If last week’s “Antipasto” was the appetizer for Season 3 of Hannibal, “Primavera” is the first course. The two episodes complement each other in many ways, the most obvious being that the first focused entirely on Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen) while the second shifts its attention back to Will (Hugh Dancy). Hannibal’s melancholic longing for Will danced around the edges of “Antipasto” but is explicitly replaced by Will’s pursuit of Hannibal in “Primavera.”
Hannibal’s mind was shown through cuts to tasteful imaginary conversations, clearly delineated from real events through black-and-white and a different aspect ratio. Will’s mind is far more abstract but more integrally meshes with his perception of reality. The effect is disturbing.
The episode begins with a repeat of one of the final scenes of the Season 2 finale. We again see Hannibal gut Will and slash Abigail’s (Kacey Rohl) throat, leaving them both to bleed out in his kitchen. Interestingly, it seems as though they used different takes for this version of the scene than for the original. It would have been easy to just reuse existing footage, but if this show prioritized continuity over craft then it wouldn’t be Hannibal. In any case, the entire room fills up with blood and we see a teacup made of Will’s face shatter on the ground. Then we see both things happen in reverse. This sequence is par for the course in terms of Hannibal’s imagery, but it’s our first sign that this episode won’t be as reined-in as last week’s.
The show teases a resolution to that cliffhanger by implying that only Will and Abigail survived the massacre at Hannibal’s house. The two embark on a trip overseas to find Hannibal, albeit to different ends. Abigail still believes that the three of them can have a life together, and it’s unclear for a time why Will entertains her desire for reconciliation given that he’s tracking Hannibal down to capture him. This is explained when it is revealed that Abigail never survived and was a figment of Will’s imagination. It also parallels Hannibal’s own mental conversations with a ghost last week. Where Abel Gideon represented Hannibal’s conscience last week, Abigail is similarly a projection of Will’s suppressed love for Hannibal.
This isn’t romantic love necessarily, but the two men can only be described as soulmates. Somewhere deep down, Will still holds out hope that things don’t have to end combatively between them. The ultimate tragedy of both Will and Hannibal is that their love prevents them from finishing each other off. Abigail tells Will that their wounds were inflicted to injure, but not kill. “He wants us to find him,” Will tells himself with her voice. As we saw last week, he’s not wrong, but that can only spell disaster for both of them.
“Primavera” stumbles a tad with the introduction of Rinaldo Pazzi (Fortunato Cerlino), an Italian detective who met Hannibal twenty years prior and believes him to be the infamous “Monster of Florence.” Though the character’s personality doesn’t feel out-of-place — he speaks in the same darkly intellectual tone as the rest of the cast — he feels superfluous to the narrative at this point. He muddles the beautifully clean dynamic between Will and Hannibal, never more clearly than during the chase at the end of the episode where his presence distracts from the two of them. He’s obviously cannibal fodder, and Will tells him as much, but I hope the show finds something more interesting for him to do before the inevitable feast.
In any case, Rinaldo brings Will to the scene of Hannibal’s latest art project. He’s arranged Andrew Dimmond’s body into the shape of a heart and displayed it on an easel on the altar of a cathedral. The heart turns from something fairly innocuous by Hannibal standards to one of the show’s most chilling images — quite literally, in fact. When Will sees the heart start beating, I knew something horrific was on the horizon, but I was still taken aback when it sprouted stag legs and started walking towards Will. The show’s constant attempts to top its own surreally disturbing imagery never cease to amaze me. This ranks up there as its most indelible visions to date.
The episode climaxes with a head-spinning chase through the cathedral’s crypts, and proves that Hannibal’s brilliance doesn’t just extend to its cinematography or production design. The editing of the scene cuts between Will and Hannibal and places them in identical frame compositions. The line between the two men blurs, and they both appear to be both the pursuer and the pursued. By chasing one another, they are chasing themselves. By trying to escape from one another, they are trying to escape their own demons.
They seem to occupy the same space simultaneously as clever editing merges the two into one single entity. Moreover, the repeating backdrops negate any sense of progression in their movements. The two are trapped within one another, unable to escape the loop created by their twin hunts. In the final moments of the episode, Will shouts that he forgives Hannibal. Is he baiting him into revealing himself, or does he mean it?
Will probably doesn’t know himself, but Hannibal doesn’t take any chances and flees. The two know each other too well now, and one of them capturing the other is going to take more effort than ever before. Next week’s episode is called “Secondo” – the second course. Let’s hope it’s as meaty as the first.