Season 1, Episode 9: “Trou Normand”
Directed by Guillermo Navarro (Cinematographer on Cronos, From Dusk Till Dawn)
Written by Steve Lightfoot
* For a review of the previous episode, “Fromage” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Buffet Froid” – click here
The beginning of “Trou Normand” sees Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne), along with Beverly (Hettienne Park), Jimmy (Scott Thompson), and Brian (Aaron Abrams), at a new crime scene out on a fairly desolate beach. In front of them, or in the middle rather, stands a totem pole – except it isn’t simply made from logs, there is nothing carved in wood, it is a totem made of body parts standing stall.
Only problem is that once Will goes into his mind to recreate the killer’s design, to empathetically put himself in the shoes of another serial killer, he starts to disassociate. Turns out seeing all those bodies, so much hatred and animosity put into one find, is too much for Will.When he opens his eyes again he’s in the waiting room at Dr. Hannibal Lecter’s (Mads Mikkelsen) office. Hannibal greets him but clearly Will is disturbed, unaware of what has happened. Confirmed by the quote above, Hannibal deduces Will’s disassociation, as he already has, and explains to will that the greatness of it all, the bodies, the thinking of the killer, everything collided and made it too overwhelming.
Will goes on to explain this to Jack a little later. Crawford tells him that if there’s a problem, it has to come out in the open between them. Will says nothing is wrong, it’s all fine, but as he leaves the FBI Headquarters there’s a look in Jack that lets us know he’s as wary about Will and his head than he lets on, and just as much as he should be despite pushing any further with Graham.
Later, another bit with Dr. Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas) happens, as she enters Will’s lecture hall. Graham appears to the audience to be lecturing, however, when Bloom speaks she gives light to the situation and remarks she didn’t want to interrupt him practicing his lecture. Then we see Will realize, simultaneously as we do, that he is speaking to himself, there are no students around him as it once appeared. This was a great look into the trauma his mind is going through; the work Hugh Dancy does, again as I’ve said before, is spectacular stuff. I don’t care about the awards hoopla, but if he doesn’t win stuff for this at some point then it’s a downright travesty. He and Mads as well are both putting in some of the greatest work, to me, in the history of television. Abigail Hobbs (Kacey Rohl) is also having a tough time, brain-wise.
She has a dream in which, instead of people at her support group sitting around listening to her vent it is the victims of her father, Garret Jacob Hobbs (Vladimir Jon Cubrt). Not only that, but Nicholas Boyle (Mark Rendall) shows up as well, dead as disco; her own victim, the one whose burial was facilitated by dear ole Dr. Lecter. So we can see how there’s a duality here between Abigail and Will, their nightmares and dreams; as Will tries to suppress the torment of his mind from trying to do good, to try and save lives, Abigail is fronting as someone good (in the way Hannibal seemingly fronts except he is a master of the craft) while she has killed – and not in self defence, or because someone else would be killed in the way Graham killed her father. Abigail took Nicholas Boyle’s life, and though she was scared, he was not there to hurt her, certainly not to kill her.
Those words really got me, as she drives at Will. There’s so much in that statement which resonates in Will, perhaps why he backs off a little at that moment. There’s a look in his eyes that goes deeper than just Abigail being pissed off; he’s worried of becoming, in some way, like Garret Jacob Hobbs.
A mysterious figure pickaxes the snowy ground and wipes away some dirt underneath, revealing the face of a dead Nicholas Boyle. No doubt this is Hannibal, though, mysteriously we don’t see his face. I like that. Another reason I’m such a fan of the Bryan Fuller & Co adaptation of Thomas Harris’ novels. The writers don’t spell every last little thing out with a bunch of obvious shots, expository dialogue. Some times, yes. Most of the time? No. Dig that a ton.
With the hooded figure, obviously Hannibal, he is enacting another one of those experiments. I don’t think Hannibal is exactly hedging his bets, trying to get Abigail going as a friend in case Will works out, I think that ultimately the aspect of family goes back into play: he wants a family, which Abigail and Will stand in for, and if they are to be his true family he must trust them completely. Furthermore, we see this trust slowly developing between Abigail and Hannibal. Though, on Will’s side there is a long way to go, a bloody, messy way, before Hannibal will be able to open himself up fully to Will Graham and divulge completely the monster within.Jack’s convinced, rightfully so as we know it, that Abigail Hobbs has had some sort of involvement in the death of Nicholas Boyle. Certainly, before this Jack was already wondering if she’d done anything to help her father in his crimes. So there’s a pretty rough scene when Jack demands Abigail ID the newly discovered body of Nicholas Boyle, which turned up in Minnesota; frozen, with no way of telling how long ago he died. Alana accompanies Abigail, as she believes Jack is being too obtuse and explicit with the girl, but Crawford puts his foot down and demands answers.
