It’s time to say goodbye to one of the most original shows on TV. Yes, Fannibals, it’s time for the final bite.
Let’s bitch it out…
In honour of Hannibal‘s finale we’re counting down our picks for the three best episodes of each season leading up to Saturday’s finale. First on the docket:
The series debuts April 2013 in the competitive 10pm Thursday timeslot. Expectations vary: the show’s status as a prequel to a well-known property like Hannibal Lecter smacks of a cash-grab, but the talented cast and crew, including leads Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen and creator Bryan Fuller (of respected and lamentably canceled cult series Pushing Daisies and Wonderfalls) bolster confidence. When the premiere airs, ‘Apéritif’ – under director David Slade’s expert guidance – strikes an unique visual aesthetic unlike anything else on TV. Despite low numbers, the show gains a dedicated fanbase, including influential critics. It manages to snag a renewal before airing its season finale 13 weeks later.
That year Hannibal takes home top spot on our ‘Best Of TV’ Bitch Awards list for 2013.
BEST EPISODES – S1
Many of the early episodes of Hannibal coyly play with the audience’s familiarity with both Red Dragon and the Oscar winning Silence of the Lambs. ‘Entrée’ continues this trend with a verbatim repetition of one of Lecter’s (Mikkelsen) most famous lines from Lambs, but the episode is far more significant in the series’ legacy for its introduction of Abel Gideon (Eddie Izzard), imitator and future victim of Hannibal, as well as Dr. Frederick Chilton (Raúl Esparza), smarmy head of the Baltimore State Hospital where both Will (Dancy) and Hannibal will eventually be incarcerated.
This episode also introduces one of the series’ main themes: guilt and responsibility. The majority of S1 plays with Jack Crawford’s (Laurence Fishburne) mixed feelings about involving Will in the hunt for the Chesapeake killer because he knows what it can/will cost. ‘Entrée’ fixates on this idea by introducing Crawford’s former protégé, Miriam Lass (Anna Chlumsky) who acts as a natural precursor to Will. Miriam not only embodies Jack’s concerns that Will will share her uncertain fate, she also foreshadows how Hannibal manipulates and uses people to do his bidding. This latter idea will become integral as the S1 relationship between the doctor and the profiler develops and Will’s struggle with his undiagnosed Encephalitis grows. Here the disease begins manifesting in the form of the series’ signature black stag.
This is where it all began. Thanks the strong writing of series creator and showrunner Fuller and the superb, cinematic direction of Slade, ‘Apéritif’ nails the quintessential look and feel of the series right out of the gate. Credit Slade for developing the visualization of Will’s process, which finds the profiler literally embody the role of the killer by walking in their shoes. Meanwhile the swinging pendulum of the clock arm are two big visual cues about the role that hypnosis and time will play in Will’s relationship with Hannibal as S1 unfolds.
Aside from the lush visual aesthetic of the pilot, the “adult” nature is the component that caught many viewers off guard. Hannibal debuted in the wake of other serial killers series such as Bates Motel and The Following, but it immediately bolstered its own identity by making its murders both beautiful and horrible. There’s an inherent artistry in the way bodies are displayed on the series – both in Hannibal’s food porn tapestry, but also the positioning of the victims (note the key inclusion of stag imagery even in this first episode). This initial episode also contains some of the series’ most overt depictions of violence against women, although the narrative clearly classifies Hobbs (Vladimir Jon Cubrt) as a maniac and his daughter Abigail (Kacey Rohl) as a confused survivor. Apprehensions were eventually tempered as the series resolutely refused to indulge in the debased torture and fetishistic murder of women over the course of its run. The pilot’s focus on issues of violence and Stockholm Syndrome speaks to Fuller’s ambitious and thoughtfully prepared plan for the series. Even in its first hour, it is clear that Hannibal is significantly different than anything else on TV.
Hannibal‘s confident approach to finales (and by extension cliffhangers) is on keen display in the final episode of season one. If nothing else ‘Savoureux’ wins points for keenly subverting our expectations (raise your virtual hand if you thought Hannibal would be captured and behind bars by the time the credits rolled) – it’s just another testament to how well Fuller and his writers understand how to use and re-appropriate Thomas Harris’ source material in fresh and interesting ways.
Like any good finale, ‘Savoureux’ pays off a number of long-simmering plot lines. It’s reassuring to finally get confirmation that Will is, in fact, a little bit crazy as Alana (Caroline Dhavernas) diagnoses his Encephalitis, which turns out to be Will’s aha! moment with Hannibal. By this point, of course, it’s already too late because Hannibal’s plan to frame Will for the Chesapeake Murders has come to fruition and the season ends with the memorable image of Will, not Hannibal, behind bars in the penitentiary. It’s a great twist, but part of what makes this episode so satisfying is the how a world weary Will must confront the spectre of his friendship with Hannibal. Will, playing the jilted, betrayed role in their relationship, confronts his friend, only to discover what Hannibal looks like when he discards the “flesh suit” (to quote Gillian Anderson’s Bedelia DuMaurier in a later episode).
Going into the series, no one would have expected such an intimate, co-dependent relationship between the cannibal and the profiler, but the intimate relationship between the pair proved to be a key element of the series’ success (increasingly so as Hannibal moved into its second and third seasons). ‘Savoureux’ pays off a season’s worth of anticipation and leaves the series – and viewers – on unexpected, uncertain footing. It was a long wait to see what came next in S2.
WORST EPISODE – S1
This is Hannibal at its most bland: a heavily procedural episode remarkable solely for the notoriety it gained after Fuller’s decision to pull it in the wake of a school shooting. I can only imagine the disappointment Fannibals experienced when they finally watched the full episode when the season came out on the DVD.
Most Memorable Murders
- 1×05 ‘Coquilles’: Winged angels
- 1×02 ‘Amuse Bouche’: Mushroom corpses
- 1×09 ‘Trou Normand’: Human totem
- 1×08 ‘Fromage’: Human cello
- 1×12 ‘Relevés’: Georgia burns
Your turn: what were your favourite episodes of S1? What were the worst? What moment/scene/character made you fall in love with the series? Sound off below.
Check in tomorrow morning for our ‘Best Of’ S2 list.