WARNING: This review contains spoilers
Primavera instantly reopens old wounds tied as closely as it is to the events experienced by Will Graham at the end of the last season. Given his notable absence in the season opener, Antipasto, Primavera has much ground to cover reconnecting us with Will and conveying the psychological and physical aftermath of Hannibal’s departure for our ever-troubled profiler. The episode does this with the typical juxtaposition between horror and aesthetic beauty, but intriguingly blurs the boundaries between the real, comforting apparitions and nightmarish creatures. The episode also draws on some big ideas which help us make sense of Will’s current state of mind, his relationship to Hannibal and also introduces us to the first character in this season who illuminates some more of Lecter’s mysterious past.
Primavera‘s opening subjects the viewer to relive the climatic heartbreak from the end of season 2’s Mizumono, but this time the events are heightened – the blood is further emphasised. Will discovers that Abigail is alive, only to see her cruelly killed moments later, following Hannibal’s confrontation of Will and his betrayal. Or so we think.
One of the biggest surprises in this episode is the apparent reveal that, like Will, Abigail also survived the events at Lecter’s house on that fateful night. After Will has woken from his coma, she is his first visitor. Their conversation is somewhat ambiguous; deaths clearly occurred that night, but not theirs. There is a discussion which touches on the key idea of Chaos theory; that every eventuality exists in alternative versions of the story – a cute little meta nod to the way Fuller has reconstructed Harris’ Hanniverse.
Of course, this scene, and many others in this episode are not to be trusted. Continuing the intra/extra diegetic mirroring established somewhat in Antipasto (i.e. the episode is stylistically different because Hannibal has adopted a new identity), Primavera gives us a creator who likes to play with our perception of reality just as much as Hannibal likes to play with Will’s. Abigail is revealed later to not have survived, as depicted in an effectively affecting sequence which mirrors and matches the treatment that the critical-but-alive Will and the DOA Abigail receive at the hands of the emergency services.
Abigail’s role in this episode is somewhat similar to the function the character fulfilled in the previous season. She is a vision, a delusion. In season 2, she represented Will’s innate goodness, his desire to protect himself and his future. In Primavera, she appears to be an advocate for Hannibal, becoming a symbol for the part of Will which is still drawn to Lecter.
The absence of Jack and Alana from this episode initially appears to serve as a mechanism to maintain the enigma regarding their fates following Mizumono. However, cunningly, this is a technique which, similarly to the discussion about other timelines, draws attention to the unreality of events. The absence of Jack and Alana detaches Will from a version of the real in the world which appears more concrete, measured and reliable.
Much of the episode takes place in the Norman Chapel in Palermo; the location that Hannibal choses to display Anthony Dimmond’s decapitated and flayed torso in the form of a heart – “A valentine written on a broken man” according to Will. The importance of this locale not only serves as confirmation to Will of the identity of the killer, but also further encourages the viewer to be more sceptical of the apparent reality. The chapel is mentioned in Mizumono by Hannibal to Will as featuring prominently in the geography of his mind palace. This moment is repeated as a dreamlike flashback in Primavera to ensure the viewer understands the significance of the locale.
The episode features, as has become typical with Hannibal, sequences which more clearly elucidate Will’s interior experience. Primavera is much the same, but this episode features less clearly delineated elements of reality and nightmare. Part of the motivation for that is to ensure that the audience is misled about Abigail’s death until the second half of the episode, providing some sense of ontological insecurity. However, it more importantly serves to remind us how damaged Will is now, given his psychological journey since coming into contact with Hannibal Lecter. The audience, like Will, is reminded of this through the use of visual and aural symbols which have come to have heightened status within the lexicon of the show; the death of the Ravenstag, the destruction of Will’s hand-drawn clock, the smashing of the tea-cup and the roof of the church beginning to collapse. These are all, to varying degrees, symbols of the relationship between Will and Hannibal or the effect that Hannibal has had on Will. These symbols appear in a lucid coma vision for Will, giving us the sense of his mind reconciling itself with the psychological damage done as his body heals.
