29. “And the Woman Clothed with the Sun” (3.09)
In setting up the events of the “Red Dragon” arc, this entry is just that—a lot of set-up. Dolarhyde meets Reba, Will has his first meeting with Hannibal in many years, Dolarhyde begins his secret correspondence with Hannibal, etc. It’s all material that will have a more powerful pay-off down the line. Overall, it’s about as well-executed as a stepping stone episode can be.
28. “Amuse-Bouche” (1.02) )
Here we have the episode that truly drove home the fact that Hannibal was not a show for those with weak stomachs, as the killer uses his victims as fertilizer for growing mushrooms. Viewers also got a further taste of Fuller’s predilection for gender and race bending with Freddy Lounds, the slimy, overweight tabloid journalist from Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon, being recast as a sexy, red-headed blogger not afraid to employ her sensuality.
27. “Antipasto” (3.01)
In its third season premiere, Hannibal effectively blows up its structure, offering up an episode that focuses strictly on Hannibal and his love hostage Bedelia establishing new lives in Europe. Though more impatient viewers will find certain parts of the hour to be a bit on the slow side, the gorgeous Europe locations combined with Hannibal and Bedelia’s simmering chemistry is more than enough to make this slow burn work like gangbusters.
26. “Contorno” (3.05)
“Contorno” contains one of the best sequences in the show’s history: the Round Two fight between Hannibal and Jack. Everything leading up to this ranges from very good (the Hannibal/Jack/Inspector Pazzi dynamic) to meandering and momentum-killing (the Will/Chiyoh train scenes). Ultimately, it all balances out in the episode’s favor.
25. “Apertivo” (3.04)
It’s “How I Spent My Summer Vacation”-Hannibal style! Only, you know, instead of summer vacation, it’s “what I’ve been doing in the wake of a bloody massacre.” Split into different segments, “Apertivo” catches up with Jack, Alana and Mason, with Frederick Chilton being the link between the three. Due to the nature of its structure, the episode is a bit schizophrenic when it comes to tone. On one hand, you have Jack’s emotionally gut-wrenching tale, where he finally decides to euthanize his deathly ill wife. On the other spectrum, you have a deformed (and recast) Mason Verger hamming it up like a classic Bond villain. Despite the clashing tones, however, the good infinitely outweighs the more problematic elements.
24. “Ko No Mono” (2.11)
After being officially introduced in the previous episode, “Ko No Mono” goes out of its way to establish what a perverse psycho Mason Verger is. Not only does he abduct his own sister and have her unborn child killed in the womb, but he also has her sterilized in the process. Between this storyline and Will and Jack’s attempt to ensnare Lecter by faking Freddie Lounds’ death, the focus of the episode is a bit iffy. Yet, it all comes together well enough due to the assured direction of David Slade, returning to the series for the first time since the Season One finale.
23. “Primavera” (3.02)
One of the most tragic relationships in Hannibal is that between Will and Abigail Hobbs. “Primavera” doubles down on this, having her appear as a ghostly specter to Will after he awakens from being gutted by Hannibal (granted, it’s initially presented as her having survived, but most fans probably caught on fairly quickly). Aired after the Hannibal-centric premiere, “Primavera” represents the polar opposite of that episode. Whereas “Antipasto,” like Hannibal himself, is all style and carries a sense of cool detachment, this episode, like Will, is overflowing with emotion.
22. “The Great Red Dragon” (3.08)
The storyline many Hannibal Lecter fans (myself included) had long waited for finally arrived—Hannibal’s adaptation of Red Dragon. Though burdened by some needed exposition, seeing the character of Francis Dolarhyde emerge so perfectly formed thanks to Richard Armitage’s brilliant performance is more than enough to give the episode a high rating.
21. “Su-zakana” (2.08)
One of the most memorable “killer-of-the-week” stories of Season Two, “Su-Zakana” finds comedy actor Chris Diamantopoulos as a psychotic social worker who frames his patient (an appropriately twitchy Jeremy Davies) for his own murders—which includes killing people and shoving their corpses into the bodies of dead horses. You can’t beat that log line. What puts the episode over the top, however, is the bond that Will forms with the Davies character. Like our hero, Davies was a man who found himself under the thumb of a manipulative serial killer. Hannibal is always best when it has an emotional truth grounding its absurd killings, and this is a prime example of that template.