Hannibal‘s second episode is firmly a Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) introspection hour. It also features one of the most disturbing sequences I’ve ever seen on TV.
Let’s bitch it out…
So how about that stag man, huh?
I almost wish that I recorded my facial expressions while watching ‘Primavera’ because whole sections of the episode left me with my jaw on the floor, looking like an awestruck imbecile. In the words of an Internet broken by the image of a giant, pulsating heart unfurling itself and growing stag legs and horns: “This show, man.”
As we discussed last week (and many times over Hannibal‘s two previous seasons), this is a series that is as capable of telling its tale using imagery as it is with eloquent prose. It’s one reason that Hannibal is at the top of so many “Best of Year” lists. It’s also one of the reasons, I think, why so many people struggle with it: there’s obviously a narrative and metaphorical meaning when the heart/stag begins to advance on Will, but the visual is so horrific and nightmarish, I can imagine sensitive viewers freaking out and possibly even turning the show off. (I’m thinking of my sister, Stonehaven Groupie, here)
‘Primavera’ is a perfect refresher on the damaged psyche of Will Graham. After a conspicuous physical absence in last week’s premiere, Will takes center stage, prompting Hannibal to cede the spotlight and literally recede into the shadows. As Alan Sepinwall explains, opening with the events of S2’s finale – during which Will and Abigail Hobbs (Kacey Rohl) were brutally stabbed by their mentor in murder – helps to remind us not just what Will went through, but what he now carries around as emotional baggage. It’s eight months later, and while his physical wounds have healed, Will clearly still has some recovering to do.
Despite Abigail’s reassurance that Hannibal had a surgical precision when he sliced and diced, it was pretty clear to me early on that Abigail was a haunting spectre and had not survived. This realization didn’t make her presence any less welcome, though; I’ve long been a fan of Kohl’s work as the damaged young girl and her slightly more assertive characterization helped to reinforce that Will was still grappling with the suggestive powers he experienced under Hannibal’s tutelage.
As always, along the way we get absolutely gorgeous visuals and meditative speeches. For the visuals, I was obviously taken by Will’s dream sequence with the stag heart, as well as the quieter moment early on when a shattered teacup repairs itself to form Will’s face (mirrored by the “rewind” sequence when Abigail’s slain body is repaired back to the moment Hannibal slits her throat). As for the dialogue, there are a number of speculative discussions about God and what Hannibal does and doesn’t believe in. The way that Will speaks of his former colleague betrays his intimate knowledge of Hannibal as both killer and friend. Will’s obsession has left his body physically and mentally scarred, but he’s unable to resist the siren call of Hannibal’s “broken heart”, represented here in the form of poor Anthony Dimmon’s mutilated body.
It is also represented in the form of Inspector Rinaldo Razzi (Fortunato Cerlino), one of ‘Primavera’s few characters. Razzi and Will have a mildly contentious relationship when they meet, but they are also surprisingly open with each other (IGN’s Eric Goldman was pleased that Razzi admits to reading Will’s file, just as Will admits he’s not sure who’s side he’s on). The pair are representative of where a life chasing Hannibal leads: disappointment and battle wounds. By the time that they have moved into the catacombs below the church where Will believes Hannibal is hiding, there’s a suggestion that they’re pursuing more of a ghost than a man (indeed Hannibal disappears in one shot like a classic horror movie villain).
This chase is still personal for Will, though. And so the episode ends with a whisper as Will forgives his former friend.
- The other visual sequence worth mentioning is the contrasting treatments between Abigail and Will in the aftermath of last season’s massacre. She is prepped for autopsy and he is prepped for surgery, but the procedures are nearly identical. The biggest difference is that they are facing opposite directions. Note that when we jump back to the present, Will is laid out, facing Abigail’s direction. This is symbolically representative of his union with her, but also of his gift, which allows him to recreate these grisly crime scenes.
- Hannibal’s been at this game a long time: Razzi has been hunting him for 20 years. Back then he was an avid copycat that Razzi nicknamed Il Monstre (the Monster of Florence). Hannibal recreated Botticelli’s ‘Primavera’ in both stencil and life tableaux, complete with human bodies. Interesting that Hannibal got his start much like Gideon Emery: copying his favourite works.
- No Bedelia in this episode, but her memory is evoked in the haunting image of Will sinking into the kitchen full of blood, which bears a striking similarity to her bath tub visual from last week.
- Still no sign of Jack or Alana. It seems likely we’ll learn the fate of one or both next week.
- Will (suggesting that Hannibal isn’t god): “Defying God, that’s his idea of a good time”
- Will (to Abigail): “He left us his broken heart.”
Your turn: what did you think of this Will-centric episode? What are your initial impressions of Razzi? Was the stag heart the most frightening image you’ve seen on TV in some time? Did you miss Bedelia, Jack and Alana? Sound off below.
Hannibal airs Thursdays at 10pm EST on NBC. Next week: Will discovers Hannibal’s childhood home and a potential new ally…or enemy. Here’s your preview: