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13 Best Hannibal Episodes Ranked

They found love in a hopeless place, seriously

will and hannibal in Hannibal s2 finale

Everything is so bleak in the world of Hannibal, and yet so beautiful. It’s the perfect blend of tragedy and a slow building love story between two men. And for anyone looking for a queer relationship that’s messy as hell, Hannigram will be the one for you. The series depicts everything in such an artistic way, even the violence is surreal and striking. It crosses between psychological and art horror with thriller moments, with Mads Mikkelson and Hugh Dancy bringing such intense chemistry it’s not even funny.

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To not regard Hannibal as one of the best horror series of all time would be a crock, which makes narrowing down the best episodes somewhat of a task, even though there are only 3 seasons (unless a season 4 somehow happens) and 39 episodes in total. Which, by the way, you can watch for FREE by using the Plex app. Aside from that, I’ll do my best to narrow down 13 of the best episodes and rank them by the strength of their writing.

13. “Potage” (Season 1, Episode 3)

abigail in Hannibal s1 ep 3

Let me start this off by saying that this series is near perfect, without one single horrendous episode. But there are some that are more about developing the characters vs. story, which is why “Potage” is at the bottom of the list. As much as I love Abigail (Kacey Rohl)’s character and what she represents for both Will and Hannibal, this episode is mainly an exploration into her. It also pokes at the idea that she was involved in her father’s murder (something that lingers until the reveal happens). It’s not that the writing is bad for this episode, it’s just the 3rd in the series and normally the first few episodes are about establishing the characters.

12. “Entrée” (Season 1, Episode 6)

miriam lass in Hannibal s1

As much as Miriam Lass (Anna Chlumsky)’s disappearance and character are intriguing, the episode is more about building tension and giving other characters their development, especially Jack (Laurence Fishburne). It also introduces Dr. Abel Gideon (Eddie Izzard). These types of episodes are necessary, spot on for development of our characters, and there are so many creepy scenes. But as far as overall writing goes? It unlikely blows anybody away compared to other episodes. Which is why it’s lower on the list. 1

11. “Contorno” (Season 3, Episode 5)

hannibal in Hannibal s3

As much as Hannibal is brilliant overall, season 3 is the weakest season. The pacing is pretty rough for the episodes prior to this one, though this one does somewhat better writing-wise and the reason it’s on this list in the first place is because of its stylish and violent fight between Hannibal and Jack. Even though Hannibal is the character the main character (the show is named after him after all), he deserved the whooping.

10. Mukōzuke (Season 2, Episode 5)

sliced up beverly katz in Hannibal s2

The disturbing artistic vision of Hannibal is truly on display in this episode. Beverly Katz (Hettienne Park)’s death is shocking in the sense of its timing, but it would’ve been better if the writing had made it shocking that it was happening at all. The small dings land this lower on the list, but otherwise? It’s such a memorable episode that even gives its guest appearances splendid scenes: specifically Jonathan Tucker as the orderly (who deserves praise for his delightfully unhinged performance).

9. “Buffet Froid” (Season 1, Episode 10)

will mentally unraveling in Hannibal s1

You wouldn’t think a show like this would portray mental health accurately, but thankfully the writing team didn’t fail epically on this front. Will’s mental health issues aren’t played for laughs. Nor are anyone else’s for that matter. The case of the week is really intriguing and extra horrifying this episode. The writing isn’t as sharp as other season 1 episodes, but the kudos mainly go to Hugh Dancy because holy shit he’s a good actor. And also, the camerawork in this show is in a league of its own.

8. “Savourex” (Season 1, Episode 13)

hannibal smiling in Hannibal s1 finale

Imagine being screwed over by the cannibal serial killer that you definitely have feelings for. Poor Will must suffer a lot of twists and betrayal in this finale. It’s capital letters horrible when nobody wants to believe you. Every finale, including this one, is top notch. We’re led to believe Abigail is dead and that Will has completely lost his shit, when in reality Hannibal has had a hand in that. It’s an incredibly intense episode that borrows heavily from its source material. Having a barrier put between Will and Hannibal also creates so much tension.

7. “Su-zakana” (Season 2, Episode 8)

hannigram overload in Hannibal s2

If you happen to ship Hannigram then you’ll love the chrysalis scene in this episode. Almost immediately, am I right? Aside from the twisted brilliance of their relationship, there’s a lot explored regarding abuse of power. That abuse almost leads Will to kill someone, with Hannibal stopping him from doing so. Even though it seems like too much is going on in the episode, to me the writing works here. It helps further propel Hannibal and Will’s relationship forwards. And makes what’s ahead for them so sad honestly.

