It’s interesting to note that “Primavera,” the second episode of Hannibal Season 3, opens with the climactic scene from the end of season 2, when Hannibal slits open Will’s stomach and Abigail’s throat. It’s a bit of stage-setting, which was not the case with “Antipasto,” which quickly settled the cannibalistic psychiatrist in his new home in Florence with Bedelia, his wife. Hannibal believes in moving forward, into darker terrain, always, and therefore the slaughter of his “friends” and colleagues didn’t matter as much, didn’t linger in his mind as he made his new life in Italy. For Will, however, it’s different, and the scene revisits the raw, complicated emotions and brutal acts that are still very much ringing in Will’s ears. The difference here is that the sequence is expanded and a lake of blood swallows up and drowns Will, the effects of the would-be murders quite literally overwhelming him.
Indeed, “Primavera” is all about Will getting his head straight in the wake of what happened in Baltimore, as he quickly makes his way to Palermo to hunt down his good friend and erstwhile psychiatrist. He arrives with Abigail and goes to the church which Hannibal, in a memory, admitted he modeled the foyer of his mind palace after, which not long after is home to a grotesque murder. Hannibal has skinned and broken a body to the point where he can fold the carcass into an origami heart and, in one of those fantastical, grotesque flourishes the series is prone to, the body sprouts hoofs and horns to go after Will. Hunting Hannibal again is teasing out the bestial Will, and director Vincenzo Natali shows admirable patience in letting these psychological eruptions play out without hurrying the pace. There’s a similar, masterful slow burn to the scene where Will reveals that Abigail is just an illusion, that he’s been seeing an apparition.
There’s a brilliant montage that follows the reveal, in which Abigail’s preparation for being buried or cremated is intercut with images of Will being revived. Not only does this convey a sense of the guilt Will must be feeling due to her death, but the editing invokes the idea that Will’s revival is, essentially, grooming him for death. He warns an obsessed Italian investigator, Rinaldo Pazzi (Fortunato Cerlino), that he will die if he continues to pursue Hannibal, whom Pazzi has righlt pegged as the Monster of Florence, a Lithuanian serial killer who slipped through his fingers earlier in his career. What he’s really warning against is using simple investigation tactics to try to hunt an advanced animal like Hannibal, a mistake he recently made and which ended with him bleeding out on a kitchen floor.
The episode ends with a superb, careful pursuit through the small labyrinth beneath the church in Palermo, a sequence that mirrors the cat and mouse game that Will and Hannibal are now locked in. “Primavera” isn’t as stylistically daring and intoxicating as “Antipasto” because it’s a long-form sobering following a plunge into the abyss of death, as opposed to Hannibal’s not-so-hesitant return to murderous indulgence. Will offers Hannibal his forgiveness at the end of the episode, genuinely apologizing to him for spoiling his plans, but it’s also a taunt to his former “friend.” Will is apparently willing to get close to Hannibal again, but can Hannibal get close to him again, without wanting to sauté his left kidney? It’s unclear where this is all going by the end, but wander around in the dark long enough, you’re bound to find the light.
★★★★ Very good — Damn fine television