Hannibal Review: “Fromage” (Season 1, Episode 8)

Lawrence Fishburne and Mads Mikkelson in Hannibal
A similar dichotomy, the struggle between impulse and rationality, takes center stage in “Fromage,” one teased out in somewhat playful, yet typically brooding fashion via the will-they-won’t-they between Will and Alana. Will manages to go a week without a visit from the Black Stag, and even Jack seems to think he’s getting better at coping with his gift, but that doesn’t keep his ears from picking up imaginary cries of dying canines in the distance. Nature is Will’s safezone, where he can safely flirt with Alana, and not feel like he’ll unravel in the process. He’s tricking himself, though, by believing a relationship with Alana will help his healing process, and she’s right to want to keep things platonic, despite her own urges. It’s no coincidence that the noises Will keeps hearing sound like those that would come out of his furry friends, the only companions he seems comfortable around. Hooking up with Alana could help relieve his pain, but getting close to her could just as easily exacerbate his psychosis, and hallucinatory howls giving way to screams would likely push him too far.

Will at least is making an effort to climb out of the darkness that keeps dragging him down, which can’t be said for everyone. I’m no psychologist (and won’t embarrass myself like Franklin by consulting Google) but internal isolation does seem to fit the profile of a sociopath, so with each defense Will builds around his humanity to protect it from his darker instincts, the more likely he is to lose touch with that humanity entirely. Dr. Maurier (Gillian Anderson, in another wonderful little cameo) cuts to the heart of the manner when describing Hannibal’s own series of mental walls meant to keep people at a distance. No character on the show is capable of expressing themselves freely (is it any wonder most of the personal conversations are in a professional context?), least of all Hannibal, whose inner defenses are so fortified, nothing short of a kindred spirit could ever navigate them.

The latest doomed adventure to try and plumb the depths of Hannibal’s mind comes courtesy the last man who tried, only to fall down face first at the front steps. Franklin’s opera-partner Tobias is revealed early on to also have a flair for intestinal artistry, though where Hannibal might use guts for a nice bratwurst casing, Tobias would make instrument strings. Tobias loves to hear where Hannibal would rather taste, but it’s not as though painters and writers can’t appreciate one another’s talents, just because they operate in different fields; art is art. Tobias thinks he may have found a confidant, perhaps even a partner, but Hannibal, ever the intellectual, knows to be dismissive of such a relationship. Tobias is reckless, and lacks discipline. Hannibal’s most important barrier is one meant to keep him from seeking comfort in the company of the first serial killer who shares his creativity, because, like Will, he knows psychopath as an all-encompassing identifying term masks the gradations of psychopathy that actually exist.

Tobias doesn’t take Hannibal’s rejection well, especially after being robbed of the chance to put Franklin out of his shrink-hopping, terrible metaphor-making existence. The fight between the two in Lecter’s office is lively and brutal, with Hannibal dismantling his opponent in clinical fashion. His annihilation of Tobias finishes what was started when Will first deafened him with a gunshot, as Hannibal takes the man’s playing arm, and his throat, leaving a broken heap where a visionary once stood. In crushing Tobias’ inferior brain with the black stag statue, Hannibal links himself to Will symbolically, and the deepening of their relationship looks to be the most important take away this week. Jack has his suspicions about the doctor’s self-defense story, but Will now has reason to believe Lecter understands the weight of killing the way he does. This is of course, laughably wrong, but Hannibal seems to have newfound respect for Mr. Graham. Sending Will after Tobias was a test, and Will improbably managed a passing grade. Hannibal is discovering that having a friend may truly be impossible for him…but having a rival, or an adversary, could be the next best thing.

  • Stray Thoughts

-Lisa will be taking over next week, so that means this’ll probably be my only chance to write the following two words: Corpse Jenga.

-A shame we didn’t get to hear Franklin talk more about tyromancy this episode, which I spent more time researching in the last week than I’d like to admit.

-I’ve had my complaints about some of the show’s more zippy dialogue, but it’s most appropriate during the autopsy scenes with the team. Humor as a method of coping is very understandable, and it’d have been a crying shame if no one made a “played like a fiddle” joke at some point.

-On the other hand, for as much as I love the show’s pacing during scenes, the cuts between each can be jarring at times. Jumping from Hannibal hearing about the symphony murderer, to Franklin accusing Tobias of being said murderer, is awkward, as it’s unclear whether this is meant to be a flashback to an earlier session, or a cut to a later one.

-Every scene between Mads Mikkelsen and Demore Barnes was absolute gold. Hugh Dancy is great and all, but dammit, Will, why’d you have to interrupt Hannibal and Tobias’ dinner table dick-measuring contest?

-Dr. Maurier stopped practicing professionally after one of her patients attacked her, and she killed them in self-defense. Looking forward to finding out more about that little chestnut, and what Hannibal makes of it.

Don’t ask, just watch.