Almost as if the writers have remembered the opening narrative of the series, episode nine of Hannibal returns to the traumatised Abigail Hobbs (Kacey Rohl). In an episode riddled with interest, but perhaps lacking in the momentum built up over the last few weeks thanks to the focus on Dr. Lecter (Mads Mikkelson), Trou Normand is an altogether slower but weightier episode.
Whilst the more brazen and flashy episodes of late have allowed Hannibal the chance to flex his psychotic muscles, Trou Normand picks up the mantle of the season’s first half, an exercise in subtlety and manipulation that made the show as engaging as it is. This is thanks to the eventual reappearance of Abigail Hobbs, who is still in therapy due to her experiences having a serial killer for a father. Whilst her fragile mindset is once again brought into question, so is that of Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), who appears to be unraveling due to the nature of his work. This is no surprise, with a truly gruesome spectacle opening the episode. The image of Jack (Laurence Fishburne) and Will walking along a bleak yet beautiful beach is a nice metaphor for the show’s tone, particularly when the shock of seeing a totem pole of bodies erected on the beach hits. Truly, no other show can cause as strong a reaction when it comes to the discovery of a murder (or in this case, seventeen).
The similar trauma shared by Will and Abigail has always been a strong link between the two, and when she begins hallucinating the victims of her father in group therapy, this bond is clear. However, whilst this development is serious, it cannot compare with Will’s, who is now blacking out and waking up later in a completely different location, such as going from the crime scene on the beach to Hannibal’s office, which are several hours apart. His situation is made worse when Abigail agrees to allow Freddie Lounds (Lara Jean Chorostecki) to write a book about her experiences.
There has been a constant question mark hanging over the involvement of Abigail in her father’s actions, appearing as both the sweet and traumatised victim whilst also manipulating those investigating her, but when she killed Nicholas Boyle (Mark Rendall), it seemed as though self-defense was more on her mind than murder. However, this enigma is put to the test when Will discovers her involvement in Boyle’s death. Unsure of what to do, he consults with Hannibal, and the resulting discovery is one that the series has been waiting for. When Will learns that not only did Hannibal know about Boyle, but that he also hid the body, their new friendship is put to the test. Hannibal immediately sets about convincing him against going to Jack, who in a particularly intense scene, questioned Abigail with extreme pressure over the death of Boyle.
To see a simple scene between Will and Hannibal play out so wonderfully is a testament to the show. The dim glow of Hannibal’s office gives both a setting of warmth and intimidation, as does Hannibal’s subtle gesture towards the scalpel on his desk when Will learns the truth. The writing is calm yet superbly manipulative, as Hannibal convinces Will that they are like fathers to Abigail, and must do better than Garrett Jacob Hobbs. Whilst the revelation may lack some of the dramatic emphasis that it seemed to be building towards, it is perfectly toned for the series, which at moments like this does not overplay its narrative. However, the volumes spoken by Hannibal placing a reassuring hand on Will’s shoulder is not only a sign of their friendship, but also one of success, as Hannibal truly has Will under his influence.
Whilst the subtleties of these scenes are wonderfully engaging, as usual this skill does not extend to the show as a whole. The ‘killer of the week’ as it would seem, is given even less notice than usual, with a shaky theory leading to his home. Guest star Lance Henriksen is given less to do than an actor of his quality deserves, confessing immediately and leaving the episode as quickly as he entered. Whether or not the writers believe that to put more onus on this side of the narrative would weaken the other is unclear, but the ease at which such initially shocking, and intriguing, crimes are solved is approaching the point of not even needing to bother with them. Instead, and with only four episodes remaining, it may be best to bring together the character’s narratives, instead of wasting time with stories that are given less time than they deserve.
Best Kill: The grim discovery of a totem pole of human remains provides one of the biggest shocks of the series
Best Scene: In an episode filled with memorable scenes, that between Will and Hannibal as they cement their friendship is the most important and well directed.