After the intense, action-filled, and bloody finale of season 2, NBC’s Hannibal returned for round three with less of a bang and more of a whimper for its season opener. But now two episodes in, the show has answered (some of) the agonizing questions left at the end of last season having to do with the welfare of certain characters, and it has moved the story forward into what this season will become. There are spoilers ahead for anybody who has not seen the first two seasons and the start of season three, so read at your own risk.
The end of season two saw Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishbourne) and Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) setting a trap to finally catch Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) for his numerous crimes. Their confrontation at Hannibal’s home included a knock-down drag-out between Hannibal and Jack that left the latter possibly fatally wounded. Plus, Abigail Hobbs pushed Alana Bloom out of a window; Hannibal practically gutted Will; and Hannibal cut Abigail’s neck. The finale ended with Hannibal and his former psychiatrist, Bedelia DuMaurier, running away together on a plane.
We know Bedelia had a patient that attacked her and whom she killed in self-defense, but was it really of her own accord or did Hannibal coerce her into actually doing it? Is she still under his thrall? Seeing the two of them together on the plane in the season finale was shocking, and her actions during “Antipasto” only add to the confusion and the mystery surrounding her character. Hannibal is very manipulative, but Bedelia understands him perhaps better than anyone. She has gotten to know both sides of him and is his intellectual equal. She obviously still very much fears him-and almost flees at the end of the episode-and yet she still chooses to stay with him even after he murders a man in front of her, asking her if she is “actively participating” with him now. She could be staying out of fear, or she could be staying close to Hannibal because she knows that the FBI will be coming for him, and she might be able to help get him caught finally. Then again, Hannibal is probably fully aware of her inner conflict and could not trust her at all. It will be exciting to see how this plays out.
Another interesting aspect of “Antipasto” were the flashbacks of Hannibal and Abel Gideon. Gideon was another prisoner of the cannibal, before being used as a setup for Frederick Chilton to be arrested. The relationship between Hannibal and Abel during this time was fun to watch, if not ghoulishly and disgustingly disturbing. The part we saw last season was how Hannibal had cut off one of Abel’s legs, cooked it, and fed it to him, which Abel ate willingly. More of that conversation is revealed, and so are several other scenes of them eating his other leg, and then eating snails that were feeding off of his severed arm. Once again, I was fascinated and delighted with what they have been able to get away with on this show. Mixed in with all this macabre stuff, though, are still deep character analyses. Gideon also makes the prediction that Hannibal himself will one day be cannibalized.
Episode two, “Primavera,” reveals something we kind of already knew – that despite being gutted like a fish and bleeding all over Hannibal’s floor, Will Graham is still alive. Nothing is revealed about Jack or Alana (one would think that Will would ask that) but Jack is shown in the preview for the next episode. While in the hospital, Will gets a visit from none other than Abigail! Her explanation for her survival is that Hannibal knew just how to cut her, and also Will, so that they would live. We go with that for most of the episode, even when she is shown later to have no trace of a scar on her neck. Of course, a heartbreaking moment comes when we are taken back to the attack at Hannibal’s house. This scene is wonderfully and sadly cut together as it goes between Will being treated doctors, and Abigail’s body being treated by a morgue technician. She is dead, and Will must once again deal with not being able to save her.
Will remembers Hannibal talking about Palermo, Italy and eight months later, he and ghost Abigail head over there to track him down. Will is confronted with Investigator Pazzi, who is working the case of the man Hannibal killed in episode one and grotesquely displayed his body to look like a large heart. Pazzi knows Hannibal from long ago when he suspected him in other murders similar to what the Chesapeake Ripper would do-display the bodies like famous paintings. Pazzi is a welcome new character, who has a bit of wit and bluntness that is a nice change from the somber moods of everybody else on the show. Pazzi seems like he may be able to help keep Will grounded, like Jack did, during his hunt for Hannibal.
As Will does his “This is my design” thing in the chapel where the body-heart is displayed, there is a mind-blowingly crazy sequence where the heart unfolds and a very strange version of Will’s stag appears out of it. Earlier in the episode there was another great callback to Hannibal’s teacup analogy, when the shattered teacup shows parts of Will’s face and then comes back together before the reveal of Will in the hospital bed. Will is not broken, and he’s not going to give up his pursuit of Hannibal. He doesn’t seem to want anybody else to help him either, both because he knows he must confront Hannibal himself and because he knows how dangerous it will be for anybody else. Will warns Pazzi that if he continues to look for his Il Monstro (the Monster of Florence) that Hannibal will kill him. The episode ends with the two men descending into the catacombs underneath the chapel-Hannibal is still around, and has been watching Will while he examines his crime scene. They don’t come face-to-face just yet, but Will echoes Hannibal’s last line to him, “I forgive you.”
The two still have a very symbiotic relationship despite what they have done to each other. Though it’s difficult to believe and face, it seems Will does forgive Hannibal for killing Abigail, perhaps finally realizing that there was no coming back for her from the dark side she was thrust into by her father and then by Hannibal. He will no doubt continue to pursue Hannibal in subsequent episodes, but Will’s dogged determination from last season is not as strong here. There is some hesitancy. Is Will going to be back under the manipulator’s thrall (like Bedelia) or is this forgiveness just the last remnants of whatever understanding there was between these two characters?
Season three of Hannibal promises to be just as engaging, shocking, and undeniably beautiful as previous seasons.