For possibly the final time, welcome back to This is Our Design. With some time to digest the season three finale of Hannibal, set aside a chunk of your evening to dive in with co-hosts Sean Colletti and Kate Kulzick, who are joined by Noel Kirkpatrick of TV.com.
With “The Wrath of the Lamb”, Hannibal wraps up its run, at least for now. While all involved have been qualifying the episode as merely the series finale on NBC, the show has yet to be picked up anywhere else and several key figures have moved on to new projects. Creator Bryan Fuller has mentioned the possibility of the team reuniting for a film at some point down the line, but for the foreseeable future, this is the series finale of Hannibal, and given its bloody, spectacular climax, that feels appropriate.
Frederick Chilton has had a rough go of it in his time on Hannibal. He makes himself an easy target—the man has learned nothing, it would seem, from his disastrous experiences with serial killers over the years—but when faced with the enormity of the Dragon, Chilton is so unabashedly human, so relatable and terrified one can’t help but feel for him. Raúl Esparza has been a delight in the role throughout his tenure on the series, often giving a comedic lift to otherwise very dour episodes and arcs, but he’s particularly impressive here. Chilton’s terrifying capture by the Dragon makes up the center of the episode, but Esparza gets much more to play than fear.
The string bass is featured prominently throughout this episode as the voice of the Dragon, groaning and growling in the shadows. Whereas Reitzell introduced the character in “The Great Red Dragon” with layers of percussion, the Dragon we hear here is very different: that was an instinctual, physical being, a wordless monster pulled to the surface by the phase of the moon.
The scene of Dolarhyde eating the painting has plenty of percussion, but not the same layered elements as the Dragon scoring earlier, when Dolarhyde woke up and Reba was gone. There’s a high wind chime-like sound, some rattling, and drums and cymbals, but not the different, distinct rhythms syncing up with each other, and the strings only come in towards the end, when Will and Dolarhyde see each other. The percussion builds in intensity and speed until it cuts off with Will’s discovery of Dolarhyde, leaving behind soft vocals and the aforementioned strings, and this is when we hear the more characteristic Dragon percussion.
Between its careful handling of the Tooth Fairy’s crimes, its memorable character debuts and reintroductions, and its gentle resetting of so many pieces on the Hannibal chessboard to their pre-“Mizumono” positions, “The Great Red Dragon” is a strong and exciting midseason premiere that promises a confident, more accessible end to a previously divisive season.
The opening scene of the episode features electric keyboards/organ, a contrast to the pipe organ that has been so prominently featured in the scoring for Hannibal’s time in Europe. For me, this speaks to a perversion of what should be happening: the Polizia should be rushing in to save the day, but they’ve been bought by Mason and are instead quite content to kill Jack to strengthen their story of Hannibal’s escape. The majesty of the organ, which has signaled sacred spaces this season, is replaced with the artificial, modern sound of the keyboard.
It feels safe to say that everyone watching the series Hannibal knows that at some point, barring a complete break from the source material, Hannibal Lecter will end up in police custody. With “Digestivo”, Bryan Fuller and company finally bring this moment to pass, catching up to the lesser informed segment of the audience—those only peripherally familiar with Red Dragon or Silence of the Lambs—and doing so in style.
If “Antipasto” is the bright, sparkling fantasy of Hannibal’s life in denial over Will’s betrayal and “Secondo” is the dark fairy tale of Will embracing and coming to understand Hannibal as never before, “Dolce” is the glistening sunset of their courtship, and it’s only fitting that Natali is back to finish the journey with them.