page contents

ONE PERFECT EPISODE / Hannibal: "The Wrath of the Lamb" / Douglas Menagh


Alfred Hitchcock said, “film your murders like love scenes, and film your love scenes like murders.” It was a Tumblr blogger by the username hannibalcatharsis who had observed this quote in relation to the show HannibalHannibal was always more than just a show about intelligent psychopaths and violent ritualistic murders. Based off the series of Thomas Harris novels and developed for television by Bryan Fuller, “The Wrath of The Lamb” ends Hannibal by fulfilling the promise and potential of true friendship between Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) and Will Graham (Hugh Dancy). 

In “The Wrath of the Lamb,” Will visits Hannibal in a psychiatric ward to conspire with him on to capture Francis Dolarhyde, a murderer inspired by William Blake’s “Red Dragon." They plan to do that by using Hannibal as bait. Dolarhyde admires Dr. Lecter and wants to meet him. By staging a fake transfer, Hannibal and Will could apprehend the killer. The idea to use Hannibal as bait is floated around in Red Dragon, the source material for season 3. The show runs with the idea, offering a fresh take on these stories that is surprising yet faithful to the books. This twist offers an unpredictable and suspenseful conclusion to a gruesome and grizzly program. 

Before setting the plan in motion, behind a panel separating Hannibal from the world, he tells Will, “When life becomes maddeningly polite, think about me. Think about me, Will.” Hannibal, played brilliantly by Mads Mikkelsen, is a poetic, modern, and cool Lucifer. Like Satan in Milton’s Paradise Lost, all the best lines in this episode belong to Hannibal. William Blake said of Milton, “he was a true Poet and of the Devil's party without knowing it.” The difference between Paradise Lost and Hannibal is the latter belongs to the devils, and knows it.

Accompanied by armed guards in a truck and a police vehicle escort, Hannibal is transferred and the plan gets underway. Dolarhyde then intercepts the unit and kills the guards before disappearing. This wasn’t exactly part of the plan, but flushing out serial killers into the open has consequences. Hannibal doesn’t seem concerned. He says, “You know Will, you worry too much. You'd be much more comfortable if you just relaxed with yourself.” When I saw Hannibal around the summer 2016, there were a lot of awful things going on in the world. Watching Hannibal was not one of them. 

Hannibal and Will wait for Dolarhyde in an abode by the ocean, a scene Fannibals like to call The Honeymoon. This is the first time in a while we see Hannibal free to drink wine and do all the things he used to do. When opening the bottle of wine, Hannibal eyes Will, then the corkscrew he is using, as if he is thinking of murdering Will with it. Hannibal tells Will, “My compassion for you is inconvenient.” I was twenty-eight, an MFA student in New York City, and involved with someone in California when I watched “The Wrath of the Lamb.” Hannibal showed me that by taking ownership of my compassion, however inconvenient, I could delight in my experience and growth. 

Dolarhyde interrupts The Honeymoon, and what proceeds is a three-way murder between him, Hannibal, and Will. As far as filming murders like love scenes and love scenes like murders, as Fannibal blogger hannibalcatharsis expertly pointed out, this scene is both. To the sound of “Love Crime,” a song Siouxsie Sioux came out of musical retirement to collaborate with composer Brian Reitzell on, Hannibal and Will defeat Dolarhyde. “I will survive, live, and thrive,” Siouxsie sings. Like a whisper through the chrysalis, this song alone awoke in me a wish to transform my shadow into something beautiful and understandable. 

Hannibal and Will share a bloody embrace. Breathing heavily, and with prolonged eye contact, Hannibal tells Will, “This is all I ever wanted for you, Will. For both of us.” Hannibal let Will into his private world and revealed his innermost place. The power of Hannibal’s words to Will, a man who understood him for who he was, is deeply cathartic and affecting. 

Before the credits roll and the post credit scene began, Hannibal and Will jump off the cliff into the ocean. I gave “The Wrath of the Lamb” a standing ovation because Hannibal dropped the mic. 

Douglas Menagh is a writer based in New York City. He received his MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University. He writes for New Noise Magazine, and his work has appeared in Memoir Mixtapes, Meow Meow Pow Pow, HOOT Review, Lunch Ticket, and Annotation Nation.