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 1×05 (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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So. Hannibal 1×01: “Apéritif”

If you haven’t tried ‘Hannibal’ yet, this does contain spoilers for some parts of the episode.

Having digested this episode, I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed it; particularly the reinterpretations of the two main characters, something I was honestly worried about.

We first meet Will Graham as he visits the aftermath of a double homicide, performing a mental backtrack to place himself in the mind of the murderer and relive the killings. He describes this horrendous act in cold, clinical terms, understanding the deliberation behind each shot. Graham is introduced to us in violence, blood and slaughter, intensely experienced on his part and yet calmly presented to an avid audience in a lecture theatre, as if we’ve somehow gotten a crossover between CSI and that first season episode of House, ‘Three Stories’. On the surface Graham is detached; beneath his skin he’s fighting desperately not to be sucked into crimes he recreates.

We also learn that he takes in stray dogs, and has quite a number at the moment. He quite literally Pets the Dog. When it comes to humans, though, he’s often rude and abrasive, freely admitting to having difficulties interacting with others due to autistic traits and that cursed empathy, as well as the tendency to get distracted by other people’s eyeballs.

Our hero, ladies and gentlemen.

(By the by; I’ll admit that I know absolutely nothing about guns whatsoever, but I do believe it is pretty damn hard to shoot someone in the neck with ‘surgical precision’. The very nature of bullets – pieces of metal hitting your flesh at colossal speeds – does not in any way suggest ‘surgical precision’ to my mind.

Also, these were moving targets, and the killer had a handgun. Not a rifle with a scope. A handgun.)

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So. Hannibal the tv series, huh?

Warning: If you haven’t read Hannibal by Thomas Harris, you might want to skip the parts in bold, as they discuss at length some of the messed up stuff that occurs within the book.

So, there was Thomas Harris, fresh off the moderate success of Black Sunday – wherein terrorists plot to blow up a Super Bowl – and with a college career of covering the police beat for the Waco Tribune-Herald behind him, when he made the fateful decision to write a tale of two serial killers and the poor sucker that has to try and stop their shenanigans. Who could have guessed that one of those characters would go on to become a pop cultural icon for the ages?

It’s not that the other two aren’t memorable, but there’s just something about Hannibal Lecter that captures the imagination. Plus the gurney straightjacket mask combo is just so easy to parody.

And now NBC is on the edge of releasing a new series based on the relationship between Lecter and the man who put him away, Will Graham, in what will hopefully not be too reminiscent of Dexter.

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