Hannibal season 3, episode 2 turns attention to Will Graham as he unlocks passage into Hannibal’s memory palace.
The final shot of last week’s premiere did not give the twisted nature of Hannibal Lecter’s latest installment the justice it deserved. Hannibal does not shy away from examining the gruesome and all too often cringe-worthy human sacrifices on camera. Instead it pays them the same attention to detail one offers to an artifact in a museum. For two seasons we’ve been asked to pay respect to the artistry of madmen. For two seasons we’ve tiptoed the line between appreciation and revulsion. As we move into the third season, we are now actively stepping forward. We are looking for more. No longer observers, we are participants.
For this week’s episode, “Primavera,” we spend a great deal of time finding our way back into Will Graham’s headspace. In the rare moments when Hannibal finds itself in settings of lesser beauty, the dialogue plays with the viewers’ mind. As Will Graham awakens for the first time in Baltimore, he finds a smile not across his face, but healing in his lower abdomen, and a familiar face walking through the door. Abigail’s entrance brings some relief to Will, but not enough to remove the existential crisis he is experiencing entirely. In fact he finds that from the get go Abigail is playing the devil’s, or in this case Hannibal’s advocate. As she points out, their story has no ending yet. Hannibal has not written it.
Conscious moments are fleeting as Will fades back into a dream state where he parses through his own mind palace in an attempt to find some connecting door that leads to Hannibal’s mind. That door, he recalls, is the Norman Chapel in Palermo, Italy. Eight months later, Will and Abigail enter the chapel to stand as a symbol of life over the chilling skeleton that serves as a reminder of mortality.
Churches offer comfort to the masses to feel closer to God, but Will Graham arrives to feel closer to a mortal who holds himself to the same standard. Will explains that, much like Hannibal, as God’s design is not to partake in actions to counter suffering. And like God, Hannibal takes pleasure elegance above all.
Inspector Pazzi, an investigator from Florence who once sought a man by the title, “Il Monstro,” finds it odd that days after Will Graham’s arrival a crime scene unfolds. Almost quite literally. In the center of the chapel the folded and twisted body of Anthony. 20 years ago, the Monster of Florence recreated an Italian Renaissance painting, Primavera by Sandro Botticelli in the flatbed of a truck. Elegance regardless of suffering. The style and display is not a coincidence. They are after the same man.
Aside from a shared knowledge of “Il Monstro,” Will finds a person who can pull him away from Hannibal’s orbit and share in the pleasure that their the gift of imagination offers to them. The fixation on the result, the search for knowledge, is what gives their work meaning. Both have felt that satisfaction when Hannibal was within their grasp and both lost it when Hannibal beat them in the final move.
Hannibal certainly gives viewers a run for their stomachs when it comes to gore. The Valentine of a Broken Man, an origami human heart made from a skinned and folded torso of a man is not only visually disturbing, but the series takes it one step further to literally unfold it as Will slips into a trans. Hooves and antlers form in place of the missing appendages and the creature crab walks across the floor.
As Will awakens in the chapel, Abigail serves her final purpose. Will reaches a place where he recognizes the dangers of going after Hannibal. He is even willing to vocalize them. Hannibal is manipulative. He plays with people like they are puppets. He takes lives, hides others away, and asks forgiveness for it all. But then he leaves his broken heart, a symbol of his own mortality for Will to find. A reminder of that their stories are one int he same. Will and Hannibal changed each other and they must find their ending together, without Abigail. As the camera pans out, Will sits alone because in this world, Abigail is dead.
Hannibal lingers in the the royal balcony of the chapel, a place reserved for kings to observe the proceedings from above, and watches over his fallen angel.
Flashing back eights months ago, Abigail is zipped into a body bag as Will is kept alive on the gurney next to hers. As doctors sew Will Graham back to life, Abigail’s body is prepared for her journey into another world. Hopefully one that will be kinder to her.
Pazzi approaches Will one final time in the chapel and asks if he is praying. Will’s thoughts have become interchangeable with those of Hannibal that his response answers for Hannibal actions rather than himself. There are too many people blocking Will’s prayers from escaping the confines of the chapel, which is less of a hinderance than it seems. Especially since the only overseer his prayers need to reach remains present.
The Norman Chapel is situated atop a crypt where Hannibal lurks. Will descends further into the tunnels of Hannibal’s mind looking for the next passage to lead him closer to the center of Hannibal’s mind. Will urges Pazzi to leave the tunnels for he cannot guarantee whose side he will be on when if their reunion were to occur.
As Pazzi turns to leave, Hannibal, ensconced in shadows appears mere feet away from Will, but tucked out of sight. As Hannibal glides silently away, Will offers up one line, barely above a whisper, into the void, “I forgive you.” His prayer reaches his intended deity.
Watch Hannibal season 3, episode 3, “Secondo,” Thursday, June 18 at 10:00 p.m. ET on NBC.