Does the return of teen killer Abigail Hobbs (Kacey Rohl) carry enough substance to offset one of the worst cases of the week yet?
Let’s bitch it out…Since ‘Oeuf’, Hannibal‘s fourth episode, was pulled by creator Bryan Fuller, I’ve been paying closer attention to the case of the week. You may or may not remember ‘Oeuf’, the episode featuring Molly Shannon as a woman prompting stolen children to kill their own families (my take on the episode can be found here and here). I bring up this particular episode because when Fuller “cannibalized” the episode to create the webisodes so that viewers weren’t left in the dark, he was able to nearly completely excise the case of the week involving Shannon from the scenes featuring the core cast. This in turn highlighted just how immaterial the cases are to the show.
Unfortunately the amazing visual of a totem pole bejewelled with the limbs of 17 corpses that opens ‘Trou Normand’ suffers from this same issue. In fact, I would argue that it’s on par with the Shannon case, which had been the series’ worst case yet.
Part of this may be the result of a personal disappointment. When I heard that genre vet Lance Henriksen was guest starring in this episode, I expected a meaty role in the same vein as Gillian Anderson had for the last two weeks. It’s a huge letdown, then, that the case involving the totem and one man’s 40 year crime spree prove to be so unmemorable. Lance, as killer Lawrence Wells, pops up for a single scene, cracks wise about jail being a better fate than a shitty retirement home and gets an emotional punch in the face that he accidentally murdered his own son instead of his rival’s. Annnnd scene. There’s nothing else to it.
As always, the show is (not so) secretly interested in exploring what the case does to Will (Hugh Dancy) rather than delve into the details of the crime. In the case of ‘Oeuf’ and this episode, it nearly feels as though the cases are included simply to appease NBC honchos. Throughout the series, many of the grisly tableaus that have presumably earned the series its viewer advisory warning seem more interesting to Fuller and co. than the crime that produced them. In fact ‘Trou Normand’s case could have been substituted for any other. The simple truth is that the details are immaterial, it’s what they’re cumulatively doing to Will: causing him to unravel.
The most recent – and most alarming – is a three and a half hour blackout that sees him transported from the beach crime scene to Lecter’s (Mads Mikkelsen) office without any sense of time or travel. It’s a logical progression of his symptoms, which began with his sleeping nightmares and have since escalated to waking nightmares last week and now blackouts and hallucinations (the lecturing to an empty theatre scene is particularly effective at demonstrating this).
Sharing his symptoms is Abigail Hobbs, back for the first time since ‘Sorbet’ when Hannibal fed her mushrooms and she imagined him and Alana (Caroline Dhavernas) as her surrogate parents. As Abigail has developed over the course of nine episodes, it’s clear that since the events of 1×01 ‘Apéritif’ the teenager has actually inherited two surrogate fathers: Lecter and Will. They are both protective of her, even when the truth of her involvement in Nicholas Boyle’s (Mark Rendall) murder comes out. Their decision to keep quiet – or rather Lecter’s manipulation of Will’s emotional attachment to the girl – will likely be a key plot point in the future as they both agree that Jack (Laurence Fishburne) would hang the girl for her father’s crimes if he could. Although I would never use the word predictable to describe Hannibal, it’s simply too good a plot point not to have Jack discover their duplicity.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s return to Abigail. After being absent for a few episodes, it’s a surprisingly pleasure to see Abigail back as Kacey Rohl proves to be electrifying in her portrayal of the conflicted girl. While her post-credit therapy nightmare is a little too “pop Psychology 101” for my tastes, the gorgeous black and white flashback that ends the episode is stunning in its simplicity. As Hannibal chips away at the secret Abigail won’t even reveal to herself, we see how she helped her father, Garret Jacob Hobbs (Vladimir Cubrt) with his murders. I will freely admit that I never once believed she was actually involved, but the simplistic final scene demonstrates how Abigail was responsible for talking up the girls to gain valuable information that would later condemn them to death. The fact that it’s done as a simple snapshot with father and daughter on the train and very little dialogue makes for a very powerful scene, one that helps to overcome a sense of disappointment in ‘Trou Normand’s pedestrian case of the week.
As we await the fate of Hannibal, I can only hope that there are fewer off-balanced episodes like this and ‘Oeuf’ and more juicy stuff between the core cast, including Abigail Hobbs.
- The return of Freddie Lounds (Lara Jean Chorostecki) may have elicited an unintentional groan, but at least it’s framed around the guise of “telling stories.” This is the through-point between the case and Will and Abigail as each seeks to voice their “legacy” or story. Wells wanted his 17 body pile-up to be his life statement, while Abigail falls prey to Freddie’s desire to tell her “version of the truth” about the Hobbs murders. Will is the wildcard: his unstable nature prevents him from properly sharing what’s happening to him to both Alana and Jack, leaving him to confide solely in Lecter about his blackout. Unfortunately we all know that this is a tightening noose and Lecter is the last one Will should entrust his mental health with
- There is a surprisingly tender moment between the two men as Hannibal convinces Will not to turn Abigail in. The close-up of Hannibal’s hand on Will’s shoulder is very important – it denotes Lecter’s attempt to physically “connect” with Will following last week’s declaration that he considers Will worthy of his friendship. Unless I’m mistake this is the first time that the two have physically touched
- Last week after Will kissed Alana, she told him that her professional curiosity was the mitigating factor preventing a possible romance between them. This week, the truth comes out: she thinks he’s unstable (which, in fairness to her, is clearly spot on). It’s telling that when Alana asks if he considers himself stable, Will can only nod. He is unable to tell her his story
- The most powerful scene, for me, is Jack’s mental torture of Abigail. He was obviously hoping she would break when she saw Nicholas Boyd’s body, but the power play with Alana is what really interests me. After the drama with his wife and his own concerns about Will’s safety, it’s exciting (and scary) to see Jack firmly back in control. Also scary: Alana’s belief that Abigail is innocent out of respect for Hannibal’s diagnosis. I guess Alana doesn’t know about Lecter’s true nature after all. All of the sudden she’s moved from an accomplice to the top of my list to be eaten before season’s end. Hide the knives and forks, Alana!
- Abigail (when Will tries to talk her out of working with Freddie): “Just because you killed my dad doesn’t mean you get to be him.” Ouch!
What are your thoughts: are the cases disposable to you? Were you happy to see Abigail and/or Freddie again? Do you think Will and Lecter will regret keeping Abigail’s secret? And what are the odds that Alana ends up on Lecter’s plate by episode 13? Hit the comments below
Hannibal airs Thursdays at 10pm EST on NBC