Hannibal, Season 3, Episode 2, “Primavera”
Written by Jeff Vlaming and Bryan Fuller
Directed by Vincenzo Natali
Airs Thursdays at 10pm (ET) on NBC
A far cry from the sweeping romance of “Antipasto”, “Primavera” returns viewers to Will Graham and the horror of the Red Dinner, which he relives as he lies in his hospital bed. Beginning the episode with a full five to six minutes of footage directly from “Mizumono” is an odd choice by writers Jeff Vlaming and Bryan Fuller. Though the score is dramatically different—more on this in Kate’s Classical Corner—the scene that opens “Primavera” matches the season two finale almost exactly, with only a handful of shots edited differently to emphasize Will and Abigail’s experiences over Hannibal’s. On first watch, this is frustrating; we want to see what comes next, not spend an eighth of the episode on a scene that’s already emblazoned in our memory. But that’s the point: Will’s trapped in this headspace, so the audience is too. For new viewers this repetition fills in some gaps. For fans of the series it begins Will’s journey for this episode, guiding him from the despair of “Mizumono” to a place where he can tell Hannibal, “I forgive you.”
Much of the dialogue in the episode is difficult to wrap one’s mind around. How could Will forgive Hannibal, and about whom is Abigail speaking when she says, “me”—herself or, as she’s a projection of his, Will? Hannibal is rife with dream logic and imagery and there are frequently many ways to interpret particularly dense scenes, but I see Abigail in this episode as a manifestation of Will’s guilt over her death and guilt that even now, part of him still wants to go to Hannibal. He’s speaking with himself, trying to come to terms with his complicated emotions towards Hannibal and while he still has a long way to go, by the end of the episode he’s at least a little clearer.
Will’s understanding of Hannibal and embrace of certain of his philosophies—his explanation for God’s indifference to suffering feels much more like Hannibal than the Will of the pilot—is dark, and Will’s dogs are nowhere to be seen, so thankfully Chief Inspector Rinaldo Pazzi is introduced to counter Hannibal’s influence on Will. Pazzi is reminiscent of Jack, a steadying force with an encouraging confidence in Will’s innate goodness. Fans of the books will be familiar with the character, but for those new to the world of Thomas Harris, writers Jeff Vlaming and Bryan Fuller do a good job incorporating exposition with flashbacks and projection to give a clear sense of the character without bogging down the narrative. As Pazzi, Fortunato Cerlino immediately has a strong rapport with Hugh Dancy and their scenes together are energetic and full of promise. Will may predict Pazzi’s death, but after only one episode, the Inspector feels like a much wilier and more formidable foe than Hannibal has faced before (at least, besides Will and Jack), so perhaps this is one of the rare occasions where Will will be wrong.
Whereas the premiere skirted the series’ usual violence and held off on disturbing imagery until the final shot, this episode is filled with tension and perhaps Hannibal’s most horrifying visual yet, the broken stag struggling to emerge from Anthony’s twisted body. Once Will touches it, the heart starts beating and the body unfurls, a gift unwrapping itself. The stag, intended as a representation of Will and Hannibal’s relationship, bursts its antlers through the body and struggles to be reborn and to reach out to Will, a mangled beast broken and bent and utterly terrifying. Only Abigail can save Will from this vision, her calming presence a far cry from the stag (she’s even wearing angelic white), yet Abigail remains a symbol of Will’s connection to Hannibal. Even when saved from his nightmares, Will cannot escape him and perhaps that’s why towards the end of the episode, Will lets Abigail go, accepting her death in a more meaningful way that allows him follow Hannibal into the catacombs and offer his forgiveness, surrounded by the dead.
While Will is no longer moored in the past, reliving the Red Dinner, he remains powerfully under the sway of Hannibal. In a scene directly paralleling Bedelia’s bath in “Antipasto”, the inky water of Hannibal’s influence pours from the dying stag as Will remembers the Red Dinner, filling the room and mixing with Will and Abigail’s blood, submersing them. Whereas Bedelia floated down through the water, her body positioned up and arms reaching towards the surface, here Will sinks face first to the bottom, bathed in blood and blackness. Bedelia struggled and burst to life, sputtering as she broke free from the water. Not so with Will, who one could argue is still submerged. In another beautiful reference to Hannibal’s teacup analogy, Will hits the ground and shatters, reforming as a hard, shiny, and cold version of himself. He’s in a dark place, physically whole but far from healed psychologically, and without Jack or his other allies to ground him, it’s hard to know what he’ll do or into what new form he will grow. This is familiar, but exciting territory for Hannibal, and while “Primavera” lacks the romance of “Antipasto”, it remains fantastic, visually arresting storytelling.
-It’s interesting that despite the opening matching “Mizumono” almost exactly, the footage of Will watching himself and Hannibal in Hannibal’s office (also from “Mizumono”) is reedited, using a few different camera angles and trimmed for time. I was very glad to see Hannibal’s office back—it’s hard to say goodbye to a set that gorgeous.
-Speaking of gorgeous, hello Norman Chapel! Between the Chapel and the catacombs, “Primavera” is not lacking for evocative, memorable sets. I assume they filmed on location for at least the Chapel, but regardless, it’s beautiful to look at.
-Director Vincenzo Natali reversing the footage of Hannibal slitting Abigail’s throat is a surprisingly disturbing and very effective transition between the credits and Head Abigail. There are some other nice touches from Natali as well: the use of black and white for the flashback, but with Boticelli’s “Primavera” in color, is striking and turning the camera sideways to maintain Will’s point of view as Pazzi approaches him while he’s lying down at the crime scene is a stylish flourish.
-The painting of the saint (priest?) behind Hannibal, as he watches Will lying down at the crime scene, totally looks like it’s following Hannibal with its eyes as he heads to the catacombs. Also, I enjoy that, upon hearing Will’s offer of forgiveness, Hannibal practically runs out of there—an emotional moment, perhaps?
-Eight months is a good span of time for Will to recover in—it’s great that the episode is specific on this point.
-I mentioned it above, but oh God is the heart stag creepy. My highly articulate notes for that moment: “GROSS GROSS GROSS”
Kate’s Classical Corner: Once again, I had too many thoughts on the scoring for this episode to include them here. Click on for my reaction to the score and soundtrack in “Primavera”, which brought back familiar themes while incorporating touches of composer and music supervisor Brian Reitzell’s new sound for season three.
For more Hannibal talk, check out the podcast I cohost with Sean Colletti, This Is Our Design!