TV Recap: Hannibal, ‘The Great Red Dragon’

Hannibal Season 3 Poster

The Great Red Dragon Plot Summary:

The series skips three years from when Hannibal (Madds Mikkelsen) surrendered. Hannibal is currently locked in a posh asylum where he entertains various visitors like Dr. Chilton (Raul Esparza) and Dr. Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas). Francis Dollarhyde (The Hobbit’s Richard Ermitage) begins his transformation into the Tooth Fairy, which leads him to his moonlight killing sprees. Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) finds Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and recruits him to help catch The Tooth Fairy.

Hannibal Lecter in The Great Red Dragon
Photo Credit: Brooke Palmer/NBC

Only a series like Hannibal could change storyline directions midseason, and make the transition both seamless and exciting.

For two-and-a-half seasons Hannibal has been about Will Graham, Jack Crawford and the FBI’s pursuit of the Chesapeake Ripper/Hannibal Lecter. That storyline resolved itself last week, and with six episodes remaining in the season (and sadly the series), we’re presented the iconic Red Dragon plot. If this were any other series, such a sharp departure from the main story arc would’ve either felt like the writers were crowbarring the story in, or it’d lack the juice the main arc had.

Neither is the case in tonight’s episode, ‘The Great Red Dragon.’

While this isn’t the most thrilling of episodes, we’re treated to the hallmarks of what has made this series so great – excellent casting, brilliantly understated acting, and visuals that make you feel as though you’ve consumed a field of mushrooms.

The choice of Richard Armitage as Francis Dollarhyde/The Tooth Fairy was spot on. Armitage was one of the few bright spots in Peter Jackson’s underwhelming Hobbit trilogy. In those films he proved his ability as both an imposing physical presence, and someone’s who range could really hit the notes Ralph Fiennes so brilliantly created in the 2002 big screen thriller. In this episode, Armitage said next to nothing, but he emoted so much. His movements, his dead gaze, and the psychosis he exuded were terrifying. He really channeled Fiennes here, but gave Dollarhyde his own creepy, menacing stamp. It’ll be great to see what he brings to the table when given more dialogue.

Richard Armitage in The Great Red Dragon
Photo Credit: Brooke Palmer/NBC

Speaking of casting, it was nice to see the return of Kids in the Hall alum Scott Thompson, and Aaron Abrams as the FBI medical examiners. The two were always well-needed comic relief, and even when they weren’t being funny they definitely broke up (as well as magnified) the intensity Will Graham brings to every single scene.

This season of Hannibal has been so phenomenal that it’s usually hard to find any faults. However, Will’s quick return to the FBI didn’t sit right. Yes, there was a little conflict, and yes he return to the agency rather quickly in previous Tooth Fairy adaptations (Manhunter, Red Dragon). However, Will’s all about the struggle, and it would’ve been great to see him wrestling with it a bit more. Instead it takes five minutes, and a word of confidence from his wife Molly, and he’s back to work. They could’ve milked this a bit longer.

“The Great Red Dragon” is a table setting episode, one that would’ve better suited a brand new season, but that’s a discussion for a whole other day. The confinement of Hannibal, the debut of the Tooth Fairy, Will’s return to the FBI, and the first Will/Hannibal encounter in years are all extremely exciting moments that should provide for a great final run for this incredible series.

Rating: 8 out of 10
=========================================================================================================

Bill Bodkin is the gray bearded owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, he is lucky husband, and proud father to a beautiful daughter named Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites