There is so much to love about ‘Hannibal’.
Like most people, I instantly latched onto the show’s crazy-distinct visual style. The lighting is so striking and the scenes are shot so intensely that even mundane or expositional conversations feel weighty. In recent episodes, the audio crafting has matched the visuals, with soaring symphonies providing the soundtrack for much of the action. Combine that with out-of-this-world performances from Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelson, and you could make a very strong case that ‘Hannibal’ has the best presentation of any show on television – yes, even including ‘Mad Men’.
On a weekly basis, ‘Hannibal’ is an intoxicating juxtaposition of gorgeously shot, beautifully lit, classically scored scenes consisting of the most vile and depraved imagery you have ever seen on television.
That’s every week. That’s a given. That’s the baseline.
What “Fromage” added to that soup was an action-thriller element that the show has played close to the vest until this point. And it was amazing.
The episode pits Hannibal Lecter against Tobias, a music teacher whose side projects include killing orchestra members, slitting their throats, treating and stringing their vocal cords to a cello shoved down their throats, and playing said cello on stage at an empty opera house.
So, yeah, there’s that.
This is the first time we’ve seen Lecter himself at the center of the story, at least as the de facto protagonist. It’s his patient – poor bearded, tubby Franklyn – who alerts Hannibal to Tobias, setting the stage for a variety of confrontations, verbal at first. Turns out Tobias was following Hannibal with the intention to kill him, but accidentally stumbled upon Hannibal’s own serial killing proclivities. Tobias tries to befriend him, but if not for an ill-timed entrance from Will – fresh off of his first makeout session with Alanna – Hannibal would’ve ended it right there.
As it turns out, Hannibal resorts to plan B: sticking Will and the cops onto Tobias. But Tobias kills the two cops Will’s sent with, and in a wonderfully tense scene, nearly strangles Will himself. Will escapes, but so does Tobias, only to show up during Lecter’s next session with Franklyn. Hapless Franklyn picks a wrong time to start spouting his pop psychology, and Lecter shuts him up by snapping his neck (mercifully, I’d say, given what Tobias would’ve done to him).
Then, it’s ON. Serial killer vs. serial killer. An epic hand-to-hand fight scene ensues, with Hannibal eventually besting Tobias. Always thinking, Hannibal chooses to kill him by bashing him with the stag statue (symbolism!), to make it look like a mad scramble instead of the elegant, Matrix-style fight that it was.
I continue to be amazed by the way ‘Hannibal’ varies is structure and storytelling on a week-to-week basis. Last week, the episode-specific case felt more like an afterthought to the deep and provocative character work being done, and I praised the show for breaking free from standard network crime drama fare. This week, “Fromage” played out like a horror/thriller movie, and it was even better.
Actually, you know what “Fromage” felt like? “Silence of the Lambs”. Intelligent, thoughtful, violent, shocking, scary – and pretty damn great.