You guys, Hannibal’s just a show about dating and friendships! Except when things don’t go well, you die. Or you kill someone. Also, you might get eaten.
There are times when I am watching this show that the stakes are so high I cannot breathe. Humanity’s foibles dramatized in ways I could only dream possible. ‘Fromage’ plays out like a seriously bent symphony. Oh yes! Allusions to music abound in this one.
For instance, le artful murder of the week befalls the trombonist in the Baltimore symphony, opened and played like a string instrument. Posed in the middle of the symphony's stage, vocal chords treated like catgut in its process from intestines to bow strings. The whole visual, Will’s re-enactment and all, a grand performance.
What better a backdrop for the deeper theme: the production, the staging when we’re courting a friend… a lover and all of the conversations that go with it. There’s murder, naturally, and even it’s more personal than usual. Tobias Budge makes a second appearance (the first being in ‘Entrée’ at the opera on Franklyn’s arm) and he gives Hannibal a run for his money in the whole zen and the art of psychopathy maintenance. He stages the aforementioned over the top murder to impress Hannibal and, while enjoying a fine meal made of people at Hannibal’s house, Tobias tells Hannibal that he considered killing him but has since changed his mind and really just wants a friend. Hannibal says likewise except the part about changing his mind or about wanting a friend. And there we are, knee-deep in a conversation between madness with a familiar ring of “look at me, look at ME” at its core.
Tobias isn’t the only person performing for Hannibal. Franklyn persists in trying to look attractive enough to his psychiatrist. It’s very early on though that Hannibal picks up on the fact that Tobias is using Franklyn to send messages to him at which point, Franklyn is no longer of any interest and will be referred elsewhere. Hannibal continues his song and dance with Dr. Bedelia, mirroring Franklyn once again as he did in ‘Entrée,’ screaming out in his own completely controlled and repressed way to see him, look at him, validate him and like him.
Will, the poor dear, hears things that aren’t there and is generally lacking in the whole conversation with reality thing more than ever. It’s heartbreaking he keeps hearing animals that are trapped or injured or both. It causes him great distress (though it does randomly save his life in a confrontation with Tobias) except when it provides opportunity to spend more time with Alana. Finally alone, these two are, for the first time.
A few thoughts about Will and Alana making out. I loved this scene. In fact I was so immersed in their ‘whatever vibes’ that I didn’t move an inch for the scene’s entirety. Thinking about it later, I don’t know… I love romance? But it’s more than that. The dark, relentless way people explore humanity’s relentless darkness makes me wonder, where’s the relief for Will, Alana, Jack et al? Yes, I learned like everyone else back in 1984 from Dr. Egon Spengler (rest in peace) not to cross the streams. I get that there are certain human experiences that we, as a society, (mostly) have the good sense to not mix. And Hannibal introducing sensuality, sexuality or the like between its damaged main characters is dicey on a show where the tone largely lies in the realm of gruesome. But as soon as that bright sad music started to play when Will’s lips brushed Alana’s, I was all in.
Even more fascinating was the scene that followed where Will inadvertently joined a dinner party for the criminally insane already in progress to tell Hannibal all about it. Something played out here that I’ve never seen before. It reminds me of when you see a piece of art that captures something you’ve felt but never seen manifested visually, outside of yourself. This was an acknowledgment of a careful tender bundle of motivations. Hannibal suggested that Will was trying to anchor himself to someone after he’d convinced himself there was an animal stuck in his chimney. I saw more layers to his overture. He told Hannibal “maybe her face changed” referring to Alana’s reaction to the huge hole he’d hammered to set the imaginary animal free. But notably, he didn’t characterize her reaction. I think he also kissed her to try and distract her from his utter mortification, simultaneously trying to hide from himself his sinking realization that he’s losing his grip but he also amazingly exploits her concern as he used his most vulnerable moment as an in. Those are some serious human dynamics at play. Honestly I can’t name a single scene in anything that has spoken to me in that complex of a psychological language.
In the end, Franklyn and Tobias are with us no longer and that leaves Jack very curious as to how both died in Hannibal’s office. Like… what are the odds of that? What he doesn’t witness, of course, is the most incredibly vicious fight in Hannibal history so far between Tobias and Hannibal involving piano (cello?) wire and the stag sculpture. The scene goes on a very respectful amount of time and deserves all the accolades on the planet for its choreography, emotional impact and suspense. Once Tobias is dead and police swarm the scene, Will remarks, regretfully, that he feels like he’s brought Hannibal into his world. This moment has so much irony it dripped off my screen into a puddle next to my TV. You can almost see the glee on Hannibal’s face, it’s like good fortune just keeps raining down on him. And of course he can’t wait to share it with Dr. Bedelia.
Et la scene.
Odds and Ends
*In a visit early on in the episode to Dr. Bedelia’s, we find out more about her retirement, she had a former patient who was obsessive who attacked her. During the final visit Hannibal prods more, naturally attempting to wind her up since now they have ever so much in common… and even though he already knows the story and so does she, it’s revealed that the former patient is now dead and Hannibal had something to do with it.
*Some of the procedural of the show’s format was foregone this episode. This supported the overall theme that was far less clinical and way more messy than usual. There’s still an autopsy but not very much time is spent with Jack or the forensic team. It worked.
*Speaking of that autopsy, Will either without thinking or no longer giving a shit, adds an observation to help the team but he speaks in the first person, as the killer. Everyone’s reaction is pretty much classic.
*I think it was brilliant to make Tobias connected to Franklyn in a meaningful way. It just made everything so much more twisty and organic. Instead of our “mirror” (but logistically disconnected) case of the week, this one couldn’t have hit closer. And to watch two sociopaths communicate was so weird, exotic and riveting.
*When Hannibal has Tobias over for dinner, Tobias reveals he wanted to kill Hannibal until he followed him to an abandoned bus yard where we know from ‘Entrée’ Hannibal eviscerated a medical technician who got mouthy with him. Hannibal is mortified that someone saw him. He scolds Tobias for being reckless but it’s so apparent that Hannibal’s talking to himself which makes it wildly interesting.
Will: “I tell myself -- it's purely an intellectual exercise.”
Jack: “Well, in the narrow view of forensics, that's exactly what it is.”
Will: “It's not any easier, Jack. I shake it off. Keep on looking.”
Jack: “Good. You shake it off. Get to work. We'll come back in when you're ready for us.” (File this exchange under the power of the presence of denial)
Brian: “[The killer] removed anything non-muscular or fatty from around the vocal folds. The cords themselves were treated with a sulfur dioxide solution.”
Will: “Made them easier to play…” (pause to channel the killer and freak everyone out accordingly) “Had to open you up to get a decent sound out of you.”