Having spent the last few episodes playing around in Hannibal Lecter’s psyche, Hannibal gets back to Will Graham in “Trou Normand,” suggesting some worrying things both about him as a character and his future on the show. The episode also tries to bring back some of the psychological fascination that its killers of the week had at the beginning of the season, with less success.
Hugh Dancy gets a wonderful scene at the beginning of the episode, where post-crime scene, he loses three hours of time and finds himself in Hannibal’s office. Will quietly loses his mind, playing up the vulnerability he’s been displaying for most of the season in a very believable breakdown. The scene is also indicative of his developing relationship with Hannibal; he goes to his office, a safe space, when he mentally dissociates from the extreme stress placed on his psyche. Hannibal pushes it further in a frankly adorable line, where he says “I’m your friend. I don’t care about the lives you save. I care about you.” This development works because we know that their friendship can’t last given the serial killer thing, but possibly less sustainable is the drama revolving around Will’s psyche. Alana Bloom tells him he’s unstable, and he agrees, so I’m curious what happens next after he snaps in some way or other. I assume it’ll happen at the end of the season, but what next for his character in season two? Though I’m confident the writers have some sort of idea, I can’t think what it is.
“Trou Normand”s totem of corpses is one of the most viscerally disturbing murders Hannibal has shown so far, and the clinical detachment with which it’s portrayed is even more effective than usual. As usual, the crime scene FBI People banter was entertaining without overdoing levity, but the highlight of the case was Will explaining that, to the killer, it didn’t matter how the victims were killed. His aim was their death rather any sort of performance, until his final installation. Usually Hannibal villains have a motive other than straight murder, and, initially, it was both refreshing and starkly frightening.
However, when revealed, Lawrence Wells came as somewhat of a disappointment. True, his introduction, sitting in an armchair with all his possessions, ready and willing to go to jail is very evocative. That part of the plot, the fact that the villain’s plan worked, and he is essentially unpunished, went very well. He didn’t, though, have the delusional sort of insanity that made Garrett Jacob Hobbs, Mushroom Man, and Brain Tumour Jesus so interesting despite minimal screen time. Furthermore, Jack and Will’s discovery of him seemed far too easy, even if the man planned it himself. Hannibal goes out of its way a lot to show that the FBI are actually quite good at their jobs, but sometimes it’s unsatisfying how easily Jack and co. track down the crazies. Likewise, the plot involving Wells’ son seemed rather tacked on; even though he did need some depth, his relationship to his family wasn’t something I really cared about, and Hannibal wasn’t able to convince me that it was important.
Abigail Hobbs’ return left me somewhat conflicted. Dead Girl Support Group could have been a great scene, if played a little less melodramatic, but as it happened, the chorus of accusation ended up silly rather than disturbing. Similarly unexciting was Abigail’s new relationship with Freddie Lounds, because it’s very obvious what an awful human being Freddie is, and that this is going nowhere nice for Abigail. It did, however, facilitate Abigail calling out Will on his paternalist attitude towards her. Her interactions with him and Hannibal this week clearly indicate that she doesn’t want a father figure, and it is interesting to watch Freddie use that to get closer to her.
The best parts of Abigail’s story are the few choices she makes herself, and this week one of her only acts of agency comes back to haunt her when Nicholas Boyle’s body is discovered. Really, “Trou Normand” highlights how utterly hopeless Abigail’s situation is; the only decisions she’s made on her own – killing Nicholas Boyle, collaborating with Freddie Lounds – have made her life even worse than it already is. The episode’s final revelation that pretty much everything Jack Crawford said about her is true puts her in an interesting position. It’s easy to make the audience sympathise with a serial killer; obvious, given this show is about Hannibal Lecter. But Abigail’s revelation is hardly coloured by ambiguity at all. Hannibal tells her “You’re not a monster. You’re a victim.” Everything in her life is determined by others acting upon her and the result is a character who is deeply transgressive in her actions, but not her motivations or disposition. I severely doubt she’s going to live through the season, but Abigail’s story definitely has enough steam to carry another few episodes.
On a more continuity-related note, I very much enjoyed Hannibal’s manipulation of Will when he discovers that he helped dispose of Nicholas Boyle. The “both her fathers” line is an excellent example of Hannibal using what he knows about Will’s mind to manipulate him. The sort of manipulation that Hannibal is known for in most of his incarnations has been absent thus far, and it’s subtly introduced in that scene. I hope we get more of that, because Mads Mikkelsen is absolutely killing the subtle suggestion embedded within a larger point that works so well on Will. You don’t want your new daughter to go to prison, do you, Will? Here, I’ll pat you on the shoulder to re-assure you that covering it up is the proper, paternal response to Abigail gutting a guy with a hunting knife.
Hannibal is moving its plot along, which is necessary given how close it is to the end of the season, but it’s usually better when it’s not doing that. The show excels at its characters, not its narrative, and too much of the latter is, oddly, less interesting than Hannibal or Will just talking to someone. Luckily, “Trou Normand” had some lovely images, some very good depictions of Will’s mental collapse, and a promise that Abigail Hobbs is going some very interesting places. It’s enough to make up for the less interesting places she’s going, and the half-hearted family plot with Lawrence Wells. Even given Hannibal’s foregone conclusion, I’m very excited as to where the end of the season is headed, which almost certainly nowhere cheerful.
In Memoriam: Abigail Hobbs’ innocence, although ambiguously. It’s difficult to tell whether it’s alive or dead at this point.