Breaking Up is Hard to Do – Perry’s Thoughts on Hannibal : The Beast From the Sea

frsncis and the moon

It took me a few viewings to warm up to this episode,  and The Beast from the Sea (S.3 Ep. 11), not because I didn’t think Richard Armitage was superb as Francis Dolarhyde,  and not because of any  real plot failings, (if anything, some gaps were filled in).  During my first viewing, I found myself distracted by minutiae, familiar references to my own experiences ( for a later post) and most problematic for me, spoilers that finally spoiled it for me.

But I watched again and again, and each time, I came to appreciate the episode more – even, the non-Armitage scenes.

The episode opens with another look at Dolarhyde eating The Great Red Dragon painting in the Brooklyn Museum, and a voice over from Will, “He ate a painting” Amazement by the team that he ate it up. I was put off by this. There’s humor,  in Hannibal, but I took a personal affront at the humor, this time, directed at an Armitage character. An eerie sense of fictional  APM kicked in – don’t belittle my guy.

And what a contrast between how Francis Dolarhyde eats – whether it’s cherry pie or some home cooked meal, or a priceless piece of paper – grubbing, devouring, not savoring in contrast to the the genteel, relaxed, fine-dining experiences Hannibal offers.

The scene turns to Will, Alana and Jack in Jack’s office, where the three of them figure out that Hannibal lead Will to the museum and knows who the Red Dragon is.

From a plot standpoint, I thought it was too soon, or not enough happened, for anyone to suggest that maybe the Red Dragon was trying to stop, because he didn’t kill Will or the docent. ( A docent? Really, in charge of access to precious works?) I thought it an unlikely conclusion based on what I know of serial killer lore. They have a signature. They have a purpose. So why would it be assumed that there was some other motivation for Dolarhyde to spare strangers who don’t fit into his signature and whose deaths were not essential to achieving some other goal.? But time is moving on with 2 episodes left, and Will needs some impetus to try to save Francis Dolarhyde.

We then cut to another phone call session between Hannibal and Dolarhyde in their respective imaginations. In one of the earlier such scenes, Dolarhyde is the one who is out of body and watching the session. In this one, it is Hannibal who imagines himself  circling the room, hovering over Francis’ shoulder – a live version of that well worn cartoon we’ve seen, of devil and angel whispering into the ear of some soul who is conflicted. Only here, we only have the devil.

Francis Dolarhyde as the Red Dragon may be the stated embodiment of the devil, but it is Hannibal who is fueling the fires of hell, as he urges Francis towards focusing on Will Graham’s family next.

The good/evil dichotomy  believed by some to exist in  every human  is expanded on later, when Hannibal quotes to Will, lines from Faust

“Two souls, alas, are housed within my breast,
And each will wrestle for the mastery there.”


Armitage is  good in this scene  as he describes his amazement at touching the beating heart of a live woman, having a live woman instead of, as we know, engaging in necrophilia. As good as Armitage is in this scene, seeking help and confirmation from Hannibal, it is Mads Mikkelsen who steals the scene, in my opinion.

When Francis laments that the dragon wants Reba, and  he doesn’t want to give her up, Hannibal switches gears, I think in order to insure that Dolarhyde will ultimately do as Hannibal wants. He gives Francis the option of keeping Reba, perhaps knowing that  any other course of action might lead Francis to successfully suppress the Dragon in favor of  Reba. Maybe Francis can lie in his own skin, after all.  The master manipulator suggests that Dolarhyde need not give the Dragon to Reba – rather,  he “can toss the Dragon to someone else,” and then suggests that Will Graham has what Dolarhyde and the Dragon need – a family to destroy.

(That toss the dragon line – don’t know if it’s Harris’s- made me chuckle. As Hannibalspeak – it didn’t seem right – not poetic enough. And all I could think of was the medieval game, referenced in Lord of the Rings, of tossing the dwarf,  and the image took my otherwise focusing brain to someplace else, some other film, some other dragon, some other dwarf.