Later in the episode, we have another, more typical, Will vision at the crime scene in the chapel. Although this is differentiated from those that came before as no light pendulum heralds the journey from the external world to Will’s internal one. Nevertheless, by the end of this nightmarish sequence, we can be in no doubt regarding the status of this sequence as fantasy as Will witnesses Dimmond’s torso reanimate and a mutilated and malformed stag monster emerge. As the Ravenstag came to be one of the most dominant symbols of the preceding seasons, this moment gives us a hideous new symbol which represents this new phase of Will and Hannibal’s relationship and the extent to which Will has been damaged by the past.
In Primavera, we are introduced to Inspector Rinaldo Pazzi, an Italian profiler with a history with Lecter. Establishing the character as a fellow profiler allows the audience to draw comparisons between Pazzi and Will, and to a certain extent, to see Pazzi as similar to previous ex and as a rival for Hannibal’s attentions. His introduction also allows for the first bit of concrete backstory for our cannibal to be delivered; Pazzi was tasked with capturing a serial killer known as Il Monstro. One of the crimes attributed to the killer is emphasised – a recreation of a section of Botticelli’s Primavera. Pazzi is drawn to a young man who seems to be studying the painting, he is revealed as the young Lecter. This gives the viewer a sense of Hannibal as a serious and obsessive student of art and helps to indicate the development of his artistic style; studying and replicating the work of others before developing and refining his own style.
The choice of painting, and indeed, section thereof is an interesting one. Primavera is also known as the Allegory of Spring, which ties neatly into the idea of Hannibal in earlier stages of his killing career, but also its use in the episode could be a symbol of the rebirth of Hannibal and Will’s relationship. Secondly, the section used by Il Monstro depicts a female nymph being pulled away slightly from the others in the composition by an elevated blue winged figure with cheeks puffed. This is Zephyrus; the classical embodiment of the wind. Perhaps Zephyrus could be read as a symbol for Hannibal too – a more powerful and elevated force which strongly influences and manipulates the behaviour of less powerful beings.
The most potent symbol for Hannibal in this episode and, by extension, in Will’s mind, is that of Hannibal as God, which is contrary to the dominant symbolic presentation of the character in the first episode, Antipasto. For more read my review here. In dialogue, Will builds on this association – “God can’t save us because it’s inelegant. Elegance is more important than suffering. That’s his design.” The visual evidence seems to reinforce this representation; in the first of two scenes which show Hannibal in the same space as Will in the dominant timeline, the camera cranes up from Will sat before the altar to find Hannibal looking down upon him. If this is accepted as a deliberate representation, it reflects how Will might think of Hannibal, just as in Antipasto, Bedelia and Gideon perceive Hannibal as The Devil. Will sees Hannibal as a god-like figure partly because his role as mentor in the second half of season 2; Hannibal created Will in his image. In this metaphor, Will becomes the Christ figure, the son of God. The primary setting for Will in this episode is the chapel; a place full of the iconography of Christianity and a space which Will knows has strong associations with Hannibal. This is reminiscent of the story of the young Jesus in the temple: ‘He said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?“’ Luke 2:49, World English Bible.
Of course the exact nature of the relationship between the two is called into question even more in the final sequence in the crypt. In confrontation with Pazzi, who is also looking for Hannibal, Will states: “You don’t know whose side I’m on” and later Will reveals that he is unclear about that himself; building enigma and tension for their eventual reunion. Once left alone and seemingly sensing Hannibal’s presence, Will calls out to him, “I forgive you” This is the final line in the episode. We’re left questioning the sincerity of this statement and wondering if Hannibal still feels like Will is the one who requires forgiveness for his betrayal or if he even cares at all.
Check back with us next week for a review of episode three – Secondo. Thursday 18th June, NBC, 10/9c in the US or Wednesday 24th June, Sky Living at 10pm in the UK.
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