This review contains spoilers.
Wow! Hannibal pulled out a lot of the stops this week. I just hope enough people saw it and will recommend the show to friends, as NBC has postponed making a decision on the fate of the series for now.
So far, for the most part, Hannibal has been about the why, rather than the what. This week reversed that in a few ways. The most obvious is this week’s case: a trombonist is found on the stage of the local symphony with his throat cut, his vocal chords cured into strings, and the neck of a cello shoved down his throat. Evidently, the killer played him, if not to death, then at least in death.
And this time, we know precisely who the killer is because we see him in the process of creating human guts into strings (which one assumes he’s been selling in his shop – he takes particular pride in the fact that the local symphony only uses the strings he provides, though he claims they are imported from Italy). We know precisely what he does, but not why really.
Which in no way means that the psychological bent we’re so used to in Hannibal isn’t present. But the focal point through which it feeds is different here. Until now, despite the show being called Hannibal, Lecter has been used as a foil for Will to a great extent. That is, we think we know who and what the good doctor is. Placing him in close proximity to Will, all but begs the question: how much is Will, who can empathize with the worst of murderers, actually like those he hunts?
Fromage, in juxtaposing Tobias – a killer with no clear motive but impeccable taste and a love for the finer things – with Hannibal, we are encouraged to ask another question: what is it that Hannibal really wants?
Last week’s episode began to answer this question. Hannibal wants human contact. Someone he can call a friend. And since most relationships are based on common experiences or interests, a music teacher and artisan with great style and a penchant for murder seems a match made in heaven for our resident cannibal.
Of course, while Tobias is one kind of foil for Lecter, Franklin serves as another. Because although the music aficionado may have the same hobbies, he lacks what it is that Hannibal seems to be looking for. When Franklin first comes to him and reveals that he believes his friend Tobias may be a psychopath and that he fears that that might make him one as well, Hannibal remarks: “You are not a psychopath, although you may be attracted to them.”
It is clear that precisely the opposite is true of Lecter: he is a psychopath, but he is not attracted to them. Well, at least not emotionally. “I know exactly how you feel,” he tell Tobias. “But I don’t want to be your friend.”
Instead, Hannibal wants his own shrink as his friend (and is rejected by her in exactly the same way he rejects Franklin), and also like Franklin, seems to want the friendship of those least like him: Will and Alana. Is it possible that while it would probably be safer for Hannibal to seek the company of those like himself, he is drawn to those with whom he has less in common? One wonders if Hannibal hanging out with Will and Alana is having an inverted effect of that which Will is getting from spending too much time in the company of psychopaths. Can connecting with people who are not emotionally disturbed “fix” Hannibal, or will it eventually wear him down psychologically the way it has Will?
And then there is the interaction between Will and Alana and what it reveals. I have to admit that while it really came out of nowhere, I was delighted by the kiss. Not because I like romance (which I frequently do), but because that scene finally showed Dancy as able to bring something other than bitterness and angst to the character of Will Graham.
For the first time, we not only saw Will express something akin to a positive emotion, but we saw him free of his emotional tics. Will is hesitant, thinks himself out of acting, rarely opens up of his own volition. But we saw all these in the kiss. He approached her, he initiated the kiss, he made it clear what he wanted, he took the emotional risk. If this is who Graham is when he’s putting the moves on Dr. Bloom, I have to disagree with her assessment that she would be bad for him.
The assumption there appears to be that her analyzing him will be a negative thing for him. She also points out that he would be bad for her, which seems a bit more likely, especially if Crawford continues to push him into the dark places that he does. But Will has been trying to figure out why he is what he is and how to cope with it. That’s largely the reason he’s accepted Hannibal as something like a friend, and certainly a confidant – he’s seeking out those who can help him to understand. Being in a relationship with someone he loves and trusts, and is maybe willing to open up to even more… it’s hard to understand how that could be bad for him.
Of course, the whole thing is poppycock. Now that they’ve opened that door, it’s obvious they plan on going through it. If it’s something that allows us to get a more fleshed-out picture of Graham, that’s great news. On the other hand, if what she said was actually foreshadowing of how she might eventually be placed in peril in order to get to him, then let’s give that a pass, shall we? This show has been too good to resort to clichés like that.
But then, the failure to do so, and American love of just such clichés may be precisely the reason such a complex show has yet to be renewed. Which would be worse? No second series of Hannibal? Or one that makes it like every other American procedural?
Here’s to hoping those aren’t the only options.
Read Laura’s review of the previous episode, Sorbet, here.
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