Hannibal has always moved at its own deliberate pace, and showrunner Bryan Fuller applies a bit more pressure to the brake over the next few episodes.

Once again, let’s remind ourselves that “Mizumono” ended with three main characters (Will, Jack, and Alana) and one recurring character (Abigail Hobbs) either dead or at the brink of death, and “Antipasto” made no indication of their eventual fates. Now, are we as the audience actually supposed to think they might be dead? In the case of Will, definitely not; he, not Lecter, is the real protagonist of Hannibal.

We could be less certain of Jack and/or Alana’s survival, although prognoses look good, considering Laurence Fishburne and Caroline Dhavernas appeared in pre-season promo photos (such as the one I used for the “Antipasto” review) and they still have their names in the opening titles. And Abigail already survived one “death,” which has become something of a tradition on Hannibal: see also Frederick Chilton, Miriam Lass, Freddie Lounds, Abel Gideon…one could easily conceive she could make it through that bloodbath alive.

But that doesn’t mean suspense and anticipation doesn’t surround this issue, and Fuller takes his sweet damn time resolving it. “Primavera” addresses Will and Abigail, while “Secondo” checks up on Jack. (Alana’s fans will need to wait another week, the poor sods…)

Kacey Rohl stars in "Primavera."

Season 3, episode 2: “Primavera” (June 11, 2015)

“A primo is the first course. It consists of hot food and is usually heavier than the antipasto, but lighter than the second course. Non-meat dishes are the staple of any primo.”Wikipedia

Guest stars: Fortunato Cerlino, Kacey Rohl.

In the novel Hannibal, Thomas Harris tells us that “[o]ccasionally, on purpose, Dr. Lecter drops a teacup to shatter on the floor,” to see if, somehow, time reverses itself, so that the shards of porcelain come back together to form an intact vessel. It doesn’t, of course. His interest in the process isn’t clinical: he actively wants to see the cup “gather itself together.” He wants to see broken things become un-broken–not just for these things to repair themselves, but for time to arrange circumstances so that the damage never happened.

Hannibal does this to people as well, a point that this episode’s cold open belabors somewhat, even to the point of showing us a shattered teacup with Will’s face on the shards…and then gathering itself together again. Turns out people are more resilient than teacups. Or maybe just Will is.

Which is how Will and Abigail–whom Hannibal took away from Will, and then gave her back–end up at a church in Palermo. At this church, the remains of Antony Dimmond, broken and twisted into the shape of a heart, are discovered; Lecter’s latest victim, of course. Will describes the tableau as a “valentine written on a broken man,” a message to him from Hannibal. (In the episode’s most striking scene, Will sees an incarnation of the feathered stag–his symbolic representation of Hannibal Lecter–hatch from Dimmond’s remains.)

But Hannibal delivered his valentine after Will and Abigail’s arrival in Palermo, not before. Will already knew where to go; Hannibal described this specific church as the foyer to his memory palace.

Lecter stands on the sidelines for much of “Primavera,” while Will serves as central character and half of two double acts, first with Abigail, and then with another stranger: Florentine police detective Rinaldo Pazzi (Fortunato Cerlino). Twenty years previous, a serial killer dubbed Il Mostro (the monster) terrorized Florence. Pazzi disgraced himself trying to prove that Il Mostro was a young Lithuanian immigrant named Hannibal Lecter. Il Mostro clearly authored Will’s “valentine,” and now Pazzi intends to restore his good name.

Not a whole lot happens in “Primavera.” It introduces Pazzi, who will become an important supporting player as the Italy plot develops; it also re-introduces Abigail, and then wraps up her arc; she did die, it turns out, on the floor of Hannibal’s Baltimore mansion. The more mature, self-assured, and somewhat nihilistic young woman we see alongside Will seems more of a ghost than a hallucination, an implication made in a fleeting but powerful scene. (Reminding me of the final passages of Red Dragon, the novel, which Will spends musing that ghosts don’t haunt places, they haunt people.) It climaxes with a cats-and-mice chase between Will, Pazzi and Hannibal in the catacombs beneath the chapel.

