not in our stars, but in ourselves
In Jane Austen’s Persuasion, towards the end of the book, Anne Elliot is discussing unrequited love with a friend (as you do) in Bath. Her former suitor, Captain Wentworth, is in the room at a writing desk. Eight and a half years ago, she succumbed to pressure from her family, and broke off the engagement; fate has thrown the former lovers together, and reawakened their feelings for each other – even though each believes the other one no longer feels the same. Captain Wentworth writes an impassioned note to Anne while she speaks:
I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. […] I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes?
I bring up Austen’s gentlest and loveliest novel because this passage in particular came racing to mind after last night’s episode of Hannibal, “Primavera”: where last week’s episode was a drugged up dream of life with Dr. Lecter, this week, we see how Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and Hannibal are handling their breakup. It’s almost possible to imagine Hannibal reciting Wentworth’s letter to Will, especially given his speech at the end of “Mizumono” – the most devastating moments of which we see again in “Primavera”:
Do you understand? The place was made for all of us, together. I wanted to surprise you. And you – you wanted to surprise me. I have let you know me, see me. I gave you a rare gift. But you didn’t want it.
The heartbroken Hannibal. It’s a sign of how effective this show is that we really do feel sympathy – even empathy – for a man who is, basically, the devil. “Primavera” begins with a lengthy reminder of that sympathy for the devil, and makes it abundantly clear that it’s on Will’s mind, too.
After Hannibal gutted him, Will spends a long time recovering (physically, anyway). He imagines himself sinking in a dark pool of blood – similar to how Bedelia DuMaurier imagined herself, in “Antipasto”, sinking into a dark pool while taking a bath – and comes to in his hospital room. A nurse tells him that someone is there to see him: Abigail Hobbs (Kacey Rohl), the surrogate daughter figure for both Will and Hannibal, whose throat Hannibal slashed. She tells him that Hannibal cut them with a surgeon’s knowledge and precision, so that they wouldn’t die; she tells him that he should have accepted Hannibal’s “rare gift” and run away with him, as she intended to do. With her prodding, Will remembers where Hannibal would have been likely to go: the Norman Chapel in Palermo, Italy. Soon after Will and Abigail arrive, Will meets Florentine detective Rinaldo Pazzi (Fortunato Cerlino). Pazzi believes that, twenty years ago, Hannibal was the man responsible for the string of Il Mostro murders. He recalls seeing a young (terribly handsome) Lithuanian man, sketching details from Botticelli’s Primavera; lo and behold, a young couple was murdered and arranged in a murder tableau recreation of Zephyrus’s abduction of Chloris:
Pazzi is determined not to let him get away again, and he thinks Will can help him. Hannibal is clearly aware that Will is in town, or likely to be there soon, because he leaves a “present” for him in the foyer of the chapel: a “broken heart” made out of the broken body of a man. Will correctly interprets it as a valentine. While Will is discussing the gruesome gift with Abigail, the scar on her throat begins to return to its state as a cut, then as a wound, then as a gushing torrent of blood. Will has been imagining her all this time, berating himself for “betraying” Hannibal in Abigail’s voice. While Will was taken away by paramedics, he saw Abigail taken away in a body bag. The episode begins with Will remembering (and regretting) how he broke Hannibal’s heart; about three-quarters of the way through, the episode shows (with its usual ferocious emotional punch) his own heartbreak and grief at having lost Abigail. This, however, spurs Will to seek Hannibal out in the church’s catacombs – where, of course, Hannibal is lying in wait. Will says aloud, to the unseen Captain Wentworth to his Anne Elliot, “Hannibal, I forgive you.”
Bryan Fuller had said that the theme of the third season would be “breaking up is hard to do” – and “Primavera” captures all that fear and elation inherent in unfulfilled love. I expect that the dynamics will change after the introduction of the Red Dragon later this season, but up to now, Hannibal has very much been a dark love story between Will and Hannibal. For Will, it’s about finally feeling that somebody understands, and chooses him anyway. It can be an intoxicating thing, for people who’ve mostly been misunderstood and/or rejected when someone finally does understand, to feel at last that someone else gets it and loves you for exactly how screwy you are. (Not that I’m speaking from personal experience.) For Hannibal, it’s not quite as clear-cut; perhaps Will’s extraordinary abilities as an empath are attractive to Hannibal, whom Fuller and Mikkelsen have described and depicted as a “fallen angel” who’s fascinated by humankind. Perhaps it’s because Will came as close as anybody could to understanding Hannibal. In any event, it’s not hard to see Hannibal’s half agony, half hope: he is mostly absent from this episode, except in flashbacks, but his bloody valentine speaks as clearly to his anger and yearning as any love letter. Regardless of who catches whom, each of these two will always be the one that got away from the other; but damn it all, you almost want to see them sail into the sunset together.
P.P.S. Absolutely gorgeous screenshots here. I used several in this post. To the kindly Redditor who provided them: thank you.