Splice wasn’t a smash hit when it debuted in 2009. The story of two genetic researchers and their unholy, sexy, murderous offspring was sci-fi by way of kitchen drama by way of porn by way of slasher. It was designed (intelligently) to alienate pretty much every audience on some level and directed masterfully by Vincenzo Natali, who also co-wrote the screenplay. What would happen if you let that guy loose on network TV? Well, you’d get “Primavera”, the fourth episode of Hannibal directed by the Italian and the second episode of the show’s third season.

Just how alienating is “Primavera”? Well, the plot involves a (apparently) Lithuanian serial killer modeling his mind palace on the Norman Chapel in Palermo and Henri Moore style molding of a human torso into a 100-pound heart. There’s also a talking dead girl and a Florentine detective who appears to give very few shits about stopping our titular bad guy, but definitely knows a lot about Botticelli. Oh, and the whole episode is shot in a chiaroscuro so dark that it’s completely unwatchable on an old television.

The idea here is clearly not to maximize the audience.

The most memorable image from the episode, which does little to further the plot other than get L.L. Bean Ken doll Will Graham back in touch with his murderous foe, is of a flayed human corpse sprouting antlers and hooves and charging across a church floor. It’s a gory image that begs this question: Who was supposed to be censoring this show and what did they decide to do instead?

If “Primavera” represents anything — and it very possible doesn’t — it’s the show’s hastened descent into a decidedly Italian aesthetic. It’s no surprise that a murder ballad produced by the widow of hyperviolent Napolitan weirdo Dino De Laurentiis would head in the direction of Grand Guignol Italiano, but it remains shocking that network executives would let it go this far.

It’s molto bene, sure, but it is also ridicolo.

At this point, the question of what will happen next on the show is so thoroughly overshadowed by the question of what will be shown next on the show, that absolutely no one cares. This season is about “The Monster of Florence” and that monster really wants us to take an art history class. Hannibal remains painterly, irresponsible television, a prestige play too bizarre to ignore and possibly too bizarre to succeed.

(Cool old hedashot Mads!)