Abigail Hobbs’ relationship with the sociopathic Dr. Hannibal Lecter is not all too dissimilar from what I suspect many viewers have with the show also named Hannibal. Last year’s season finale was particularly brutal and testing, not because it was more outrageously designed in its violence than prior episodes, but because everything was so direct and confrontational as virtually every “good” character was left in near-fatally gashed condition by the crafty Lecter. Like the viewers enduring the pain of seeing everyone wrecked, Hannibal left Abigail for dead in his home after manipulating her to aid in the assault and then slitting her throat in front of a drained Will Graham. And yet, like the viewers, against all odds Abigail has returned for more and even still feels the pull of her connection to the good doctor.
Bringing Abigail back is a particular shock because she seemed like the only character who was almost certainly done for after Hannibal’s ambush, while Alana and Jack’s fates have still been left fuzzy. Abigail’s line to Will, “We don’t have an ending, he didn’t give us one yet,” could just as easily apply to series creator Bryan Fuller as it does the title character. The cinematic theory of the TV showrunner/film director as God of their stories also applies to this comparison, as “Primavera” doubles down on treating Lecter as a killer of near-supernaturally perfect abilities, an infallible boogeyman who is always five steps ahead of everyone no matter what decision they make.
In contrast to last week’s premiere that zeroed in on the exploits of Lecter and Bedelia living it up as fugitives, “Primavera” is all about the recovery and reunion of Will and Abigail in their quest to track down their old friend in Italy. These first two episodes have really dived down the philosophical rabbit hole more than the show let on in its prior seasons, as Fuller and his team flex their creative muscles in ways that only this show with its international funding would attempt. Will and Abigail’s discovery of the contorted “heart” in the Palermo cathedral opens up space for the kind of theological discussion that’s rarely explored on television (and film, too). “Defying God: that’s his idea of a good time,” says Will. Although Hannibal himself is largely absent from the episode, his spectre of death presence is felt through the skeleton watching them from the cathedral floor in an almost cheerful stance.
Will’s travels lead him to Inspector Pazzi, another carry-over from Thomas Harris’ Hannibal novel that shows how much this series is willing to shift around established canon for its creative benefit while still staying true to the original’s spirit. Like in the novel, the notorious Florentine serial killer Il Mostro that Pazzi failed to capture early in his career continues to haunt his pursuit of justice, but this time Il Mostro isn’t merely a parallel to Lecter; they’re one and the same. Pazzi and Will’s shared desire to capture him brings them together on the hunt into a literal labyrinth of darkness.
Although it seems rather convenient that Lecter was waiting there all this time just for them, previous revelations in “Primavera” ambiguously suggest that the Lecter Will finds in the tunnels is another figment of his hallucinatory headspace. Without committing entirely to the tired “it was all a dream” explanation, “Primavera” operates on a much more slippery narrative stream than usual as it picks apart Will’s damaged headspace. Abigail’s presence turns out to be a spirit guide for Will, representing the inexplicable attraction he still feels in the friendship formed between him and Lecter. They are linked in more ways than Will would like to admit, and his final forgiveness to Lecter in the closing moments (real or imagined) suggests that he is willing to submit to these recessed impulses if it means reuniting with the man that offered an escape from this life under Jack Crawford before gutting him and ending Abigail’s life.
If Lecter’s little valentine in the cathedral that morphs into a horrifically disfigured form of the stag is any indication, their relationship is even more twisted than previously imagined.
EPISODE RATING: 9/10