There were some other distractions in this scene for me first time out, and I regret to say that it was slippage in Armitage’s American accent, something I will address, perhaps, in a later post. Suffice it to say now, that on and off, I hear Richard Armitage’s usual diction – in other words, I am not distracted by him speaking American because it sounds almost British – or is voice is so distinctive ( I should say voices) that no matter what he says, it’ll sound to me like him.  At other times, his American accent seems perfect – but now and then he muffs a word, mostly with his “r,” ( investigator, her, bizarre) and sometimes with his “o” (who, you, to)

Lord,  the expression on his face as Hannibal gives him an out to protect Reba, by  killing Grahams’s family. The expressions of  wonder, relief, surprise, purpose, understanding. The movements are astonishing, as he practically lifts himself from the chair. Oh my,  Richard Armitage.

Francis then gives Hannibal’s idea a try. He feels it safe to spend another night with Reba at his house, because he need not give her to the Dragon. Instead, she relaxes with him, as he watches his surveillance footage of Molly and Wally going about their business at home.

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The scene switches and Will confronts Hannibal, beseeching him to save the next family, since he knows who the Red Dragon is ( Hannibal doesn’t, as far as we can tell, know his name.) Hannibal stands there, and looks up through his skylight, so see the full moon shining down. Chillingly, Hannibal tells Will that he doesn’t really care about the family, because they’re not his family. In prior episodes, Hannibal says Will is his family, so one wonders whether, when Hannibal directs Francis to kill them all, does he mean to include Will in that order? The choice of the word all is intentionally vague here, since Will is not at home, and Hannibal knows it. Further, Hannibal places the responsibility of the death on the next family squarely on Will’s shoulders, all the more ominous, because we know what Will doesn’t: that the target family is his.

Hannibal’s resentment and jealousy over Will’s new life and family makes even Hannibal a little sympathetic to me.

It’s a full moon, and Francis Dolarhyde is ready to annihilate Molly and Wally. We’re treated to a vision of waves crashing somewhere in Maryland near Will’s house,  and homage to the title, as Francis dons his teeth and half mask to set out for his task.

The scene as he stalks Molly in the house ought to be suspenseful, and it is, unless one knows, as I did, from numerous spoilers, which spoiled the scene for me first time out, that Richard Armitage doesn’t act that kind of killing in the series. He said it so many times, that I found myself watching intently, but without anxiety, as Dolarhyde stalks through the house, missing his targets by seconds each time. In other words, I had no fear for Wally and Molly, and this negatively affected the scene for me on an emotional level, in favor of analysis.
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Not to say that Armitage was not frightening as hell dressed in black, looking large and scary with that mask and the gun at the ready. I imagine that subsequent reviews I read will detail the suspense in this scene, and maybe its classic, but for me, I spoiled it, he spoiled it, Fuller spoiled it, and I just may forgo future post mortems.

The final shot, as his quarry escapes, not quite unscathed, is masterful. Almost in black – the lighting is so dark that it’s necessary to watch these episodes in total darkness myself. The Red Dragon has failed, and he reveals himself with a mighty yet plaintive roar to the moon, as they escape and he’s left in the dust.

Almost this entire sequence was without speech except for a few whispers from Molly. Things bothered me about it, like why, if you want to evade someone in your house, you put on heavy boots ( Molly) or why you take time to hug your son when the killer is at your heels? How did an overturned car right itself? What was more troubling was watching Richard Armitage in this role of maniacal, ruthless, killer. I didn’t think I’d have a problem with it ahead of time, but there were instances here, especially during the first viewing, when I almost refused to believe it was him. But he makes a helluvah bad guy.

Poor Francis. The Dragon/he has failed to successfully offer up a substitute for Reba, and the punishment is great.

The scene, where in Armitage’s words, the Dragon beats the shit out of Dolarhyde, is almost incapable of my description and I found it to be one of the most violent scenes I’ve watched on Hannibal. How this actor tosses himself around,  landing in grotesque positions, both giving and receiving blows, throwing himself across the room, dually victim, barely fighting back and aggressor, relentless, while at the same time he’s managing to alter his facial expressions, from surprise, to fear, anger and menace resolution, depending on who he is.  He’s doing so much at once. As a performance, it leaves me hurting.

