In “Primavera,” we see Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) and Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) almost together again and meet Florence's Inspector Rinaldo Pazzi, a long-time pursuer of “The Monster of Florence” and here playing the third wheel and last-to-know.
First, I enjoyed getting to flashback in leisurely fashion upon the worst dinner party ever, the one that ended Season 2 with such huge amounts of cast carnage. Notably, we relived the tenderly intimate gutting of Hannibal's profiler, awash with blood and realizations of how much each has been changed by the other. We also got to relive the jugular-slashing of their erstwhile daughter-slash-devotee-slash-inconvenience, Abigail Hobbs (Kacey Rohl).
Because this is a show that glories in its horrors, and Whodunnit? is the least exciting question (psst: it's Hannibal), there's no way to discuss it without SPOILERS, so be prepared.
Between Italy and Maryland, guess which lingers longest in the mind? Florence is the capital city of Tuscany, birthplace of the Renaissance, the “Athens of the Middle Ages.” So it's kind of a surprise how high Charm City rates, considering the aesthetes involved, but while the Season 3 premiere showed Hannibal and Bedelia conquering Italy, on the inside, we know neither of them has left Baltimore behind. We'll also spend this week away from gustatory delights in favor of the existential. God and Death and a Life's Purpose.
When a recovering Will awakes from his coma, he sees Abigail Hobbs with a bandaged neck, telling him he's only survived due to the surgically precise placement of Hannibal's attack. Abigail wonders why Will just couldn't have gone along and made nice so no one had to die. In a refreshing turn for general network TV, Will doesn't angstily (totally a word) accept fault, but says that there's no possible way of knowing what would've happened had he not behaved as he did. Instead, he pulls out the concept that everything which can happen has already happened or will, but that this current, particular thread of possibility is the only one they have. Abigail wishes she could be part of another that wasn't so hard on her. Watch what you wish for, killerina.
Will's comatose mind travels back to Hannibal's gracious office. Pages flutter, including that screwy drawing of a clock Will made while Hannibal was promoting his brain fever. He recalls their conversation at the fireplace and the mention of Hannibal's expansive memory palace, emulating, in part, the Norman Chapel in Palermo, Italy, with its tiled skeleton on the floor. This is where the doctor will end up eventually, Will knows, and goes to meet him. Not toally sure if Will was comatose and topless that whole time, but eight months after the worst dinner party ever, he's in Palermo.
Meanwhile, poor, pushy Anthony Dimmond has had every bone broken and been skinned so he could be folded into a giant, anatomical sculpture and left dripping in front of the altar. It's Hannibal's “broken heart,” Will tells his fellow traveler Abigail, who seems tragically eager to reunite with Dr. Lecter. The capella's priest has reported to police that he noticed Will skulking (but not Abigail—the first twig of my sixth sense) and so we also meet Inspector Rinaldo Pazzi (Fortunato Cerlino).
For twenty years, Pazzi has been chasing the “Monster of Florence.” There is such a killer in true crime. Factually, Il Mostro operated during the late sixties through the mid-eighties and tended to shoot couples who were having romantic rendezvous in cars or around the countryside. Artistic? Not so much, though there was the gruesome repeated feature of womens' pubic areas being excised from the bodies. However, when Hannibal is supposed to be your monster, the bar is elevated. So here's where we get the title of the episode, from Botticelli's painting above, Primavera (or Allegory of Spring), the rightmost two figures being the models for a dead couple: murdered, costumed, and posed. Excerpted from the Uffizi Gallery Museum's website:
Critics are divided over the date of the work. Anyway it was certainly painted between 1477 and 1482….
Among the many theories proposed over the last decades, the one that seems to be the most corroborated is the interpretation of the painting as the realm of Venus, sung by the ancient poets and by Poliziano (famous scholar at the court of the Medici). On the right Zephyrus (the blue faced young man) chases Flora and fecundates her with a breath. Flora turns into Spring, the elegant woman scattering her flowers over the world. Venus, in the middle, represents the “Humanitas” (the benevolence), which protects men. On the left the three Graces dance and Mercury dissipates the clouds.
