Hannibal Recap Episode 3.10 – And the Woman Clothed in Sun

Hannibal - Season 3

Hannibal has always positioned himself as the supreme arbiter of taste, and he does not hesitate to punish any violations of decorum. Boorishness becomes a form of Natural Selection, a weakness that needs to be culled from the population.

“And the Woman Clothed in Sun” explores the relativism implicit in that idea, suggesting that Hannibal’s drive to murder comes from the same evolutionary impulse that targets the weak or the elderly. His violence is kindness, a way of helping rude people avoid the indignity of being rude.

Of course, Hannibal’s victims would likely dispute the sentence, which is the crucial distinction between a killer like Hannibal and a more traditional moral figure like Will. Hannibal ends the misery of creatures in distress. Will adds them to his pack of strays.

The trouble is that those two poles aren’t as far apart as we’d like to think. Hannibal understands that compassion and cruelty are deeply intertwined because empathy can make violence more effective and also because it can motivate otherwise pacifistic individuals to take up arms in the name of a righteous cause.

Will seeks out Bedelia to gain insight into that duality, and the therapist continues to demonstrate a steeliness that was hidden earlier in the season. In flashback, we learn that her fatal encounter with an upset patient (Zachary Quinto) was closer to euthanasia than self-defense, and after her time with Hannibal she is no longer afraid of her own cruelty. That self-awareness is also her protection. Will is able to understand Hannibal, but he does not yet fully understand his own capacity for violence, which makes him susceptible to Hannibal’s manipulation.

Bedelia, on the other hand, left Italy unscathed, her feigned captivity allowing her to turn her compromising time with Hannibal into a lucrative gig on the lecture circuit as the woman who survived. She now teaches rapt audiences about the mutable nature of the mind, explaining how our identities – everything that we think makes us who we are – are constructs that can be taken apart and rebuilt with proper guidance.

That proves to be a fitting theme for the episode, especially as it relates to Francis Dolarhyde. The Red Dragon is just such a construct, an identity forged through sheer desire that serves as a telling contrast to Hannibal’s relationship with Will. Hannibal spent two seasons deconstructing Will so he could remake him in his own brutal image, ultimately failing because a personality is not so easily fabricated. Dolarhyde accomplished the feat on his own and now stands on the brink of transformation after eating the painting from which he takes his name.

Needless to say, Hannibal is impressed. He also uses some phone magic to discover Will’s new address, a detail that will probably be significant in later episodes.

Dolarhyde, meanwhile, consummates his relationship with Reba, the titular woman clothed in sun, following a genuinely tender courtship that adds considerable nuance to his character. The Red Dragon is not a savage, unthinking monster. He is a wild animal, a predator that possesses the instinctual capacity for love and death. “And the Woman Clothed in Sun” shows both aspects, first in his docile kindness towards Reba (it’s almost as if he’s been tamed) and then when he transforms into a maelstrom of claws during a brief encounter with Will in a museum elevator.

Will, for his part, has finally made the connection between the families and the Red Dragon. He has seen the killer’s face, and must now find a way to attach it to a name.

The question is whether or not he’ll be able to put himself together before the predators pull him apart. He’s lost in the duality, unsure whether he’s the lion or the lamb and uncomfortable with the idea that he can be a vessel for both. That insecurity leaves him exposed to beings that are uncompromising forces of nature, and he will not be able to act with confidence and intent until he reconciles those ideas.

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