Think of how much of a hassle it must be to be the friends and relatives of a superhero. Just ask Aunt May or Lois Lane, both of whom have been abducted more times than an Iowa corn farmer. Such too are the hazards of being the kith and kin of Will Graham, serial killer hunter.
Will dubs Jack Crawford a fisher of men, but in reality he’s more of a fisher of great white sharks. Will, meanwhile, is Jack’s chum (and I don’t mean pal), the lure dangling and scintillating in the water. But in the end, it wasn’t Will the Great Red Dragon tried to swallow whole — it was Molly and Walter.
This wasn’t entirely Dolarhyde’s idea, of course. Hannibal is bored. There’s only so much time one can spend in one’s memory palace, no matter how infinitely expansive it is, before you get a little stir crazy. More than that, he’s verging on irrelevancy, of becoming just another entry on the Wikipedia list of serial killers that have killed and were caught. Hannibal’s primary sin is that of pride. He has an ascetic’s restraint and a diplomat’s politesse when he wants to, but under all that is a monstrous ego that views itself as some higher being and all others as only so much red meat. The initial months following his capture must have left him giddy, to have so many people poring over him and his history trying to decipher his mind. But like with any new zoo exhibit, the crowds eventually disperse and he’s still stuck in the cage.
So when a new Dragon piece appears on his chessboard — or in his mah jongg hand — he’s eager to play it. “You can always toss the dragon to someone else,” Hannibal offers helpfully, when Dolarhyde admits that he’s afraid he’ll kill Reba. And so he sics his new pet on Will’s family — a jealous ex lashing out at his former partner’s new love. After all, how did you think he’d react to finding out Will has moved on, listening to Adele and eating a pint of Cherry Garcia? He taunts Will outright, telling him that he’d be responsible for the next family to die but not telling him the real punchline: that it will be his.
Dolarhyde mixes business with pleasure — but which is which? — when he brings Reba home for a night of martinis, tinkling jazz, cuddling, and stolen home movies of soon-to-be murder victims. With a stocking over his head, black instead of flesh-toned like Tom Noonan’s in Manhunter, he breaks into Will’s home looking to feed the Dragon. But Molly, who didn’t quite piece together that their pet wasn’t poisoned by Chinese dog food, is quick-thinking. She fools him with the car alarm and heads out the back, getting the unwitting driver of a passing car killed and catching a bullet but escaping with her and her son’s lives intact. But that bullet destroyed more than just bone and tissue, it ripped through the illusion of domestic tranquility. Will’s toxicity has finally leached out into their idyll. So he sits down with his step-son to have “the talk”, the one about the birds and the bees and the psychotic serial killers that want you and your family dead.
Will then goes to have the talk with Hannibal, who admits without shame or regret that he goaded the Dragon into unleashing his wrath on Will’s loved ones, but not before unloading helpful clues about their boy’s proclivities. He seeks transformation. “Don’t you crave change, Will?” Hannibal asks. Because that’s what Hannibal offers: He is chaos, he is entropy. He knows how to be the change he wants to see in the world, and the change he wants to see is terrifying.