Hannibal has it easy in one important aspect; it doesn’t have to iterate its premise very much. As an adaptation, even a loose one, certain groundrules are previously established, and certain expectations are pre-existing. Hannibal could have been quite lazy with its subject matter, given that Hannibal Lecter murdering people and talking about is such lucrative territory, but this week’s “Fromage” has fully revealed what the show is really about: crazy people being crazy at each other. Principally these people are Hannibal and Will, and the expression and interaction of their psychologies drives a lot of what makes the show good.
Will and Alana Bloom’s romantic scenes are an excellent example of this preoccupation, as they’re just as important to the episode as Hannibal’s relationship to the killer of the week, Tobias Budge. The scenes are full of psychological analysis, both implied and explained out loud. Alana very rationally talks herself down from going any farther with Will and it’s abundantly clear what it means to both of them. There’s clearly a mutual attraction, but Alana knows that unless Will is going to stop being a curiosity, she can’t separate academic fascination. “Fromage” does a great job of showing that this is at least as important to the show as various murders. When Will shows up at Hannibal’s house after he’s rejected, it’s adorable, but it’s also an admission by the show that it’s principally about how these two minds function. Everything they do matters, because the crimes aren’t the focus. It’s a show about people.
Before I explore that theme a little more, I’d like to comment on this week’s crime-scene empathy. It’s a pretty interesting idea, and I’d hesitate to call it a gimmick, but after last week it seemed like it might be heading in that direction. Not that there was anything wrong with last week’s hotel murder, but it didn’t do anything new. However, this week’s was wonderfully chilling. The murder itself is the result of a much more interesting mind than the previous few episodes, but what really makes the scene is Garret Jacob Hobbs clapping in the seats. Hannibal keeps coming up with new ways to show us how tortured Will’s psyche is, and a visit from the man himself is chilling. The way the camera moves to him smirking alone in the audience reinforces how much his murder Will’s been trying to repress and its symbolic development from the animals to a human presence lurking in the corners of his psyche. Better yet, it isn’t another bloody elk.
Other fun with the murder of the week: Beverly Katz holding a bow and looking nonplussed. Her banter with the two other FBI People is one of the most consistently funny pieces of dark comedy the show has to offer.
The episode’s central murder is musically-themed, a man’s throat cut and his vocal cords played like a cello, and as such the soundtrack is almost constantly present, emitting some kind of noise or other. This ties in nicely with Will’s deteriorating mental state, symbolising the mental “noise” his brain is constantly suffering, what with the empathy combined with the traumatic recent past.
Having established Hannibal Lecter’s loneliness and god complex in previous weeks, “Fromage” has what I can only describe as fun with it. We know Hannibal wants a friend, and now we have someone who wants to be friends with him in Tobias Budge, musician, luthier, and musically-themed serial killer. Tobias gives Hannibal a message via poor, stupid Franklyn Froideveaux and the two spend most of the episode circling each other like cats. Tobias seems to genuinely want Hannibal’s approval; unfortunately, Hannibal can barely conceal his contempt. You’d think a friend who shares his interests would be nice, but the thing is, it’s crucial to Hannibal’s character that he’s not only a serial killer, but the serial killer. Everyone else kills out of compulsion, or emotional fetters, or sheer fucked-upness, but Hannibal tells himself that he kills for a nobler purpose.
Hannibal’s paradox is that he wants understanding, but no-one that can truly empathise with him is worthy of his time. Will, as he mentions obliquely to his therapist, is the closest he can get to true understanding without being a competitor. Franklin is a useful example here, as it’s clear that Hannibal has a sort of condescending regard for him, enough to refer him to someone else and ask Tobias not to kill him. However, as soon as Franklin becomes an irritation in his confrontation with Tobias, Hannibal snaps his neck, partially because he’s a liability in the situation, but partially to spite Tobias, who was “looking forward to that.” Hannibal murders a man out of sheer contempt, both for the victim and the would-be murderer. He hates that someone who he doesn’t respect thinks he understands him, which is abundantly clear when he subsequently murders Tobias. With an elk statue. Sigh. You just can’t get away from them, apparently.
With “Fromage,” Hannibal has definitely let its audience know that, as much as it masquerades as a crime show, it’s first and foremost about exploring peoples’ heads in excruciating detail. There are a few murders and a kiss, but all of them are in service of how the characters interact on an intellectual and emotional level.
In Memoriam: Franklyn Froideveaux, who probably had it coming, given that he tried to reason with a guy who makes instruments out of people and stalked Hannibal Lecter. Idiot.