Awesome. Up to this point, Bryan Fuller's Hannibal has done an exceptionally good job at relying upon character work and general, all-around spookiness to convince everyone that it's a show worth appreciating. From the pilot's arresting first few moments the series has remained intriguing, and despite some relatively weak material here and there, has made it look like Fuller might have his first sustained success on his hands. From NBC's perspective, Hannibal is a pretty ambitious gambit. It's basically a premium cable show airing on network, from its relatively truncated structure (both its first and second seasons will only consist of 13 episodes) to its unapologetically graphic content.
What's nice about Hannibal is that it provides style and substance in equal measure. Bryan Fuller's sensibilities are clearly hard at work here, and executive producer David Slade has his fingerprints on the finished product in a way that leaves things feeling very, very Fincher-esque. In a great way.
Hugh Dancy's Will Graham is a great character to follow, and the supporting cast is equally as strong: Lawrence Fishburne and company are all up to the task when it comes to getting the audience to care about the supporting players. Just this season we've explored Jack Crawford's rough marriage and a traumatic previous investigation. Though the other members of the team have been largely sidelined, they're great for a moment of levity when the'yre needed, and often function as something of a connective tissue to give us a bit of procedural familiarity while still moving the story along.
In "Fromage," that's pretty much their sole function. The case of the week is nicely tied into the season's larger story, though, and while certain scenes within the episode feel (and indeed, are) functionally perfunctory, it's the larger movements of the teleplay that reveal our important character and story notes.
Well into the episode, we get our obligatory scene in which Will and his team of investigators pore over the details of this week's murder. We get to see a little bit of Will's unraveling state of mind, but other than that, the scene is a largely functional one. All that really happens is the discussion between our investigators that leads Will to the realization that the murderer is a purveyor of fine stringed instruments. Great.
This scene becomes vital later, though, when Hannibal intentionally sends Will to Tobias' shop, and then doubles back again to give the entire episode an added measure of complexity when all's to be considered at the end, after Hannibal's final session. Think about it: Hannibal knowingly sent Will to Tobais' shop. He knowingly put Will in danger; Tobias had straight-up said he wanted to kill himself some cops if and when they ever got around to investigating him.
Yet, at the end of the episode, it's apparent that Hannibal feels a bit of responsibility and remorse for the fact that he exposed Will to such danger. Did he put Will's life in danger just to satisfy his own curiosity about his possibility for friendship? In other words, did he knowingly put Will in danger just to see if he would feel bad for doing it? Probably.
Of course, none of this is stated outright; it's up to the viewer to notice these complexities. But they're there, and they're what make Hannibal such a compelling series to begin with.
Equally interesting is the relationship between psychiatrist and patient on this series. Especially when considering that most of these characters occupy both roles. Will spends his days analyzing murderers, and is in turn analyzed by Hannibal (also a murderer) at the end of them. Hannibal spends his days analyzing ordinary individuals, and being a murderer himself. At the end of his days, he sits down with is own psychologist (portrayed by Gillian Anderson, who fits into this show's cold and professional world just perfectly) and gets himself analyzed.
Psychology has a very incestuous relationship with itself on this show. After all, at the same time, it's both the motivating factor behind Will and Alana's kiss, and the reason that it can't be allowed to continue. Will and Alana let themselves get all kissy because, unlike most of the other characters on the show, they're not studying each other professionally. She doesn't let herself continue, though, because she knows that she would begin to study him professionally if that happened.
So Hannibal spends seven episodes building a rich, complex, duplicitous little universe, and then blows it up with an awesome serial killer showdown at the tail end of "Fromage." Tobias—a rather obvious plant from the previous episode—reveals himself to basically be a Hannibal-level serial killer in his own right, and subsequently introduces us to what's actually one of my most serious gripes with the show. Apparently, everyone in high-class Baltimore is down to kill and/or consume people in one way or another.
Still, the game of cat-and-mouse that ensues between Tobias is thrilling, and culminates in one of the most awesome sequences the show has given us thus far. It was a great example of this series really starting to stretch its legs and show us all the different things that it's capable of doing, and doing well.
Oh, and also...
• Another episode full of great sound design, mostly evidenced during Will's moment at the symphony.
• Mikkelson's performance as Hannibal is just note-perfect, right up to the way he conducted himself during that fight scene.
• Watching Dan Fogler's Franklin try to play therapist and talk Tobias down was tragically adorable.