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Francis Dolarhyde has spent much of his time on Hannibal discussing his transformation, his becoming. He is in a transitory state. He is not yet the Red Dragon, but that is the final goal. “Becoming” denotes he is not yet there. Anything that stands in the way of this becoming, namely the humanity that Reba imbues him with, must be discarded.

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Will Graham is already there. He has already become what he so desperately does not want to be and he can’t stop that part of his being. “Maybe you wanted to put Chilton at risk,” Bedelia tells Will. Of course, he did. Putting his hand on Chilton’s shoulder may have seemed like a moment of camaraderie between colleagues, but, as we learn, it was as a calculated a move on Will’s part on making sure that the location of his hideaway could be discerned by the landmarks in the back. This smacks of a plan, Alana says, Francis Dolarhyde will figure it out. Will knew that and used it to not further the investigation, but to be what he already was. While Francis Dolarhyde pushes away what tamped down those urges of destruction, Will has lost what kept him from acting on them (“You play, you pay”).

While Francis Dolarhyde becomes, Will Graham actively works against these evil impulses. Yet, “The Number Of The Beast Is 666” proved that try as Will might, he has already become what he does not want to be.

But neither of them are in the control. “The Number Of The Beast Is 666” all comes down to what Alana tells Will and Jack: They have been under the delusion before that they are under control, but Hannibal remains the only one who is under control. He’s the one who instructs Francis to burn Chilton in the same manner that had been used to tease Hannibal out before. As Bedelia says to Will in their—let’s be honest, frankly unhealthy—therapy sessions, “Hannibal does have agency in the world. He has you.” Hannibal may be behind glass but when it comes down to it, he is always the one who holds all of the cards. Chilton offended Hannibal by reminding him of a fate without dignity, as an old man in gen pop crying over stewed apricots. But, of course, that would never happen to Hannibal. So Hannibal took care of it through his two agents. Will wanted to put him at risk, so he did. The Red Dragon wanted to bite off Chilton’s lips and burn him alive, so he did.

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Ah, poor Frederick Chilton. His body has been maimed and torn apart, his face massacred (now for the second time), all in the name of infamy. But Hannibal is ultimately right, he does not have the stuff. “Chilton languished until Hannibal the Cannibal,” Will says. “He wanted the world to know his face.” “And no he doesn’t have one,” Bedelia says. The sight of the Red Dragon pulling of Chilton’s lips was the single most horrific image from three seasons of horrific images (in the novel, it is Freddie Lounds who suffers the brunt of the Red Dragon’s rage, post-article). Where Hannibal, and by extension Will, killed with art. Even many of the other killers, especially in the first season, made sure there was beauty in the death of those they killed. But Francis Dolarhyde kills with no art, his victims covered in blood, unlike Hannibal’s creations who seemed bloodless.

“The Number Of The Beast 666” was fully Richard Armitage’s episode to command, and command it he did. The voice of the Red Dragon seems to come from a place deep inside of him, rumbling up through his throat. It’s a wholly physical performance that is best embodied by his movement as the Red Dragon, slithering across to bite Chilton. The camera certainly helps him embody this creature: He towers over his prey, Chilton, who is ensnared in the chair. The camera is tilted up to make Francis the beast in complete control. Another beautifully shot image featured Chilton upright, racing Francis, who seems to be horizontal. His body is out of the frame, his head only attached to a long neck, much like the lizard he has become..

Chilton and Francis’ tête-à-tête was one of three important conversations between two people throughout this episode—none of them, importantly, between Hannibal and Will. As a Hannibal proxy, he speaks with another one of “Bluebeard’s wives,” speaking twice with Bedelia, once where he we discusses his lack of guilt surrounding Chilton’s torture, and another where his actions putting Chilton in danger are foreshadowed. In the first conversation, he asks the question at the heart of the entire series: Is Hannibal in love with him? “Could he daily feel a stab of hunger for you and feel nourishment at the very sight of you?” Bedelia says in a quite poetic fashion. “But do you ache for him?” That question is left unanswered. It’s an unspoken but obvious truth that Hannibal is a love story between these two men. Others have tried to enter their bond, but have failed (poor Abigail…). While Francis Dolarhyde wants to become, Will Graham is already there, and so Francis will never fully be.

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Stray observations

  • Recipe of the week: Vanilla stewed apricots with crumpets
  • There was a ton of Biblical allusions, especially from the Book of Revelation, in this episode. Alas, I can parse some of it, but I did not feel comfortable getting into it critically considering I wouldn’t really know what I was talking about. But one of the great things about this show is that I know the lamb of god is a part of the New Testament. I don’t know much other than that. Yet I still enjoyed Jack and Hannibal’s back-and-forth.
  • This was really Richard Armitage’s episode but damn if I don’t love Raul Esparza. Chilton’s survival this season may have been far-fetched (a forgivable sin in world where the far-fetched is the norm) but I’m glad he came back for as long as he did.
  • There was some excellent editing jokes in this episode: “Are you volunteering?” Will says to Alana as they discuss their scheme. “No, I’d have to be a fool,” she replies. Immediately cut to Chilton.
  • This episode was crazy dark, but it was also hilarious in these odd little ways, namely because of Hannibal: He’s so giddy when he finds out about Chilton, gobbling up part of his lip.

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