In the last episode, we got caught up with Hannibal’s activities since the night of the Red Dinner. In this episode, we find out what Will Graham has been doing, as one of the survivors of that night.
All throughout season two, we’ve been getting strong “hints and allegations” that Hannibal and Will have an intense (and dangerous) attraction to each other. This season the subtext has definitely become text, as it’s flat-out stated by both of them, what feelings they have for each other, and exactly how far into the abyss Will Graham fell, in his efforts to bring Hannibal to justice. At the beginning of this season, Will sets out to find and re-engage with Hannibal again, seemingly not having learned his lesson from that night.
We open almost immediately after the Red Dinner, with Will in the hospital recovering from his wounds, reliving the events of that night, and imagining that Abigail has survived. Actually this imagining of her isn’t any different from his previous thoughts about Abigail. Will has an idealized view of Abigail, as the perfect daughter and companion, an image that Hannibal well knew, and used against him. In the real world, he and Abigail weren’t that close, and she certainly didn’t feel about him the way he felt about her, although since this Abigail argues with, and castigates him for his actions last season, this is probably a much truer version of her than we’ve seen from Will before.
This is something a lot of fans of the show forget. That Will and Abigail didn’t interact that much in the real world, beyond season one, and on those occasions when they were together, she was just as unforthcoming, duplicitous, and manipulative with Will, as she was with everyone else, so I was immediately suspect of this image of her. And the show plays coy with the idea that she survived that night, until near the end of the episode.
One of the clues, that maybe she didn’t survive, is that Abigail asks Will questions about things she couldn’t possibly know about, unless Hannibal discussed these things with her, and I don’t believe he did. Also notice that Abigail wears the same hunting jacket that Will has imagined her wearing before, but in a dried blood color, we’ve never seen. Her body language, and attitude, are the same as when he imagined talking with her, when he was in prison last season.
So keep in mind that Abigail did not survive that night, and Will’s discussions with her, are just Will castigating himself for being stupid.
Will also has an image of the stag, for the last time, as it dies on Hannibal’s kitchen floor. The Stag doesn’t represent Hannibal, (as he knows Hannibal isn’t dead), and when Will is hunting for Hannibal in Europe, the Stag is reborn. There has been a lot of discussion about what the Stag means, but my theory is that this is an avatar of Will. This isn’t the RavenStag, which is an avatar of Hannibal the Killer. This is just The Stag that Will imagines whenever the darker side of his nature begins to assert itself.
Will has an image of himself, and Abigail, drowning in a lake of blood. I’ve written before, that images of drowning represent someone’s belief that they have gotten in over the heads, or into a situation that has overwhelmed them, or that they can’t control. Bedelia has such dreams in the last episode. These dreams of drowning are Will’s though, and are tied to the knowledge that he totally underestimated Hannibal’s will to survive, and his spiteful nature.
Will’s hallucinations and images are jumbled with Hannibal’s images of the breaking teacup, that reverses itself, and becomes un-shattered. I think this represents Will, and the reversal of its breakage represents the turning back of time, and the resurrection of their previous relationship, which is something Hannibal deeply misses, even in his anger at Will’s betrayal. It’s something that Will longs for too, as he deeply regrets the decisions he made leading up to the night Abigail died. So both men are in the same place emotionally, saddened. missing each other, and regretting what they did to each other.
Will sets out in his boat to look for Hannibal in Europe, based on conversations had during Will’s therapy sessions. On arrival, eight months later, still accompanied by the ghost of Abigail, he goes to the Norman Chapel in Palermo, Italy that Hannibal mentioned, and finds a murder investigation in progress.
The Norman Chapel is an actual place, which is also part of Hannibal’s Memory Palace. It’s real, although, the skeleton on the floor isn’t actually there. That was placed in post-production by Fuller, and i think it indicates indicates Hannibal’s placation to Will. It is an image of Hannibal’s forgiveness, or perhaps, he is praying to Will for forgiveness..
One of the images of Hannibal’s forgiveness is the Vetruvian Man origami from the first episode, and the mutilation sculpture of Dimmond’s body by Hannibal. He folded Dimmond’s body into the shape of a heart, pierced it with upside down swords, and placed it in the Chapel’s foyer. Will doesn’t actually get to see the body, though. He is met at the Chapel by a Rinaldo Pazzi, a detective in the city, who has been reading of Will’s attempts to capture The Chesapeake Ripper. Pazzi shows WIll a photograph of the crime scene, and believes it is linked to Will’s arrival in the city.
Pazzi believes that Dimmond was killed by a serial killer that he calls Il Mostro, who managed to escape capture many years ago, by framing another man for his murders. He believes Il mostro, and The Chesapeake Ripper, are one and the same, and that Il Mostro left Dimmond’s body as a message for Will, which it is. After learning from Bedelia that Will is still alive, and has traveled to Italy to find him, Will is much on his mind. Even if Hannibal may not recognize his feelings as a form of love, Bedelia does. (I mentioned in season one, that every show needs a truth-teller, a person who sees things more clearly than the main character/s around whom the story revolves. Bedelia’s role is to say what the outsider (us, the viewer) has observed.)
Pazzi recalls the case that set him against Il Mostro. He found the bodies of two people designed to emulate the 1482 painting, La Primavera by Boticelli, which hangs in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.
Hannibal was obsessed with the painting. Sitting for hours, and drawing the painting over and over, and his last murder in Italy was a reenactment of Zephyrus chasing Flora (to the right in the painting). Pazzi recognizes Hannibal’s style in the killings of the Chesapeake Ripper and believes Hannibal has returned to Italy. He thinks Will may have some insight into Il Mostro’s nature.
But Will is not helpful, as he grapples with his darker self. Will is torn between wanting to join Hannibal, and wanting to capture him. Whenever he feels he is getting too emotionally involved, too close to Hannibal, he becomes afraid that he will lose himself, (hence his dreams about drowning), and feeling a need to reassert his better self (as an agent of the law), he tries to capture him instead. He seems to go through this cycle of longing and destruction at least twice a season.
Observe that while contemplating Hannibal’s crime scene, Will doesn’t use his pendulum system to ease into the killer’s mindset. He knows Hannibal so well that he doesn’t need it, and he seamlessly moves back and forth between his own mind, and Hannibal’s. He hallucinates (or dreams) of the Dimmond heart, and in one of this series most grotesque scenes, it comes to life, unfolds itself into the shape of the Stag, and stalks him across the chapel floor. My theory is that this is the rebirth of Will’s murderous avatar. Just being in a place Hannibal has been, has awakened the darker parts of his nature, a part of himself he thought was destroyed that night in Hannibal’s kitchen, when Abigail died.
Will and Pazzi descend into the catacombs underneath the Chapel. Will is searching for Hannibal, believing he can feel him nearby. Will warns Pazzi to not be so trusting, because he may harm him. Will knows that his distress will attract Hannibal and killing Pazzi might bring draw him for sure. And Hannibal is there, so he hears Will’s quiet assertion that he is forgiven. But what is Will forgiving him for? Running away and leaving him? Trying to kill him? Killing Abigail? All three? Does it matter?
Will’s mention of the church ceiling falling in is something mentioned by Hannibal, in the movie Silence of the Lambs, where he says he likes to collect church collapses.
Abigail stares at one of the priests in the chapel, and he stares back as if he can see her, as if he can see this dark spectre following Will around.