第12話 The Number of the Beast is 666…
Following his family's near murder at the hands of the Red Dragon, Will makes another appointment to see Bedelia. He admits that he sees himself killing Molly as the Dragon would. Bedelia, by way of explanation, says that Hannibal gave Will three years to build a family confident that he'd find a way to take them away. Will wonders whether Hannibal is in love with him. Bedelia says yes, in so many words, then forces Will to consider whether it's reciprocated.
With no alternative options, Will convinces Jack to bait the Red Dragon by using Freddie Lounds to badmouth him in the press. Alana warns that the last time Will and Jack thought they were in control, nothing could have been farther from the truth, but seeing their determination, she offers guidance. To make the bait more believable, Alana says they'll need a professional opinion to go along with Will's, so the Dragon doesn't realize he's being goaded. Alana knows better than to put herself in that position, but she knows someone who'd be happy to do it: Dr. Chilton.
In a rented apartment the FBI wants the Red Dragon to believe is Will's, Dr. Chilton, Will and Jack contrive an insulting profile of the Dragon for Freddie. Chilton supplies the psychological terminology while Will supplies the insults, calling the Dragon insane, ugly, impotent, a vicious perverted sexual failure and a product of incest. For the finishing touch, Will and Dr. Chilton take a photo together to accompany the article. Landmarks near the apartment are intentionally visible in the window behind them. As is the hand that Will places on Chilton's shoulder.
Jack and Will's plan presumes the Dragon will attack Will near the fountain behind his home, where snipers and a SWAT team will be waiting. Instead, the Dragon goes after Chilton, killing his armed guards and kidnapping him from a parking garage. He brings Chilton back to his home, where he strips him naked and glues him to a chair. When Chilton wakes, he doesn't immediately understand what's happened. But after the Dragon quotes the Tattle Crime article back to him, he knows how much trouble he's in. The Dragon doesn't want to hurt Chilton, though, merely show him the truth about what he's become. Chilton pleads to be let go, explaining that he hasn't seen the Dragon's face and is therefore not a threat to him. But the Dragon removes that option when he takes off his mesh mask and forces Chilton to look him in the eye.
Reba's unexpected arrival pauses their negotiation. The Dragon warns that if Chilton says anything, he'll kill her, so when Reba comes nearly face-to-face with Chilton, he remains quiet. She came to tell the Dragon how much she cares about him and that she hopes he'll reconsider ending their relationship. But the Dragon doesn't budge, and after she's gone, he returns to the task at hand. The Dragon shows Chilton a slideshow featuring the William Blake painting and photos of his victims, before and after their deaths. Chilton plays along, saying that he understands the Dragon now and blames Will for the lies written in the article. The Dragon asks Chilton to do one more thing before he lets him go, record a video message. But afterward, he has a violent change of heart. To ensure Chilton properly understands the Red Dragon, Francis dons his mesh mask and his sharpened teeth and bites off Chilton's lips.
The lips are delivered to Hannibal soon after, in an envelope brought to Hannibal's cell by Alana. By the time Jack arrives, Hannibal has already eaten one of the lips. The video message Chilton recorded reaches Jack, Will and Alana shortly after. In it, Chilton repeats the Dragon's words and confesses that he lied for Will. He also promises that the Dragon will snap Will's spine.
During her next session with Will, Bedelia uses his and Hannibal's logic against him, explaining that Will knew Chilton was a marked man the second he put his hand on him in the photo. He did so because he was curious to see what would happen - and that makes him a participant, not an observer. "Hannibal Lecter does have agency in the world [despite being locked away]," Bedelia explains. "He has you."
When Jack and Will next see Dr. Chilton, he has survived being set on fire, much like how Will pretended to kill Freddie. At the hospital, Will deciphers a barely audible Chilton, who rightly accuses Will of setting him up. When Will asks if he saw anything that could help them, Chilton mentions a blind black woman. Jack knows he means Reba; the Dragon mentioned her on the phone with Hannibal.
But before the FBI can close in, the Dragon kidnaps Reba and brings her back to his home. A terrified Reba attempts to appeal to his affection for her, but the man she once knew is gone. The Dragon asks if she knows about the murders in Buffalo and Chicago, which he characterizes as "remarkable events" featuring "two groups of people that were changed." When Reba puts it together, he asks her what the "being that visited them" was called. She almost says the Tooth Fairy, but the Dragon grabs her mouth and asks her to try again. When Reba says the Dragon, he reveals that he and the Dragon are one in the same.