Hannibal and Will’s first scene together begins in Hannibal’s memory palace but notably, the organ-based scoring for the Norman Chapel and the Italy arc is not used. Instead, we get clustered clarinets and winds.
The string bass is featured prominently throughout this episode as the voice of the Dragon, groaning and growling in the shadows. Whereas Reitzell introduced the character in “The Great Red Dragon” with layers of percussion, the Dragon we hear here is very different: that was an instinctual, physical being, a wordless monster pulled to the surface by the phase of the moon.
“The Girl with the Flaxen Hair” is a lovely and simple short piece for solo piano composed by Debussy. It’s a fantastic selection for several reasons, not the least of which is that it’s a beautiful piece. The simplicity of the piece also reflects Reba’s straightforward trust in Dolarhyde and the beauty of their relationship. However, for classical music fans, this selection acts as a warning. “The Girl with the Flaxen Hair”: only two women in this season fit that description, and Dolarhyde likely isn’t thinking about Bedelia.
The scene of Dolarhyde eating the painting has plenty of percussion, but not the same layered elements as the Dragon scoring earlier, when Dolarhyde woke up and Reba was gone. There’s a high wind chime-like sound, some rattling, and drums and cymbals, but not the different, distinct rhythms syncing up with each other, and the strings only come in towards the end, when Will and Dolarhyde see each other. The percussion builds in intensity and speed until it cuts off with Will’s discovery of Dolarhyde, leaving behind soft vocals and the aforementioned strings, and this is when we hear the more characteristic Dragon percussion.
The use of strings in the Dolarhyde arc has been notable. Here we get dissonant violins and rising clusters of pitches as Abigail is faced with her father’s corpse as well as a warm, inviting string sound as Will begins to watch home videos of the Leeds family. Reitzell has previously used solo instruments, only expanding into larger sections with this arc.
Between its careful handling of the Tooth Fairy’s crimes, its memorable character debuts and reintroductions, and its gentle resetting of so many pieces on the Hannibal chessboard to their pre-“Mizumono” positions, “The Great Red Dragon” is a strong and exciting midseason premiere that promises a confident, more accessible end to a previously divisive season.
The opening scene of the episode features electric keyboards/organ, a contrast to the pipe organ that has been so prominently featured in the scoring for Hannibal’s time in Europe. For me, this speaks to a perversion of what should be happening: the Polizia should be rushing in to save the day, but they’ve been bought by Mason and are instead quite content to kill Jack to strengthen their story of Hannibal’s escape. The majesty of the organ, which has signaled sacred spaces this season, is replaced with the artificial, modern sound of the keyboard.
Most of the episode is scored with what to this string player’s ears sounds like rolled percussion: covered mallets (comparatively) gently striking what sounds like brass percussion instruments to create a shimmering sound. (Note: Any corrections from percussionists absolutely welcome—please chime in in the comments!) This contributes to the impressionistic and dreamy feel of much of the episode, particularly the beginning, as Hannibal wanders through Florence.
If “Antipasto” is the bright, sparkling fantasy of Hannibal’s life in denial over Will’s betrayal and “Secondo” is the dark fairy tale of Will embracing and coming to understand Hannibal as never before, “Dolce” is the glistening sunset of their courtship, and it’s only fitting that Natali is back to finish the journey with them.
The wonderful use of the La gazza ladra overture in this episode is a reference to A Clockwork Orange, in which the main character attacks two compatriots to the strains of this overture, which he hears playing from a nearby stereo. It works on many more levels than this simple homage, however. There’s the obvious connection of Rossini being one of the most famous Italian classical composers, but the piece also suits the situation well.
Four episodes into season three, the reverberations of the season two finale are still being felt. Given the monumental nature of “Mizumono”, that feels appropriate, and the first trio of episodes of season three have dealt primarily with the Red Dinner’s emotional and psychological fallout for Hannibal and Will.
There is a lot of very evocative scoring in this episode, referencing the repeated imagery of broken glass and distorted reflections. A tinkling, percussive sound is particularly prominent in the scoring for Will’s mind palace therapy session with Hannibal, Will’s discovery of the firefly-surrounded fountain, and Will’s presentation, to himself, of his tableau, Chiyoh’s prisoner adorned with broken glass wings. Along with this light sound, the fountain scene mimics the buzzing of the insects and as Will walks down to the dungeon, a rainstick stands in for the sound of water that the prisoner is allowed, his only connection to the rest of the world.
While it references the new sound Reitzell established for season three in “Antipasto”, the score for “Primavera” is much closer to those of the previous seasons than the premiere’s. In particular, the dense scoring for Will, with layers of instrumentation, sound, and white noise, stands in stark contrast to the solo, muted trumpet for Hannibal or synth for Bedelia in “Antipasto”.