So. Hannibal 1×08: ‘Fromage’

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.

Capture fromage
Before he takes the next step…

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.

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So. Hannibal 1×07: ‘Sorbet’

Confession time – or at least, I would call this confession time if I didn’t know that most of my fellow audience was doing the same – I spent a good deal of this episode laughing.

Not the flat out laughing I’m plagued with when watching blooper reels or certain panel shows with UK comedians – I am a very easy soul to please – but a constant refrain of “Oh no! fighting its way through hysterical giggles. Plus some genuine amusement as well. I couldn’t help it!

Hannibal’s black humor has never been more evident than this episode, and that’s because quite a lot of ‘Sorbet’ is devoted to Lecter as he prepares for a dinner party he’s due to host, after a plea from a colleague – played so well by Ellen Greene – at a charity concert. (Said charity concert was in aid of Hunger Relief. The irony. You know by now what it does to me.) I won’t say that this is the most we’ve ever seen of Hannibal in one episode, but I do think it’s the most time we’ve ever seen him interacting with people other than the main cast, or just doing things by himself – which just so happens to be preparing for that special evening. We’re taken through what, for Lecter, is a ‘normal’ few days, as he:

  • Engages in recreational activities that make him weep and actually give a standing ovation – causing my first laugh of the evening, as the scene for some reason started inside the opera singer’s throat so that we got a lovely look at what I presume were her vocal cords. (From the trailer, I though that when she did show up she’d be singing ‘Vide cor meum‘, but nope. Perhaps later on.) “What the hell? Oh no, oh no!”
  • Deals with persistent patient Franklin. Lecter’s visible discomfort when coming into close contact with him got, if not a laugh, then some righteous amusement from me. So often Lecter has made me feel discomfort; now I take joy in his. What goes around comes around. “Oh no, Franklin. No! Well, all right, make him feel a little more disgusted with you!”
  • Goes to see his own psychiatrist (and friend?) Bedalia du Maurier, played by the ever wonderful and perfect Gillian Anderson, where she proceeds to get under his skin, somewhat. A surreal experience to see Lecter under analysis this week! I was a tad disappointed with Anderson’s role in this; she was fantastic, of course, but I thought she would have more part to play in the episode than merely one scene. Still, what a scene it is! Bedalia du Maurier – I love that name, I will take the opportunity to write it as often as possible – is not fooled by Hannibal for one instant. She knows he’s wearing a mask or, rather ‘a personal suit’, but hopes that the person inside will get what they need from her without further comment. This might not, in the long run, be Bedalia du Maurier’s wisest decision.
  • Goes…’grocery shopping’. Oh, this scene. This scene will be infamous. And it deserves to be. It will take a lot to top seeing Lecter go through his recipe box, go through his business card index, choose respective courses from each, set off, bring home the bacon – so to speak – prepare the raw materials, parcel them up and put them in the fridge. He repeats this process not once, not twice, but four times, counting that remarkably rude medical examiner he waylays on the road. (And this is just the stuff we see; his fridge is pretty packed by the end.) Every time you think he couldn’t possibly go any further, while secretly anticipating the Rule of Three, here comes another organ, another slice, another chunk popped into the blender!
  • The ironic cuts to Lecter’s cooking also have their own dark humor. One of the victims of the ‘Chesapeake Ripper’s’ latest rampage is missing a spleen; under the mistaken apprehension that the organs are being stolen for medical purposes, one of the team asks in bewilderment: “Who gets a spleen transplant?” And then we all cringe behind our hands – or at least I do – as Lecter whacks on the blender. I don’t know if that was a spleen in there, but there was a good deal of red. And all this loving preparation is carried out to a bombastic operatic soundtrack, showing how much Lecter is delighting in all this and enjoying this harvest. A whole lot of “Oh no“s found their way into the world here, when I managed to stop laughing. “Oh no, oh no, oh god no!”

(Although, really, does everything that Lecter eats – and serves up to other poor unsuspecting fools – have to be human? Could he not add a little variety by having some actual legitimate lamb or chicken in there? For instance, I love love love beef, but I certainly wouldn’t want to eat it every night of the week.

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So. Hannibal 1×05 (or 1×04): ‘Coquilles’

So. Hannibal 1×05 (or 1×04): ‘Coquilles’, because the title bar is still acting up for some reason.

I won’t pretend to be a die hard fan of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, but a certain few lines from that poem have always stuck with me, from the moment I read one of M.R. James’s best ghost stories Casting the Runes. Watching Will Graham walk down a road at night, with the familiar stag that haunts his dreams so close now as to sniff at his hand, they came to mind yet again:

‘Like one that on a lonesome road
Doth walk in fear and dread,
And having once turned round walks on,
And turns no more his head;
Because he knows, a frightful fiend
Doth close behind him tread.’

This is true for more than just Graham’s nightmare – which turn out to be a rather jarring reality, albeit minus the stag; Graham has actually developed a habit of sleepwalking. ‘Frightful fiends’ preying upon the minds and spirits of the characters, and dogging their footsteps, are in plentiful supply this episode.

First, there are the fiends that spur the efforts of this week’s killer, Elliot Budish, the ‘Angel Maker’,who transforms his victims into guardian spirits to watch over him should he die in his sleep from his brain tumor. Despite the secular reality – the tumor that supplies his hallucinations of heads on fire, the lack of religious faith on Budish’s part as opposed to his belief in his own guardian angel – it’s impossible to overlook the spiritual imagery in this episode when it comes to the corpses. The religious nature of the first grisly tableaux is closely discussed in the episode; I particularly like the call forward to Hannibal when one of the forensic team – I still haven’t learned to tell the two men apart, I am ashamed – spoke about Viking sacrifices of Christians by snapping open their ribs and pulling their lungs out through their backs: the ‘Bloody Eagle’. I did, however, think that this sacrifice wasn’t designed specifically for Christians but rather as offerings to the god Odin, but after more than a thousand years, who can be certain?

But I was especially struck by the picture the second victim makes. When Crawford leaves Graham alone at the crime scene after they’ve each respectively blown up at each other over the case, we get a beautiful almost silhouette of Graham looking up and the corpse seeming to look down. Back lit by some unknown source, it plays on the idea of an actual angel descending from heaven to the man on earth, providing divine inspiration.

Capture angel from on high

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