Before I start this review, I must say that I’m rather surprised at people saying they must suspend their disbelief at the ‘human totem pole’
and the killer who managed to raise it by himself, after everything else that has happened in this series. This is, after all, a show in which
a murderer managed to spirit his latest victim back into her bed without anyone noticing,
another murderer set up a strange mushroom farm in a handy forest
Lecter and Abigail managed to get a dead body out of a house that was surrounded by police (again without anyone noticing)
‘Oeuf’….just ‘Oeuf’ as an episode in general
the ‘Angel-Maker’ somehow managed to string himself up in his barn after flaying open his own back
Lecter made beer from Miriam Lass’s arm
Lecter then went on to serve a banquet where everything on the table is human, except the tomatoes (and I am deeply suspicious about the tomatoes)
and the last killer but one cut a man’s throat open, treated the vocal chords with various concoctions, stuck the neck of a string instrument down his throat and proceeded to play him like a cello.
I think we long ago passed the point where suspension of disbelief was an option. Actually, forget passing it, disbelief was being dangled over a cliff edge from the very opening of the show. And that’s not a bad thing. Besides, did Archimedes not say, ‘Give me a lever and a place to stand and I will move the earth’?
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.