Hannibal: “The Great Red Dragon” Season 3 Episode 8 Review

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As the season moves along, Hannibal‘s chances of being picked up and continuing elsewhere look slimmer and slimmer. But that didn’t stop the show from giving us a massive time jump and essentially starting what feels like a fourth season.

“The Great Red Dragon” is an interruption of season three’s momentum. But considering last week’s “Digestivo” had the feel of a series finale, there was no way this episode could just keep going. Scheduling wise, I wonder if a longer break between the two entries would have sold the concept a little stronger. Not that this now cancelled show likely had any choices of when it would air, but something similar to what The Walking Dead does (batch of episodes in the fall, and then another in the winter with about a month inbetween) might have benefitted Hannibal‘s third season.

The episode opens with an extended prologue introducing us to Richard Armitage’s Francis Dolarhyde, a killer known as “The Tooth Fairy.” He’s creepy and completely psychotic, the polar opposite of Hannibal Lecter. Three years have passed. Hannibal pleaded insanity and won, relieving him of the death sentence. Will retired and started a family. It’s a jarring change for mid-season, but the show pulls it off by treating it like this is a new season. If we’re still going to call the Red Dragon arc season three of Hannibal, I hope the themes get tied together a little smoother. But there’s also little problem with just calling this season four.

Hannibal himself isn’t in the episode all that much. We get a great conversation between him and Alana, more clearly establishing the new status quo. The episode then takes its time reintroducing us to Jack and Will. But the Tooth Fairy’s murders are just enough to get them both back in the game.

Free of Hannibal’s grip, Will returns to the process that made him so successful at crime scenes. The pendulum waves over him, and he visualizes the crime with himself in the killer’s place. He utters “This is my design,” and a wave of familiarity suddenly returns to Hannibal. The first seven episodes of the season were hardly typical entries of the show, which was exciting. But if the Red Dragon arc is really the end for the series, returning to the formula that built it feels earned and completely necessary.

The longer hap between this episode and the last would come in handy with the final scene, where Will makes the difficult decision to consult Hannibal on the Tooth Fairy case. This would have hit harder with more time to digest last week’s goodbyes. But this show is still so good at making things hit that it mostly works anyway.

“The Great Red Dragon” was a promising start for this new, and probably final, arc for the series. Pitting Will against a foe so different from Hannibal is a smart way for this series to go out. With just five episodes left, I’m fascinated to see how everything ties together. Grade: A-

By Matt Dougherty

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