The episode of Coquilles in Season 1 has both foreshadowing for the Red Dragon arc and introduces an important visual theme that lasts until the final episode of the series. It also gives us crucial insight about Will and how he sees himself from the beginning.
The imagery of a head on fire that signifies a killer is connected to Will throughout the show. Will told himself through the Angel Maker, “I see what you are.” And when he says that, Will sees himself as one of the Angel Maker’s bad people, one who needs to be changed, because his head is on fire:
Will being “changed” is the central focus of Season 2. He admits he has been changed by Hannibal and he continues that process until his becoming. There are more examples of this imagery being used in connection to Will.
The Ravenstag (which represents Will) with its head on fire:
Georgia Madchen is shown with her head on fire in Will’s dream of her:
And of course, the corpse connected to Freddie/Will with its head on fire:
Will’s head is shown on fire again in “and the number of the beast is 666″ both with the burning match shown coming right out of his head and when they morph his head into a burning Chilton’s head:
Obviously Will is connected to burning people both through his fake Freddie kill and helping to strike the match on Chilton.
And then the dragon after Will and Hannibal kill him is also on fire, including his head:
Through the Angel Killer in Coquilles, Will says to himself: “I can give you the majesty of your becoming” “I can bring it out of you.” Intriguingly, Will responds, “Not all the way out.” Not all the way out until he has gone through his changing process and fully becomes in Wrath of the Lamb.
The head on fire symbolism means that someone is a killer and it also means they are someone who needs to be “changed” or “transformed” in one way or another. That’s how Will sees himself in Season 1. He is a killer who needs to be changed and his head is on fire. That connects to Francis Dolarhyde wanting to “change” the families by killing them so that he can change and become the dragon. But there are more connections between Coquilles and the Red Dragon arc.
Will about the Angel Maker:
He’s transforming them. Righteous. He thinks he’s elevating them somehow.
“Righteous” is what Hannibal and Bedelia call Will in Season 3.
Jack about the Angel Maker: How is he choosing them? (his victims)
Will: I don’t know ask him.
Foreshadowing to Will trying to figure out how Francis is choosing his victims and not being able to. So he goes to Hannibal for help. Will and Hannibal talk about the Angel Maker and how he knows they’re bad people:
Will: He doesn’t have to know. All he has to do is believe. He can tell if you’re naughty or nice. Or he thinks he can.
Hannibal: You’re not unlike this killer.
Hannibal and Will both know that Will’s head is on fire, literally (encephalitis) and symbolically. He’s like the killer, he needs to be changed and change others through “righteous” violence because he thinks he can tell who deserves it. Which is what he does in The Wrath of the Lamb.
If the Angel Maker sees a person’s head on fire, that’s how he knows they’re “naughty” and he chooses them and kills them. He sees it as “righteous” to kill them, just as Bedelia says Will is “capable of righteous violence” in Season 3. Will chooses Francis, a killer with his head shown in flames:
to “Change” or transform and he gives him wings of blood:
the Angel Maker gave his victims and himself wings of skin:
And of course Will is also shown with wings that look like blood:
Beverly: Could angel maker be a vigilante?
Will: In his mind he was doing God’s work.
Bev: So he makes angels out of demons?
If we take the theme, foreshadowing and visual cues to the next logical step, this is what Will is going to be doing after he survives the cliff fall.
There is another odd tidbit. Will gets something wrong in Coquilles! He claims that the Bible never says Angels have wings or fly.
Will: It isn’t biblical. His angels have wings. Angels in sculptures and paintings can fly, but not in scripture.
But the bible does say that.
From the biblical book Isaiah:
“Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.”
Hard to say if this is simply a mistake on the writer’s part or if it actually indicates that Will is wrong about something more important too. He thinks that angels don’t have wings or fly but they do. Will thinks that a killer can’t be righteous but since he “accepts” Hannibal and himself while still retaining the “righteous” descriptor in the story he’s wrong about that as well.
Another connection is that they say Angel Maker needs to go back to where he had experienced peace before. He goes back to that place and changes himself into an angel. When Will wants to change himself in The Wrath of the Lamb, they go back to Hannibal’s house and they talk about how Abigail was there. They show the house looking like a “boat on the sea” which is how Will explains he sees his own house and is the only time he feels safe. Will says the Angel Maker isn’t self destructive because he is “so careful”. Hannibal responds by saying, “Unless he is careful about being self destructive”. A hint and subtle foreshadowing in my view, about what Will is doing when he goes over the cliff and about what Francis did when he faked his suicide.
There are so many connections between this episode and it’s symbolism and imagery and The Red Dragon arc though, especially visually. It’s hard to point them all out. In a certain sense Will’s arc starts from this episode and becomes the red thread through the rest of his story until the finale and beyond.