If “Primavera” is somewhat more conventional an episode compared to last week’s “Antipasto”, it still follows the premiere’s path for storytelling that is dictated more by character and emotion rather than confirming to an conventional plot expectations. The difference is this time around, we’re almost entirely inside Will Graham’s head rather than Hannibal’s or Bedelia’s. This is clear from the opening, which seems at first to be a rehash of Will and Hannibal’s confrontation from “Mizomuno”, until we realize the editing and music has been changed to tell it from Will’s perspective, and now after the Ravenstag stops breathing it doesn’t simply settle into nothing, it splits open, flooding Will and Abigail with blood (in a scene deliberately reminiscent of Bedelia’s bath scene in “Antipasto”) and reprising the image of a shattering teacup, only this time it is Will Graham’s mind that has been broken, possibly beyond repair.
Eight months later, Will has traveled to Italy where he attempts to track down Hannibal by seeking out the locations he has chosen as part of his “Mind Palace”. Will is not alone in this journey… he has Abigail Hobbs by his side, although her presence is at times more ominous than comforting (she mentions several times that she has followed Will here because she wants to return to Hannibal… statements that gain a whole new subtext after the true nature of her presence is revealed). Also joining the party is Inspector Rinaldo Pazzi, who serves as an ally for Will on the Italian police force. Fortunato Cerlino (Gomorrah) brings a welcome new dimension to the character unseen in Ridley Scott’s Hannibal (where Pazzi was played by Giancarlo Gianni) and only implied in the novel. Upon finding the gruesome sight of a human body twisted and contorted into the shape of a heart, Pazzi has no doubts about who he is dealing with. He shares with Will details of a crime from decades before, where people were murdered in Florence, with their corpses displayed in the manner of a painting by Botticelli. Initially stumped by the lack of evidence, Pazzi had a breakthrough when he visited the museum that housed the painting: a young Lithuanian man with conspicuously high cheekbones and a penchant for sketching would sit in front of the painting for hours, recreating it in pencil. Pazzi’s bitterness over being unable to prove Hannibal Lecter’s guilt in the “Il Mostro” killings now gives him a drive to find him again, compelling him to join forces with Will, even though it is still unclear what Will’s endgame is.
Vincenzo Natali again directs with verve, taking full advantage of the gorgeous Italian scenery while also showcasing one of the most nightmarish sequences in the series yet: When Will mentally recreates Hannibal’s “broken heart” tableau, it begins to beat…. beat… beat…. before unraveling and sprouting the hooves and horns of the Ravenstag, while all Will can do is watch in horror. Later on, a chase within the catacombs beneath the chapel is shot with tremendous energy and fluidity as Will, Pazzi, and Hannibal almost cross paths. Lecter himself is only shown in brief glimpses in this episode, yet he still casts a shadow over everything, infecting the negative space with his presence.
Again, like last week, Bryan Fuller answers just enough questions to keep us asking more. Are Jack and Alana part of the investigation (or even alive)? Will Pazzi still end up selling Lecter out to the Vergers? Where exactly does Bedelia fit into all of this? “Primavera” offers no clues, but gives us plenty of cause to, and for, wonder.