Hannibal: The Number of the Beast is 666 (review)

Jack Crawford and Freddie Lounds
This penultimate episode of Hannibal, The Number of the Beast is 666 may not be the most horrifying, that surely belongs to episode 2.12 Face Off where Mason Verger ate his nose and a good part of his face (in this viewers humble opinion that still strikes right to the bone), but last night the vision of Dolarhyde ripping off Chilton’s lips comes damned close. Later director Guillermo Navarro matches that “ripping” horror with a Sergio Leone type close up of Chilton’s face and his terror filled eyes as he starts burning.

Hannibal has always been a bit of a gore fest. At least in terms of buckets of claret being sprayed and great gouts of the stuff splashed over the walls and floors. Oddly, for a show that languishes in the sensuality of serial murderer’s committing their heinous acts, with special emphasis on Lector and his devotees love of “food,” this episode goes straight for the throat (The lips?) and bypasses the loving attention to the act.

There is no operatic overture or classical music to accompany scenes of preparing a feast. The only thing observed being eaten in this latest offering had Hannibal slurping down Chilton’s lip and then chortling about it with Crawford. The delight and focus is different. There is no sensuality here, just Lector proving that revenge is indeed best served cold…and raw.

Hannibal correctly diagnoses Dr. Chilton as not being made of the “proper stuff.” (The Lector version of the “right stuff” but spot on all the same.) Will says the same thing later on, after Chilton has punished by the Red Dragon for his “lies.” That are provided by Graham during the Lounds pseudo interview.

Will: “Chilton languished unrecognized until “Hannibal the Cannibal.” He wanted the world to know his face.”

Bedelia: “And now he doesn’t have one.”

– The Will Graham version of “be careful what you wish for.”

This entire installment cranks things up nicely. While the series has deviated from the book in term of victim, Freddie Lounds has his lips ripped off in the book, this change of fate makes a certain amount of sense. Although it implies that Chilton will not survive long enough for the cinematic tease where Lector tells Clarice Starling that he’s “going to have an old friend for dinner” as the Frederick disembarks from an airplane while Hannibal watches from the payphone where he talks to the FBI agent.

In this verse, that clearly will never happen. It would have been, presumably, in poor taste (not to mention seen as being misogynistic to an alarming degree) to allow Dolarhyde to rip the lips off of the female version of Freddie Lounds. (One wonders if creator Bryan Fuller considered this when he changed the gender of Freddie for the TV series.) Although the nice touch about the whole incident is how Graham set up Frederick for the assault.

In keeping with the strange allure of Hannibal and his world, it is oddly satisfying that Chilton was the object of Dolarhyde’s rage, something we share with Will who clearly shares Lector’s disdain and active dislike of the pompous psychiatrist. Hubris thy name is Dr. Francis Chilton and both Graham and Hannibal recognize this annoying and unflattering trait.

When Crawford, Will and Frederick meet with Freddie to write the article that will enrage the “Tooth Fairy” (Chilton’s uncomfortable and awkward recommendation that the word “fairy” bothers the Red Dragon and it they really want to “piss him off” they should use the homosexually offensive term to describe him is perfect and highlights his character perfectly.) The entire scene between Chilton and Graham is horribly amusing.

Chilton to Freddie: “The Tooth Fairy’s actions indicate a projective delusion compensating for intolerable feelings of inadequacy. Smashing mirrors ties these feelings to his appearance.”

Will: (slightly behind Chilton translates) “And not only is the Tooth Fairy insane, he is ugly and impotent.

As this goes on, Chilton looks increasingly bothered by Will’s baiting of the killer. As we stifle the urge to giggle at Graham’s obvious taunts, the unease felt by Frederick becomes shared by all. Graham putting his hand on Chilton in the photograph is a signal, as the lipless and burnt to a crisp doctor accuses Will later, “You put your hand on me like a pet,” although Frederick’s statement was somewhat harder to understand.

One thing is apparent. After the attempt on his family, Will is allowing his “inner Hannibal” to come to the fore. He clearly set up Chilton for the fall, as Bedelia says later and Frederick notes in ICU. Underneath the horror of this episode there is the clear indication of hubris. Not just from Frederick Clifton either.

“Beware the wrath of the lamb,” says Hannibal to Jack Crawford. He tells the FBI agent that they should all fear Will’s wrath. At the end of their exchange, Jack tells Lector that Dolarhyde is not the dragon, Lector is and follows up with “The Devil himself bound in the pit.”

“That makes you God, Jack” Hannibal replies.

“Yes it does,” says Crawford.

Before the end credits roll, we see the humiliation of Chilton, his punishment and his burning. (Like Will’s pretend burning of Lounds, Frederick is set on fire while bound in a wheelchair.) Reba has been kidnapped by her now former lover. The next step is for Dolarhyde to rid himself of the one human thing in himself, Reba.

Disturbingly, Will spends much of his time, when not setting up Frederick Chilton, with Bedelia Du Maurier. Through her we learn that Hannibal loves Will and we also discover this upsets her or at least makes her jealous. She relays to Graham that Lector may well have “agency in the world” but that he will never allow anyone else to kill her. As he is in captivity, Lector will never kill and eat her, the idea upsets her enough that she sheds a tear.

Richard Armitage was terrifying this week as Dolarhyde/The Great Red Dragon. Mads Mikkelsen was, as usual, brilliant and the scene where he mimics slurping down Chilton’s lip for Jack Crawford was priceless. The Hannibal Lector version of a raspberry.

Hugh Dancy, clever, droll and increasingly Hannibal by proxy. Just brilliant.

*Sidenote* Watching this latest episode I noticed that Dr. Alana Bloom and Bedelia Du Maurier sound very much the same when the talk. Tone, pacing and phrasing appear to be almost identical. It makes me wonder if this was intentional? Were Gillian Anderson and Caroline Dhavernas cast because they sound alike? Just a thought…

Special kudos to Raúl Esparza as Chilton. This performer has managed to bring out the worst in at least one viewer as he channeled his inner despicable “poor winner.” Yet when he was in the clutches of Armitage’s character one could not help but feel sorry for the “little man” who begged to be great. As Will says in the show, Chilton wanted to be great and it was not in him. When faced with the devil he crumpled and paid for Graham’s insults.

It speaks volumes that the first words out of Chilton’s lipless mouth had nothing to do with helping to stop the Great Red Dragon, but were, instead, accusations of Graham’s treachery. Proper stuff indeed.

Will has stated that he cannot go home. After the attempt on his wife and child, he has decided to stay away until the Dragon is caught.(Hence the photograph showing clearly his “temporary” location) Now that Dolarhyde has taken Reba, the series is speeding toward its conclusion. One that might be quite different from Thomas Harris’ books.

Fans of the novel will no doubt wait with bated breath to see what will be kept in from the series’ literary base. In a world where gender has been changed, character’s created and fates traded, anything can happen. The season finale of Hannibal airs August 29 on NBC. Do not miss it.

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