A Cannibal Crime Drama Elevated Itself to Greatness With a Chilling Season 1 Finale
If you’re worried you’ll only get one season, you’ve got to put everything into the season finale.
In 2013, the television landscape was completely different. The streaming age was beginning, but services like Hulu and Netflix existed mainly as platforms for network shows to air on demand after their TV debut. It was the beginning of the end; while network shows were thriving, Netflix was experimenting with something called an “original series.”
One of the last gasps of innovative network TV was a series that took a beloved property and spun it on its head. Then, 10 years ago, it raised the stakes with one of the most ambitious — and mind-boggling — season finales ever.
“Savoureux,” the Season 1 finale of NBC’s Hannibal, is the term for a final course of a classical menu, in which a dessert is followed with something savory. Fittingly, this is a satisfying and tasty chapter that’s by no means sweet.
Hannibal, adapted from author Thomas Harris’ famous character, exists in the same universe as The Silence of the Lambs. But the Hannibal Lecter we see here isn’t a famous serial killer yet, but a psychologist (Mads Mikkelsen) brought in to observe FBI agent Will Graham (Hugh Dancy). Their conversations lead to a twisted bond, one complicated by the dramatic irony of knowing who Hannibal will later become.
“Savoureux” starts with a bang. Will wakes up, disoriented, and coughs up a human ear. After the murder of Abigail Hobbs, the evidence that he’s the killer looks undeniable, much to the shock of his colleagues. But Will remains convinced of his own innocence and attempts to find the only other person who could have done something like this: Hannibal Lecter.
One of the episode's most jarring and compelling elements is the unreliability of everything we see. Is that ear even real? Will has always been the viewpoint character, so as he starts to doubt his own reality, so do we.
The climax is what the show has been building to for a dozen episodes: Will confronts Hannibal after he realizes who his friend truly is. Even at gunpoint, Hannibal retains his eerie, disarming calm. “I know who I am,” Will says. “I’m not so sure I know who you are anymore. But I am certain... one of us killed Abigail.”
It’s the moment viewers were waiting for, but it doesn’t last long. In the final scene, we see Hannibal serve veal to his therapist, Dr. Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson). He mourns the loss of Abigail, when we know very well she’s probably the source of the meal they’re eating.
Creator Bryan Fuller told IGN he knew what the episode's final shot would be when he pitched the series, and it doesn’t disappoint. It’s clear Fuller worried Hannibal would be a one-season-wonder, so the culmination of “Savoureux” and the season as a whole is both a satisfying conclusion, and a raising of the stakes for a potential future.
A decade later, Hannibal is a three-season masterpiece that garnered so many dedicated fans that Cubist Hannibal fanart was chosen to hang in the U.S. Capitol. “Savoureux” proved that Hannibal could tell a complicated, unreliable plot, stick the landing, and leave fans hungry for more.
Hannibal is streaming on Hulu.