Most killers in Hannibal tend to stick to the shadows, leaving behind gruesome trophies as a calling card or evidence of their mastery over other humans. And although most seem intent on eluding capture for as long as possible, a common theme begins to emerge that’s not at all uncommon, even amongst non-psychopathic folk: the concept of legacy and the meaning of being recognized for an accomplishment.
In ‘Trou Normand,’ the series takes a look at the meaning of not merely creating a legacy and ensuring ones prominence in the thoughts of others, but controlling the conversation, swaying it in a particular manner and, ultimately, changing what people think. These are common and intriguing concepts in fiction because they are so prevalent in our reality. They are the things most people apply to themselves in an effort to give their life purpose or meaning. But in the case of the characters that inhabit a series like Hannibal, such purpose and meaning is often at the expense of another’s life.
Of course, in the case of someone like Will Graham, whose gift/curse is to place himself in the role of these deranged killers to better understand their “design,” his purpose and meaning is tragically entwined with people who have shunned society’s conventions and are therefore outsiders perpetually looking in. They are outcasts and although he helps to stop them and to save lives from being lost, Will Graham, too, is an outcast. And since much of the episode is about the manner in which those around them perceive someone, Will’s place at the moment is an unpleasant middle-ground between his deteriorating mental stability and his desire to have some sort of actual, meaningful connection with Dr. Alana Bloom.
Unfortunately for Will, Alana’s desire to have the same with him is doomed to remain just that unless he can get the instability she (correctly) perceives him as having under check. Thus far in the series, Dr. Bloom has managed to stand out as the voice of reason on several occasions – not the least of which was the rather sudden advancement of her feelings for Will during last week’s delightfully uneven ‘Fromage‘ – but that willingness to express thoughts and feelings contrary to popular opinion (more kissing would likely be very popular with Will right now) doesn’t necessarily preclude her from being wrong.
On one hand, perhaps having an anchor like Alana in his life – instead of an abstraction to chase, like being “well” or the thought of a meaningful relationship with someone who understands him – is precisely what Will needs and later finds in Hannibal, after he’s practically guided by Alana’s fear of damaging him further. On the other, Alana’s steadfast belief that Abigail Hobbs is the victim in regard to the Minnesota Shrike case winds up guiding a young woman, who is revealed to have been an accomplice in the grisly murders committed by her father, further away from being held accountable for those crimes. In both cases, Alana’s perception of another person differs slightly from the reality – altering her sense of what that individual needs at the moment – and consequently pushes them closer to the dangerous and vexing Dr. Hannibal Lecter.
Later, after confessing to Will that he helped Abigail Hobbs dispose of Nicholas Boyle’s gutted corpse, Hannibal appeals to Will by portraying Abigail as the person she hopes Freddie Lounds’ book on her and her father will convince the public at large she is – i.e., the victim. But Hannibal goes one step further and calls upon the notion of the two men jointly operating as Abigail’s father, simultaneously invoking a sense of duty and responsibility for the young woman’s wellbeing and (whether he knows it or not) the ghost-like killer played by Lance Henriksen who inadvertently topped off his ghastly resume with his own son.
One of the things Hannibal has been able to do so well throughout this season is illustrate the occasional guilt and shame of the killers even as it is balanced with a certain boastfulness regarding their grim, horrific accomplishments. Because of Will’s ability to empathize with and, however temporarily, embody them in their darkest moments, they have to be something more than mere ciphers to carry out the episode’s plot, or Will’s ability becomes a window into nothing that makes his plight something stale and otherwise meaningless. And while the killers don’t necessarily achieve the same level of characterization that Hannibal is granted, they are made frighteningly more human and complex. And as Hannibal continues to display a convincing range of emotions and ability to not only empathize with, but also comfort someone in emotional distress, the range of the series itself seems to become staggeringly more complex.
Hannibal continues next Thursday with ‘Buffet Froid’ @10pm on NBC. Check out a preview of the episode below: