Last week, Hannibal pulled off a neat little trick with an episode that delved into the extremely private life of Dr. Lecter – that is, it examined him not only as a gruesome serial killer, but also as a person with a potentially robust social life full of admirers and hangers-on, whom he purposely keeps at arms length. However, 'Sorbet' also introduced us to a man who might be looking to have a relationship outside of his patients or occasional work with the BAU, or even his own psychiatrist. Ultimately, it opened the door for the audience to feel for a person who normally would not elicit such sentiment.
And while 'Sorbet' slowly introduced the emotional stakes of Hannibal's isolation by contrasting him with the needy desperation of his patient Franklin, 'Fromage' is quite the opposite; it is all raw emotion.
The episode lives entirely in the moment; it is comprised of a series of flashes that stand out, but don't necessarily connect with one another in the typical A to B to C style we're used to. 'Fromage' puts the season's overarching narrative on hold and sparingly uses the delicate connective tissue holding the separate arcs together. Here, co-writers Jennifer Schuur and Bryan Fuller put the emphasis more on drama and entertainment, letting concern regarding the logical correlation of events take a back seat to big character moments.
Like the series premiere, this is very much a Will Graham and Hannibal episode. The structure of the hour is built around a particular killer – in this case, Franklin's friend Tobias. But it's not necessarily about either man's pursuit of him. Instead, Tobias' telegraphed, yet gruesome killing of a Baltimore trombonist sets off an inquiry in Hannibal as to what kind of relationship he may have been unaware he's looking for, and with whom.
And also like 'Apéritif,' the episode unfolds with a sporadic, dreamlike quality that in most cases would be a disservice to the story, but here it lends an eerie characteristic to the proceedings that heightens the atmosphere and accentuates Will's deteriorating mental state. There are a lot of leaps in time and logic, which feel purely intended to produce a specific outcome. Characters seem to materialize suddenly and then vanish into thin air. This trick transforms Tobias into something akin to a specter – which is tuned even further upon the revelation he's been stalking Hannibal and even witnessed one of his kills – but surprisingly, he's not the only one popping in this dreamscape unannounced.
'Fromage' opens with Will heading off in search of what he believes to be an injured animal – the cries of which compel him to call Dr. Bloom to help locate the injured or possibly dead creature. Bloom recognizes something's up with Will when their search fails to not only turn up an animal, but any trace of wildlife at all. The connection between Will and Alana rises to a full-on flirtation, as they tentatively search for signs of interest in one another. "Did you think this was a date?" he asks as they walk along, discussing why neither has a romantic partner or is, in Will's case, "too broken to date."
Later, after Will has smashed open his chimney in search of another nonexistent creature in peril, Alana suddenly appears, prompting Will to ask if she's making house calls now. Her appearance in Will's home sets off a chain reaction that leads to a somewhat forced kiss between the two, and for Alana to subsequently remove herself from the situation due to Will's fragile state of mind.
The kiss feels unnatural and strained in a way, shoehorned in too quickly to create an overt romantic subplot when the nature of Will and Alana's relationship might have been better served by allowing it to progress more gradually. The hurried progression of potential romance between the two would have felt like more of a misstep had it not taken place in an episode that so deliberately targeted character moments over logic or plot. Besides, it leads to a great scene where Will runs to Hannibal for advice (and dessert), which appears to please Dr. Lecter greatly.
And of course, the biggest moment belongs to the fight between Hannibal and Tobias. Yes, it's a bit cheesy (get it?), but again it hints at the unique structural qualities of 'Fromage' that had seen Tobias seemingly manifesting in the strangest of places – e.g., Hannibal's dining room, the creepy basement where he made cello strings from human gut, and finally, in Hannibal's office.
The scuffle ends with a bit of symbolism (the sculpture of the stag) being used to kill Tobias, making a somewhat opaque connection to Will's continued visions, his relationship to Hannibal and the almost surreal nature of the episode.
Hannibal continues next Thursday with 'Trou Normand' @10pm on NBC. Check out a preview below:
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