‘Hannibal’ 1.09 Recap: “I Know What Monsters Are”

Do you remember how I’ve suggested in previous recaps that ‘Hannibal’ might benefit from toning down the outrageousness of some of its murders? Yeah, that’s apparently not happening anytime soon.

Episode ‘Trou Normand’ opens with the FBI discovering a massive totem pole on the beach that’s been ornamentally constructed of human body parts. It contains at least 17 corpses, some fresh and some dating back years. As outlandish as this concept may be, the case-of-the-week is actually just the B-plot in the episode, and its resolution feels almost incidental. The killer turns out to be an elderly man named Wells (Lance Henriksen, looking about a thousand years-old) who’d been murdering people for decades, but cleverly disguised their deaths as accidents or natural causes to avert any suspicion that they’d been the work of a serial killer. Now in his twilight years, he dug up the bodies and put his work on display intentionally expecting to get caught. His final and most important victim was the son of the woman who’d been the love of his life, but who had left him for another man. In a sad irony, what Wells didn’t realize was that the victim was in fact his own son. In securing his legacy as a killer, he’d murdered the child he didn’t know he had.

The main meat of the episode, however, concerns the return of Abigail Hobbs. Consumed by guilt, she seems to be cracking up. Freddie Lounds wants her to write a tell-all book with her side of the story. Will Graham and Lecter try to convince her that this would be a bad idea, but she wants to do it anyway.

When the body of Nick Boyle, the man Abigail killed because she thought he was attacking her, turns up, Jack Crawford immediately suspects her as the killer. Will and Dr. Bloom don’t believe it, and think that Crawford’s harassment will cause the girl irreparable psychological harm. Bloom insists that Abigail couldn’t have killed Boyle, because that wouldn’t fit the description of events that Dr. Lecter provided, and Lecter has no reason to lie. (Ha!)

Much as happened in the Wells case, we learn that Abigail dug up the body herself and allowed it to be found, in order to control the discovery on her own terms. Lecter is initially upset, but understands her reasoning.

Eventually, Graham realizes that Abigail is guilty and that Lecter lied. He confronts Lecter in his office. Caught in the lie, Lecter doesn’t try to hide it. Fans of the book ‘Red Dragon’ already know that, when he’s discovered for the monster that he is, Lecter will attack and seriously injure Will in his office. This scene very cleverly plays off that expectation, as Lecter fiddles with a letter opener and seems almost ready to pounce. However, Lecter deflates the tension by laying a guilt trip on Will about trying to protect Abigail. Still deeply protective of the girl, Will agrees to keep their secret.

Later, Lecter has Abigail and Freddie Lounds over for dinner. He’s very disappointed to learn that Lounds is a vegetarian. In a moment of exquisite subtlety, a flash of recognition crosses Abigail’s face when she takes a bite of the entrée. Although she doesn’t say anything, Abigail knows what human meat tastes like.

After Lounds has left, Abigail breaks down and admits to Lecter that Crawford has been right all along. She did help her father in his murders. She befriended the victims and lured them to her father. In his own paternal way, Lecter comforts and reassures Abigail that everything will be OK. It would seem that he’s found an apprentice.

Despite finding the totem pole plot a little underwhelming, the Abigail storyline more than makes up for that with its rich and complex psychological depth. My love for this show grows with every episode.


  1. This is a great show but not having read the books i’m still pretty sure Hannibal and Will Graham were never supposed to meet prior to Will catching him. In Manhunter, Richard Cox (My favorite Hannibal, though Mads is growing on me) asks William Peterson “How did you catch me Will?” obviously not knowing how he empathizes with the killers he is chasing.

    But I am really digging this show and seriously hope they pick it up for another season. But what did I expect from Bryan Fuller?

    • Josh Zyber

      The show reworks the backstory of the novels in a number of ways. For example, Lecter never met Freddy Lounds prior to kidnapping and killing him (now her). However, it’s explained in the first novel Red Dragon that Graham met with Lecter several times to consult him on the Garrett Jacob Hobbs case. The show has extended that relationship to other cases, and added the twist that Jack Crawford hired Lecter to evaluate Graham.

      NBC has renewed the series to come back mid-season next year!


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