The killer of ‘Fromage’ is not revealed in the opening scene. That slot’s taken by Graham, as he ventures out onto the sands around his house, to look for a wounded animal that might or might not be there at all. More likely not, as events later in the episode would suggest. But, after Bloom joins briefly joins him in his search on this bleak, windy morn, we cut to a certain intelligent psychopath…
…which happens not to be Lecter, for a change. Instead Tobias Budge, Franklyn’s ‘friend’ from last episode, is centre stage in the domain of his music shop. He lectures a struggling student on the benefits of playing an instrument with organic strings and – rather like Lecter setting a dish before someone while the audience is given yet another look into the preparation of that dish – we now get a glimpse into just what it takes to make gut strings for instruments. We see the harvesting of guts from beings that are definitely not cats, the washing, the rinsing, the hanging, the stretching and the end result: strings that produce a beautiful, resonant sound. And we see Tobias’s gratification, as his student plays all unknowing on strings made from human guts.
Hannibal’s always been a series that’s been dominated by certain senses, the most obvious being sight – every single shot is either jaw dropping or eye watering. But this is an episode in particular that seems (to me, at least) to be dominated by the theme of sound. Appropriate enough, considering the fixation of the killer this week. There’s:
- Tobias’s method of displaying his kill – exposing the vocal chords in a manner that leaves the viewer clutching their own throat protectively. I personally had one hand at my neck and the other over my mouth.
- Graham’s supposed delusions that, this time around, take the shape not of the stag that’s haunted him since the second episode, but instead of an animal he can never see but hear perfectly well, causing him to break open a chimney or rush out of an interrogation in order to try and find it. He never does, but it’s very disturbing.
- The emphasis on instruments, whether it’s Tobias’s efforts to turn his victims into appropriate vessels to get the message across, the bone flutes that Lecter mentions – adding to a running theme on Tumblr and Twitter, even the Music is People now! – or Lecter’s harpsichord that Tobias manages to re-tune, and which Lecter tests once he’s vanquished his foe.
- There’s the nod towards reality when Graham, cornered and restrained by Tobias, manages to fire a shot that deafens and disorients both of them, allowing both Graham to survive and Tobias to escape, albeit with a perforated ear. (I loved this acknowledgement of just what happens when you fire a gun in close quarters, without ear muffs. Firearms are loud.)
- Most important of all, there are the grunts and gasps as Lecter and Tobias do battle near the end of the run, showing just how human they are, despite their psychotic tendencies. I flinched at the cry of pain as Hannibal is stabbed in the leg, Tobias’s scream as Lecter grabs and breaks his arm, and his gasps as Lecter hits him hard in the throat, leaving him choking on the floor as Hannibal turns to pick up the bronze stag, in order to bludgeon his nemesis to death.
But is Tobias really a nemesis? He’s obviously a parallel of Lecter, a refined and culture man, with his kills fueling his own obsessions and personal reasons for choosing his victim. I was interested to see how yet another kill is taken from Lecter’s canon and given to someone else, as Tobias freely acknowledges that he hopes the Baltimore Metropolitan orchestra will be able to find a better trombonist – one of the reasons Lecter clearly had for killing Benjamin Raspail in The Silence of the Lambs. What’s more, he echoes Lecter’s own deep desire for companionship, a theme carried on from last episode. Tobias is a strange mix of both Lecter and Franklyn, the ‘friend’ that he is looking forward to killing.
He even goes so far as to stalk the good doctor. Lecter’s face when his current guest reveals that he followed him once night, and saw him doing something very interesting, is priceless. It’s the first time we’ve ever seen the doctor truly caught out, not just discomforted by unwelcome attentions but clearly dismayed by someone actually finding out what he is, through his own carelessness. He disguises his discomfort by taking a sip of wine, but don’t try to hide from us, Hannibal. We know you’re swearing inside your head.
Tobias leaves his victim, Douglas Wilson, as a gift for Lecter, much as Lecter left Cassie Boyle on the antlers as a gift (and taunt) to Graham. But Lecter rejects Tobias’s gift, and Tobias, no matter how much he admires the work of a fellow craftsman. He’s on his own quest for friendship and acceptance, and if he can’t get it from Bedalia du Maurier (I am never going to stop writing that name out in full!) he’ll try to find it in Graham. The scene where he reveals his plans and hopes to his unofficial psychiatrist is rather touching, as he believes that he’s found someone worthy of trust. Another thing to set him apart from Tobias: while Lecter does appear to have at least some human qualities and desires that can make us relate to him – such as his protectiveness of Bedalia du Maurier, after a patient attacked her and forced her early retirement – Tobias seems to have no such attachments, although he did seem earnest about teaming up with Lecter, if only for protection and to have someone at his back.
But the type of ‘friendship’ that he offers is not what Lecter wants, or needs.
Or so it seems.
In another parallel, Graham’s hopes of a relationship with Alana are ones that she shoots down – though not before partaking in a rather heated kiss. Or two. But she protests that she wouldn’t be able to give him what he needed, that she’s still thinking too much, and leaves him bereft –
– if she leaves him at all. There’s already a theory or two (such as here: http://starberryjam.tumblr.com/post/50638395234/theory-despite-appearances-alana-bloom-is-not-in ) that she was never even there this episode, seeing as how she turned up at the most convenient times, lets herself be alone with Graham which she swore never to do (something he actually comments on) and kissed Will when he was in a rather traumatized state.
