The Italian word “primavera” means Spring, which is the time of growth and new beginnings. Leave it to NBC’s Hannibal to forgo the usual imaginary usually associated with that term and dip its premise in buckets of blood, surrealism and horror instead. In fact, the only flowers you’ll see during Season 3’s second episode aren’t exactly fresh: they’re merely used to decorate the display of corpses that are positioned like the characters Botticelli put in his famous Primavera painting. Another tableaux is much more outlandish and cruel yet, even before it turns into something else entirely. While this season’s premiere wowed viewers with the many methods of cinema, it didn’t stun them with the audaciously artistic murders, dream logic or daylight manifestations of the subconscious we’ve come expect from the series. But, after watching ‘Primavera’, it seems that’s what this episode was designed to do and it embraces those qualities wholeheartedly.
‘Antipasto’ was all about Hannibal and Bedelia. It was a look at their life in Florence, at how these two had moved on from the events that took place during the Season 2 finale, if they had moved on at all. Much like it, ‘Primavera’ takes its time showing the audience what a profound effect these occurrences had on Will, and how he is trying to cope with what has happened. It’s a smart play: it stresses the gravity of what these characters have been through and how it has changed them, for better or for worse. Similarly the choice to open the episode with last season’s bloodbath seemed both pragmatic and thematic. It reiterated the importance and trauma of that moment, and how it’s informing Will and all the other survivors from now on. This particular notion was captured beautifully as the familiar teacup shattered once again and reformed itself not as the teacup it used to be, but as a porcelain face; Will’s. Through this string of images the show told us something essential early on: Abigail’s death will be crucial to what drives Will forward and to who he will become. Instead of mourning Abigail’s loss and hoping for time to reverse and things to get back to how they were, Will will finally accept he’s lost her, put himself together again and grow stronger. It’s this elegant use of images and their gorgeous symbolism that sets Hannibal apart, and this episode had no shortage of moments like these.
Despite this sequence the show first tried to have you believe Abigail had survived last finale’s ordeal, by having her show up at Will’s hospital bedside. It was immediately noticeable something was off, though: she said things Will would say and her introduction came amidst fever dreams and memories. Because of it the reveal that Abigail was indeed dead fell flat, and additionally much of the grieving process felt like a Season 2 retread, when Will was also mourning his surrogate daughter who he believed to be deceased. Still: the acting here and follow-up to the revelation were outstanding. Hugh Dancy and Kacey Rohl’s chemistry was as present as it has always been, but enriched through their portrayal of two people who desperately want to be together but know they can’t. It was very moving, especially during the (unsurprising) reveal. Both characters seemed to go through the same difficult realizations at the same time, which told you all you needed to know: that she wasn’t real, that Will imagined her being there and that he knew he did. It was a decision on his part to not let her go and fool himself into thinking everything could be okay. But now he faced up to the facts. The sequence that followed brilliantly emphasized the teacup scene from earlier: the juxtaposition of Will being rescued and sewn together, while Abigail was dead and being prepared in the morgue was gut-wrenching and poetic, and showed us how her death was part of Will’s life.
While there was a lot of time dedicated to Will and Abigail, ‘Primavera’ was more than a study of grief. Will’s in Florence now and he has already met a character who’s going to be important during the first half of the season: Fortunato Cerlino’s Inspector Rinaldo Pazzi, who believes the Chesapeake Ripper and Il Monstro, a Florentine serial killer from the past, are the same person. His introduction added a welcome new character dynamic to the show and Pazzi also had interesting stories to tell, giving us another peek at Lecter’s past in Italy. What stole the show though, was the Hannibal’s tableaux we first glimpsed during the final minutes of ‘Antipasto’. This “Valentine written on a broken man” was Anthony Dimmond’s body molded into the form of a giant heart, posed on three swords, a thing gruesome enough in its own right. But then, in Will’s mind, the body unfolded itself, twisting its arms and legs in excruciating angles before it finally evolved into its own version of the show’s familiar stag. It was a horrific sight, something both demented and beautiful, and something the show will have a field day of topping. Not even a crypt chase ending with Will forgiving Hannibal came close.
‘Primavera’ was another gorgeous outing that both took Hannibal’s brand of beautiful debauchery to the next level, and featured poignant symbolism and imaginary. The table is definitely set for the next course. 8/10