Call this one “Serial Killer Death Match.”
“Fromage” is Hannibal’s most-action packed episode. It’s not a difficult distinction to attain for a series that largely relies on atmospherics and aftermath to illicit the same scares other shows demonstrate through onscreen brutality and tension. There’s hand-to-hand combat! Romance! And bromantic love! It’s interesting to watch a show like Hannibal ramp it up, and maybe more people would watch it if Lecter took down a foe or two himself every episode, but that is not what makes it good. Still, the upped ante of physical violence played for thrills rather than poetry (as was demonstrated when Tobias made strings out of the subpar trombonist) did not detract from the quality, and the shift in pace was well-thought-out and naturally placed within the context of the episode. In fact, what bothered me most about “Fromage” were the smaller character moments that have elevated Hannibal from a piece of beautiful cinematography into one of the better new shows on network television.
But let’s start with the fun stuff, shall we?
Last week’s episodic murder was inconsequential, and I missed the exquisite corpses of previous episodes, but the man-as-cello made up for what was lacking last week. What an image! A disgusting, gorgeous image (the real-time flaying of the trombonist throat was a nice touch, as well). Tobias’ victim served two purposes: It calls back to Hannibal’s last victim pre-incarceration (Benjamin Raspail, a former patient and a flautist in the Baltimore Philharmonic) and shows the parallels between Tobias and Lecter. Like Lecter, as was established in the “Sorbet,” Tobias is performing for someone, although usually he is more private when it comes to his murders. In Lecter’s case, it’s Jack, Will, and the FBI. In Tobias’ case, though, it’s Hannibal himself. The Tobias-Lecter dinner scene was just juicy enough without being over-the-top. As in “Sorbet,” a playfulness is continuing to emerge in Hannibal that I’m totally for, although it’s a fine line between staying consistent with the show’s tone and veering off into the full-on camp that later sullied Anthony Hopkins’ take on Lecter. But Mads Mikkelsen is walking that line nicely. The episode’s best line: “I didn’t poison you, Tobias. I wouldn't do that to the food.”
But Tobias wants a partner, and Lecter doesn’t think they’re a match. It’s Will he wants. Lecter, as he tells his own psychiatrist, doesn’t want someone who see the world exactly like he does. He only wants someone who can empathetically approximate his worldview. Friendship, Dr. Du Maurier explains, takes a certain degree of trust, and Hannibal could not trust Tobias because they are too similar. At the same time, therapy takes trust, and Du Maurier’s trust in her patients and skills as a psychiatrist were clearly shattered after her attack. The Gillian Anderson-Mikkelsen scenes are wonderful to watch, and the two actors look like they’re having fun seeing who can out-ice the other (I know Anderson isn’t a natural redhead, but that’s how I’m used to seeing her, and she looks so much more severe as a blonde). Neither of them allows the other to see their hand, although Dr. Du Maurier is worn down by Hannibal’s persistence. The revelation that Du Maurier stopped practicing because she was an attacked by a patient is one I hope the show continues to explore throughout the season, especially considering Hannibal attacks his own patients (i.e. Raspail) and, similarly, eventually attacks Will. But that's not for a couple seasons.
Despite the subplot between Will and Alana, the most romantic scene in “Fromage” was the look Hannibal gives Will when he finds out he’s alive. It’s a great sigh of relief for a man who shows no emotion. But Will is continuing to crack under the pressure of sharing the worldview of murderers without being one himself. Not only is he seeing visions of his old buddy Garrett Jacob Hobbs, but now, he’s hearing things too; the helpless cries of animals are permeating his brain, eventually saving his life. The icon of his visions eventually saves Hannibal’s as well, as Lecter cracks Tobias over the head with the elk statue Will focuses on in “Coquilles.” The elk has been dreamily following Will as he envisions the grisly murder scenes he’s tasked with investigating. The elk is the prey of choice (behind young brunettes, of course) of Garrett Jacob Hobbs. But, honestly, I don’t have a full grasp on its meaning yet. I have some guesses, though, namely the lingering sign of Hobbs’ continued presence in Will subconscious.
Will’s damage is precisely why Alana pulls away from him after their kiss, and now, we get to the aspect of “Fromage” that I did not like. At all. Since the “Apéritif,” the Alana-Will relationship has been slowly simmering, if only because Alana, despite the performance of Caroline Dhavernas, continuously seems superfluous in a tight ensemble. But it came to a head too quickly in this episode. Their opening conversation about dating felt out of place, awkward, and forced, a clear set-up for the kiss that would come later. I just don’t buy Will as the sexual aggressor, especially in the state he’s in. Lecter tries to explain away why Will all of a sudden believes it’s time to make the moves on Alana; he’s losing it and craves stability, so he clings to Alana as an anchor. But that feels like a pat explanation to push a romantic subplot along that had little basis or sexual tension beyond Alana’s deep concern and care for a friend and colleague. Hell, Alana has more sexual tension with Hannibal at this point. There are so many other shows that draw the will-they-or-won’t-they out beyond what makes sense, but this one could have been drawn out for considerably longer.
Recipe of the week: Homemade fromage blanc