The couple were killed and posed as wind and fertile nature. Pazzi hunted their killer, and back then, without internet image match, it marked a superb investigative leap for him to identify the painting being replicated in exacting detail. Pazzi followed the trail to a young Lithuanian who'd camp at the Uffizi museum and sketch Botticelli's masterpiece in pencil daily, and when the inspector pulls out an old-school black-and-white glossy to show Will, there's Hannibal. Il Mostro.
But Will Graham is the Hannibal Hunter 2.0, and in his morbid mood, keeps telling Pazzi (version 1.0) how doomed he is to become Hannibal's victim if he doesn't give up the hunt. The dogged Pazzi simply can't, and seems more perturbed than sympathetic to Will's save-yourself pitch. He identifies himself with the American profiler, seeing them as kindred beneficiaries/victims of their own gifts. There is a moment of connection they both experience, not with the divine, who remains elusive in this episode (neither James Earl Jones or Morgan Freeman were apparently available for the cameo), but with another consciousness. That epiphanic identification is beyond feeling or thinking, a moment of pure knowing that runs perilously close to being one with the killer.
Will says some funny things this episode, about God's requirements for elegance, for example. Just me perhaps, but that seems an oddity coming from the scraggle-faced, plaid-shirted collector of strays and muddy pawprints. The Nature that Will seems to adore more than Hannibal's Art is magnificent, but frequently inelegant. (Example: the acrobatic tongue bath my dog is currently accomplishing. Deserves a gymnastic score of 9.95, simultaneously kind of eeew.)
Maybe Will says all this to Abigail in the chapel because, even then, he can feel Hannibal is hovering close enough to be flattered. (I didn't get to see Hannibal disdained by putti, but a grim saint is a start!) Will asks her a final time if she wants to return to Hannibal's side, and she does, even though Will has to tell her that it is only he, in this thread of existence, who is maintaining her in his memory palace. The only place for her to safely reside is in Will's eternal fly-fishing afternoon, because when Hannibal slashed her neck, there was no salvation.
We depart again to witness the unhappy, but visually-striking comparison of Will's emergency abdominal surgery and Abigail's funerary preparations. Later on, in another amusing The Sixth Sense kind of moment, Pazzi, who seems to have to keep justifying his involvement, will accuse Will of thinking he's safe from Hannibal because he's dead already. Not dead, just extremely gloomy. If we didn't know that Will was onto Hannibal's presence, we can be sure now. Will will call Pazzi Commendatore, a chivalric title for a knight, and then down to the catacombs they go, where there are real mummies!
Once there, however, Will tries chasing Pazzi away from the hive of candlelit archways and niches by intimating that Pazzi shouldn't be so sure whose side Will is on. What? Oh, ah. Once Pazzi departs (still alive, for now), the nemeses are both here, keenly aware of each other. In the dimness, it looks like Hannibal is straining, longing for each time Will calls his name.
With Will, he occasionally shows moments of an uncertainty that isn't on display with other people. The height of being interesting may be to have defied predicatbility enough to actually be alive, unfolding in real-time like the origamied Dimmond and Hannibal's other permanent art projects no longer can. Only Will's imagination can turn Dimmond right-side out, giving him a black stag's hooves and antlers from the stump of his neck, making him into an amazing pursuing nightmare, a compromise between Dalí and del Toro.
Perhaps Hannibal doesn't want always to be able to predict. Perhaps what Will allows him is the chance to respond.
“I forgive you,” Will whispers. We can assume the strange echoing feature of arches carries it to Hannibal, or perhaps he's only feet away after all. I can't say whether Hannibal's likely to be more relieved or annoyed by the presumption of forgiveness. But, between the replay of their stabbing embrace and this charged scene, without doubt, shippers are losing their minds in bliss.
Based on Will's ungrounded moroseness, also on next week's previews, I look forward to the concretizing, steadying presence of the FBI's Special Agent-in-Charge Jack Crawford.
Clare Toohey is a literary omnivore, admirer of slow custards and memento mori. Aside from editing The M.O. and site wrangling here, she freelances as an editor, writes short, surreal crime fiction, blogs at Women of Mystery, and tweets @clare2e.