Hannibal Recap: Mouth to Mouth Abomination

Hannibal, old friend, you kinda lost me this week.

Look, I know Raul Esparza’s Dr. Frederick Chilton is vain, haughty, inept, smarmy, malicious and all sorts of other unpleasant adjectives. And I’ll admit I didn’t feel the slightest hint of sympathy when the dude had some of his organs painfully removed by Abel Gideon in Season 1 — or when Chilton took a bullet to the face (fired by the deeply addled Miriam Lass) in Season 2.

But there’s a difference between letting out a hearty chuckle at the end of the big-screen The Silence of the Lambs — you know the scene, in which Dr. Lecter tells Clarice via phone that he’s “having an old friend for dinner” (all while spying on a vacationing Frederick) — versus watching the guy have his naked body glued to a chair, get his lips ripped off by a sociopath with the world’s worst set of dentures and then flame-broiled into a mumbling pile of exposed teeth, charred skin and blood-red muscle and sinew.

This may sound like a silly complaint in a Hannibal recap. I mean, for three seasons now, this has been a show that has triumphantly sat at the intersection of beautiful and ghastly, has married the macabre with the meditative. And much of the imagery here comes directly from Thomas Harris’ novels. Furthermore, I’ve been completely obsessed with nearly every minute of it (or, to be more specific, Seasons 1 and 2, and much of the Tooth Fairy arc of Season 3).

Hannibal - Season 3But my problem with Francis Dolarhyde’s physical and psychological torture of Chilton in “The Number of the Beast is 666” is that, unlike so many of Bryan Fuller’s beautiful nightmares these past few seasons, the indignities suffered by Chilton were merely gruesome and upsetting — without being particularly scary or insightful. If I wanted to spend an hour watching a guy whimpering for his life — and then being unceremoniously mutilated — there are plenty of torture-porn flicks like Saw or Hostel or whatnot available on demand. I expect Hannibal to be smarter, better, funnier, more inventive. Heck, with only one episode left before the series finale, the general ickiness and the multitude of plotting issues in this installment left me feeling like even another murky existential conversation between Will and that Apparition Abigail doll would’ve been more enthralling.

Maybe it’s just me? (You should certainly feel welcome to pop an ice pick into my brain and cook my lungs — verbally speaking — down in the comments.) Either way, let’s pithily recount the week’s major developments:

* Will, Jack and Alana — along with Chilton — decide to bait the Tooth Fairy by planting an article in Freddie Lounds’ rag, in which Will and Frederick portray the nation’s hottest serial killer as “a vicious, perverted, sexual failure — an animal,” not to mention “the product of an incestuous home.”

* Chilton visits Dr. Lecter and pouts that Hannibal’s recent articles in the Northern Medical Journal of Psychiatry have refuted the insanity defense he’d concocted to save the cannibal’s life. Chilton goes on to paint a picture of a late-in-life Hannibal being turned out to the general population, then used for sex by younger inmates and crying over his dislike of the psych ward’s stewed apricots. (OK, maybe Frederick had it comin?)

Hannibal - Season 3* We get several instances of Will in “therapy” with Bedelia. In the episode’s opening scene, she seems oddly turned on in when she tells Will that Hannibal only wants her dead by his own hand — and only if he gets to eat her when she’s done. (Du Maurier is one loco chick — and Gillian Anderson’s performance remains as deliciously twisted as anything on TV, no?) Most interesting of all, though, she verbalizes her theories about the twisted Will-Lecter connection that’s spawned a lot of internet ‘shipping, but has never been more than subtext in the series. Bedelia posits that Hannibal “finds nourishment at the very sight of Will” — then asks her “patient,” “but do you ache for him?”

* The FBI plan goes awry when Francis doesn’t come after Will — instead, he targets Chilton, who winds up glued to a chair and begging for his life. At one point during Chilton’s captivity, Reba stops by to visit “D,” and while she can’t see the victimized therapist, you get the impression the blind woman senses another (possibly terrified) person in her presence. After she leaves, the Tooth Fairy plays a slide show of his horrific works for Chilton, makes him recant his damning assessment of the Red Dragon on camera, rips off Chilton’s lips with his teeth, then reenacts Will’s faked “Freddie down the hill” inferno using Chilton and a can of gasoline.