It starts out as pure fantasy, as the Dragon tail trips Dolarhyde, and then  leads to the  supernatural as the force and wings of the dragon beat at Dolarhyde, then lifting him off the ground in a strangle hold, finally blurring into what’s really happening – Dolarhyde is completely split into the two beings now, and it is his dragon self that’s punishing his Dolarhyde self for his failure.

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This scene is the apotheosis of physicality in acting, drawing, most likely, on everything Richard Armitage has learned about movement. Yet, the face counts, too. His ability to alter himself in less than a heartbeat is mind blowing.

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It’s unforgettable for any viewer, but for Richard Armitage fans – we have never witnessed such a performance as this. I doubt anyone has.

I know from reading  earlier episode fan reviews and comments that I’ve suffered less sympathy and heartbreak for Francis Dolarhyde than other fans have, up until now – but this scene just tore me apart as a viewer of the series, for what I saw as the destruction of Francis Dolarhyde.

After watching many times, the scene brought back another scene from Spooks S. 8. Ep. 4, when Lucas North writhes on the floor in his Russian prison cell after a beating, and (I’ve always thought) a sexual assault, so ashamed and hopeless that he tries to hang himself.

As an Armitage fan, this Hannibal scene did what it did to Francis – it elevated me, it knocked me down, it conquered me and it left me spent and bleeding.

Some other stuff happens and then as she enters her darkroom,  Reba finds Francis, or maybe it’s also the Dragon, since he is wearing his wings, menacingly, in red light.  The touch of his dragon wings cleverly adds suspense and foreboding to the scene.  Francis has  lost his battle to overcome the Red Dragon and save Reba. He’s messed up his alternate sacrifice. The dragon has punished him for it, and now, there he is, wings and all. Who, exactly, is there?

But the wings disappear, and he allows Reba to come come close. He asks her whether it was better to have seen the light and lost it, or never have seen it at all. This is, of course, applicable to her as a blind person, but to him as a man who for one instant in his life, was given the light of love, and now he will lose it forever. ( This could apply to Hannibal vis a vis Will, just as well).

He doesn’t  confess, but he does tell her I can’t be with you. She thinks it’s because she’s blind, or he lacks commitment, or all the usual things halves of couples think when a break-up is happening. She takes it in the usual way – a typical break-up line – I’m afraid I’m going to hurt you which is another way of saying, you know,  It’s not you, it’s me. She takes it as that trite sort of break up, and sends him on his way.

This is another scene in which Richard Armitage flips back and forth between his personalities. At times he is pathetic, weepy and whiny as he tries to explain, and then he changes, and he looks dangerous and predatory. As he backs out of the room, its not clear really until he exits, just what’s going to happen. I found this scene more suspenseful and ominous than the stalking/murder scene. Now, all is lost for Francis Dolarhyde.

There’s one more phone conversation between Dolarhyde and Hannibal 0nly this time with the FBI listening in, as Hannibal is coerced into helping them track down the Red Dragon.

Hannibal starts out speaking with Francis Dolarhyde, but at the end of the conversation, the Red Dragon takes over, and for the first time, the FBI team is there to witness it.

Hints are given in that phone conversation which, we may learn later, help the FBI track Francis down. He mentions the name Reba, he hints at living in a large house – but other than that, as far as I can tell, the FBI doesn’t have enough information to close in on his identity. Perhaps the name Reba may be all they need. But for now, they really know nothing. They know what he looks like, they know he had corrective surgery, but  since he went after Will’s family instead of some other family, whatever connection they might have found among the families selected, is out with the wind. And, as I have said, as far as we know, Hannibal does not know Francis’s true name. But maybe he does. There was a line in a past episode when Francis tells Hannibal that he knows Hannibal will not turn him in, even if he knew who he was.

This is another scene in which Armitage morphs instantaneously from his true self into the Red Dragon.

Almost incredibly ( really, what balls Hannibal has) during his phone conversation with Dolarhyde, when he was supposed to cooperate with the FBI so they could locate the killer, at the end, Hannibal, once again give a tip off –  They’re listening.

