“You don’t know whose side I’m on”… We sure don’t Will. We sure don’t.
HANNIBAL returned with a gorgeously surreal episode last week for its season 3 premiere, setting the standards for the rest of the season incredibly high and with a very particular Lynchian tone. Fortunately there were no let downs to be had with episode 2, which like the first, moved across space and time, and also may have turned out to contain the greatest single script for a HANNIBAL episode there has ever been. It was impeccable.
There aren’t many shows that can survive two episodes without one of their main characters, Will in episode one and Hannibal for 90% of proceedings in the second. The title monster, for the majority of Primavera, only appeared in flashback, memory palaces, dreams and everywhere in between. Which you would think would be a hindrance but what Bryan Fuller has created goes beyond such trivial things as the presence of your main character, this show is about something more, and works in so many ways that it can not only survive, but flourish in any situation and without any number of its most prized assets. I love a good bottle episode and this was, I guess, kind of one of those — most of the episode taking place in a gorgeous cathedral in Italy — focusing on a very small number of characters.
Will Graham is very special guy, a very unique man, with unique powers in an extremely unique set of circumstances. There is a lot to the FBI profiler that hails from Wolf Trap, Virgina, he is not your conventional hero, no more than Hannibal is your conventional villain. So when Will made his triumphant return this week we were treated to a very special and very unique forty odd minutes of drama. I can’t say I was in love with having to watch last season’s climatic season ender again at the very start of this episode, I did feel it went on a little too long and perhaps could have been alluded to a little less thoroughly but this was a minor gripe with an episode of TV (I can’t believe this a TV show) that was so immaculately conceived and then brought to life, that by the time Primavera was in full swing I had forgotten all about that tiny grievance.
“When the tea cup shatters” Hannibal reminds us during this opening segment, with one of the shows all time great lines of dialogue. And it did shatter but it also reassembled, the pieces, like Hannibal said, did come together, but they came back to take an unexpected form, the shape of our heroes face, the face of Will Graham. So it turns out Will survived Hannibal’s blood bath, Abigail too, no mention of Jack or Alana, and we were reminded very quickly of indeed how unique Will’s situation really is. It’s easy to forget that the man is bat-shit insane, with a very, very loose grip on reality. Eight months after waking up in a hospital bed, dreaming of the night that changed his life forever, Will, accompanied by a besotted Abigail, travels to Europe in order to locate the infamous doctor, his therapist, his attacker, his friend. The beauty of this show is its lack of context, it’s refusal to spoon feed. There was no mention of why Will travelled to Italy, if he was there on FBI orders or simply just travelling on his own dime. These details didn’t matter, we didn’t need to know such things, all we cared about was what he was going to do when he got there.
As Will and Abigail stood under the magisterial domed roof of that Italian Cathedral, the ceiling started to crumble (at least in Will’s eyes), the cracks already showing, they never had a chance to be repaired, the damage was irreversible. It was hard to believe anything that we were seeing. With Will being the ultimate unreliable narrator, we as an audience found ourselves once again not being able to accept anything we were seeing on screen. None of this could be happening, all of it could be happening, or as Abigail said, “Everything that can happen will happen” and that we shouldn’t worry as somewhere, in a different universe, everything will work out okay.
“He left us his broken heart” Will remarks to Abigail as we see the gift Hannibal left for his friend, a gift in the form of a human carcass, bent and broken, put together to resemble the human heart. “A valentine written on a broken man” Will described it as. While on the hunt for Hannibal, Will meets a detective, a man who has been tracking Hannibal for years, for decades even, from a time when Lecter was known as the Monster of Florence, a young Lithuanian man who liked to recreate paintings in the form of human corpses. Nice to see Hannibal hasn’t changed. Trying to unravel the mystery, the knot to which Hannibal has tied all their lives together, we watch Will in what feels like a sunken dream, a world underwater, everything about this episode was quiet, the ambience virtually non-existent. It was beautiful to behold.
While last week’s episode was a visual masterpiece, this week, while still being stunning to look at, was all about the script; which was truly perfect. How the writers of this show sculpt and form such beautiful poetry, seemingly line after line, is beyond me. Every time Will opened his mouth my head would be shaking in disbelief. People don’t talk like this in real life. This is too beautiful for our reality.
Will finds himself completely at sea. Betrayed, confused, desperate to find the one he hunts while wistfully lamenting events that have come and gone. “What if no one died? What if we all left together, like we were supposed to” Will asks in this grandest of settings. It turns out Will was keeping something from us for the first thirty minutes of this episode, keeping it from himself too until the pain became too much for him to suppress. Abigail, it seems, didn’t survive after all, this shouldn’t of been a surprise but it was, the show did such a good job of making us believe Hannibal kept our friends alive on purpose but alas it wasn’t to be, it was just Will being unreliable once again, unable to let go of the ghosts that haunt him so vividly. “This place wasn’t made for you, Abigail” he tells her in one of the most gorgeous scenes of the show so far. Hannibal tried to make a world where all of them could be together but Will wasn’t ready, he was unable to make the choices required and now he had to watch again as Abigail was taken away, disappearing off into the dark recesses of his mind as he sat lost and alone while Hannibal, appearing for the first time in present day goings on, watched secretly from his vantage point. “Hannibal isn’t god” Will tries to convince us, convince himself.
Soon enough, Will realises, as if from a sixth sense, that Hannibal is still there, that he is in the church, waiting for him. He and the detective soon embark into the dark and gothic catacombs beneath the church, tunnels that seem far too large to be real, appearing out of nowhere, pathways leading Will and us right back to Hannibal’s heart. It becomes apparent very quickly that Hannibal is one step ahead as per usual, waiting and lurking behind pillar and post, listening in on Wills ramblings to the detective who just wants to put all this horror to bed once and for all. It’s hard not to imagine that Hannibal enjoyed what he heard from Will throughout this episode. Yes, his heart is broken, but seeing his old friend again, even from afar, and hearing him declare that he might not be here to capture him at all, surely warmed his heart and when Will lost himself in the darkness and called out for his friend, telling him that all was forgiven, I wonder if he believed him. Was Will telling the truth? It was hard to tell. How could he forgive all that has happened? Their friendship should surely now be torn asunder, never to be mended again. But this, as we are realising more and more, isn’t an ordinary relationship, this isn’t an ordinary set of circumstances and more importantly, these aren’t thoughts that stem from a rational mind.
Bryan Fuller left us in the dark this week, literally and figuratively, delivering what I am tempted to call the greatest episode of HANNIBAL ever. It was perfect. Majestic. Perhaps the season opener we were all expecting. Will and Hannibal are a couple that defy all reason, all barriers of logic, they can’t be defined so easily. Maybe it’s impossible for them to be together, in our world at least. “After he served the lamb, where would we have gone?” Will asked the ghost of Abigail’s memory. “Into another world” she softly replied. Maybe that’s where we are now, another world where such things are possible. The tea cup shattered at last season’s end, what was left was a reality splintered and a world full with broken hearts. A place was made for Will, for Hannibal, and for all of us to be together, but who knows if we will ever find it.
“This is my design”. A valentine sent from Hannibal’s broken heart and delivered oh so deeply into Will’s tormented psyche. “This is my design”, but is any of this really happening? And if so, where? Does it even matter? Let’s tune in next week to not find out, to not care in the slightest, and to see what other pieces of lives shattered and broken we all might come across.