Good tense stuff. It shows that Jack is only determined to get to the bottom of things, as far as the law extends. Sort of separates him ultimately from Hannibal and Will distinctly, at least once the seasons draw on, especially as Season 3 goes further. Right now, we’re seeing the determination on his end to shake things loose, no matter what the cost.
“There is something beautiful about that ball of silence at a funeral, all those people around you, knowing that you made it happen.“
In this episode we’re treated with another fun guest star, the classic horror man Lance Henriksen plays a man named Lawrence Wells – he is the man who erected the totem pole of death and dismay. The part I love about this whole subplot is that Wells is a confused type of killer, one who has ultimately not made any good legacy for himself as he wanted to, but instead murdered his own son to throw into the totem; in the end, the artifact becomes one that cements him as a true monster. Not that it wouldn’t have anyways, but the fact he put his son in there, albeit unknowingly, is a special sort of deranged. This all goes to show that there was such a misguided method/design to Wells, that Will sort of worries he himself has become misguided, that his mind is starting to crumble.
The proof is in the pudding, as he has dreams of being murdered by Abigail Hobbs. The corpse of Nicholas Boyle rises up off a medical gurney, then all of a sudden it’s Abigail, stabbing Will in his guts as she did with Nicholas. Trippy visuals, quite creepy. Here, though, Will does figure out that Abigail killed Boyle.
He confronts Hannibal who says he knows what she did. Will asks how he knows this, to which Hannibal confesses he helped Abigail dispose of the body.
There are a tense few moments. What we see now, as Will accepts Hannibal’s version of events and how to proceed, is the way in which their tenuous, dangerous relationship truly begins to get scary. Because here, as a lawman, Will is throwing things out the window. This is the first time Will knowingly lets the law slide in regards to Hannibal.
“We are her fathers now. We have to serve her better than Garret Jacob Hobbs.“
The big moment comes as Hannibal touches Will, his hand on the shoulder. We know that Graham is not someone who likes contact with others, who likes to be touched – not at all. So this is a big moment. He does not shy away from Hannibal’s touch. Bit by bit, their bond becomes stronger, whether Will truly realises it or not.
Then there are a couple moments between Hannibal and Abigail, which blew me away. Not that I never expected it, but it was simply well executed. It shows how Hannibal yearns for the setup of a family, no matter how dysfunctional.
The final scene is perfect. After Abigail makes a tearful confession to Hannibal, admitting to him she was culpable in the crimes her father committed, we get another wonderful black-and-white flashback to when Garret Jacob Hobbs and his daughter are on a train, taking a trip. One of the murdered girls, one from the earlier dream Abigail had, sits in a seat not far from them; Garret motions without words to his daughter, clearly a system they’re both used to, that this is one he likes. Admiring the work about to happen, Hobbs leans his head back while Abigail does the work. The eery, small smile on his face says it all, as the episode finishes, and I thought it was a perfect note to end on.
I loved “Trou Normand.” While the Lance Henriksen cameo was good, it could’ve been a bit longer. Regardless, I was happy to see him there— a true staple of horror films, and television as well.
What an episode! The revelation, now for sure, that Abigail helped her father in the killing is a big one. Because now we’re seeing two people, not just Hannibal, who are sort of working behind the curtains to mess with Will’s head. Graham genuinely cares about Abigail; he doesn’t want to replace her father, he just wants to make sure she survives, that she is okay. However, Hannibal is taking the chance now to manipulate Abigail. We’ll see as time goes on how devastating the affects of these actions will be as the plots all play out and come together.Next episode is “Buffet Froid”, directed by John Dahl who did the excellent film Rounders, Joy Ride, and some episodes of good shows like Ray Donovan, Dexter, and Shameless. He also directed Season 3’s Episode 9, “…And the Woman Clothed With the Sun.”