Wow. Just wow. What a way to close out a season, and what an impressive way to tie everything together at the end. Hannibal is officially an amazing show. Thank god it got renewed for a second season.
So, my manhunt theory turned out to be a bit of a pipe dream, but my secondary theory, that only Will would uncover Hannibal’s true nature, was proven accurate. And man, when Hannibal frames you he goes all out. Right from the opening moments, “Savoureux” reminded me of how crazy and unexpected this show is every week. There’s no way I could have predicted Will would regurgitate Abigail’s severed ear into his kitchen sink. That was extremely shocking, and since we didn’t know immediately whose ear it was, it made you wonder if Will really had gone off and done something terrible while in one of his encephalitis-induced trances.
So Hannibal planted so much evidence it was practically impossible for Will to prove his innocence. Not only did Beverly find Abigail’s blood beneath his fingernails, but she and her dorky lab tech friends found trace body parts used in the materials of Will’s fishing lines from Cassie Boyle, Marissa and Dr. Sutcliffe, Hannibal’s copycat kills. This was doubly awesome if you had caught the “Ceuf” webisodes or downloaded the episode from iTunes. In that episode Will asks Hannibal to take care of his dogs while he’s off on a case, and there’s a very bizarre scene where Hannibal enters his home and applies twine to one of Will’s fishing hooks. It’s now clear that Hannibal was planting organic material from either Marissa or Cassie Boyle, implying he either always intended to frame Will, or had enough foresight to know that one day he might have to. Not only is this a nice detail and some expert narrative foreshadowing, but it covers up any plot holes Will’s framing might have opened. Some might say it’s a stretch that Hannibal could kill Abigail, butcher her, force feed Will her ear, put blood under his fingernails and plant evidence in his home, but we now know he’s been planting evidence for months.
Another nice connection to previous episodes was Will’s stag visions, which I was worried would never really go anywhere. It’s the most poetic aspect of the series and one that’s completely open to interpretation. I interpret the stag to be an embodiment of evil, or at least how Will visualizes evil. This is a logical conclusion as the stag most often appears when Will is dreaming of Garret Jacob Hobbes, particularly when he’s recalling killing the man, an act he once described to Abigail as “the ugliest thing in the world.” In “Savoureux” the stag took on a new form, a dark, stag man that reminded me a lot of Scarecrow’s fear toxin vision of Batman in Batman Begins. It was a great visual, as was Will’s vision of the copycat victims displayed like trophies in Hannibal’s office.
It’s as if, deep down, subconsciously, Will knew something was amiss, knew there was a killer in their midst. When he finally makes the connection it’s too late- Will sees his evil stag man, standing in Hannibal’s place beside Jack. He’s found the source of evil that’s been plaguing him all season long, but no one believes him. “See,” he says to Jack, recalling Garret Jacob Hobbes’ final words. That scene, and the way Will was shot and fell in the same spot Hobbes did in the pilot, leant the episode a poetic symmetry that few series ever accomplish in their entire runs, let alone one season.
Though it would have been cool to have a season where Hannibal is on the run and the FBI is tracking him, I think this is the ending this season needed (and that season may still come). Having Hannibal’s secret be uncovered this early would have sucked a lot of his menacing presence away, and that’s the glue that holds the show together. Hannibal needs to be convincing as an expert killer and manipulator, and if he gets caught after only one season he’ll come off as a bit of a tool. That being said, fans and critics have often speculated on the show’s viability, but as I’ve said before, this is basically the anti-Dexter serial killer show. Dexter became increasingly frustrating as it went on because with each season it became less and less plausible that Dexter could maintain his anonymity. The writers only solution was to make all of the cop characters incompetent morons, which was especially frustrating as Dexter’s sister Deb was presented to the audience as a natural investigator but was too thick to figure out Dexter was a killer til she caught him in the act.
“Savoureux” would have been disappointing had Will not put the pieces together, as it would have undercut eleven episodes worth of character development. Will basically has a superpower that lets him get into the minds of serial killers, so if Hannibal had somehow slipped past him it would have been very frustrating for the viewer to watch. In fact, I loved how every time Will would insist on his innocence and insist that there was a copycat killer framing him from within the FBI, Hannibal would get this frustrated look on his face, not just because his attempts to steer Will away were proving fruitless, but because Will was being dim and not uncovering Hannibal like he had so many other killers in the past. It was almost like Hannibal was thinking, “come on Will, you’re smarter than this. You know it’s me.”