Hannibal - Season 3* Inexplicably, when a package arrives at the hospital for Lecter, Alana brings it to him to open — rather than examining the contents beforehand. It’s a note from Francis — “With these, he offended me” — accompanied by Chilton’s torn-off lips. Hannibal scarfs one down with the wickedness and enthusiasm of a toddler sneaking a Gummi bear before dinner, then makes a keen observation to Dr. Bloom: “You could’ve provided anything Dr. Chilton could. That would’ve been your lip I was tasting — again.”

* Chilton, charred and mutilated, accuses Will of setting him up — Will, after all, put his hand on Chilton in the photo for Lounds’ spread, making him the “dog” whom the Tooth Fairy would strike against first.

* It’s clear from Will’s final session with Bedelia that he’s — in the words of Britney Spears — not that innocent.

Bedelia: “Maybe you wanted to put Dr. Chilton at risk – just a little.”
Will: “I wonder.”
Bedelia: “Do you have to wonder?”
Will: “No.”

Bedelia reckons that Will wanted to see what would happen to Chilton, and then — hearkening back to her own murder-spree-by-proxy Italian tour, adds, “You may as well have struck the match — that’s participation.”

* Meanwhile, Francis kidnaps Reba — binding her, gagging her and bringing her back to his lair. Her prior words — “I’m not so scarred by life that I’m incapable of love. I hope you aren’t, either.” — come back to haunt her, as Francis confesses he’s the Red Dragon who’s been making headlines by “changing” (the new PC term for “slaughtering”) families. His imaginary wings spread wider and more glorious than ever — and we know now he’ll either scorch everything in front of him, or wind up slayed by a valiant (albeit fragile) knight.

What did you think of this week’s Hannibal? Did the hour veer too closely toward torture porn? What are your hopes for the finale? Sound off in the comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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32 Comments
  1. Mary Powers says:

    I agree with you 100%. Bryan Fuller had said before the season 3 premiere aired that what they do to Dr. Chilton this season would be the worse yet. I *immediately* thought of that flaming wheelchair scene but I NEVER EVER thought in my wildest dreams that the writers would do something SO obvious. Even tonight I tweeted that if Chilton gets the flaming chair scene from Red Dragon, I was going to have a hissy fit. It was a JOKE and I never thought they would go there. As a journalist myself who had previously reviewed the show and gave it straight A’s, I must say I am truly disappointed. I really thought the Hannibal writers were better than this.

    • Cheeky says:

      Same here! Not only did they do this once in season two with Freddie’s fake death, but we knew it was in the film/book, so it felt completely recycled.

    • Jason says:

      The scene was gruesome and uncouth on purpose – we have been part of a fairy tale where deaths are artful and largely offscreen but the Dragon is the real world butting back in with misery and ugliness. And he burned Chilton FOR Hannibal. He had all the data on his case and was an avid reader of Freddie’s work, he knew about the subterfuge and recreated it to hurt Jack and Will. This was a parallel, a rebuttal for their arrogance or in Will’s case, the mark of his own ‘becoming’. But he bit him for Hannibal, that is why he sent a note with the lips to him (he was on the phone talking about how he was going to lampoon Hannibal in the press as Francis approached). All of these choices were character driven and lifted enough from the source material to keep us asking questions as we were tricked by our memory of the original.

    • mary says:

      To be fair, people complained when he didn’t follow the books & especially going out of order. The point is they had to show where Will is at this time. Is he innocent or not(knowing full well Chilton was in danger). They never showed the “flaming chair” just the aftermath. And if they showed Chilton afterwards & he was not burnt-again people would throw a fit. There’s only the one(& sadly finale) episode left. There has to be a big build up to this final scene, which to many Fuller knew it could be the last.

  2. bhammel103 says:

    This episode was fantastic.

