Warning: Bloody Spoilers
& Graphic Images
After the glorious and sublime departure from the usual expectations of a show about serial killers in the premiere of NBC’s Hannibal season 3, “Antipasto,” the show took a curious and unpredictable U-turn into flashbacks that contained much that viewers already knew. Instead of moving the story forward in its new landscape of Florence, Italy, where Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen) “has found a kind of peace” that he’d “like to preserve” since he’s “hardly killed anybody” while he and his “wife” — his former psychiatrist — Bedelia du Maurier (Gillian Anderson) have been in Europe, episode 2, “Primavera,” took viewers back to the finale of Season 2. It was a strange.
It was an unnecessary flashback — even if we did get to see just how gracefully Mads, formerly a dancer, can move. First of all, anyone who hadn’t seen Seasons 1 or 2 would not be likely to begin Hannibal with season 3 episode 2. For all of us who have seen those previous seasons, “Primavera” contained an unnecessary flashback of the season 2 finale. More important in artistic terms, however, was the fact that instead of viewers’ getting any new information in E2’s flashbacks — as we did in episode 1, “Antipasto,” where we learned Bedelia’s secret about her attack by a patient and Hannibal’s role in “saving” her” — we got no new plot information or character development in this episode’s flashback.
I do agree with some of my readers, however, in comments, that viewers had a long #HeAteUs of about 12-18 months, and so they might have appreciated the flashbacks of the S2 finale. (I watched both seasons on DVD, and recently, several times, so the flashbacks were fresh in my mind. However, I stand by my assertion that any flashback, in any artistic medium which allows it, must always provide new information in order to be relevant and not become repetitious: see my sample details in the reply to Dannibal Lecter’s comments below.)
I’m at the head of the line applauding last season’s finale, which was an absolute tour de force: the acting, writing, character development, and choreography were magnificent beyond description. It left everyone covered with blood, even Hannibal.All his victims were mortally wounded and bleeding out: Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), filleted like the fish he loved to catch himself; and Abigail (Kacey Rohl), beside Will on Hannibal’s kitchen floor, with her throat slit as her own serial killer father Garret Jacob Hobbs had originally attempted to do before Will shot him dead.
Dr. Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas), after having been given a choice by her lover Hannibal “to walk away,” sobbing in grief and betrayal, attempted to “do her job” and shoot him. No bullets in the gun. Hannibal had removed them while she slept.
Following Hannibal’s instructions (before he slit her throat), young Abigail pushed Alana out the window of the second floor.
Department Chief Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne), despite his larger girth, was simply no match for Hannibal’s savagery, skill at using multiple instruments to kill, and his physical speed and agility. (I mean, the man leapt over a kitchen counter, for heaven’s sake.)
Maybe they just wanted viewers to see the artistry of that scene once again, even if it was only in “flashbacks” — which, to be effective in art, should always provide new information, not information that the viewers (readers) already know; otherwise, it’s just repetition.
And, perhaps, as one of my readers suggested, they wanted to make up for the long break between seasons 2 & 3.
May I suggest that, in the future, if there is going to be a long #HeAteUs between seasons of Hannibal, NBC show re-runs before the premiere of the new season, as cable channels do, and that the writers still include new information in the flashbacks, as they did so expertly in S3E1 with Bedelia’s secret.
Will & Abigail
Despite the severity of Will’s and Abigail’s wounds, despite the massive amount of blood on Hannibal’s kitchen floor around them, they both seemed to have survived. Imagine my surprise.
Despite Abigail’s claim that Hannibal knew “just how to cut them so they would survive,” I still found it bizarre that both of them lived. Hannibal is a killer — a serial killer. And yet, these two survived?
I found the survival of both of them neither probable nor believable — even though I guessed that Will would survive, not only because he does in the Thomas Harris books on which the show is based, but because the trailers showed Hugh Dancy discussing what his character and Hannibal… (thank you very much for all the Spoilers, NBC-guys).
I turned off the trailer.
So, in episode 2, I found that, apparently, both Abigail and Will had survived mortal wounds.
As if that weren’t disappointing enough because of its unreality, I found their dialogue in the Florentine church dull, uninspired, and uninteresting. They sat and talked on the altar steps in front of dismembered, inside-out, headless body of Tony the poet, who discovered Hannibal and Bedelia as imposters in S3E1 because they were posing as Dr. and Mrs. Fells, and Tony had been Fells’ TA. Hannibal was forced to kill Tony the poet.
I didn’t understand Hannibal’s arrangement of the body, I admit, until Will said, to Abigail, of Hannibal, “He left us his broken heart.”
I admit, I totally missed the fact that the body was supposed to look like a giant, mounted heart.
So… unlike all serial killers in reality, Hannibal can not only have a heart, he can have a “broken heart.”
Sculpted out of another human being’s body, but… all right, I’ll play along.
Still in the church despite the amount of time it would have taken Will to get from the US to Italy? No, it was probably an hallucination, or a memory from the crime photos.
Beyond that, considering the fact that this is an artistic portrayal of a serial killer, I think I can see how Will broke Hannibal’s “heart,” but I’m not sure how Abigail broke it. By recognizing Hannibal for what he really is: a serial killer and not a surrogate father-figure?
Yet Hannibal seems more comfortable when people see him as he is, e.g., Bedelia is well aware of exactly who and what he is without his person-suit, and Hannibal said he’s been feeling a sort of peace, living in Paris and Florence with her as his “wife.”
