*Quite a lot of spoilers below*
So here we are, Hannibal is finished. Though it’s sad to see such a great show go – heck, it was my favourite show of last year – this felt like the right time for it to end. As much as I would’ve liked to have seen Will and Hannibal’s murder-husband adventures and perhaps a ‘Silence of the Lambs’ adaption I doubt the two plots would’ve been enough to sustain a season between them. Hannibal over its three years produced some truly terrific episodes of television, and here are the ones I believe to be the very best… Let’s get to it.
10. Coquilles (Season One, Episode Five)
I had a hard time choosing between this one and ‘Trou Normand’ (the one with the human totem pole) for the number ten spot. Both are pretty much neck-and-neck for the best case-of-the-week episode of the first season, but I ultimately settled on this one for being the episode in which the show jumps from good to great. The ‘angels’ to me are the first disgustingly beautiful serial killer case the show presented us with. In addition to the killer main plot, the subplot with Jack and Bella is also very strong and gave the character some much needed depth. ‘Coquilles’ is the episode where Hannibal began to find its groove and that alone earns it a place on this list.
09. Aperitivo (Season Three, Episode Four)
Perhaps the very opposite of a case-of-the-week episode, ‘Aperitivo’ takes advantage of the first half of Season Three’s non-linear structure better than any other episode. This stretch of episodes is probably the weakest in the show’s run – somehow feeling dragged out and rushed at the same time – but this episode’s unique structure helps it stand out as a highlight. Barely featuring the show’s title character at all, ‘Aperitivo’ examines his many victims instead, and boy are there a lot of them. Everyone is out for revenge, from Mason Verger to Alana Bloom and there’s just something delightfully dark about seeing these characters share their scars. Also, Chilton gets a lot of screen-time, which is always a good thing.
08. Tome-wan (Season Two, Episode Twelve)
I wasn’t the biggest fan of Verger as a villain – especially given how much of the show he took up – but Hannibal does do an incredible job of wrapping up his storyline at the end of Season Two. ‘Tome-wan’ acts as a great climax of sorts, both for Verger and for Will and Hannibal’s mind-games. Both are trying to push the other one to kill Verger – but his fate in the end is much more horrifying. Mason cutting off chunks of his own face and feeding them to Will’s dogs is one of the most disturbing sequences the show has ever done and represents the show at its most messed-up state. It’s also worth noting that the Season Three episode ‘Digestivo’ is in some ways a redux of this episode, and is also a classic. While that one is probably a better episode overall it is also a retread – so ‘Tome-wan’ makes the list instead.
07. The Great Red Dragon (Season Three, Episode Eight)
Despite some great moments the first half of Season Three was a disappointment – so I was incredibly happy when the ‘Red Dragon’ storyline kicked off. I’ve been anticipating the show’s adaption of the novel since the first episode and it ended up being the best possible way to send Hannibal off. Almost every episode from this arc could have made this list (‘And the Woman Clothed in Sun’ and ‘The Number of the Beast is 666…’ are particular highlights) but I decided to settle on the one that starts the storyline off. After a holiday in Venice it was so delightful to see Will Graham back to examining crime scenes and to have Price and Zeller back to examining bodies. It was great to see Hannibal behind bars – being incredibly bitchy – and to get a glimpse of Richard Armitage as Francis Dolarhyde. There’s just so much to love here.
06. Entrée (Season One, Episode Six)
‘Coquilles’ was great, but the episode that follows it is even greater. Honestly, it could’ve made the list just for introducing two of the show’s best characters: Frederick Chilton and Abel Gideon. This is the episode where the show begins to slowly move beyond being a procedural, making Hannibal into the killer of focus. Eddie Izzard doesn’t get a lot to do here, but his scenes act as a great homage to the books/films, as does Anna Chlumsky’s Miriam Lass. It’s an episode that provides a balance between homage and originality, putting an old spin on plot elements we’ve seen in other Hannibal stories. And as a result of it, I consider it a classic.
05. Su-zakana (Season Two, Episode Eight)
In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t a particularly important episode. There aren’t any big twists or significant character introductions – it’s just a fun and messed-up case, my favourite of the many standalone episodes the show did. Besides, did the show produce any line better than ‘Is your social worker in that horse?’ As the line suggests, the episode revolves around a dead man who is discovered sewn inside a horse… with there also being a live bird sewn inside him. The episode takes great advantage of the new dynamic between Will and Hannibal, with the former now knowing that the latter is a murderer. I’m disappointed the show didn’t make more use of this set-up, but as it is ‘Su-zakana’ is a brilliant episode.
04. The Wrath of the Lamb (Season Three, Episode Thirteen)
Overall, this was a pretty fantastic conclusion for the show – as good as it could’ve hoped for (though if the show was receiving a fourth season I might like it a bit less…) The episode does a great job of wrapping up the Red Dragon arc as well as the show as a whole, with Will finally giving in to Hannibal’s allure. All the characters get some great send-off moments here – okay, everyone except Jack – such as Price and Zeller explaining Dolarhyde’s plan and Chilton and Bloom’s final conversation. Francis gets a little bit shafted, but I can let that slide for the fantastic final moments between Will and Hannibal. The show was about them at the beginning and it comes down to them at the end. This episode also has some pretty fantastic lines as well, such as Hannibal commenting on Will’s ‘mike drop’.
03. Yakimono (Season Two, Episode Seven)
Okay, so Hannibal was never a show that was grounded in realism, but I think most fans will agree that after the first half of its second season – half-way through its run – it took quite a sharp nosedive into dream logic. And that’s fine, it produced some of its best episodes during that period, but it’s worth noting that the show had some pretty cleverly plotted stories before that shift. Exhibit A: ‘Yakimono’ – in which Hannibal frames Chilton for his crimes. The episode is built up of great scene after great scene, with my particular favourite bit being Chilton after he wakes up in his home surrounded by dead officers. Oh dear. The episode does an incredibly effective job of wrapping up all of Season 2A’s plotlines while moving the show into its next phase.
02. Savoureux (Season One, Episode Thirteen)
This one should probably share its number two spot with the episode preceding it, ‘Relevés’, as they’re pretty much two parts of the same story. Together they do a really great job of tying all of the season’s threads together – Will’s illness, Hannibal’s crimes, Abigail – and is just about as good as you could hope for a finale to be. A stupider show would’ve dragged out the Season One phase of the story longer, keeping Will oblivious of what Hannibal really is, but doing it here allows Hannibal to flip their dynamic completely for the next season. It also does a terrific job of twisting our knowledge of Hannibal’s universe by having Will incarcerated instead of everybody’s favourite cannibal.
01. Mizumono (Season Two, Episode Thirteen)
I think a lot of people will agree with me on this one. ‘Mizumono’ is the show at its absolute best, giving viewers the moment they’d been waiting for since the beginning: everyone realising what Hannibal is. Even though Jack and Hannibal’s fight is teased at the very beginning of the season, I don’t think anybody expected this episode to be as brutal as it is. Pretty much every major character besides the one in the title is left for dead by the time the credits roll: Will stabbed in the stomach, Jack in the throat… and Alana? Well, she gets pushed out of a window. Oh yeah, and Abigail is brought back to life just so she can die all over again. This is Hannibal’s mike drop – running off to Italy with Belidia while he leaves the rest of the cast bleeding to death in his house. It’s no wonder that people refer to this episode as the Red Dinner Party.