Whether she really was there or not, it’s still an interesting contrast. Like Lecter with Bedalia du Maurier, Graham’s hopes of something closer are rejected. Last week it was Lecter who set out to find Graham; this time Graham comes to him, having driven for a while to get there and possibly outside of an appointment for the first time. Lecter takes Graham in, Tobias having fled, and replaces an unwelcome guest with a very welcome one, feeding him the food he’d earlier threatened Tobias with. While Graham has been into Lecter’s kitchen before, this is the first time he’s actually eaten in Lecter’s home – taking one step further towards the camaraderie and closeness that Lecter now clearly hopes for.
It means there’s another twist on the battle between the two killers, and its aftermath. Hannibal has every reason to suspect that Tobias, the man he rejected, killed Will, the man he wants, before coming to his office; that, in confiding in and trusting Will, making the overtures of friendship, he’d sent him to his death. His relief when Will appears once the dust has settled is honestly rather heartwarming. Hannibal the Cannibal has made the connection; Will purposefully sits extremely close to him and they share a touching ‘I’m glad you’re not dead’ moment.
And finally, Franklyn. Poor, poor Franklyn. On his own continuing quest for companionship, he tried more than ever to emulate Lecter, and more than ever fell short – Lecter clearly doesn’t want him as his patient; Tobias had begun to frighten him and, it emerges, was looking forward to killing him; and when cornered between the pair at the end, he tries to employ what he learned from Lecter in order to defuse the situation, only to have the man he admired and fixated on snap his neck. Ouch. At least he didn’t see it coming.
Still, I’m glad that they gave Franklyn a purpose and made him at least somewhat savvy, even if he used rather clumsy methods to back up his reasoning, leaving him open to Lecter’s veiled scorn – “Psychopaths are not crazy. They’re fully aware of their own actions.” His recognition of himself as a pawn in Tobias’s game was gratifying but also rather depressing, and I was sorry to see him go – I wanted to hear more about the divination of cheese!
Also, Lecter does rather add insult to injury when talking about his death. Damn right you feel responsible! And I’m now very curious about Bedalia du Maurier’s mysterious attacking patient, deceased. I wonder; per chance did Lecter have anything to do with that???
Gillian Anderson was once again fabulous as Bedalia du Maurier; I’m so glad we got to see more of her after her wonderful but lone scene last week. It’s fascinating to see Lecter candidly discussing his own social life with someone, without any hesitation. I hope she turns up at least a few more times this season! Demore Barnes, who made an extremely threatening vessel of the angel Raphael in Supernatural, played Tobias to the hilt as a very intimidating character, unnerving even when talking about his great passion – though I do have to wonder how Franklyn dared to get involved with him in the first place. Speaking of Franklyn; Dan Folger once again did a brilliant job, showing Franklyn’s earnestness, apprehension and frustration, turning a character who could have been pathetic into one who will be missed.
I’ve already talked about the sound in this episode, but the visual treats must also be mentioned – the bleak opening of the flat land around Graham’s home:
the beauty of the finished strings flowing across the screen:
Beverly Katz holdign a bow in one hand and bringing it down into the other, causing a cloud of powder; the gory closeups of vocal chords that made me wonder how on earth you’d be able to play on them – before we cut to the forensics team going into great discussion about how they were cheated, and Katz showing that she, once again, is a woman who knows what is going on, thanks to playing the violin.
There’s the ominous hole in the wall left by Graham’s attempts to reach the trapped animal he might be imagining:
the horror of finding Tobias’s kills on the floor of his shop and down in the basement, among his string making equipment and materials (who else was shouting “Don’t go into the basement, you fool!!!” at Graham, and also noticing the similarity to the infamous climax of The Silence of the Lambs?) and the rough, savage fight between the two serial killers as they inflict serious damage on each other, stabbing and splitting, punching and breaking.
With a killer of the week that definitely takes front stage, and the fascinating growth of the characters, ‘Fromage’ is definitely one of the most memorable episodes this season – though, since we still have five to go, and there’s a certain set piece next time in ‘Trou Normand’:
…we might have to suspend our judgement. More than that, though; this is an episode that I will always treasure, since so many people came together to watch it and talk about it as it aired on various social media sites (coughtrendingontwitterhooraycough, and about how much they love this show in general, showing their support of Hannibal in the face of possible cancellation. Reading comments from fans and enthusiasts from all over the world makes me appreciate, once more, just how brilliant and precious a show like this is, and how grateful I am that, even if this is to be Hannibal’s only season, we were given such excellent content to sink our teeth into.
My readers, my fellow fans, those who’ve simply stumbled onto this page by chance (and, by some miracle of restraint, have read this fair and fear you are reading the words of a mad person) those who’ve created such a wonderful experience for us to enjoy, and finally those in control of the show’s fate: keep calm and always, always, always remember to Eat The Rude.
Next time, on ‘Trou Normand’: Will’s hallucinations continue and get progressively worse, having blackouts; Alana once again wards him off; and e’s starting to suspect the only person he can trust. That person being Hannibal, possibly. (I don’t think he suspects Lecter’s the Ripper just yet, but who knows?) And, once again, Lecter uses Jack Crawford’s full name to refer to him. What is it with characters and referring to Crawford or Graham by their full names? Everyone knows who they are talking about!!!