Sharpen your knives and fire up the stove—Season 3 of Hannibal premieres tomorrow, June 4th!
Season Three promises to be stellar. The locale has changed—the story picks up in Florence, Italy, a few months after the bloodbath of the Season 2 finale. You may remember that at the end of Season 2, Hannibal escapes to Italy with Bedelia Du Maurier, played by goddess Gillian Anderson. Word is that the first half of Season 3 follows the pair as they live a fabulous life under assumed identities. Everything is going swimmingly. Hannibal has “Hardly killed anyone” since they arrived. They might be able to live “happily” ever after.
If you haven’t done so already, check out the teaser here.
I’m so excited, since Hannibal is one of my favorite shows currently airing. It checks off a lot of boxes—serial killers, a crime procedural set-up, terrific acting, impeccable production value, and imaginative gore (that somehow makes it past NBC’s Standard and Practices department). The cast is wonderful. Mads Mikkelsen kills it (har har) as Hannibal, while Hugh Dancy wrestles with the human struggle against darkness as Hannibal’s maybe friend/nemesis.
But in the shadows lurks Will Graham, hell-bent on hunting down Hannibal.
But still more intriguing is that the last half of Season 3 will introduce a new, terrifying serial killer—Francis Dolarhyde, a.k.a. the Tooth Fairy, a.k.a the Red Dragon. The name might seem whimsical, but the Tooth Fairy/Red Dragon is not to be underestimated.
In case you don’t know, Dolarhyde is the main serial killer antagonist in Red Dragon, the first of Thomas Harris’ novels about Hannibal Lecter. Dolarhyde is a piece of work—after being abandoned by his mother and suffering years of childhood abuse from his hellish grandmother, Dolarhyde suffers from split personalities. He is shy, timid, “normal,” holding down a job that lets him select victims. Dolarhyde is obsessed with William Blake’s painting The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed In the Sun. He believes that by killing whole families at once, he will fully transform into his other personality, the Red Dragon. The Red Dragon is terrifying, strong, and utterly self-assured—all the things he never was as a child.
Hannibal’s show runners have been very tightlipped about how these storylines will converge, but I’m sure it will be a magnificent bloody mess. In Bryan Fuller we trust. And I trust that we will see an epic battle between Hannibal and Dolarhyde, since that would be awesome and we never got that in Thomas Harris’ books.
But seriously, I’m eager to see how the show treats Francis Dolarhyde as a character foil to Hannibal. While Hannibal in the show and Dolarhyde in other versions have many similarities, they are very different characters.
Obviously, they are both serial killers, and therefore despicable people. Their crimes are brutal, gory, and deeply disturbing. Both possess great physical strength—Dolarhyde is a bodybuilder, and Hannibal has near superhuman reflexes in addition to being surprisingly strong. Both are of above-average intelligence (though it is probably safe to say that Hannibal is the more intelligent of the two, certainly the more cultured of the pair).
Additionally, as people and killers, Dolarhyde and Hannibal crave total control and believe they achieve it through killing, though their pursuit of control plays out in varied ways. Both experienced incredibly traumatic childhoods, no doubt contributing to their psychosis. It will be interesting to see if this aspect of their development comes to light during Season 3 (remember that Mischa Lecter, Hannibal’s ill-fated sister from the books, has been mentioned briefly on the show but never depicted on-screen).
Lastly, for two of fiction’s most horrifying serial killers, both Dolarhyde and Hannibal crave companionship in their own ways. They are fiercely sensitive, however. When the objects of their affections disappoint them, both Dolarhyde and Hannibal lash out.
Like in the finale of Season 2, when Hannibal realized that Will Graham had betrayed him and colluding with Jack to arrest him. Hannibal was deeply hurt, heartbroken even, that Will could and would chose Jack over him, and just when he thought they were besties! So what does Hannibal do? Why, he attacks everybody. Jack? Stabbed in the neck. Alana? Pushed out of the window by Abigail, who had been brainwashed (?) by Hannibal. Jack? Gutted and left for dead on the floor of Hannibal’s beautiful kitchen. Abigail? Hannibal cuts her throat while Will watches, helpless. Wounded and rejected, Hannibal severed ties with Will by killing those who had brought them together.
Similarly, in Red Dragon, Dolarhyde, after much bloody struggle between his split personalities, Dolarhyde somehow lands a nice girlfriend. This enrages the nasty Red Dragon, especially because the relationship calms Francis and helps him resist the urge to kill. But just as the FBI is closing in and Dolarhyde really starts to lose it, he catches his girlfriend talking to another man (slut!) and assumes the worst. Compulsively, he resolves to kill the other man, kidnap her and take her to his house, burn his house down while inside with her, and finally commit a murder-suicide. He doesn’t end up going through with it, but he comes damn close.
Ultimately, these men have very human feelings that they react to in very serial killer ways. It’s normal to want to reject and demean the person rejecting you, but usually you don’t and shouldn’t kill everyone in arm’s length. A normal person might cuss and scream at a cheating lover, but Hannibal and Dolarhyde start racking up a body count.
As far as character differences go, the most obvious one is that Hannibal is a cannibal and Dolarhyde is not. Dolarhyde likes to bite his victims with a gnarly set of fake teeth, but he doesn’t actually eat anyone.
And while both killers take great care with their murders, careful to assess the situation and wait for the moment to strike, Hannibal isn’t finished once he’s killed them. He draws things out by employing extraordinary culinary skill and then eating them. He might wait weeks to eat someone’s liver. Once the mood strikes him, he’ll go to his charming recipe box, search for the perfect recipe, written in neat and pretty script, and pull out his knives.
When you think about it, Hannibal’s treatment of his victims after death is just insult to injury. It’s not enough that the victim should die because he offended Hannibal with some “uncivilized” gaffe or because she served as a pawn in a larger scheme. No, Hannibal won’t eat them straight; they’re not good enough. He’s got to elevate his ingredients, exercise final control over the victim and subject them to a process that, while artful, is largely unnecessary.
And yet, Hannibal also delights in cooking for others. He genuinely seems to enjoy creating meals for his companions.
On the other hand, Dolarhyde leaves his victims at the scene of the crime and is done with them afterwards. He kills methodically and calmly. He insists on arranging the victims in such a way so that they may witness how he abuses their bodies. At the same time he craves an audience, going so far as to put shards of mirrors in their eyes to “force them see him,” he smashes all the mirrors in the victims’ house because he cannot stand to look at himself.
In a weird way, Francis struggles with his compulsion to kill more than Hannibal does. He’s weirdly sympathetic where Hannibal is not, precisely because, in the books at least, Dolarhyde tries very hard to ignore his Red Dragon personality and stop killing. It’s a constant struggle for him, caught between being happy and wanting the power he’s sought his whole life. He even eats the priceless William Blake painting in an effort to silence the Red Dragon. Hannibal has never been shown to struggle with his actions, let alone show remorse.
Perhaps Dolarhyde will prove to be a foil for both Hannibal and Will, since the latter continually struggles with the unwanted power of his empathy and the siren song of Hannibal’s way of life. Just a little prediction.
Reviews for Season 3 have been very positive so far, but we’ll have to wait till later half of the season to see Dolarhyde. No doubt Bryan Fuller wouldn’t plan to make us wait so long unless he was cooking up something delicious.