Hannibal knows he will lose every privilege he has, and privilege is important to him. It’s self-destructive behavior, the beginning of which showed up in Florence when Hannibal became brazen and careless, then again when he surrenders. Can he just not help himself? Can he not control his jealousy, envy and loss of Will, even in favor of an easier life for himself? It’s as though Hannibal has found and lost the one thing, person, to care about, and he’s willing to sacrifice what he has to  undo that loss.

The final break up, and one of the best scenes, is the final scene between Hannibal and Will after the attack on Will’s family. Will has simply had enough. He’s not speaking as much in convoluted psychological jargon – he’s more like Reba in this scene, a blessedly normal tone of voice. But the same is not true of Hannibal, who continues to rub the blister, and, in a self-destructive move, a list ditch effort perhaps to save a relationship ( is it possible) he tells Will that he urged the Red Dragon to kill Will’s family and gave him the address.

Earlier, Hannibal warned Will that the next dead family would be Will’s doing. Here Hannibal  brags that he put them at risk. Which is true? Both are true. Hannibal targeted them, but Will chose his course to have a normal life, and to pursue The Red Dragon. He chose to deal with Hannibal again, knowing how Hannibal plays with him – without the physicality between the Red Dragon and Dolarhyde – but Hannibal beats the shit out Will time and again, with his own form of mind play. Hannibal is Will’s Red Dragon, or his evil other soul within Will’s breast.

There’s been so much written to define the relationship between Hannibal and Will which has unfolded over three seasons. It’s got to be love. Like many loves, it begins with common ground, discovering mutual interests, polite socializing, and then develops into a need. There is certainly love,  now obsessive love on Hannibal’s part. He got between Will and Alana, and Will and Abigail, Will and Jack and now, when Will acquires a family, Hannibal wants them destroyed.

I’ve never figured out the attraction between Will and Molly, and I don’t much like Molly as a character. Is she too glib, too hard, does she lack understanding? I don’t know, but it looks to me like the Reba and Francis break-up may not be the only one hinted out in this episode. Molly is pretty equivocal about Will and their future. When she says, from her hospital bed, this is going to take some time I wonder whether she is talking about catching the killer so she can go back to her life, or needing time to assess her relationship with Will. She says that it’s hard to hang on to anything good – so how hard will she work?

Aside from this, there’s nothing I like about Molly. I don’t know anything about her, except she has a son and was widowed.

Molly, to me, is another failed female character in the series.

With all, this was not my favorite episode of Hannibal so far, but when it comes to performances by Richard Armitage, this episode, his session with Hannibal, and that transformative, soul splitting, beating scene is a masterpiece.





6 thoughts on “Breaking Up is Hard to Do – Perry’s Thoughts on Hannibal : The Beast From the Sea

  1. I agree about the beating scene. It was incredibly effective.

    I disagree in some ways about Molly. A weakness is that we never really had a chance to see her relationship with Will before Jack returns. (I never got the Alana/Margot relationship either for similar reasons.) However, as a female character, she is normal and obviously very strong in contrast to all Will’s weaknesses and bizarre behavior. For once, she is a female character that makes sense to me. Meanwhile, she was fantastic in her evasion from Dolarhyde.


  2. Thanks for a great summary/commentary! I am not watching the series, but these reviews help me to understand plot and Richard’s performance!


  3. It’s not out of character. Dolarhyde’s MO is to shoot the family, quickly and clinically ( he’s a great shot) and then perform atrocities on the mothers.


  4. Great review. As to Molly, I think I’m predisposed to dislike her because she was off-putting in the book. However, I think her character is a lot more sympathetic in this version, and while I don’t love her, I find her relatable. Still annoyed that she didn’t tell Will about the dogs! LOL.


  5. Have to say i don’t get Molly either, but primarily because she doesn’t seem to care enough about Will, nor does she really understand him which speaks to me of a not very deep relationship…
    I actually liked the chase around the house, but then i’ve set out to not spoil myself very early on after the first ep was ruined by tmi.
    I thought H was strong but then again he never changes, i feel it is less of challenge to be acting the exact same character and mannerisms he has been doing now for 3 eps… Will had much more work to do in comparison, and R is in another league altogether from the challenges he faced and conquered 🙂


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