Digesting Hannibal – Season 1, Ep8

Episode 8 – Fromage

The episode opens on Will fixing something at home, while hearing something like scream or whimper, faintly.  He runs outside trying to find it.

Elsewhere, Tobias teaches a boy to play Cello, who complains that the strings are tougher to play.  Tobias admits that these “authentic” strings aren’t always made from cat guts.  Well what else could they be made of?  That’s the opening question for the episode, and we can already know where this is going.  It’s revealed that Tobias appears to have taken human guts and carefully worked it until he can make strings for his instruments.

In the fields, Will walks with Alana, looking for the noise.  They expect it to be dead, whatever it was.  Will claims he asked her to help in case he does find it, and would require assistance to carry/restrain it.  There’s a playful banter her, and we’re now starting to feel the development of a Will-Alana-Hannibal triangle.  He asks if she thought it would be a date, and she denies this, since Will doesn’t seem like he dates.  Though she doesn’t, either.   She says she thinks too much to date.  They’re not finding any tracks, “except for the ones we made.”  I love how poetic the dialogue can be on this show.  

Hannibal meets with Franklin, who hints at still wanting to be friends, but instead looking at his own friends as he believes Hannibal might.  Hannibal plays along, as if he’s a psychoanalyst.  A psychoanalyst is a specific type of therapist, and usually involves training at a psychoanalytic institute after licensure and training as a psychiatrist or psychologist (or masters level therapist).  There’s a long twisted history around psychoanalysis which we won’t get into here.  This is the first time it seems they’ve used the term, though, on this show.  Franklin believes Tobias may be a psychopath, as he’ll say “crazy” things and then retract them with a “just kidding.”  Hannibal explains that psychopaths are not crazy, and are aware of what they do and the consequences of that.  Of course he’s talking about himself, but interestingly he’s implying “crazy” means not being aware of one’s actions or the consequences of them.  This is closer to the legal definition of insane.  But neither clinical psychiatry nor the legal system uses the term “crazy.”  

Franklin probes if Hannibal is bored with him.  Hannibal says he can’t analyze Tobias, but only Franklin’s perception of him.  Some therapists allow for a patient to talk about anything, others try to keep the focus on the person, to prevent avoidance.  Hannibal uses this as a lens to look at Franklin.  This is similar to a projective test, like a Rorschach.  However someone views something, if “free associating” about it, can reveal something about the person.  Hannibal coyly clarifies that Franklin isn’t a psychopath, but may be attracted to them.  Clear enough without directly admitting what he is.  

On the orchestra stage is a dead body, a trombone player but impaled with a cello through the throat.  Will and Jack examine, and Jack comments how the process seems easier for Will now.  Will denies it’s easier, but he’s able to shake it off a bit more.  Will metronomes it, experiencing the construction of the scene.  “I wanted to play him… to create a sound.”  Will imagines playing him, but is interrupted by Garrett Jacob Hobbs applauding in the audience.

Hannibal in Therapy with Du Maurier, complaining that he might be disempowering his patient because of his obsession.  This is half a step away from an indirect suggestion to her that he (Hannibal) worries his own obsession interferes.  One can view every line he says about his relationship with Franklin as an attempt to get Du Maurier to think about their relationship differently, to treat him (Hannibal) differently.  She notes that she tried to refer Hannibal to another psychiatrist, and he refused to go.  He claims he stayed out of wanting to protect and support her, “after what happened.”  This is implying that a psychopath can have a sense of loyalty to others.  This isn’t really known whether it’s true, though evolutionarily it should be.  She was attacked by a patient.  She clarifies the roles — “I’m your psychiatrist, you’re not mine.”

In the lab, the team reviews the body and how the killer altered the vocal cords to make them playable.  Will feels the precision means he’s done it before, and that this must be a skilled musician “trying a new instrument.”  That tracks with the evidence available.  

Will discusses the case with Hannibal.  Hannibal identifies that the killer was trying to make an authentic sound, based on the chemicals he used on the vocal cords.  Will feels he was playing for someone else, but usually doesn’t kill this way.  There’s really no way to know that, since there’s nothing to compare it to, no frame of reference such as another murder.  Will believes he wants to show someone how well he plays.  The best guess is that if this is Tobias, he would be serenading another psychopath.  Since Tobias has a fixation on Franklin, who better to serenade than the psychopath that Franklin is obsessed with?  This is all for Hannibal.  

Franklin back in therapy, talks about his suspicion that Tobias did the murder.  These therapy sessions have a much more psychoanalytic approach, using much more questions without hardly any content.  Franklin thinks he was told about Tobias’s fantasy of playing someone’s throat so that he would tell Hannibal.  Baiting him all the more.  

Hannibal sneaks into Tobias’s workshop.  He’s caught, but plays along.  They banter a little about catgut, and Hannibal talks literally (and metaphorically) about playing the Theremin (an electronic instrument that can play between normal notes).  Tobias counters that traditional instruments can do that as well.  Hannibal states with a double entendre “it seems we’re both comfortable playing between conventional notes.”  I know what you are.  But I’m not going to turn you in.  “My harpsichord is making an awful noise.”  A great scene for subtext. Unclear but he may be propositioning Tobias to help him kill Franklin.

