Francis Dolarhyde is a very shy boy. Hannibal recognized it in him from the start. While the Great Red Dragon thrives on notoriety and headline collages, Dolarhyde is so fundamentally self-abnegating that he recedes into the shadows even when in the presence of a blind person. But the need to be seen and understood is a fundamental human yearning — esteem is right there under self-actualization on Maslow’s hierarchy — and Dolarhyde’s desire for recognition from the one man who can give it is enough to get him out of the darkroom. He’s careful, of course. He switches license plates, breaks into a location miles from his home, hijacks the phone lines — all so he can have a chat with his idol and role model.
He even practiced his plosives for the phone call, but of course he had nothing to be nervous about. Hannibal gets him. The look that passes over Richard Armitage’s face when Hannibal says that what particular body he occupies is trivial is one of long-dammed relief. It’s like a kid getting a letter back from Jimmy Page saying the demo tape he sent was rockin’. Hannibal asks whether he’s to be John the Baptist to the Dragon’s Christ, a polite way of testing the extent of his admirer’s ego. Dolarhyde corrects the analogy in more ways than one: instead, he is merely the Dragon sitting before 666.
The fact that he’s able to hold his own in conversation with Hannibal proves our Francis isn’t just some stunted psychopathic weirdo. I mean, he is that, but he’s also other stuff. Dolarhyde combines fierce intelligence with a primordial violent id in a way that’s reminiscent of another guy named Frank. Mary Shelley’s monster, too, was empathetic and twisted, both human and inhuman, but Dolarhyde doesn’t have a Dr. to blame. He’s both the monster and his creator.
And like the other Frank, he can be surprisingly charming. For a man who has lived his life deprived of most human contact, our boy still somehow manages to pull off a first date for the record books. Hell, I nearly swooned when she was touching that tiger. Unsurprisingly, Reba went home with him and discovered that while he’s a Francis in the streets, he’s a Dragon in the sheets. To him, she is nothing less than the woman clothed with the sun, but when he awakes, he’s afraid that she has learned too much about his life — afraid also of what his other self must think of these developments. Instead, she’s just sitting downstairs patiently waiting to be taken home.
Although Reba is the one falling for the monster, it’s Du Maurier that gets dubbed the Bride of Frankenstein. In the intervening three years, Hannibal’s former psychiatrist and travel companion has polished her lies until no one can see past the gleam. She’s turned her story into a narrative, and it seems that Will’s the only one who isn’t buying it. He ends up getting a glimpse at the real Bedelia, the one that Hannibal helped to unlock, the Bedelia whose first instinct is to crush an injured bird under her heel. Gillian Anderson is utterly terrifying in this episode, taking her typically clipped, clinical diction to the furthest, most unnerving extreme. We see in flashback, the short, unhappy life of Zachary Quinto, a paranoid patient of Hannibal’s that was left as a gift, or a test, for Du Maurier, much like a cat would leave an injured mouse at one’s feet. (HANNIBAL’S JOKE CORNER!: Q: How do you know Dr. Du Maurier is busy? A: She’s up to her elbows in patients!)
Will similarly has his prey served up to him on a silver platter. He just happens to cross paths with Dolarhyde in the elevator and even though he’s got a full stomach of proto-Romantic art, Will gets thrown around like a ragdoll. The Dragon makes his escape, but he’s been seen. And not in the way he wanted.