Did Abigail and Will “break Hannibal’s heart” by not “living up to their potential” and becoming serial killers like him? It wasn’t clear to me, and it’s still not.
Will & … Will
Then we discover that Abigail, despite the theological and philosophical discussions with Will in the Florentine church, did not survive the attack. That confused me even more. I know Will has the so-called “empathy disorder” (a common trope in serial killer novels) where he can see both the victims and the killers at the crime-scenes so that he can “re-create” the scenes. I know that when he was afflicted with auto-immune encephalitis, he was having delusions and hallucinations, which Hannibal encouraged him to view as “reality,” if only to see how far Will would go with his own murderous impulses.
Since when does Will hallucinate when his AIE has been cured? When he’s in the hospital recovering from his wounds? Okay, those could have been pain-drug-induced. But when he’s in the Florentine church? So all his conversations with Abigail about Hannibal were hallucinations?
Or were they just his thoughts with himself?
Why didn’t he hallucinate Hannibal himself then? Or is Abigail supposed to be Hannibal’s spokesperson for Will at this time, right after he’s recovered from his wounds? Her responses do sound an awful lot like Hannibal’s philosophy.
So, who, exactly, is Will having these philosophical conversations with?
Episode 2 introduced us to Inspector Pazzi (Fortunato Cerlino), an Italian homicide detective from the Harris novels who was unable to capture an Italian serial killer known as Il Monstro, who modeled his murdered couples in tableaux after Boticcelli’s Renaissance paintings, especially Primavera. While I can usually understand most accents within a minute or two, I found it virtually impossible to understand Mr. Cerlino, who was attempting to tell Will who Il Monstro was.
He produced a sketch of Mads-as-Hannibal as a young man, saying he was still an active killer. Of course, Will recognized Hannibal immediately. But the endlessly talky scenes with Pazzi delayed the forward momentum of the show, making it drag.
Hannibal as Lurker
One of the most exciting scenes in “Primavera” was seeing Hannibal appear above the church cloister looking down on Will. I thought we were going to have a major encounter between the two.
Or at least a really good chase.
When Will went down into the catacombs with Pazzi, and then began roaming about by himself, talking about Hannibal, and we saw that Hannibal was down there with Will, I was sure the momentum of the show was back on track.
Yes, Hannibal was there, presumably all the time that Will had been there — both in the church and in the catacombs. He was either stalking Will or attempting to avoid meeting him. In any event, that made the tension, which was largely absent in the episode, begin to build.
Hannibal as Lurker.
Despite the fact that the season 2 finale had Hannibal saying to his victims, “Now that you know me, see me.”
Very interesting play, making Hannibal lurk about the church while Will is there.
Then Will raised his face to the ceiling of the catacombs, as if he were raising it to the heavens, and said, “I forgive you, Hannibal.”
(Pan to Hannibal’s silent visage, pensive.)
I don’t know what the whole forgiveness theme is about in Hannibal because most of us would not forgive a serial killer who had killed one of our loved ones. Most of us would even be angry at law enforcement who didn’t catch the serial killer, and thus stop him, earlier.
But if we were an actual victim of a serial killer and we had survived? I think our PTSD would take years of therapy to control; I don’t know if we’d ever feel safe enough to “forgive” a serial killer, whom we know has no empathy and who, furthermore, gets sexually aroused by torturing, raping, and killing his victims. Especially by killing them.
(Serial rapists who kill in order not to be identified, for example, report no arousal by the actual killing, whereas serial killers in captivity who have been interviewed extensively by the FBI do admit that the killing itself it what excites them the most. In fact, many of them don’t get sexually aroused until after the killing.)
The true empathy disorder is the inability to empathize with the suffering of another, even if the victim’s suffering is caused by the one with the empathy disorder. So despite the serial-killer-fiction trope of the investigator with an “empathy disorder,” it is, in reality, serial killers who have an empathy disorder. Still, the show’s based on the books which use that trope, so I’ve been going along with it, even though it’s nothing new (or realistic).
But what’s with this forgiveness theme?
In last year’s finale, Hannibal told Will, “I forgive you. Can you forgive me?” But there are multiple things Hannibal could have been referring to.
- I forgive you for trying to kill me. Can you forgive me for trying to kill you?
- I forgive you for trying to arrest me and take me into custody. Can you forgive me for defending myself?
- I forgive you for being so blind and not seeing my true nature. Can you forgive me for attempting to force you to see me as I really am?
- I forgive you for not becoming like me. Can you forgive me for trying to make you more like me by not telling you about your auto-immune encephalitis, for trying to frame you for murders, and for hiding my own serial killings so expertly?
Or was it as simple as this:
I forgive you for not loving me. Can you forgive me for everything I did to you?
I don’t know what Hannibal meant when he said it to Will.
I don’t know what Will meant when he said it at the end of S3E2.
I do know that I don’t want to listen to Bryan Fuller’s interpretation of what Will meant because, brilliant and innovative as Bryan is, his interpretation is only one of many that are available. I don’t want to hear how the actors interpreted it either, for the same reason.
I want to know how other viewers interpreted it.
What is Hannibal forgiving Will, et al, for?
What is Will forgiving Hannibal for?
Hannibal, Season 3
Bello, Bellisima: NBC’s Hannibal, Season 3 Premiere: “Antipasto”
Hannibal, Season 1
The Nightmare Under the Pillow: NBC’s Hannibal, the Series, Season 1
Hannibal, Season 2
The Nightmare that Followed Him Out of his Dreams: NBC’s Hannibal, Season 2