This show is already very serialised, but "Fromage" almost felt like a third part of the "Entrée"/"Sorbet" two-parter, continuing the idea that Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) is consumed by loneliness and sees a chance of real friendship with Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), who can adopt his perspective but is different enough to be of interest. The 'killer-of-the-week' storyline also got closer than ever before to Lecter's secret life, as his idolising patient Franklin (Dan Fogler) revealed his friend Tobias (Demore Barnes) recently spoke of playing someone's neck like a musical instrument, before a trombonist was found with the neck of a cello rammed down his throat in order to play his vocal chords. Yeah, icky.
Lecter helped Will realise the murder was a weird "serenade" to a fellow killer, while knowing the culprit is a Baltimore music teacher called Tobias; who's trying to get Hannibal's attention of. And it worked, leading to a compelling episode where Lecter made the acquaintance of a fellow psychopath and potential friend, but through therapy with Dr Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson) came to realise that Will's the person who stands the greatest chance of peering over the psychological wall he's built to protect himself. Of course, we know from the books and movies that when this does happen, friendship is not the outcome.
"Fromage" was a joy from start to finish. I particularly like how Hannibal remains sharp and intelligent without being too opaque and pretentious. It's not a dumb show, by any stretch of the imagination, but it has a great way of taking viewers on a journey while giving them just the right amount of information to inspire deep thought. There are always lots of little touches I really enjoy; like Lecter's plea that Tobias not kill Franklin during their dinner together (showing he does have a degree of fondness for his hero-worshipping client?), even though he's eventually forced to snap Franklin's neck when the situation with Tobias gets out of hand.
Dexter has done similar storylines where two serial killers become aware of each other, leading to a cat-and-mouse game—first with the Ice Truck Killer first season, but perhaps most notably when Dexter encountered John Lithgow's 'Trinity Killer' (which was a season also about friendship)—but Hannibal briskly covered much of the same ideas in a fraction of the time.
During the climactic fight sequence between Lecter and Tobias in his office, I was taken by how the show didn't take the lazy option and present its famous anti-hero as a 'superman' for whom Tobias was little more than a pest. Indeed, Tobias had the upper-hand for much of their painful-looking brawl, and it took a great deal of effort and luck for Lecter to eventually walk away victorious.
Besides this week's odd Lecter-Franklin-Tobias triangle, we also had more scenes where it's becoming clear Will's beginning to lose his mind (imagining the sound of distressed animals, hallucinating the dead Garrett Jacob Hobbs), and even the BAU's experts are starting to exchange worried looks about his mental state. This was also the episode where Will made a move on Dr Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas), who attracted Lecter's affections only last week. Upon being told of their kiss, Lecter was quick to rationalise it as Will's mind seeking stability, which certainly sound feasible... but maybe Dr Lecter's trying to dismiss the fact his potential "best friend" is making moves on his potential "girlfriend", which could cause some problems in their relationship. A weird love-triangle is starting to take shape.
Overall, "Fromage" was a fantastic episode, and one I keep replaying choice moments of in my head: the mesmerising performance of The Unit's Demore Barnes as the sicko musician who makes violin strings from human guts (whom we actually met last week, but I'd forgotten); the tete-a-tete between Lecter and Tobias over dinner, trying to figure each other out over a meal; and the mention that Dr Du Maurier retired after a patient attacked her (and she killed him?) Right now, the only thing about Hannibal that's beginning to bother me--only slightly--is the occasionally incessant soundtrack, which sometimes drowns scenes that need to breathe more. (Although this may be because I don't get to hear a 5.1 sound-mix, so it may very well sound more nuanced on DVD).
written by Jennifer Schuur & Bryan Fuller / directed by Tim Hunter / 17 May 2013 / NBC