TV Recap: Hannibal, ‘The Wrath of the Lamb’ (Series Finale)

Spoiler Ahead…You’ve Been Warned

Hannibal Season 3 Poster

The Wrath of the Lamb Plot Summary:

Francis Dollarhyde (Richard Armitage) fakes his death, which forces Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), and Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) to play the only card they have – Hannibal Lecter (Madds Mikelsen). Will Will Graham use The Red Dragon as his weapon of death, to finally kill Hannibal, or will Hannibal manipulate Will, and escape custody once again?

‘That’s what they call a mic drop.’

This line uttered by Hannibal Lecter in the final half of ‘Wrath of the Lamb’ was more than just the famed cannibal being clever. This was more than him reaffirming to Will Graham that his existence is empty without Hannibal. No, this was a foreshadowing of the final moments of the series.

Those final moments were the ultimate mic drop.

Photo Credit: Brooke Palmer/NBC
Photo Credit: Brooke Palmer/NBC

Creator Bryan Fuller and his team put the ultimate period at the end of the sentence, ‘Hannibal is finished.’ No more rumors of it resurfacing on another network or streaming service, no movie, nothing. This was it for Hannibal Lecter, and Will Graham. (Of course never say never.) It was executed brilliantly, and beautifully. It was an ending that was shocking yet completely logical, tragic yet completely satisfying. It was, to put it both plainly and hyperbolically — perfect.

Series finales are a tricky, tricky thing. Often times they’re hated because they leave the audience feeling flat – questions unanswered, expectations unmet. Look at the ending of Dexter — it’s rare to hear someone praise that ending. Or look at The Sopranos, which is probably one of the most criticized and scrutinized finishes ever. Then there are those who do it right – Breaking Bad, Mad Men. Those two knew how to end it, tying up the loose ends perfectly.

However, none of them had the mammoth task of ending a series about characters that have been previously established. With Hannibal, there are events that take place after those in the Red Dragon saga. The characters either continue on, or meet their maker in later stories. So, it would’ve been understandable for the team behind Hannibal to take the easy, and expected route out. That would be, Will kills Francis Dollarhyde, and Hannibal during the final moments is informed of a young female FBI agent coming to see him about a new serial killer. Of course, since Fuller and company couldn’t get the rights to any of the Silence of the Lambs characters it would’ve been difficult to use the names Clarice Starling and Buffalo Bill. However, the inference would’ve made for a clever ending.

Photo Credit: Brooke Palmer/NBC
Photo Credit: Brooke Palmer/NBC

Yet, that was too easy. And if there’s one thing Hannibal has proven, it doesn’t do things the easy way. Maybe that’s why NBC couldn’t get behind it (as evidenced by the series finale being moved to its sister network Cozi TV). Or maybe that’s why audiences didn’t flock to it despite the massive praise, ‘Fannibals’ heaped upon. The series challenges the audience at every step. It’s a visually haunting, and harrowing series whose storylines  makes you question what is good and what is bad. There’s no cop outs and clean endings…or even happy endings (well depending on your definition of a happy ending, maybe there is). Everything is thrown in your face, and you must be willing to deal with it.

So instead of giving us the expected answer, Hannibal gave us a ballet of blood and brutality followed by a beautiful, almost Shakespearean in its tragedy, final note. Perfect. Mic dropped.

After Will and Hannibal have dispatched of Francis Dollarhyde, who has mortally wounded Hannibal, and has pretty viciously assault Will, we are presented with this beautiful moment. The two men, finally express their true love for each other and at the end of the day they are two sides of the same double-edged sword. (You can debate if this love is a romantic, or even sexual love, but in plain fact there is a love between these two.) They are soulmates, they cannot exist properly without the other. And in the glow of bloody moon, this fact is made evident, and that’s why Will decides they have to die. This vicious, unhealthy, plasma-soaked cycle of death has to be broken, and the only way to do that is for Will to kill both of them (you could argue Hannibal has accepted this fate, and willingly embraces their plunge). These two cannot live without one another, despite all of Will’s denial. He cannot exist properly without Hannibal, and Hannibal cannot exist without Will.

Photo Credit: Ken Woroner/NBC
Photo Credit: Ken Woroner/NBC

This is a much more difficult tale to tell than the straightforward, ‘Let’s cut to the beginning of Silence of the Lamb’s scenario’ presented earlier. The writing and direction are great and all, but it’s the performances of Hugh Dancy and Madds Mikkelsen that make this all work. Their chemistry is some of the best you’ll ever see between two foils, particularly on a network television series. Acting isn’t supposed to be this good on NBC, or any of the big four for that matter. The two men are perfectly able to convince you of their soulmate status. Mikkelsen has always been brilliant making Hannibal a much more quiet yet menacing version of Lecter. He’s also quite adept at giving Lecter a very dry sense of humor. Dancy, on the other hand, has perfected the art of the sweaty, nervous breakdown. His performance throughout these three seasons has been amazing. The range of emotions he’s had to exude is mind-blowing because you never, ever lose a sense of who Will Graham is, no matter how crazy or emotional he gets.

Richard Armitage serves masterfully as a more deadly, and dangerous Francis Dollarhyde. [Editor’s Note: If you follow Bryan Fuller’s twitter, you will find that Dollarhyde has had military training, so that will probably help settle your mind about just how good he was at dispatching multiple armed police officers in that wild shootout he orchestrated towards the end of the episode]. Armitage’s physical presences makes him so much more of a threat than previous incarnations of the character. He’s more hulking and frightening, and it makes perfect sense that Will and Hannibal both have to use everything they have to take him down. Dollarhyde’s death is probably one of the most graphic and visceral scenes you’ll ever see on network TV. One has to hope Armitage resurfaces on some series in extremely near future.

Photo Credit: Brooke Palmer/NBC
Photo Credit: Brooke Palmer/NBC

And if they couldn’t finish the series with the  fall scored by the sad Siouxsie Sioux (of Siouxsie & The Banshees fame) tune she crafted for this episode, we end with an even sadder, weird, and more brilliant note. We gaze upon Gillian Anderson’s Bedelia, sitting at a dinner table, waiting for Will and Hannibal — with her own leg prepared for everyone to eat. It’s one of the most chilling, and messed up, and frankly sad things I’ve ever seen on TV. This character went from a stoic voice of reason, to an absolute shell of herself, dependent on the two deranged men in her life – so dependent that she prepares her own leg for their consumption. They couldn’t have picked a better final shot. And Gillian Anderson, my God, the performance she gave in her run here was sheer genius.

In closing, Hannibal took a bad situation – an uncaring network, an early notice of cancellation, and no hope for a fourth season, and used it to create an absolute masterpiece of a finale. Everything about it was perfection. It closed the book on these characters in the most brilliant way possible. It left us sad, gutted, and stunned yet there’s no other way we’d have it.

Mic drop, indeed.

Rating: 10 out of 10


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Bill Bodkin is the owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, however, he is the proud father of a beautiful daughter, 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