Hannibal has done such a great job of acclimating its audience to an idea of a Hannibal Lecter that’s still so creepy and dangerously conniving when he’s left to his own devices out in the real world that it’s easy to forget that Lecter was once considered to be at his most unnerving when behind bars. Despite only appearing onscreen for less than a quarter of Silence of the Lambs, Anthony Hopkins’ version of the titular cannibal crawled under your skin because he was a caged animal waiting to spring out, and it was the anxiety over what he was capable of that truly affected viewers. But without the veil of respect for Clarice Starling, Mads Mikkelsen’s rendition of Lecter in prison doesn’t hold back in baring his sharp teeth at Will Graham. This is an angry Lecter whose cell walls can’t contain the menace within, and now he’s sending the new big bad on the block in Will’s direction.
This is an ideal situation for Lecter because his pet monster Francis Dolarhyde is becoming more and more unstable as the days go by. The dragon’s influence has grown considerably in Francis’ mind and is visibly becoming difficult for him to contain. Lecter suggests over the phone (but the scenario is an imagined psychiatry appointment) that Dolarhyde try passing the dragon off to someone else, which Dolarhyde picks up as a suggestion to go after Graham. With the words “save yourself, kill them all,” Lecter’s nuisance of a presence to the FBI suddenly reawakens as a viable threat to the safety of others. And when the dog being let off his leash is a man who believes he’s physically fighting with the imaginary beast that wants to take over his body, things suddenly become more personal for everyone involved.
While the previous episodes were mostly content with sticking to the original story blueprint laid out by Thomas Harris, with the occasional tweak here and there, “And the Beast from the Sea” makes a bolder change by shifting Dolarhyde’s attack on the Grahams to the middle of this version. Episode writers Bryan Fuller and Steve Lightfoot’s decision to do this succeeds in ramping up the stakes for the overall story instead of leaving it as a final shocker post-script. Dolarhyde, black clad in the Tooth Fairy stocking that covers the top half of his face, makes his move on Molly and Walter at home in one of the most suspenseful sequences that the show has conceived of in a long time. They only just barely make it out of danger after Molly gets clipped in the shoulder by one of the Tooth Fairy’s shots, and the incident brings tensions to a boil between everybody, particularly Jack, Will, and Alana against Hannibal.
Will also has to confront his stepson about the realities of his job and the dangers that it has posed to his life in the past, including the time when he was imprisoned in the mental hospital. He’s trying to keep a cool head about the situation, keeping his more unsavory impulses at bay that Lecter would love to pry open, but Walter is too frustrated to see a more passive solution when he says that Will should kill the Tooth Fairy for what he did. It’s exactly what Lecter wants to happen, and the tug and pull between Will’s newly balanced home life and the investigative work that he wants to distance from is becoming greater by the day, with the two serial killers conspiring together on his demise.
Jack and Alana futilely attempt to use this to their advantage by wiretapping Lecter’s calls to Dolarhyde, but the doctor isn’t so willing to play along with their schemes, losing him his cell toilet and many personal effects. The first appearance of his iconic facemask further shows how Lecter has changed over time into the version we’ve become accustomed to, the Lecter who can still cause considerable harm even when put in his cage. Unlike Will and Francis, Hannibal is content with letting his darker side control his actions and whims, and he wants to bring everyone else down with him. “He didn’t murder those families, he changed them,” Will tells Hannibal about the connection between the Tooth Fairy’s killings and his personal journey. Hannibal pointedly shoots back, “Don’t you crave change, Will?”
EPISODE RATING: 9/10