Hannibal: 108 “Fromage” Review
Reviewed by Gabriel Bergmoser.
Something about Hannibal clicked into place with this episode. In past weeks, I have criticised the way the show seems to be unconcerned with realism and wraps up its cases far too quickly. The disconnection between the strange cases and the down to earth exploration of the characters was, for me, a major problem. I wondered if my longstanding love of the Hannibal Lecter canon had made me too forgiving.
But as Fromage reached its climax — the almost ninja-esque showdown between Hannibal and the psychopathic music teacher Tobias — I realised that I was completely drawn in and entertained despite how ridiculous it seemed. Sure, it defied logic that Tobias would be so incredibly skilled with whatever that weapon was (some kind of modified cello string, I guess) and it was even more difficult to swallow how adept Hannibal was at hand to hand combat. But you know what? That fight was just so damn cool it hardly mattered. It may have been highly stylised and choreographed but it was a satisfying end to the game between the two serial killers, and the coldness with which Hannibal dispatched Tobias at the end was brilliantly done. Even brutality is an art form to Doctor Lecter.
When it comes down to it, realism isn’t really a concern for Hannibal. The best television shows are those that reflect the worldview of their protagonists. In Hannibal’s world there is beauty in even the most horrific deaths and everything is like a well-produced opera. Just look at the striking visuals of Tobias’ victims; humans turned into cellos, their vocal chords standing in for the strings. Probably physically impossible, but saying so much more about the perpetrator than any other action could. Tobias was far from a worthy adversary, but it was so refreshing to see Hannibal facing off with an opponent who knew exactly what he was, and even shared a similar appreciation for beauty and art in death. The denouement of the episode, as the irritating Franklin stands between the two killers and tries to talk Tobias down, was a master class of tension and black comedy. Franklin’s attempts to operate on a level of understanding with the two men he considers closest to him was — in a pathetic, twisted way — quite funny. The looks shared between Hannibal and Tobias made their exasperation abundantly clear. It was not surprising when Hannibal finally stepped forward and snapped Franklin’s neck, and it was hard not to chuckle at Tobias’ terse ‘I was looking forward to that.’
The original novels were always at their best when the focus was on mind games between two intelligent individuals. Whether it was the ‘quid-pro-quo’ of Lecter’s conversations with Clarice Starling, or the mutual hatred and respect of his later showdowns with Will Graham, the drama of the series almost always came from verbal sparring between two people in a room together, the chess games that would decide the fate of the innocent. While the stakes are not so high in the dinner scene between Hannibal and Tobias, Hannibal’s blunt rebuke of Tobias’ offer of friendship, and his surprisingly frank admission that his intention is to kill him, is excellent. Then, right when the tension is at a high, Will Graham comes blundering in, going on about having kissed Alana Bloom.
Hugh Dancy is excellent in this role, but the focus over the last few episodes has gradually turned to Hannibal, and Will’s investigations and mental struggles have seemed pretty inconsequential as a result. His romantic life is the last thing anyone cares about. Thankfully, this interruption is quickly offset by a classic piece of Hannibal manipulation as he sends Will after Tobias and sets in motion the excellent climax of the episode.
Hannibal is a series that seems to have truly found its feet as a dreamlike, surreal, gothic horror fascinated by the psychology of those who kill and those who hunt the killers. As it nears the finale of its first series, the sense of dark fun has become stronger and stronger while we wait to see where all this is going. Are we now watching the definitive adaptation of the Hannibal Lecter saga? With each new episode I think that this may just be the case, and Fromage served to convince me more than any yet.