And it sets up the next leg of Will’s journey.

So more than anything it’s a thematic episode and a putting-pieces-in-place episode, not so much a memorable episode with big, dramatic set pieces.

My rating: 7 of 10.

Tao Okamoto stars in "Secondo."

Season 3, episode 3: “Secondo” (June 18, 2015)

“This course may include different meats and types of fish…The primo or the secondo may be considered more important depending on the locality and the situation.”Wikipedia

Guest stars: Rinaldo Rocco, Fortunato Cerlino, Tao Okamoto, Julian Richings.

When Bedelia asks Hannibal about Will’s next destination, he replies, “Someplace I can never go.” Home; or more specifically, the Lecter estate in Aukštaitija, Lithuania. In a conversation Will imagines having with Hannibal, the latter describes it as the place where construction of the fabled memory palace began; yet, later, one of the two remaining inhabitants of the castle mentions rooms Hannibal “cannot safely enter.” What memories could possibly be so unpleasant that Hannibal the Cannibal could not bear to face them?

As a child, he lived here with his sister Mischa, although he felt more like a father to her than a brother. Then, something happened. Details are sketchy–I guess if you want specifics that badly, you can always watch or read Hannibal Rising–but someone murdered her and not only ate her remains, but also forced Hannibal to partake in the cannibalism. This is where the estate’s two residents come in. One is Chiyoh (Tao Okamoto), former servant of Lecter’s aunt (the name “Lady Murasaki” never comes up), who meets Will and introduces him to the second inhabitant.

Played by the great Anglo-Canadian character actor Julian Richings, this elderly, unkempt and quite clearly insane man lives, or more accurately is imprisoned in, the castle’s for-really-reals dungeon. This man killed Mischa Lecter, according to Chiyoh, and she has looked after him ever since Hannibal left Lithuania for good. This status quo will not last long, of course; Will, predictably, finds a way to intervene, to see how Chiyoh will respond to a particular stimulus. Here, we very clearly see the influence Lecter had on Will, how they became, as the former says in Red Dragon, “just alike.”

As for the B-plots, Jack arrives in Palermo in search of Will, but instead meets Rinaldo Pazzi, and rebuffs the inspector’s offer of a team-up…which may factor into a very bad decision Pazzi makes several episodes hence. Meanwhile, Lecter does a 180° turn from his claim of desiring “peace,” reasoning that entropy inevitably devolves into chaos, and proving it by sticking an icepick into a rival’s temple. (Notice how, as with the death of Antony Dimmond, he puts the blame squarely on Bedelia.) This coincides with a revelation on Hannibal’s part, possibly helped along by Bedelia: he loves Will, but only knows one way to forgive his betrayal…the same way he forgave Mischa for hurting him.

“Secondo” is a meatier episode than “Primavera” in terms of plot development, but as with its predecessor, it’s a bit hard to shake the sense that Bryan Fuller and director Vincenzo Natali (who directed both these episodes along with “Antipasto”) might have fallen a bit too far down the rabbit-hole in terms of artiness. I wouldn’t call this a real weakness of the episodes, more a matter of taste, but I will breathe a sigh of relief next week when I get to the episodes where important stuff actually starts happening.

Tastes aside, though, I’m not aware of any other show on American broadcast television doing this kind of stuff. Fuller takes a lot of risks that he wouldn’t be able to were the series more popular and he had a mass audience to please. The downside is, of course, that NBC effectively canceled the series right around they broadcast these episodes.

My rating: 7 of 10.

 

HANNIBAL title screen.

Next on Hannibal: While Will and Chiyoh travel back to Italy, Alana Bloom takes up a new occupation, as a private therapist to a wealthy recluse, Jack ponders his wife’s fate, and Pazzi makes a fateful decision.

Season 3 episode ranking

  1. “Antipasto” (3.01)
  2. “Secondo” (3.03)
  3. “Primavera” (3.02)

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