The most important question in fans’ minds after the bloodbath that concluded the second season of Hannibal, apart from “What just happened?!”, was who survived Hannibal’s heartbroken rampage. Clearly, Will was too important a character, and Dancy too good an actor, for his death to ever be a reality but the fate of the other characters was uncertain. Disappointingly, with the exception of Abigail Hobbs, their fate continues to be a mystery. This episode, very aptly titled ‘Primavera’, focuses mostly on Will Graham and Abigail Hobbs. If you think that that’s something we’ve seen more than enough of in the past, you wouldn’t be wrong but given the chance in their dynamic and the revelations that the episode brings. In many ways this is the same Hannibal that we’ve seen two seasons of – Will chasing shadows and Hannibal hiding in them but the events in the last season finale have permanently shaken the show up and left deeper marks on the psyche of Will Graham than anyone realises.
Hannibal, despite its title, is really not about Hannibal Lector at all, but rather the tale of Will’s slow, inevitable corruption. In the course of two seasons, Will’s innocence and inherent goodness went from being unquestionable to being highly suspect. The degradation of his morality was hardly surprising, the idea being that any association with a character as hopelessly evil and twisted as Hannibal would be enough to taint even the purest of souls, but even though Will’s fall was foreshadowed well in advance, it is hard not to feel some despair watching it happen. As the series has progressed, Will’s psyche has grown increasingly unstable and justifiably so; thus far, Hannibal has been nothing but a series of brutal beatdowns on Will’s state of mind. All of this makes Will’s current state all the more pitiable. The guilt that Will feels for ‘betraying’ Hannibal is both terrifying and depressingly understandable. On one hand, he knows on a conscious level that Hannibal is a sociopath who has to be locked up and that Will’s attempt to capture him last season was the right thing to do. However, on the other hand, given how disastrously that attempt turned out, it’s perfectly understandable that Will feels that he was wrong to not side with Hannibal. This is especially the case given that Will himself is a big reason why the ploy to capture Hannibal turned into such a bloodbath. In essence, Will’s guilt is based on the fact that Will betrayed both Jack and Hannibal, both of whom he considered friends, and that Will’s actions led to Abigail’s death and possibly Alana’s and Jack’s as well. A healthier mind would recognize that while Will should not have tried to save Hannibal, Will is not directly responsible for Hannibal’s actions. Of course, Will’s mind has never been the healthiest and the circumstances would put tremendous strain on even the most mentally stable folk.
Will is now divided – one side of him wants to continue the pursuit of Hannibal Lector, to bring the man to justice, not just to protect the innocent but also to give Will himself some closure. The other side of Will, represented by the spectre of Abigail Hobbs, is making apologies for Hannibal. Abigail’s ghost blames Will for betraying Abigail, for denying both her and Will himself a chance at true happiness. It seemed for a while that Abigail had indeed survived – if anyone knows how to cut a throat without killing someone, it would be a Hannibal – but, it just when it seemed that she was definitely real, she was taken from us for the third time. Will’s divided state of mind is a more ominous sign than anything we’ve seen so far because it means that there are no sides anymore. There is the Italian version of Jack Crawford who seems destined to die but Will himself is definitely on the fence. There are a few ways of interpreting Will ‘forgiving’ Hannibal – on one hand, it might be Will genuinely trying to make amends with Hannibal but it is also a reference to Hannibal ‘forgiving’ Will’s betrayal last season by slitting Abigail’s throat. If it is indeed the latter, then we could interpret Will’s words as him renewing his conflict against Hannibal. As worrying as Will’s ambivalence towards Hannibal is, it is reassuring to see that Will has absolutely no fear of the man – Hannibal has already done his worst to Will, and like Abel Gideon last week, has nothing left to fear from him.
In all of this, we can’t ignore Hannibal’s side of this story. Why did Hannibal stay? It’s uncharacteristic that someone as methodical and careful as Hannibal is still sticking around a crime scene. From a narrative perspective, it’s a sign that he wants to be found – ironically, Hannibal removing his human mask last season has left him more vulnerable than ever to that most basic of human needs – to be understood and appreciated. We also cannot underestimate the extent to which Hannibal himself has changed and more specifically, he has been made to change by Will. It is Will’s sole triumph in last season’s final episode and a miserly one at that, yet it is also what is keeping Hannibal within Will’s reach both literally and emotionally. Will gave Hannibal a taste of something he has not had before – someone who gets him, and as cliche and ‘Beauty and the Beast’ as it sounds, it is an incredibly powerful leash, possibly the only one of its kind that would work on Hannibal. All of Hannibal’s attention has been focused on Will and while that doesn’t bode well for Will himself, it leaves Du Maurier with some breathing room and some space to plan an escape.
On the whole, ‘Primavera’, which shares its name with the painting that inspired one of Hannibal’s first rampages, is the real first chapter of this season after last week’s prologue, or ‘Appetizer’ if we’re sticking with the food theme. We see some truly disturbing visuals, especially with the morphing, walking monstrosity of a heart as well as return of the more overt psychological elements of the show. There was an unnecessarily long recap of last season’s conclusion, which gives the impression that the episode came up short on runtime, and the episode also suffers from the lack of a Jack Crawford or Alana Bloom to ground the show’s abstract psychological themes. Without the familiar faces, it feels like this season lacks continuity from the last. Combined with extremely dialogue heavy nature of the show and often aggressively metaphorical imagery, it’s not hard to see why Hannibal didn’t pull in network audiences. Hannibal probably deserves cancellation but it also deserves better than NBC; hopefully something comes its way.