We’re always the main character in our own stories. But “Trou Normand” is about how it’s not the star, but how others view the star that really matters. True power comes from being able to control that narrative. Freddie Lounds wants to give Abigail that power, if only for financial gain. Serial killer Lawrence Wells thought he was controlling his own story until he made a major third act misstep. Freddie tells other people’s stories, but only in the service of herself. Hannibal has such tight control over his own narrative that he’s gotten bored and begins to play with others, often in what he sees as good, like helping Abigail Hobbs with Nicholas Boyle. The story is not always what is true; it’s simply what we believe to be true. Everyone believes Hannibal is a well-meaning, brilliant psychiatrist and not a sadistic cannibal, but he tells the story of the former, rather than the latter. In the grand scheme of things, that’s what matters.
The episode telegraphs that it’s about story as soon as we see Lawrence Wells’ totem. As Will explains (to no one), it’s not how Wells’ victims died, but that he eventually got to tell the story of their death. As Wells puts it, this is his legacy. The scene where Wells, played by a fantastically creepy Lance Henriksen, explains that part of his pleasure came from “chewing the fat” (eh, eh?) with the widows of his victims, demonstrating how he controlled his own story through anonymity. But Wells did not have the grasp on events he believed he had. Justice didn’t come in the form of imprisonment for Lawrence Wells; it came from losing narrative control. He literally destroys his own legacy. The case of the week has become less of a factor in recent Hannibal-centric episodes, and that’s totally fine, except I thought this was a compelling subplot and would have liked to see more of it, although there’s was little fat to cut in the episode to expand upon it. It got its point across, but Wells is certainly a psycho I could have delved more deeply into.
“Trou Normand” returns to the territory of Abigail Hobbs, a plotline left behind in the last couple of episodes to focus on Hannibal’s true story. Freddie Lounds wants to help her write a book, ostensibly so Abigail can tell the world her version of events—even though the narrative she posits is completely false, as we learn by the end of the episode—but realistically to make some cash. Abigail’s example is the most apparent use of control of narrative as means of survival, namely because she literally says as much, truly making her her father’s daughter. But Abigail takes it a step farther, when she attempts to take control of her story to save her own sanity. “You’re right. I opened the door,” she tells Hannibal when he accuses her of uncovering Nicholas Boyle’s body. “I can’t control what comes through it, but this time I can control when.” When she finally admits to Hannibal that she aided her father in capturing his victims, she says it was so her father could stave off his urges to kill her. Her view of her own story is that she was just trying to live, while Jack views it as aiding and abetting.
(Okay, so I got it wrong. I thought it was ridiculous that Jack kept accusing Abigail of helping her father when, in fact, he was right all along, even though I still think the audience wasn’t given enough reasonable doubt to support Jack’s insistence. That was probably the point so this revelation would come as a shock, but I stand by my claim that there needed to be more evidence to the contrary of Abigail’s total innocence. Still, a minor quibble at best.)
Kacey Rohl was excellent throughout, doing the most heavy lifting she’s had to do in the series. Rather than look wide-eyed and terrified, as she has done quite adeptly in previous episodes, Rohl let the survivalist out that lay dormant in the teenage girl. But here’s what bothered me: If Abigail does dig up Nicholas Boyle’s body (I say ‘if’ because we never get a true denial, and this show has a way of screwing with me), how is girly getting from a psychiatric facility in Baltimore to Boyle’s unmarked Minnesota grave without anyone figuring out what’s up. Jack mentions she’s climbing the walls of her institution, but Minnesota and Baltimore are not close. Coupled with the fact that Freddie is allowed to hang out, I’m beginning to question the security of Abigail’s facility.
Will, on the other hand, has so little control over his own story that he’s beginning to lose pieces of it. After he inspects the Lawrence Wells totem, he loses at least three-and-a-half hours, apparently acting as he normally does and driving all the way to Hannibal’s office. Not only is he imagining things now but he’s losing time. It’s reflected in the lighting, as Will is bathed in darkness, while Alana and Abigail are fully lit, and Hannibal a bit in between. The scene where Will explains to Hannibal how he’s losing it is one of Hugh Dancy’s finest moments on the show. As many commenters have pointed out, his breakdown is becoming hard to watch, and I say that in the best possible way. In the last few episodes, Hannibal has started to reflect its title, becoming much more about the show’s namesake than it was in the beginning when it focused on Will, and then shifted to focus on Jack and his issues. But “Trou Normand” was a nice ensemble piece, with everyone getting their turn. I especially enjoyed the Hannibal-Will scenes, featuring two fine actors working particularly well off of each other.
- Recipe of the week: No food mentioned specifically in this episode, but we learned that Freddie is a vegetarian, so here’s an excellent salad recipe in her honor.
- Props where props are due: Caroline Dhavernas had a great episode as well, but her character is still not fitting into the ensemble as well as the other characters.
- Oddly enough, I kept getting flashes of The West Wing throughout this episode because of how often the subject revolves around getting ahead of the story, then I got to thinking about how much I would totally watch a Toby Ziegler-Hannibal hangout session, if only because I believe they would have similar philosophical views on certain issues.
- I like the continuation of Hannibal’s weirdo family building, telling Will that they need to be better fathers than Garrett was when it comes to Abigail. That allows Hannibal to play off Will’s affections for Abigail and himself to keep them both out of trouble (although Hannibal is clearly ready to rid the earth of Will if his tactics didn’t work out).