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After last week’s gorgeous and terrifying episode, that saw the noose around Bedelia’s neck begin to tighten, this week’s episode provided the first taste of the what the first half of the season will have in store for us: Will and Hannibal clashing in one final cat and mouse game.
The title of “Primavera” is very fitting, as the entire episode felt like the calm before the main course of action, as our two main actors in this struggle for dominance moved into their starting places. While we did learn more about how Hannibal has damaged Will’s psyche (and how much sway Hannibal still manages to hold over Will), the episode was more concerned with getting Will to Palermo, introducing Inspector Rinaldo Pazzi into the show’s tapestry, and filling in some of the blanks regarding both Hannibal’s past and the aftermath of the slaughter from the second season finale. And yes, these are incredibly important elements to address (particularly Hannibal’s past, which, it appears, is the focal point of the first half of this season), but the mechanics of the story shone through the show’s imagery, making for an exposition dump like feeling to portions of the episode.
Throughout, there was the overwhelming sense of the writers (Jeff Vlaming and Bryan Fuller sharing the duty here) pushing the plot forward. Hannibal’s backstory, while shot in a beautiful manner, was heavy-handed. Pazzi was certain that Hannibal was Il Mostro, but just couldn’t get the rest of the force in Florence to agree because there was never any evidence? That’s a pretty tired trope to use (and Will’s suggestion that there is never any evidence because Hannibal eats it isn’t quite the main issue here- there isn’t any evidence because Hannibal is impeccable and trained to kill, in addition to eating elements of his victims). Considering Pazzi’s stupid idea to follow Will into the catacombs of the church in search of Hannibal, I’m not holding out much hope that he will turn out to be the ally Will needs in his search.
Quibbles with the structure and slow of the episode aside, there was a great deal to like regarding the episode’s treatment of Will and his mental state. The visceral horror of the slaughter at the farmhouse was as crucial to helping us dive back into Will’s side of things as it was awful to witness again. Reminding us of Abigail’s unfaltering loyalty to Hannibal, even in the face of his true monster, helps to explain Will and Bedelia’s own faltering mental control in the face of Hannibal’s constant assaults on their own will. It also provides a reminder of the complex and deep relationship shared between Hannibal and Will, as well as their complicated roles in Abigail’s life.
Seeing Abigail walk into Will’s hospital room was a shock and one that I was suspicious of from the start. But, there was enough truth to her statements that I believed, as Will did, that Hannibal had spared her life to provide Will with a gift. The relationship between the three of them has been one of the show’s most intriguing elements. Putting Will and Hannibal in the position of co-parents to a damaged young woman highlighted their co-dependency and strengthened their relationship even when it was slowly falling apart. It was fitting that, while trying to scour his own mind palace for clues regarding Hannibal’s whereabouts, his conscious took on the form of his “daughter”- Will’s physical and emotional connection to Hannibal.
Using Abigail to help profile Hannibal provided Will with the impartiality to help lead him to where Hannibal is holed up (as Will knows Hannibal is always watching). It is, of course, troubling to see that Will is still not quite mentally sound. But he, like Bedelia, has bet the house on his own mental fortitude in the face of Hannibal’s persuasive abilities. As Will travels further down the Hannibal rabbit hole, it is entirely possible he will finally lose himself to the monster that is Hannibal. After two seasons of cat and mouse games, I’m ready to see how this story reaches it’s end.
— Considering Bryan Fuller has openly stated multiple times that the first half of the season will focus on the quest to capture Hannibal and the second on the Red Dragon storyline, I’m accepting that as known information for the purposes of these reviews.
— How disturbing was that human-stag thing? I really miss the actual stag, because that thing in this episode was creepy as hell.
— I’m enjoying how the series has rolled out characters so slowly this season. It has really helped to reinforce that the show, at least at this stage in its life, is concerned with the Will-Hannibal relationship. The other characters are merely pawns in their game.
— Anyone else have major Sherlock flashbacks with the talk of mind palaces? Fun fact, Mads Mikkelsen’s brother, Lars, played Magnussen on that episode of the series.