So now we’ve seen what Hannibal Lecter is capable of. We knew, of course, but it was something else to actually see the character engineer and subsequently improvise the murder of someone who knew exactly what Hannibal is. ‘Fromage’ was one of the best episodes of Hannibal so far. Continuing from last week’s focus on friendship, it further developed Dr Lecter without diminishing what makes him so terrifying.
The pressures of ‘looking’ are getting to Will, as he starts to hear wounded animal noises and finds it easier to slip into the mind of a psychopath. When a killer turns the trombone player of the Baltimore Symphony into a human cello (another round of applause for Hannibal‘s effects department, please), Hannibal’s patient Franklin (Dan Fogler) reveals that he’s worried that his friend Tobias (Demore Barnes) is responsible. Tobias, who creates his own violin strings from cat – and human – gut, is indeed the man behind the murder, and he’s hoping to get Hannibal’s attention. But does Hannibal want to be understood, or does he simply see Tobias as a liability?
The episode is split fairly evenly between Will’s ever-quickening deterioration and Hannibal’s exploits. The balance between Hannibal and Will is one of the things that keeps Hannibal from becoming as dreary as, say, Hannibal Rising, and the humanity that Will is so desperate to cling to is just as vital to the show. The kiss he shares with Alana Bloom is both a tender moment and a desperate one. Will is reeling and in dire need of some normalcy. Alana’s far too clever to let her emotions run away with her, however, and chooses to leave.
Will also gets one of two superbly tense sequences as he follows Tobias into his basement. As he takes in the the jars, the dripping sinks and the ropes of intestines, all too aware that the killer is lurking somewhere in the darkness, it’s a classic Thomas Harris scene. Director Tim Hunter (a TV veteran who’s worked on Mad Men, Deadwood and Dexter, as well as cult classic River’s Edge) plays the scene beautifully as Will approaches the curtain, behind which is a policeman who’s been turned into a Cenobite with Tobias’ strings.
But Tobias’ primary interest is Hannibal himself. The cagey back-and-forth between the two on their first meeting is a wonderfully played flirtation that culminates in a dinner at Doctor Lecter’s as they lay their cards on the table. As Hannibal realises that Tobias has witnessed him commit a murder, he delivers what must be his best line of the season. “I haven’t poisoned you. I wouldn’t do that to the food.”
As he told his therapist Bedelia du Maurier (a welcome return for Gillian Anderson), Hannibal isn’t interested in Tobias as a friend. The only friend he’ll consider is Will. His frustration at being denied the opportunity to kill Tobias over dinner is quickly replaced by his readiness to discuss the reason behind Will kissing Alana. When Tobias reappears with the news that he’s killed two policemen, we see a rare glimpse of fear cross Hannibal’s face, and obvious relief when Will arrives alive and well at his office/crime-scene. That growing fondness of Will makes the fact that inevitable confrontation all the more exciting. What’s more, does he want Will to know what he is?
Speaking of exciting, it seems appropriate to end the review talking about Hannibal’s confrontation with Tobias. On what other show would we see a main character attacked with razor wire made out of intestines? We’ve seen Hannibal stalk and we’ve seen him surprise, but this is the first time we’ve watched him fight for his life. It’s a surprisingly lengthy but compelling sequence that ends with two corpses and one bruised psychiatrist. Well, Lecter was going to refer Franklin anyway; snapping his neck was a more permanent solution.
As the Goldberg Variations play on the soundtrack (which will be very familiar to Silence Of The Lambs fans), Will apologises for bringing Hannibal into his world, to which he smiles and tells him that he found his own way there, but he’s “glad of the company.” It’s an episode that not only delivered plenty of thrills, but insight too.