To his credit, Will does finally make the connection when he recreates Abigail’s murder in her kitchen. I liked that he didn’t one hundred percent figure it out in that moment because that would have been a stretch. He basically makes the same connection Abigail did before her demise, that Hannibal was the man who called her father to warn him. He knows Hannibal is a killer and knows he’s been manipulating him this whole time rather than treating him. “You take people like me and you wind them up and watch them go,” Will says, and he’s spot on. That’s exactly what Hannibal has been doing, feeding his “curiosity” by pushing Will in every way possible. By the final scene it’s almost a certainty that Will knows Hannibal is the one behind the copycat murders, but I’m not sure if he knows he’s the Chesapeake Ripper as well.
I loved that final shot. I know it was a little on the nose, but I loved how it flipped the classic “Lecter behind bars” image we’ve seen in all the movies. Now Will is the one in shackles and Hannibal is free. “Hello, Dr. Lecter,” Will says. Not Hannibal- Dr. Lecter. Will knows, Hannibal… and he’s coming for you.
I was glad that Jack and Alana didn’t completely buy that Will was a serial killer at first. Even when the evidence is practically insurmountable, Jack still reserves judgment and prays that the evidence is lying… which it is. It was nice to see Alana making the connection that Will’s neurological condition and the pathology of his crimes didn’t exactly match. I’m also glad they finally figured out he has encephalitis, even if it didn’t exonerate him. Will’s incarceration finally gave Alana something to do and I think going into season two she’ll be a much more interesting character. While Jack may be convinced that Will is a monster, I think Alana is still harboring some doubt and that doubt may lead her to learn the truth and free Will next year. She does briefly seem to suspect Hannibal when Will tells her about the clock test.
The biggest revelation in the ep was Gillian Anderson’s Dr. Du Maurier more or less confirming that she knows what Hannibal is. This was implied previously when the two spoke of her rescue from a crazed patient by Hannibal, insinuating he forced the man to swallow his own tongue to protect her. At the end of “Savoureux” the two spoke almost openly about Hannibal’s fetish, and it’s even implied that they’re knowingly feasting on the remains of Abigail as they do, hence all the talk of veal and cruelty. The show almost never explicitly tells you when the characters are unwittingly eating human flesh, but the expression Du Maurier gave when she took a bite of Roast Abigail that really sold it for me. Her warnings to Hannibal to keep his shit on the down low seem to foreshadow my theory that Hannibal’s secret will be uncovered sooner rather than later. I’m actually glad he remained hidden this year, but I agree that he can’t hide forever and the longer Bryan Fuller keeps him in the shadows the harder it will be for audiences to buy it.
In an episode full of surprises, the most surprising moment for me was probably Hannibal weeping over Abigail. Man, the guy is just so freaking twisted! He get the impression he’s genuinely mourning her despite also killing and eating her. Hannibal wants a companion, that much is obvious. I don’t think Will was that companion, because Will isn’t a killer- Will was on the money when he accused Hannibal of wanting nothing more than to manipulate him into oblivion. Abigail on the other hand was Hannibal’s apprentice, someone he wanted to guide and shape. That’s why he rejected Tobias way back when, because he wasn’t moldable, he was already a monster and just wanted to get close to Hannibal because he believed their respective fetishes would provide them with some sort of kinship. But Hannibal wants someone he can shape from the ground up, and it seems for now, his search will have to continue.
Mads Mikkelsen really sold the mourning scene, and acting was, as always, fantastic across the board, as was the episode’s cinematography. Really, there’s not enough good things I can say about this episode or this season, so I’ll cut myself short before I begin to ramble. No one is more surprised by how good Hannibal is than I. When I first heard about the show I thought it was going to be crap because it was another licensed adaptation, another prequel, and another show that seemed more interested in generating buzz via shock value than for the quality of its storytelling. As it turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong, and we are all better for it. Hannibal is thriller/horror TV at its finest, masterfully balancing outlandish gore and violence with deep, unsettling character drama. On a technical level alone it deserves an Emmy, but its story and its characters are what keep me and my fellow Fannibals coming back for more.
Season Score: 9.0