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There is a certain satisfaction that comes from watching a lead character struggle with a puzzle for a season, only to finally put the pieces together in the season finale’s waning minutes. But what is even more satisfying than finally seeing Will Graham come to the realization that the copycat killer (and the person responsible for setting him up) is Hannibal Lector is seeing that the show is not willing to simply tie the storyline up in a nice bow. Rather, both Will and the audience are faced with the painful realization that, even armed with his knew knowledge regarding Hannibal, there is nothing Will can do to avoid prison and murder charges for crimes he did not commit.
Hannibal’s first season finale “Savoureux" is a fitting end to a strong season, giving us the payoff we have wanted since the beginning of the season (Will discovering Hannibal is a killer, albeit without learning he is the Chesapeake Ripper), but still leaving plenty of loose ends to explore in the show’s second season (which has yet to receive a specific premiere date, but is expected to premiere in the spring of 2014).
From the episode’s opening moments, it is clear that Will is on the verge of finally figuring out what (or, in this case, who) the omnipresent stag that has haunted his waking and sleeping hours represents, as Will shoots and wounds the beast only to have it turn into a faceless human with antlers. With his sights set on unmasking the stag, we know that before the hour is out, Will and Hannibal will have their showdown (a bit of a twist on the Chekhov “gun on the wall” trope). Armed with that knowledge, each act of the episode heightens the tension until the episode’s final fifteen minutes, which sees Will and Hannibal going over the past copycat murders. As Hannibal recites the various crimes, Will imagines statue tableaus of the murders, while the human-stag hybrid watches silently from behind the bodies.
Seeing the brief flash of recognition on Will’s face in Hannibal’s office(as he hallucinates an image of Hannibal sitting at his desk with his stag statue sitting behind him) followed by the final piecing together of the various clues from the Hobbs case (the phone call to Garrett Jacob Hobbs and Abigail’s comment about Hannibal playing the role of the man calling her father) is cathartic - the final culmination of twelve episodes spent watching this turbulent relationship form and subsequently come undone. However, the relief and drain of tension is short lived, as it becomes clear to us that Will will not be able to simply point his finger at Hannibal and get the real murderer placed behind bars. With both Jack Crawford and Alana Bloom (as well as the forensics team) convinced that Will is the one behind the copycat killings, and no clear allies in sight, it looks like Will may have a long road ahead of him with regard to proving his innocence and Hannibal’s guilt.
Hannibal may not be the ratings sensation NBC hoped it would be (this show still feels like it could find a larger audience on a network like AMC or FX rather than one as beleaguered as the Peacock Network), but it proved itself to be the best new show the network has produced in years (and almost certainly one of, if not the best, new series on network television this season). The acting and directing were top notch throughout the season, with both Hugh Dancy and Madds Mikkelsen giving Emmy-worthy performances. I know that I, for one, will be waiting with bated breath for next spring to see what is in store for our favorite maligned FBI profiler and our friendly neighborhood cannibal.
-- Throughout the season, two particular stylistic choices have caught my eye. First, the show’s use of color has been amazing. Using muted tones for the vast majority of the images, with clear pops of color dispersed throughout, lends the show an eerie vibe that bleeds into the ambiance of nearly every scene and heightens the tension wonderfully. The second is the constant use of two-shots, particularly in scenes with Hannibal and other characters. The wide shots, almost always with the two characters sitting in chairs facing each other, create a feeling of a level playing field between the characters, which is particularly off-putting when one of the characters is a sociopathic cannibal.
-- One of my big worries was that the show wouldn’t be able to keep the audience convinced that the FBI agents were smart, seeing as they let Hannibal into their world and never suspect him (even taking into account Hannibal’s amazing skills of manipulation). While some of this fear was put to rest in last week’s episode, I feel the finale does even more to quell the fear. I have been a bit harsh on Alana’s powers of deduction this year, but she seems a bit suspicious of Hannibal’s clock test. Just that suspicion alone is enough to make me think that perhaps she might be the next one to put the pieces together and help Will next season (it would certainly give her more to do than she had this year).
-- It certainly looks like Dr. Du Maurier knows something about Hannibal’s true nature, although we still don’t know how much.
-- A tip of the hat to Gillian Anderson, who plays Dr. Du Maurier, and who is having a career resurgence this year (if you get a chance, check out The Fall, Anderson's BBC2 series, available on Netflix Watch Instant). Her performance as Hannibal's shrink is so layered that it kept me guessing with regard to how much she knew about Hannibal and whether or not she will become a threat to his freedom in the future.
-- Poor Abigail doesn't get a reprieve from Hannibal’s dinner table after all.
-- Finally, the episode’s last scene is particularly fun, especially for fans of the various Hannibal Lector films and books. Seeing the traditional image of the FBI agent meeting Hannibal in his prison flipped is chilling. Especially with the almost smirk on Hannibal’s face and the barely contained rage on Will’s.