending and descending slides that have popped up repeatedly in the episode. When Hannibal opens the police car door and Will decides he will go with him, a melancholy, resigned cello accompanies the decision.
- If the flashback to Chilton’s burning is a reference to the season two score, Jack at the crime scene is a reference to season one, the percussion slowing down as Jack takes in the carnage, before a clicking, steady eighth note enters: All Jack can do is hope that the plan is still in motion, that at least Will will be able to follow through and take out the Dragon, Hannibal, or both.
- The Eastern-feeling Verger music makes a brief cameo, scoring Alana, Margot, and the Verger heir’s purposeful walk to their helicopter.
- The score for Alana and Margot smoothly transitions into a major chord in the keyboard or organ, paired with a wash of percussion, as Will and Hannibal arrive at Hannibal’s brainwashing cabin. How nice to be home!
- Hannibal and Will’s conversation inside the house is scored to an adaptation of Bach’s Aria from the Goldberg Variations, which ends just before Hannibal is shot. Dolarhyde makes a huge entrance, a massive hit of cello and percussion welcoming him to the conversation. As he talks to Hannibal, the score backs off, giving them space and lending a jittery, lightly percussive feel, with strings supporting underneath. Then as the fight begins, the percussion kicks in with winds and higher pitches, perhaps some voice. Interestingly, the unfurling of Dolarhyde’s wings do not most prominently bring in the bass or percussion, they bring distortion. Instead, the percussion enters as Will and Hannibal fight Dolarhyde, transitioning into “Love Crime”.
- Reitzell could have ended the post-credits scene with “Love Crime”. Instead, the song ends early, and Bedelia is left waiting in silent anticipation, a great final touch to what has been a masterful score for the series.
It has been a joy to explore the score and soundtrack for this season of Hannibal in such depth every week. Thank you to everyone who’s read along, and to Brian Reitzell for composing a score and selecting a soundtrack inventive and interesting enough to stand up to this level of scrutiny. I can’t wait to see what Reitzell does next.