Hannibal Recap Episode 3.11 – …and the Beast from the Sea

Hannibal - Season 3

“…And the Beast from the Sea” revolves around one major event. Francis Dolarhyde attempts to make the Grahams the latest offering to the Red Dragon, poisoning their dogs, breaking into their house, and attempting to kill them on the full moon. Molly is able to thwart him with quick thinking and a well-placed car-alarm, though she does take a (non-lethal) bullet for her efforts.

The rest of the episode is spent dealing with the fallout. The Red Dragon went after the Grahams at Hannibal’s suggestion, and Alana, Jack, and Will immediately recognize his design. They attempt to use him to set a trap, though Hannibal warns Dolarhyde as soon as he mention’s Reba’s name. As punishment, Alana follows through on an earlier threat and takes Hannibal’s desk and dignity. His once lavish cell is barren, stripped of everything up to and including the toilet.

Dolarhyde, meanwhile, failed to kill the Grahams. Now the Dragon is angry, and its wrath is severe. Dolarhyde is battling the Dragon for control of his own body and the conflict leaves both physical and emotional scars. He breaks up with Reba because he does not know who or what he is, and he wants to protect her from swings that tend to be more violent for him than they are for others.

Reba accepts his decision, but not before she drops a small piece of wisdom. She tells him that everyone is confused. None of us can fully understand who or what we are, implying that the violence playing out across his body is a metaphorical representation of a struggle that is nearly universal.

It proves to be the thread that ties the episode together. Dolarhyde is in the midst of a conscious transformation and he is afraid of that change because he does not know if the Dragon will value Reba in the same way that he does now. The rest of us are less aware of the process, but the effects are no less visible. Hannibal was once willing to go to prison for Will. Now he places Will’s wife and son in the path of a killer.

It’s a way for him to re-exert control as much as anything else. After three years, Hannibal has lost much of his influence and he does not like what Will has become in his absence. For Hannibal, complacency is boring. He sees Will’s domesticity as a form of stasis, a misuse of his potential. Hannibal prefers transformation. The release of energy is what makes life interesting, and he is willing to sacrifice other people as long as it will upset the status quo.

The Dragon is merely Hannibal’s latest agent. Sending his new plaything after his old favorite is not a vengeful action. It is instead a catalyst to alter the conversation. Regardless of the outcome, Will cannot be the same after an attack on his family. His happy bliss has been disturbed. He is now forced to play the game to its conclusion for the highest stakes imaginable.

More interestingly, it also forces Hannibal to recognize that he may have misjudged Will’s current relationships. Hannibal is impressed with Molly’s resourcefulness. He had originally blamed her for constraining Will, and did not expect her to survive her encounter with the Dragon. Hannibal now has a much higher regard for her abilities, which may in turn restore some of his regard for Will’s decision making.

That’s not to say that Hannibal regrets his actions. Molly told Will that she would be the same when he returned, but the experience has had a profound effect and to Hannibal her metamorphosis is just as fascinating as Will’s. Molly made a promise to Will based on her understanding of what she was at the time, not realizing that it would inevitably be broken because people are never constant.

Francis Dolarhyde recognizes that, which is why he drives Reba away to avoid making promises he cannot keep. It serves as a telling parallel to Molly, who keeps Will close. People are always in a state of flux, responding to unexpected provocations and emerging as strangers, and there is danger in the unknown.

However, that is not reason to avoid it, nor does it make one special. As Reba tells Francis, we all face that uncertainty. We can only choose how we respond to it, and it is much easier when you don’t have to go it alone.

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