There were things in "Primavera" I didn't expect, and chief amongst them was seeing Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) recovered from his near-fatal stomach wound, and travelling to Italy to catch Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen). One expected that to happen an episode or two later. Okay, the double-twist with Abigail (Kacey Rohl) surviving having her throat being slashed in Lecter's home, coupled with the reveal she actually didn't and is now a figment of Will's imagination, also worked nicely. The Sixth Sense has taught us nothing it seems. It would have been ludicrous if Lecter's massacre had claimed nobody's life, after all—despite the fact this hour did a commendable job making you believe Lecter could've spared both their lives intentionally, and perhaps didn't intend for any of his "friends" to die that night.
As a reader of Thomas Harris's books, it was interesting to see an important character from the Hannibal novel make his debut—veteran detective Rinaldo Pazzi (Fortunata Cerlino)—who has experience tracking a younger Lecter, when he was a serial killer the Italian police nicknamed "Il Mostro, The Monster of Florence" (who posed his dead victims to resemble paintings, most notably Botticelli's titular 'Primavera'). Pazzi is an older version of Will Graham in some ways, but has a clearer sense of right and wrong, good and evil. Will's experience with Lecter has clearly altered his perception, and while he's under no illusion the man's a sociopath who needs to be stopped… there's a respect there, and a crazy kind of affection. Will feels lost without Lecter around. He misses him. It's twisted, definitely, but also part of the reason Hannibal works so brilliantly as a dark drama. You're not entirely sure the hero's going to do the right thing, just that his destiny feel entwined with the villain, and that's why he's the best person to lead a manhunt.
I didn't need the opening's reprise of the season 2 finale, as it didn't feel necessary to be shown at such length. Fans of the show (and who else but fans watch Hannibal now?) already know the immediate backstory to Will finding himself bandaged in hospital and seeking out Lecter overseas, so it didn't add much and just seemed to eat time. Indeed, my main criticism of "Primavera" is that the story could've been told in a swift half-hour, so it felt embellished by an overuse of the show's dream imagery and symbolism. I appreciate Hannibal is an artistic endeavour, perhaps above all else, and who doesn't love a gruesome sequence where the folded-up remains of a dead man's torso unfurl into near-human form, sprout antlers, and begin to stalk our confused hero? A symbol of Will's strange connection to Lecter being resurrected.
It was grotesque and very cool, but I think that stuff works best when a balance is struck between reality and unreality. So much of these first two episodes feel like trippy dream, which is unusual and fun, but it also means there's less of an anchor. The reality of the show's become so slippy, I hope we're on firmer ground next week, because right now I'm not entirely sure what to believe is truly happening.
Still, it's only episode 2 and Will's in Italy, Lecter's leaving clues to his whereabouts, and a new ally has been found in Pazzi—who has no idea just how twisted his FBI hero's relationship with Il Mostro has become. You half expect Will to find Lecter and make amends by agreeing to become his travel companion, replacing Bedelia.
written by Jeff Vlaming & Bryan Fuller • directed by Vincenzo Natali • 11 June 2015 • NBC