Hannibal Lecter <3 Will Graham.
Bryan Fuller seems to be structuring his third season like a fugue, introducing his voices one by one as they play variations across a theme. Last week, we spent all our time in the flourishing Florentine domicile of Dr. and Mrs. Fell, a small chamber piece. In “Primavera” we start to get contrapuntal with the re-introduction of Will Graham and I’ve no doubt future episodes will see even further voices added to the harmony. The word “fugue” itself can be traced to the Latin words fugere and fugare, which mean “to flee” and “to chase” respectively. It’s clear the hunt is on, but it’s not quite evident yet who is going to end up doing the fleeing and who the chasing.
The episode begins with a brief history of time (or at least the finale) at the point where the teacup had just come back together. There’s real longing and heartache in the caress Hannibal gives to Will before plunging the linoleum knife into his belly and gutting him like a fish. But the cut, we learn, wasn’t emotional. It was clinically precise, and done so that Will had the choice to slip into the stream or fight back against the current. The same is the case for Abigail, who appears at Will’s hospital bedside sporting nothing worse than a neck bandage and regret. Television has taught us that it’s possible for character to recover so quickly and so dramatically, so we’re ready to buy it. Television has also taught us that protagonists tend to stick together regardless of improbability, so we’re also ready to buy that Abigail is willing and able to fly off to Sicily to examine crime scenes. Of course, when it turns out that she’s just a figment of Will’s fractured mind, it all starts to make sense. Tyler Durdening is a pretty tired trope in TV and movies, but I think it worked here mainly because of what it revealed about Will’s mindset in retrospect. It was a part of him that was angry at himself for betraying Hannibal, a part of him secretly longing for whatever honeymoon Hannibal had planned.
Hannibal too is hurting. Although it’s worth noting that while Will was overcoming evisceration, he was living it up in last week’s episode without a care in the world. Like Will says, Hannibal’s mind keeps plenty of trains running at once and one of those trains led to Palermo. Like Bob Dylan in Tangled Up in Blue or a high school student in poetry club, Hannibal has channeled his heartbreak into his art. Atop an easel in a Norman cathedral, he leaves a heart-shaped man. Like the show itself, it’s something so raw and bent and twisted that it almost stops being gross and starts being beautiful. (I said almost stops being gross. I predict nothing I’ve seen so far this year will stay with me as relentlessly as that heart-torso-stag, which looked like it clopped its way out of Francis Bacon’s night terrors.)
The heart is a both a message from and a catharsis for Hannibal, a real cri de coeur. As Will calls it, “a valentine written on a broken man.” It’s also the first step on the path that Hannibal has set out for him, left in a location he had implanted subconsciously in his mind. A church is also a spot overripe with symbolism, not the least of which being the fact that it’s a home of ritualistic cannibalism. (Or actual cannibalism, depending on how you feel about transubstantiation.) It serves as the setting for most of the episode, which unfurls ruminatively and deliberately, and offers plenty of opportunity for theological digressions. “Elegance is more important than suffering, that’s his design,” Will tells Abigail. (Or, I guess, aloud to no one in particular.) God, it seems, agrees with Hannibal’s prioritization of aesthetics over ethics. Like Hannibal’s tableaux on a much larger scale, death doesn’t just give meaning to humanity; it’s also the source of its beauty. In French, a still life is called a nature mort.
This episode also introduces us to Detective Pazzi, the ill-fated investigator from Thomas Harris’ third Lecter book Hannibal. Played by Italian actor Fortunato Cerlino, he’s been on the trail of Hannibal long before Will, all the way back when he was just a teenage Lithuanian boy sketching Botticelli and a-murderin’ a couple here and there. Pazzi refers to him as the Monster of Florence, but based on the beaux-arts butchery I’m guessing they aren’t actually suggesting Hannibal was the real Il Mostro. Is it just me or is there something in Cerlino’s delivery that makes him sound like an English-dubbed detective from a Dario Argento movie? The way he arranges his emphases makes it seem like he’s trying to match lip movements. I mean, I’m not complaining. I could listen to Cerlino say “my keenist plee-seur” on a tape cassette on repeat under my pillow all night.
Pazzi ends up following Will once he senses Hannibal’s presence and descends into the labyrinth after the minotaur. The catacombs are an appropriate place for Will, who, as Pazzi points out, is a dead man. The revenant tells the detective that he should leave lest he become a dead man too, especially since he doesn’t know which side Will is on. Will doesn’t quite seem to know which side he’s on either, but that doesn’t stop him from fulfilling Hannibal’s challenge. Turning up his powers of empathy to their highest setting, he takes a page out of the mosaic book of Christ Pantocrator and forgives him.