6. “Kaiseki” (Season 2, Episode 1)

hannibal cutting meat in Hannibal s2

Every single thing about this episode is chef’s kiss x100. I love cold opens that involve mysterious fights between characters. While that may leave people with confusion, it just helps build anticipation regarding the events that led up to the climax. We as the audience are aware that Will is innocent, which is what makes watching the characters believe otherwise soooo frustrating. Then the man collecting bodies for his fucked-up project is one of the wilder things the show has done. Wild is a good way, though!

5. “Tome-wan” (Season 2, Episode 12)

hannibal in Hannibal s2

Despite my issues with the Margot (Katharine Isabelle) storyline (more specifically the writing decision to have her sleep with Will to get pregnant, even though she’s literally a lesbian), this episode always leaves me wide eyed. Will and Hannibal are colliding into what will be a messy season finale, with a whole lot of confusion and betrayal ahead yet again. It just goes to show what some honest communication can do. Aside from their scenes, there’s a lot to appreciate in this second-to-last episode of the season. Mason Verger (Michael Pitt) is as horrible as ever, and he gets what’s coming to him. Watching abusers suffer in a show filled with violence hits so different.

4. “…And the Woman Clothed with the Sun” (Season 3, Episode 9)

reba in Hannibal s3

Once season 3 introduces Francis Dolarhyde (Richard Artimage), that’s when the writing is at its best for the season. His character is very complex and the imagery for the Red Dragon is actually scary when you get down to it. Ultimately this feels like what season 3 should’ve been from the jump. Having Hannibal in one place so Will can visit him whenever is fucking fantastic. Then their reunion is filled with so many complex emotions. Other than the obvious, the chemistry between Artimage and Rutina Wesley is actually great.

3. “Digestivo” (Season 3, Episode 7)

alana and margot killing mason in Hannibal s3

The queers win in this episode. I mean, seriously, Margot and Alana (Caroline Dhavernas) kill Mason. Then Will bites Cordell (Glenn Fleshler)’s cheek just to impress Hannibal. It’d be easy to simply praise Mason’s death, but the scene that shapes the rest of the season is Hannibal turning himself in. Rather than continuing to run away from what’s inevitable, he gives in because he knows Will won’t seek him out if he doesn’t. He gives up his freedom in order to keep the door open for them to be together. It’s selfish and smart which totally captures the complexity of their relationship. Both of them play games and hurt each other. But there’s also a love that Will doesn’t want to acknowledge entirely. He’s tired of it. Overall the writing for the episode is exactly what’s needed. There’s minimal abstract symbolism, it’s just made clear what’s happening.

2. “The Wrath of the Lamb” (Season 3, Episode 13)

hannigram in Hannibal s3

Wrapping up a series like this (whether a season 4 EVER happens in this lifetime) isn’t an easy feat. But Bryan Fuller nails (almost exactly) what the fans were probably screaming for in 2015. Where Will gives in and freely kills with Hannibal to take down Dolarhyde, in a moment that symbolizes sex and climax. Only thing I wish would’ve happened is them kissing, because ultimately them not doing so is disappointing. Otherwise? It’s the series finale that people were satisfied by, with an ending that feels more symbolic than them actually falling over the edge. But that’s up for interpretation, I suppose!

1. “Mizumono” (Season 2, Episode 13)

will and hannibal in Hannibal s2 finale

Anything I have to say about this season finale has likely been said. Yet I’m going to lead with the statement that this is one of the best episodes of television ever. Across horror television and television as a whole. It has stellar writing, last-minute twists, Hannibal and Jack’s full fight (which is always stressful to watch), Will and Hannibal’s scenes in general, the tragic death of Abigail, and so much more. I love how there’s so much chaos that’s not executed messily. I’d go on but at the end of the day, it’s a favorite episode for most Hannibal fans, including myself.

(featured image: NBC)

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Vanessa Maki
Vanessa Maki (she/her) is a queer Blerd and contributing writer for The Mary Sue. She first started writing for digital magazines in 2018 and her articles have appeared in Pink Advocate (defunct), The Gay Gaze (defunct), Dread Central and more. She primarily writes about movies, TV, and anime. Efforts to make her stop loving complex/villainous characters or horror as a genre will be futile.

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