“Extreme acts of cruelty require a high level of empathy. The next time you have an instinct to help someone, you might consider crushing them instead.”
“And the Woman Clothed in the Sun” takes a look at the mind of the individual and at the ways our subjective experiences inform our actions and perspectives, our empathy or compassion or lack of either. During a lecture at the beginning of the hour, Bedelia says the following: “What we take for granted about our sense of self–everything we see, everything we remember–is nothing more than a construct of the mind.” This construct idea is something we’ve seen play out with Will and Hannibal before, and we continue to see it develop throughout this episode with Bedelia. During her talks with Will, we hear a back and forth, a push and pull; for example, whenever Will poses an idea, it’s met with a lob straight back at him, a differing perspective on the same thought. Very little in this Hannibal world seems concrete because so much of it exists in the perpetually changing mind, a location where there exists “the alchemy of lies and truths”.
So, when Will states that he “wasn’t wearing adequate armor”, Bedelia responds with “No, you were naked.” When Will asks “How is one patient worthy of compassion and another not?”, Bedelia answers by asking “How is one murderer worthy of compassion and not another?” When Will tells her that he would “want to help” a wounded bird, she replies by saying she’d “want to crush it”. Here are two people on opposite sides of the veil, yet still very much connected through the influence of Hannibal Lecter; after all, Bedelia admits that she’s “lost professional objectivity” before in cases concerning him, and she also tells Will that his “experience of Hannibal’s attention is so profoundly harmful, yet so irresistible, it undermines [his] ability to think rationally”.
The episode also cuts between the earlier Neal-Bedelia session and the Will-Bedelia conversation in the present, and as was the case with the Abigail flashbacks last week, we see that Hannibal didn’t really exploit and entrap completely innocent people here. “Hannibal was never not my patient,” Bedelia makes clear to Will, and it’s suggested now that Neal was the innocent one involved. There was a bit of a twisted game going on between Bedelia and Hannibal, one that began with the latter using light therapy and ended with the former sticking her hand down her patient’s throat. Bedelia du Maurier is in fact very much like Dr. Lecter, and she has more control here than we were initially led to believe.
And relevant the topic of control, the episode is very much interested in the idea of what’s natural to us as human beings. Are our actions and perspectives driven by “whatever evolution equipped us to do”? Did Neal ever truly have free will? Is murder something to be justified or explained by human instinct? When Bedelia talks about how she’d want to crush a wounded little bird, she states that doing so would be a “primal rejection of weakness which is every bit as natural as the nurturing instinct.” And here, we have the complicated waters of subjectivity, explored through the minds of our fascinating characters.
One of those characters is, of course, Francis Dolarhyde, a person we can draw connections to from many other places in the story (and episode). He’s someone “wants to be recognized” by Hannibal, who craves the respect of others. He’s both a wounded little bird and a Great Red Dragon, and he’s transforming into something unimaginable before our very eyes. And when Will Graham comes across him again, he’s going to have to decide whether to help him or to crush him.
-The Reba-Francis relationship is being beautifully played by Rutina Wesley and Richard Armitage. In particular, that tiger scene is gorgeous to watch, and it’s clear that the tiger represents Dolarhyde in a way. Another small thing: I like that Reba’s first move toward Francis later on evokes the way she put her head on the tiger.
– “You didn’t lose yourself, Bedelia. You just crawled so far up his ass, you couldn’t be bothered.”
-Gillian Anderson is so damn good in this role. This episode is easily one of her best to date, and it’s chilling watching her do her thing as Bedelia. I also have to give another shout-out to Mikkelsen, whose character has moved from quietly frustrated last week to a guy who is really enjoying the Will-Dolarhyde battle.
– “This is culty and weird!”
-It’s looking more and more likely that these next three episodes of the show are going to be the last we’ll ever get to see. Here’s to going out with a bang and making NBC feel bad about canceling the series.
Photo credit: NBC, Hannibal