  3. Lorelei says:

    This episode was freaking awesome! As someone who has read all the books many times over and seen all the movies many times over, I was not expecting to feel anything but nostalgic for the source material. I relax into the show and let it’s horrible beauty wash over me each week – instead I was freaking out; squirming in my seat.
    True horror surprises us, this felt totally new to me, even though I know it so well.
    Awesome.

    • Annie says:

      I completely agree. I didn’t get the same vibe as the reviewer – it *was* highly disturbing, in the way Hannibal often and uniquely is, yet it brought something fresh and raw to the familiar source material. What’s more, Esparza freakin’ nailed that scene. His performance was more immediate, nuanced, and evocative than even Philip Seymour Hoffman’s take on the same scene (albeit as a different character). I always knew Esparza was/is ridiculously talented but his performance in this episode was astounding.

  4. Ian says:

    I think they tried for some poetic imagery with the burning wheelchair, but it is direct from the source material. I wouldnt wish what happened to Chilton on my worst enemy, but I didnt have a problem with the show going there.
    My heart was more broken by something else I knew was coming, which was his revealing to Reba. Before this episode, it was impossible not to root for their love.
    One thing Im a bit confused by is why Will putting his arm around Chilton ensured Chilton would be the one targeted. It read like an only vaguely psychological plot device to me.

    • Bill Kragline says:

      TBH It was a bit of a vague psychological plot device, but it’s based in real psychology nonetheless. The image of Will with his hand on Chilton just meant that, not only were they working together, but Will was the dominant one – Chilton’s wasn’t showing the same affection to Will. From this, we get the metaphor that Chilton was Will’s pet – he wasn’t quite on equal footing. And Dolarhyde would always target the pets first…

  5. Steve says:

    I’d love to comment but, unfortunately, here in the US, the show has been moved to Saturday nights by NBC and was preempted by a god damned pre-season Football game, then a rerun of Saturday Night Live. So, I have no idea when we will be able to actually see the episode.

    • Eric says:

      The episode aired on 460 on Fios, Cozi channel at 10pm. Not sure what the channel is on other cable providers. It seems there is a football game when the finale airs and Cozi is airing the finale at 10pm Saturday so look for that channel to watch it

      • mary says:

        In Milwaukee this coming Saturday, it will not be shown-anywhere, at anytime. Need to wait for the delightful(not) OnDemand to have it. But it’s football season, so Hannibal viewers may be screwed.

    • Ron says:

      Hmm. That’s odd. Maybe it depends on what part of the country you’re in. Because I watched the whole episode on time (Saturday, 10pm – 11pm) on NBC. You may be able to watch the episode on NBC’s website. And if you have Hulu, you can watch it there also.

    • TD says:

      You can watch it on the NBC website the day after it airs.

  6. Did they do it to Chilton because doing it to a woman, i.e. Freddie, might have been too gruesome and maybe elicit accusations of misogyny, which tend to crop up far more often than they should in regard to instances of violence against women in fiction? Seems like a waste, really. Cowardly, even.

    • Had they not genderbent Freddy’s casting and kept him as male, would he have been the one that died in this episode, as he’s died in every other adaptation of this story?

      • CK2 says:

        I doubt it. They already alluded to Freddie’s flaming demise in the 1st season when she faked her death. This show hasn’t exactly been a shot for shot adaptation and by making it Chilton, a character much more present this season than Freddie, it’s actually a more compelling scene. I disagree that it’s a waste and welcome the change in a story that has been told in multiple adaptations.

  7. Hurl says:

    AWESOME EPISODE

  8. Hege says:

    I disagree with the reviewer. I thought this episode might be the best of the season. It was just superb! I don’t mind the difference from the source material. Bryan Fuller have said somewhere the series is like fan fiction. Chilton has really been through a lot. Guttet, shot and now lips removed and set on fire. The fact he survived was the most surreal thing in this episode. Hannibal eating his lip was funny.

  9. Win says:

    I love Hannibal in all its gory glory, but I definitely was taken aback by the, uh… lip smackers. However, Raul Esparza did an excellent job, so I was mesmerized by that (as well as Gillian Anderson’s scenes with Hugh Dancy). The whole setup with Dr. Chilton made the end result pretty clear, but the journey was well paved.

