Welcome back for your second helping of Season 3, Fannibals! I wish I could subtitle this episode “The gang’s all back!” but really it was more “Will Graham’s all back!” They are really introducing the cast piecemeal this season, but hopefully by next week we’ll round out with Jack and Alana (whom trailers tell us are still alive) and newcomer Lady Murasaki. Until then, it was nice to piece together at least a little of what happened since the finale, since last episode’s focus on Hannibal and Bedelia gave us no clue as to what befell our erstwhile companions who lay dying at Chez Hannibal in the Season 2 finale. So get ready for some answers… just not very many.
Spoilers and your typical Hannibal trigger warnings, i.e. body horror (including a particularly grotesque scene this week), mutilation, blood/gore, etc.
To start off, we are treated to a flashback of Hannibal gutting Will, in case you managed to forget and heal from the devastation of last season’s shocking, blood-drenched final scenes over the HeAteUs. Way to open up old wounds! Will wakes up in hospital, where he is visited by Abigail. She tells him Hannibal cut them in just the right way so they’d live. What a gentleman. The two begin waxing philosophical, leaning towards a point of view that’s not too far from predestination.
Willbigail (that’s not gonna catch on) travel to Italy to follow Hannibal, and they find themselves in a church. The setting opens up the dialogue to a plethora of religious musings (a perfect companion to the article I wrote about the theological strains of thought in Hannibal!). “God can’t save any of us, because it’s inelegant. Elegance is more important than suffering. That’s His design,” Will explains to Abigail. He further elucidates, “Hannibal isn’t God. He wouldn’t have any fun being God; defying God, that’s his idea of a good time.” Will even brings up Hannibal’s fascination with church collapses, saying that Hannibal would love for the church to fall down on a full congregation and that Hannibal thinks God would love it too.
Since of course this is the church where Hannibal left his latest victim all dismembered and sewn up in the form of a heart (like the real anatomical heart, not a Valentine’s heart), they encounter law enforcement personnel working the crime scene, although we don’t get to meet the Italian Beverly and co. *sadface*. We do get to meet the Italian Will Graham, however; one Italian police official comes forward and says that he shares Will’s power of imagination and does the same kind of work. He tells our protagonist that he once was on the trail of “Il Mostro”, the Monster of Florence, who displayed his victims like paintings. Hmm, an overly elaborate, artistic display of corpses; who does that sound like… The detective shows Will a picture of a couple staged post-mortem to match a detail from Botticelli’s “La Primavera”, some of Hannibal’s “Early Years” collection, as it’s explained that this was many years ago. The detective knows it was Hannibal, but was unable to catch him. (Fun fact: Il Mostro was a real serial killer who was never identified.)
Later Will finds himself staring at the corpse crafted into a heart-shape. He hallucinates the heart unfolding briefly into a vaguely humanoid shape (ugh it was so gross) before very quickly turning into this extremely disturbing, nightmare fuel version of the Ravenstag. Why is he still having hallucinations?? I’m just a little confused, because I kind of thought they explained his hallucinations as due to the underlying encephalitis in Season 1, so it’s since resolved, but maybe it’s just due to his overly-developed power of imagination? Who knows, no one’s telling me. Anyway, at least Abigail is there to comfort him afterwards. Just kidding—Abigail is dead. Turns out, Hannibal actually did kill her in the kitchen back in the Season 2 finale, and Will’s been hallucinating her this whole time. Ughhh.
Will descends into the catacombs/crypt (not 100% sure how that works—all catacombs are in crypts, but not all crypts have catacombs? I think?) beneath the church, stating that he senses Hannibal is still there in the church, a hunch proven to be true. Though he is unable to find his old buddy, due to Hannibal’s superior sneaking skills, he continues to chat with his new friend, the Italian detective. Surprisingly, Hannibal doesn’t leap out when the two are separated and kill the detective like I kind of thought he would. To end the episode on a poignant note, while wandering alone in the dark underbelly of the church, the last line is Will stating that he forgives Hannibal.
Overall, this episode was… a little boring? It was emotional, for sure, but it feels like this season is crawling at a snail’s pace. I’m thinking/hoping it’ll take off a little bit in the upcoming weeks once everyone is back, but on the other hand, it seems like the crime procedural element of the show is going by the wayside in favor of over-arcing mythology episodes this season, which is gonna make for a slow burn of a season. As long as they keep up the brilliant cinematography, I guess I can’t complain too much; it’ll still be worth the viewing experience.
One thing I will complain about: the treatment of poor Abigail Hobbs. She has been through so much; throat slashed by two father figures (one of them literally her own father) and gaslighted and manipulated to the max by Hannibal—he kept her a secret throughout all of Season 2 only to kill her minutes after her reappearance to the audience. Right before she was revealed to be a hallucination in this episode, Will asks if she’d still go with Hannibal after all he’d done: she says yes, and unfortunately I think the real Abigail would have too; she’d been so utterly under his thrall. So much worse than simply being a second-string character, she was always just an object for Hannibal—a surrogate daughter, a tool to use to help forge a connection with Will Graham and later to frame Will. Even Alana and Freddie used her in a tug-of-war, each trying to get her on their own side for how she would serve them, their purposes, and the men around whom those purposes revolved: Will and Hannibal. Abigail was, most tragically of all, disposable. This poor girl, who had been through horrific trauma, ended up being merely a plaything for our main characters, a toy to be thrown away when it had outlasted its purpose. And that really, really sucks.
Hopefully, Hannibal can make a better track record for itself in regards to treatment of female characters this season, although the writers have a lot to make up for. On the plus side, Bedelia’s already proving to be much more complex and fascinating than Alana, and hopefully Murasaki is a character with plenty of personal agency, and not just another tool to further the plot of the men. Until next week, keep hungry!
Ravenstag apparitions: 2 (1 in flashback, 1 ultra-creepy Silent Hill version in Italy)
Female characters: 1
Female characters who weren’t in fact hallucinations: 0