“More important than suffering”
In “Primavera,” Will Graham offers one of the most pointed insights into Hannibal Lecter’s psychology that the show has given us to date:
“Hannibal follows several trains of thought at once, without distraction from any, and one of the trains is always for his own amusement. He’s playing with us. Always.”
Based on this episode, I think just maybe the same thing could be said about Bryan Fuller, the showrunner behind NBC’s Hannibal.
The appearance of Abigail Hobbs — risen from the dead… again? — infuriated me. The “Buuuulllllshit!” that I screamed must have woken at least a few neighbors. What was Fuller thinking? To have Abigail survive would rob the Season 2 finale (one of the greatest episodes of television I’ve ever witnessed) of its emotional power. There’s no way someone as story-savvy as Fuller would do that, right?
I envisioned a Season 3 of Hannibal that included Abigail alive, and it made me sad. I envisioned the next three months of me NOT looking forward to Thursday nights, and it made me sad. I envisioned a life of talking about how tragic it was that NBC’s Hannibal lost its way after only two seasons, and it made me sad.
So I spent the next 10 minutes of the show chanting under my breath, “She can’t be real, she can’t be real, she can’t be real,” until enough of Will’s repeated mixing of reality, memory, and nightmarish fantasy suggested that Fuller and company were still to be trusted. It was then a tense waiting game until the show finally revealed (at exactly 31 minutes 19 seconds, by the way) that Abigail was in fact dead. A deep sigh of relief.
My conclusion: Despite redeeming itself by the end of the episode, the recap filler + Abigail fake-out + Will weirdness = a disappointing follow-up to last week’s most promising Season 3 premiere.
That is, until I watched it a second time.
“Primavera” holds up MUCH better on a second viewing. The “resurrection” of Abigail as a representation of Will’s conflicted feelings about the choices he made that led to last season’s Hannibal House Massacre is brilliant. Will’s need to make a place for Abigail, if only in his mind, is heartbreaking. Interpreting the conversations between them about possibility and choice as Will working through his own guilt and ambivalence is fascinating.
“After all he’s done, you’d still go to him?” A silent part of Will nods yes.
I also love how moody the whole episode is. It has this creepy gothic feel that culminates in the catacombs beneath the Cappella Palatina in Palermo. What better place to look for the fallen angel Lucifer (Hannibal) than the dark underworld beneath God’s temple?
While the “Il Mostro” backstory provided by Chief Investigator Pazzi was intriguing, I found his conversations with Will — especially Will’s warnings to him — to be a bit repetitive. Fans of the book, Hannibal, will remember Pazzi as the Italian police detective who tries to sell Hannibal to Mason Verger. This Pazzi, more interestingly, seems much more motivated by the opportunity to restore his reputation (tarnished 20 years earlier when he “wrongly” accused Hannibal of being the serial killer, Il Mostro, the “Monster of Florence”) than by financial gain. I wonder how this will lead him to Verger.
Despite an agonizing first viewing experience, I’m finding that “Primavera” keeps rising higher and higher in my estimation the more I think about it. Like God (and Hannibal), Bryan Fuller too seems to believe that “elegance is more important than suffering.”
“He’s playing with us. Always. You still want to go with him?”
Yes. Yes, I do.
- The corpse unfolding itself into a deformed version of the stag.
- It would be fun to drink my evening tea out of a Will Graham face-cup.
- Why did Will lie to Hannibal? “The wrong thing being the right thing to do was too ugly a thought.” Is the wrong thing going away with Hannibal and the right thing not lying and/or sparing Jack’s life? I’m still chewing on this one.
- A smile of fire burns through Will’s drawing of a clock.
- Why does the priest see Abigail? Perhaps he sees the wounded part of Will.