17th Aug2015

‘Hannibal 3×11: …And the Beast From the Sea’ Review

by Gretchen Felker-Martin

“I don’t know what will happen in the house.”

Motion and stillness are one, life and death are mirrors of each other, and to oppose your enemy is to be united with him. Hannibal has always been interested in blurring the boundaries between concepts, and between people, both in the minds of its addled characters and for the viewers back home. ‘…And the Beast From the Sea’ probes those boundaries with dread and fascination, exploring points of divergence and of confluence in and around delivering the white-knuckle home invasion to end all white-knuckle home invasions.

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Dolarhyde in Will and Molly’s house, still blanketed in snow and sorrowfully idyllic, is an interloper masked from himself as much as he is from the world. In the cleanliness of his Becoming, his embodiment of the Great Red Dragon,  The shot of his profile and the moon orbiting one another feels like a whirlpool drawing us into the nightmare of his plunge into the house. The tension within the cabin is unbearable, enhanced by a camera which sits at the ends of halls and waits for the monster to slither into frame and by crisp, dim nighttime lighting which ascends to series-best heights in a show that routinely puts all others to shame in the category. Molly’s determination to get her son to safety is steely even in the face of Dolarhyde’s mechanical murderousness, and the clamor of her car alarm slices through one of the best nail-biters I’ve seen in a while as Dolarhyde stalks the porch and Molly and Walter huddle beneath it.

His appearance in the road and the abrupt death of Molly’s rescuer are followed by one of the episode’s most striking images: Dolarhyde fires on the departing car and Molly’s blood spatters over the jumping, twitching speedometer like it’s some kind of grotesque gauge for how much life remains in her body. The plucked-string lucidity of Molly’s flight for survival resonates beautifully with Dolarhyde’s tightrope walk over the surging sea of his delusions. When we see him next he’s literally inverted, tormenting his body with high-tension exercises while standing on his hands. The camera continues to find new seams to pick in the rippling landscape of Richard Armitage’s back, but it’s in his self-destructive meltdown that the scene really comes alive. Dolarhyde beats himself compulsively for his failure and as he does he imagines that it is the Dragon who torments him. But as Hannibal said earlier, “You and the Dragon were one from the beginning.”

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Hannibal’s presence in the episode is seraphic. He sits calmly in the center of his room and dreams of a cathedral ceiling high above. He counsels Dolarhyde in his old office even as another of his selves paces restlessly around the room, a caged tiger whispering secrets through the bars. Even when Alana, in retaliation for his protecting Dolarhyde, makes good on her threat to destroy his dignity by having his table, his sketches, his furniture, and his toilet removed, Hannibal remains serene. He has seen his path forward and that path lies through Will’s family, a final symbolic bridge-burning perhaps intended to drive the younger man into the ritual killing Hannibal once sought to enact himself.

Dolarhyde’s convulsion of self anchors the episode’s theme of oneness disguised as duality or complexity. His visions of his demonic self and his belief that he is in fact two entities occupying the same body drive him to compartmentalize his life to reconcile his thoughts with reality. Will, too, struggles to know himself in the wake of the attack on his family. When his stepson confronts him with knowledge of his imprisonment and trial, Will is visibly uncomfortable at being forced to fit the pieces of his bizarre life into a coherent narrative. Even Hannibal and Will, positioned so often as two sides of the same coin, are explored through the lens of Hannibal trying to enforce his definition of their connection through violence while insisting that Will is to blame for what’s coming. It’s the most petulant we’ve ever seen the good doctor, but even in his empty room at the episode’s close he remains remote and snakelike, a coiled serpent waiting to strike.

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