Will works on a fishing fly.  He hears the animal noises again, this time through the walls.  The story jumps to Will having broken through the wall looking for it, and then having to discuss it with Alana.  So now we’re establishing that Will is having auditory hallucinations.  This is truly beginning to creep into psychotic symptoms, with now auditory intrusion rather than the visual hallucinations before, which we might have attributed just to a sleep disorder.  In short, Will is losing his grasp on reality and manifesting a real psychotic disorder.  This would likely not be “caused” by his work, though it’s so early that even the disorder itself and its cause is quite unclear.  

Alana has come by to visit, which Will questions in the middle of the night.  He kisses her.  She questions if it should move forward.  “I wouldn’t be good for you.”  And then they kiss again.  And she talks herself out of it.  This is a hint that Alana has her own complex issues, which we have not gotten a peak into, at all.  Hers appears to be more of a fear of intimacy, though we don’t know much more than that.

Hannibal and Tobias sit over dinner.  Hannibal questions about the killed musician.  Tobias welcomes the FBI trying to catch him, and that he’ll kill the agents, and then later Franklin, and then plans to “disappear.”  He also admits to wanting to kill Hannibal, but he stopped when he found out that Hannibal is a killer.  “I could use a friend.  Someone who can understand me.”  Hannibal declines, and tells him he has planned to kill him.  Clearly this ratchets up the tension in the scene as to who would act first.  It’s not clear that Hannibal would really do this, as he has always been so strategic.  Unless he’s looking for a challenge.

Will shows up unexpectedly, and Tobias quietly escapes.  Will discusses that he kissed Alana, and that they wouldn’t be good for each other, per her.  Hannibal agrees, stating that she will be obligated to observe him as a professional obligation. I wholly disagree. While it can be tough for some to put aside the clinical lens when with other people, most psychiatrists don’t want to be “on all the time.”  Those that choose to analyze everyone tend to have difficult relationships.  Will knows that she looked at him differently after seeing the hole in the wall, in that it was all a hallucination.  At this point will still has insight into his condition, and thus wouldn’t’s meet criteria for a psychotic disorder, probably.

Will identifies his own symptoms — sleepwalking, headaches, and now auditory hallucinations.  Every new onset psychotic disorder, especially with this cluster of symptoms and in someone his age, should have a full medical workup to make sure it doesn’t have a primary medical cause.   Hannibal tells Will that Franklin suspects Tobias.  Just indirect enough to be plausible.  Plus it is true, and hopefully uses the FBI to eliminate the risk to Hannibal.  

Hannibal sits with Du Maurier and discloses to her that may want a friendship with Will.  He views his relationship with Will to be like Du Maurier’s relationship with him (Hannibal).  This is very revealing.  The desire or want that Hannibal has, unrequited, is much more similar to Franklin.  Yet Hannibal wants to view himself as Will, the super-capable pupil underappreciated by the teacher/therapist.  He’s trying to communicate to her that he’s more capable than he gets credit for.

Tobias in his shop is approached by Will.  Apparently serial killers wear a lot of vests.  Tobias tries to play dumb.  Will reads him.  Will begins hearing things.  He really needs to get checked out.  He runs out, panicked, and takes a pill.  When he re-enters, the police officers are gone.  He cautiously searches the building, weapon drawn.  He finds all the gut in process of becoming strings.  Tobias tries to strangle Will, who gets a shot off next to his own ear, but shooting off Tobias’s ear.  Tobias runs off, while will takes a couple of shots.

Back in Hannibal’s office, Hannibal is “terminating” with Franklin.  This is the term for ending therapy.  Tobias enters, confessing that he killed two men.  Franklin tries to talk him into turning himself in.  Hannibal tries to leave.  Franklin keeps gabbing, and Hannibal snaps his neck (stealing the kill from Tobias).  Tobias pulls out razor wire.  They fight (great fight), and ultimately Hannibal kills him.

The team investigates afterward.  Jack is a bit skeptical.  Hannibal’s logic makes sense, though.  Hannibal is gracious to Will, and we feel their bond growing.

The episode closes with Hannibal in a therapy session, reflecting on his own experience, and attempting to use it to get Du Maurier to disclose things about herself.  It appears at moments like Hannibal is legitimately contemplating himself.  We’re also left with a hint that Hannibal may be responsible for her previously being attacked by a patient.  


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Digesting Hannibal – Season 1, Ep8
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Paul Puri

Dr. Puri is a board certified psychiatrist, in private practice in Los Angeles. He practices multiple forms of psychotherapy, including hypnosis, in addition to managing medications. He attended medical school at University of Rochester, and specialty training at University of California, San Diego. He is currently on the Vol Clinical Faculty at UCLA. In his non-clinical time he writes TV pilots, and designs iPhone apps.