If you are even slightly involved in the vast, magical depths of the Hannibal fandom, you have probably seen Hannibal and Will referred to as “murder husbands.” Well, y’all, adjust your monocles and clutch your pearls (or giggle and sob with delight), because Freddie Lounds has officially made “murder husbands” canon in “…And the Woman Clothed with the Sun”, the ninth episode of season 3.

I state boldly that this is my favorite episode of the season so far: a ton of relationship story arcs are explored, including the relationship between Will and Hannibal as it is now, three years after Hannibal’s surrender, and the relationship between Abigail Hobbs and Hannibal before her untimely death in season 2. The episode also introduces the relationship between Francis Dolarhyde, AKA the Great Red Dragon, AKA the Tooth Fairy, and his coworker Reba McClane (played by the phenomenally talented Rutina Wesley).

Hannibal and Will are reunited together again at last, bonding over crime scene photos through the transparent walls of the BSHCI. Just like old times, sort of! After sassily insulting Will’s choice of cologne and (jealously) prying into Will’s family life, he agrees to take a look at the Tooth Fairy’s dossier, deeming him a “shy boy” who he would very much like to meet. Professional curiosity, indeed. Speaking of professionalism, which has *always* been the #1 concern where Will and Hannibal are concerned (not), Will has switched back to only calling Hannibal “Dr. Lecter.”  Adding insult to injury, Will explains to Hannibal that he is more comfortable the less personal they are, and the almost imperceptible change of emotion that washes over Hannibal’s usually stoic, rarely-slipping mask signals to the audience that he is indeed gutted by this. He also refers to Will as his family, and alludes to his willingness to go to great lengths for his family, and as the two hash out the Tooth Fairy’s crime scene photos, it is clear that Hannibal is overjoyed with their reunion.

Throughout this episode, it is easy to forget that Hannibal and Will are on opposite sides of the bars (rather, transparent walls), and even on opposite sides of the proverbial chessboard. As Hannibal gives Will his perspective on Dolarhyde’s crimes, the two are portrayed in various rooms in Hannibal’s mind palace, including the homes of the victims. The Hannibal and Will crime solving duo dynamic has returned, somewhat, and it is glorious.

Hannibal also receives a visit from Jack Crawford during this episode, during which he wonders if Jack has drawn Will from retirement in order to bait the Tooth Fairy. Jack reveals that he’s back to his old manipulative tricks by saying that he believes that Will is the most effective with Hannibal in his mind. In his own, manipulative way, even Jack knows that Hannibal and Will are inextricably linked through their odd, uncomfortable closeness.

We get a nonlinear narrative throughout the episode that harkens back to Abigail and Hannibal’s relationship after she was presumed dead and we did not see her again until Mizumono, the season 2 finale. It turns out that these two had been up to quite a bit offscreen: We are treated to an eye-opening scene in which Hannibal draws as much blood as he can from Abigail and proceeds to help her artistically and precisely fake her death by spraying the blood to mimic the arterial splatter of a murder. Hannibal had also tried his hand at Parenting 101: in an attempt to get Abigail to embrace the relationship she had with her own serial killer father, he seats her across from her father’s semi-preserved, bloated corpse and tells her that her father had wanted to show her love by slitting her throat. Hannibal then proceeds to have Abigail slit her father’s throat in a symbolic gesture of her returning his love. Not your average family therapy, probably. Hopefully. Even after everything that we have seen up through this point, it is clear that Hannibal truly believes that he is doing what is best for his family.

Let’s talk about Freddie Lounds! Our favorite (or least favorite, depending on who you ask, but I do love me some sneaky, super sleuthy Miss Lounds) red-headed journalist makes her season 3 debut snapping pictures of Will going in and out of the BSHCI. She and Will have a delightful exchange outside of the Jacobi house, where Will is skulking around looking for evidence (such as a tree carved with the red dragon symbol).  Will confronts her about taking pictures of him while he was in the hospital and referring to himself and Hannibal as “murder husbands.” Freddie snappily retorts that she censored his NSFW goodies with a “big black box” (“you’re welcome”), which was just too funny not to mention. She also helpfully points out that Will and Hannibal did run away to Europe together, so….basically, when it comes to the label “murder husbands”, where is the lie? (Also, yay–shoutout to the fandom!).

In this episode, both Freddie and Molly, Will’s wife, suggest Will’s criminal component, which he does NOT like. Even though so much time has elapsed since the events of Muskrat Farm and seasons 1 and 2, Will is still traumatized (understandably) and attempting to separate himself from Hannibal, a massive effort on his part that is underscored by his negative reaction to their comments. This conflation of Will’s empathetic abilities and sympathy for the criminal mind has been something with which Will has been struggling with since season 1, and it doesn’t look like it’s gotten any easier for him since Hannibal’s been locked up.

Dr. Alana Bloom expresses her concern at Will returning to the BSHCI. However, it’s not like she has room to talk: she is now working at the hospital, despite the fact that she and Margot have their very own Verger baby, heir to the Verger fortune, so she is not strapped for cash or in need of the job. When asked about her reason for taking the position, she replies that she enjoys holding the key to all of the doors that separate Hannibal from the free world, a power that I am sure she enjoys. I’m also certain that she is keen on keeping a personal eye on Hannibal, since he promised her that he would kill her if she did not leave him alone.

The Red Dragon story advances quite a bit in this episode, as well. We get a small but effective glimpse into the horrors of Francis Dolarhyde’s childhood with a short but creepy flashback scene of a young Francis eating at the table with his abusive grandmother in his childhood home (which doubled as a nursing home). He also has a “meet-cute” with his blind colleague Reba McClane when he seeks out some rare film in her dark room, for completely non-murdery purposes, of course. The two connect right away, and later on he offers her a ride home, which she accepts.

Reba invites Francis into her home and proceeds to share details about adjusting to life in the seeing world with him. She tells him that she had wanted to work as a speech therapist with children, which makes Francis self conscious of his own speech impediment and disinterested in the conversation. Reba smooths it over by telling him that she likes how he doesn’t pity her, and that she wants to touch his face to see if he’s smiling. He doesn’t let her, of course, not yet, and asks her to trust him. It’s a touching and uncomfortable scene about someone attempting to bond with another person through their perceived shared otherness. Too bad that Francis is a serial killer, but hey, Reba doesn’t know that (just yet).

The episode’s final flashback is to the final fateful evening at Hannibal’s house, when he receives the warning call from Will. We come to find that Abigail had been sitting at the counter with him during the call, and Hannibal says, “Hunting with your father was the best time you ever had. Now you are going to hunt with me.” No, of course I’m not crying, it’s just very dusty in here.

The episode closes with Hannibal receiving a call from his lawyer in prison, but it turns out that it is not his lawyer, but Dolarhyde, and he has something he wants to tell Hannibal: he wants to let him know that he is becoming the Great Red Dragon. This seems to please Hannibal greatly. End scene!

If you haven’t been able to tell by now, I love this show. I love everyone involved with making this show happen. I love the fandom. This episode felt like a love note to the fandom that managed to both not deviate from the show’s canon and  also respect the long, colorful legacy of Hannibal Lecter and the Red Dragon. The importance of belonging and being able to connect with someone else, no matter how strange you are or what you have done, has always been a theme of this show. This episode highlighted some of the most tumultuous ways that humans depend on one another, and the things people will do for those that they love, and in order to be loved, especially within a family dynamic. I can’t wait for the Reba/Francis relationship to be fleshed out in the next episode, and to see where things go for our reunited, crime solving “murder husbands”. What do you think?