When Will Graham (William Petersen) visits Hannibal Lecktor (Brian Cox) in prison, the doctor doesn’t miss out on commenting on his perfume. Thanks to his exceptional sense of smell, he knows Will is wearing the “atrocious aftershave” he wore in court three years before, something which “has a ship on the bottle”, that is Old Spice.
Soon after commenting on the aftershave, Hannibal moves the conversation on a more personal level. Will is the one who caught Lecktor: despite appearances, they’re “just alike”, which excites Hannibal and scares Will. The doctor goes on: “You came here to look at me, to get the old scent back again”, referring to the thrill of being able to enter someone’s mind and think like him/her, something that Will does, being an empath.
When Will leaves the cell in a hurry, Hannibal is disappointed: his remark (“Smell yourself”) is spiteful but also refers to Will’s power. To get “the old scent back again”, he just has to smell himself, to look inside of himself.
The same conversation appears in Hannibal S03E09.
Will Graham’s (induced) hallucinations and seizures are caused by encephalitis: this results from a brain scan he’s undergoing, but Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) already knows it. He explains Dr. Sutcliffe (John Benjamin Hickey) he “could smell it”.
Dr. Sutcliffe is a former colleague of Hannibal’s and remembers he was able to call out a nurse’s perfume, but he couldn’t imagine now he can diagnose an autoimmune disease by the smell only.
He’s curious and asks Hannibal what the “specific scent” of encephalitis is like. Hannibal’s description is terrifying, yet intriguing: this disease “has heat” and a “fevered sweetness”. I personally connect such a description with fruity fragrances, especially those with peach as a dominant note. What perfumes do you think could match this description?
This conversation between Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) and Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) focuses on the sense of smell. They actually had similar conversations in the first and in the second seasons: the topic is always Will’s “atrocious after-shave”, “something with a ship on the bottle”, that is Old Spice.
This time there’s something different, though: Hannibal doesn’t know what has happened in Will’s life after their adventure at Muskrat Farm, but his exceptional sense of smell gives him an idea. “Beneath that shaving lotion” he can smell “dogs” (obviously), “pine” (Will lives in a house in the woods) and “oil”. Furthermore, he comments on the person who has possibly given him the after-shave as a gift: a child. Hannibal is right again: Will now lives with Molly and Willy, her son from a previous marriage.
The last part of the conversation is heart-breaking: he tries to uncover Will’s desire to see him again, to “get that old scent again”, but the apparent lack of reaction from Will brings out the spiteful “Why don’t you just smell yourself?”, with which Hannibal emphasizes their similarities, even if Will is not ready to admit it yet.
Dr. Hannibal Lecter has a talent for identifying what perfumes people wear. The jailed version of the character in Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs detects Evyan White Shoulders body lotion and Nina Ricci L’air du temps on Clarice Starling, while his bon vivant version (Mads Mikkelsen) in the tv show by Bryan Fuller smells “something with a ship on the bottle” on Will Graham (Hugh Dancy). Smelling someone and commenting on his/her perfume is a very intimate action; when it comes from a jailed serial killer or from your psychiatrist, it becomes an intrusion into your privacy.
The after-shave Will wears is obviously the classic Old Spice, which Hannibal loathes (this opinion is reinforced in an episode from the second season). Hannibal says he should introduce Will to a “finer after-shave”, which makes me wonder what after-shave he wears and what he would suggest Will to wear. Any thoughts?
Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) recognizes Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) from his aftershave.
Even if Hannibal doesn’t mention it, we know from S01 he’s referring to Old Spice, the after-shave lotion with “a ship on the bottle” that Will always receives as a gift at Christmas.