    Michael Slezak, did Stefan write this part of your recap: “…the nation’s hottest serial killer…” *This* torture has everything – dragon wings, lip attacks, pet adoptions, a blind black woman who can sense danger…

  10. Tim says:

    Great episode! I will miss Hannibal and all the great supporting characters.

  11. Eva says:

    The way it’s described in the novel (admittedly, to Freddy, not Chilton), I would’ve been disappointed if Fuller didn’t keep the merciless macabre or turned it pretty. And the twisted thing is, to me, the fact that it happened to Chilton made it funny in a way. As someone on Tumblr put it, he truly is the Kenny of Hannibal.

  12. Andi says:

    I get what you were saying about the torture of Chilton (I was so shocled i jad to close my eyes) but isn’t the jarring vulgarity of it the point? The Great Red Dragon is a beast, a monster, even more than Hannibal an, by extension Will. The murders we have seen before are all beautiful and composed which are befitting of the men who committed them. Francis is a beast and as such he mauls Chilton in his rage and it is disgusting and ugly, just as the article describes him.

  13. kirads09 says:

    Well, I don’t think it crossed a line. The flaming chair and that scene are 100% in the book. Only difference is that in the book it is actually Freddy Lounds who gets (his) lips ripped off and is set aflame after the bait attempt in the tabloids. It was done wonderfully IMO. FD’s “privy to a great becoming” speech is incredible in the book and the film with Ed Norton. If I had any issue with it, was that somehow Chilton survived at all and even able to speak? Come on.

    Highlight scene for me: Hannibal, the frog like tongue gesture he made demonstrating that he ate one of the lips. Gotta love that twisted humor Mads puts into the character.

    The uber creepy “session” btwn Will and Bedelia freaked me out far more tbh than the blood and gore.

    I feel like the series can end only one of two ways. Will and Hannibal killing each other (and perhaps everyone else involved in the process) in Shakespeare like tragedy or the two of them making love and running off together (a la Du Maurier or Hannibal with Clarice at the end of Hannibal).

    [Unless Bryan Fuller wants to keep it open for future possibilities if he ever can get rights to use Silence of The Lambs material. Never know what could happen in this show. I have loved it from the first and sad that it is coming to an end.]

  14. Walkie@gmail.com says:

    Loved the show until this season. I don’t know what’s happened but they lost their way.

    There was NO reason to have the Dragon chew off Chilton’s mouth. The wheel chair on fire would have been fine but that should have been it. Just kill the man. It has become a sadistic joke all of the torture they have visited upon Chilton.

  15. Mark says:

    I completely disagree. This episode was outstanding.

  16. Ryan says:

    It may just be me but Season 3 has been somewhat of a disappointment.
    It seems to be all imagery and style with the substance somewhat lacking…. it’s also nowhere near as gripping as it was in Seasons 1 and 2.

  17. Andrew says:

    As much as I love the show, “Manhunter” is STILL the best version of the “Red Dragon” book.

    • The trouble with Manhunter which was indeed fab. Is that Mr. D. was portrayed as just a psycho. Period. Nothing about him, as too why he became what he did, no moral delemia of which we know he had. This portrayal by Richard Armitage is hands down the best I have seen. And I loved the former films.

  18. Kate says:

    A little less exposure on Dr. Chilton’s speaking into the camera would have been better and more time spent on the real guiding force of this AMAZING excellent show, Hannibal. Although the Great Red Dragon does horrific things to innocent people, he just doesn’t interest me. I don’t feel any subtleties or undertones from this actor so I find myself forwarding the DVR past him for the most part. In next week’s last episode I’d like to see Hannibal, the monster that he can be, escape. I’m probably in the minority here :)).

  19. The Arkenstone curse continues to haunt the line of Durin by turning Thorin into a demented Smaug.

  20. Maureen says:

    I’m convinced that I have seen another show/film/movie in which the villain dates a blind woman who mistakenly finds his wings and, subsequently, the house burns down. What show is that?!?