Here's an excerpt from Brian Fuller's note to critics that accompanied the screeners for the last two episodes:
"Relevés" is followed by the Season 1 finale, "Savoureux." Traditionally in French cuisine, this is a savory dessert appealing to diners with no interest in a sweet ending to their meal. And we intend to leave FANNIBALS of the series with the same salty bite.
To borrow a line from one Philip J. Fry: "That's the saltiest thing I've ever tasted. And I once ate a big, heaping bowl of salt!"
"Savoureux" was indeed that final, savory bite, and it was well-paired with last week's penultimate episode, "Relevés." Both forewent the physical gore in favor of the mental gore, but where "Relevés" saw Hannibal Lecter putting the final touches on his latest dish—the destruction of Will Graham—"Savoureux" was Lecter serving that dish at an intimate dinner party and then basking in the praise.
It was so elegantly done, too. We've watched all season long as Lecter's slowly chipped away at Will's mind and prepared him to be framed for all these murders, but the small touches—like the ear in the sink or the fishing lures—were what elevated the scheme behind your routine set-up of a man. Planting Abigail's DNA all over Will would've been enough, but the garnishes complemented the meal so nicely that I'm sure Lecter just could not resist.
I think my favorite bit in watching the presentation of the whole meal be presented—apart from the confrontation in the Hobbs home, and we'll get to that—was Will and Hannibal discussing the victims of the copycat murderer, one by one. It was as close as Hannibal had ever come to monologuing, to engaging in that cliché of the villain explaining/gloating about his master plan to the protagonist. Like with all villains, it was motivated by a sense of arrogance, a desire to claim victory before victory is actually achieved.
The difference being, of course, that Hannibal won even though Will figured him out. It was such a lovely subversion of that cliché that it made their encounter at the Hobbs place all the more horrible to watch. Returning to the idea of dread that I discussed last week, I don't think I breathed during the entire scene, until Jack shot Will. I knew things would play out, somehow, with Will being captured—Jack's arrival all but confirmed that—but it didn't matter. I was scared for both men, worried that Hannibal would hurt Will, worried that Will would shoot Hannibal, but I also knew that in either case, because of how well Hannibal had prepared this mean, Will was doomed.
And so Will ended up exactly where he predicted he would: Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Based on his response to Hannibal showing up at his cell, I think it's safe to say that Will remembers his discovery, but knows that if he brings it up now it'll just be chalked up to an unstable, paranoid psyche as opposed to the workings of a brilliant profiler. My guess for next season is that we'll end up with the reverse of Thomas Harris's typical set-up in the novels, with Hannibal helping the FBI catch the serial killers in the field while the agent rots in a cell. The storytelling possibilities for this just delight the mind.
If there was one wild card in this finale, however, it was Gillian Anderson's Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier. Her "veal"/Abigail Hobbs dinner with Hannibal was laced with cryptic double-meanings, especially the part about Hannibal's pattern becoming "noticeable" and the discussion of veal's controversy as a protein selection. She knows—or suspects, I think—that Hannibal's a killer, and I'd even go so far as to say that she may've been the one to push him down that path in much the same way that Hannibal manipulated Will, though with different goals.
When the end of the year rolls around, and we at TV.com discuss the best/our favorite shows of 2013, do not be at all surprised if Hannibal tops my list, because right now it's easily the best thing I've seen so far this year. The series' nightmare logic and imagery showcase the dark side of Fuller's trademark melancholy. His dreams, be they of a girl stuck in a dead-end job talking to inanimate objects or a supernaturally gifted piemaker who can briefly raise the dead, have always had a bit of humor and whimsy to them, either through dialog or aesthetics. Hannibal doesn't lack those touches, but here, they're sadder, heavier, more pessimistic. It's as if the trials and tribulations that Fuller has dealt with on TV have driven him to a more "serious" creative place—though he remains wonderfully charming and upbeat in interviews—and his vision for Hannibal is the result of that.
But if there's another reason that Hannibal will likely top my list, and I mean apart from its stellar performances—someone just give Mads Mikkelsen the Emmy for Best Supporting Actor now, please—it's that the series has really challenged the normal police and serial killer procedural fare. Its characters, especially Will, pay high prices in the aftermath of violence. Hannibal depicts a heightened reality of trauma in a way that few television shows in recent memory have done, or would even think of doing.
The series even implicates its viewers, in that we, at least in the general sense of the mass audience, are the reason that such gruesomeness is possible on TV. We keep tuning in to watch it, to see what neat ways The Walking Dead has come up with to kill zombies or what new serial killer Criminal Minds has concocted or what horrific crime Law & Order: SVU has ripped from our own headlines. The violence is our fault. Like Will, we want to hide from it, but we're also drawn to it for some reason. What does that say about us? What is it doing to us?
It's a navel-gazing way of thinking about the show, but Hannibal invites these questions, and they're questions well-worth considering while we eagerly await Season 2.
– I'm well aware that I didn't mention Dead Like Me when discussing Fuller's past work, but he left that show after two or three episodes. While the concept is his, I never felt like it was his show, and I think the way that the series progressed—while fine enough—demonstrates that.
– I'm thankful that we did not see Abigail's death. I don't think I could've handled it.
– "I could use a good scream. I feel one perched under my chin." "Perched under my chin" is officially my new favorite phrase. Also: I really just want to hug Will. He looks so pitiful.
– The dried blood scrapped out from underneath Will's nails was both beautiful (red snow!) and horrifying to me. I have a thing about nails, so stuff like that always freak me out. And, yes, that means Black Swan is one of the most terrifying movies I've ever seen. So much nail trauma.
– "...have Chilton fumbling around in my head." Chilton may actually do more damage to Will than Hannibal ever did. But if it means more of Raúl Esparza next season, I'm all for that.
– "Scales have just fallen from my eyes. I can see you now." "What do you see?" "You called here that morning. Abigail knew. You kept her secrets until she... until she found out some of yours." "You said it felt good to kill Garret Jacob Hobbs. Would it feel good to kill me now?" "No. Garret Jacob Hobbs was a murderer. Are you a murderer, Dr. Lecter?" "What reason would I have?" "You... you... you... have no traceable motive, which is why you were so hard to see. You were just curious what I would do. Someone like me. Someone who thinks how I think. Wind him up and watch him go. Apparently, Dr. Lecter, this is how I go."
– "Hello, Will." "Hello, Dr. Lecter."
– My favorite episodes from Season 1: "Potage," "Entrée," "Buffet Froid," "Relevés," and "Savoureux." What were yours?
What'd you think of the finale, and the season as a whole?