'Hannibal' Is Coming to Netflix — Here Are The Episodes You Just Can't Miss

Few network TV shows have pushed the envelope quite like NBC's psychological horror series Hannibal, which reinvents criminal profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and serial killer Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter—characters created by novelist Thomas Harris, with a long cinematic pedigree—as dark stars, locked in a destructive orbit.

More than a crime or serial killer show, Hannibal showrunner Bryan Fuller created a grotesque fantasy, where serial killers operate on a layer above day-to-day reality, as Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) pursues aesthetic and spiritual transcendence through murder (and cooking, as the show blurred the line between haute cuisine and gore). Beginning June 5, all three seasons of Hannibal will be available for streaming on Netflix.

All three seasons of @BryanFuller's bloody brilliant #Hannibal will be available on Netflix in The US starting June 5 pic.twitter.com/7VILCMUOoW

— See What's Next (@seewhatsnext) May 18, 2020

Hannibal is a serial show, particularly in its latter two seasons, and with 39 episodes in the entire series, there's not much point in skipping episodes (okay, except season 1 episode "Fromage"—the throat cello is a little too silly). But these are the episodes that most define the series; the absolute can't miss core of Hannibal.

"Apéritif" - Season 1, Episode 1

Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) enjoying a meal. NBC / Dino de Laurentiis Company

The first season of Hannibal hews closer to an episodic format, with different serial killer cases every week. But while some may be skippable, there's no missing the first episode of the series, which sets up mysteries and characters that will sustain the repulsion and attraction that defines Graham and Lecter's relationship. "Apéritif" introduces Graham's abilities, which allow him to recreate crime scenes in his mind and shows early the burden that empathy has on his mental wellbeing, as Special Agent Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) pushes him harder and harder. The episode's target serial killer, "Minnesota Shriek" Garrett Jacob Hobbs (Vladimir Jon Cubrt) isn't the most impressive murderer in the Hannibal rogues' gallery, but the case introduces the peculiar code of honor and patronage that defines Lecter's serial killer social life.

"Entrée" - Season 1, Episode 5 (or 6, if counting "Oeuf")

Don't miss case-of-the-week episodes like the beautifully revolting "Amuse-Bouche" and "Oeuf"—an episode pulled from broadcast because of its controversial child killers—but the real can't miss episode is "Entrée," which jumps into Lecter's serial killing predilections while also introducing two stunningly contemptible creeps: the chameleonic killer Dr. Abel Gideon (Eddie Izzard) and Hannibal's take on the sanitarium director everyone loves to hate, Dr. Frederick Chilton (Raúl Esparza).

"Trou Normand" - Season 1, Episode 9

Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) sizes up a totem pole of bodies in the 'Hannibal' season 1 episode "Trou Normand." NBC / Dino de Laurentiis Company

If you've watched to this point, you've witnessed some grotesque bodily harm, but Hannibal kicks it up a notch in "Trou Normand," introducing a monumental and horrific horror image: a totem pole of human bodies.

"Savoureux" - Season 1, Episode 13 & "Kaiseki" - Season 2, Episode 1

Graham going down for Lecter's crimes is one of the great inversions Hannibal plays, but even without its larger plot points, the end of season 1 and beginning of season 2 is where Hannibal goes from merely great to become some of the best horror television ever. Once all is revealed between Graham and Lecter, the show leaves behind the constraints of traditional serial killer stories and goes in some truly strange directions. The season 2 opener "Kaiseki" is especially memorable, for both its opening—an in media res fight between Hannibal and Crawford we'll return to at the end of the season—and maybe the show's grandest serial kill tableau: a giant eye, made of bodies.

"Mizumono" - Season 2, Episode 13

The time for psychological manipulations are over and the knives are out. Brooke Palmer/NBC | 2014 NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Hannibal Season 2 is one of the best seasons of television ever. More cohesive than either the episodic first season or the moody, fragmented third, it all builds to the final confrontation between Graham and Lecter in "Mizumono." It is the culmination of the series, ending on a radically new status quo, after Lecter's facade of civility is finally ripped away.

"Antipasto" - Season 3, Episode 1

Following the sumptuous life Lecter and his psychiatrist Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson) building themselves in Italy—atop a pile of bodies, of course—season 3's opener is the series at its most contemplative. Don't worry, it still involves feeding a man oyster, acorns and sweet wine to make his flesh tastier. The Old World Lecter, a man who can slip effortlessly into European academia, is a whole different monster from urbane psychiatrist stalking Baltimore. "Antipasto" introduces Hannibal's final season in style.

"Digestivo" - Season 3, Episode 7

Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham hanging out. Brooke Palmer/NBC | NBCUniversal Media, LLC

This midseason climax is an exercise in excess. Season 3 of Hannibal has been contemplative and dreamlike up to this point, but "Digestivo" goes all-in on Grand Guignol excess. Wrapping both Lecter's European vacation and the ongoing war with mutilated pig magnate Mason Verger (Michael Pitt), "Digestivo" features face transplants, man-pig babies and moray eels. If there's a shark-jumping moment in Hannibal, this is it. But while the sheer excess gets a little silly, Hannibal's sense of style and experimental storytelling makes this episode unforgettable.

"...And the Woman Clothed in Sun" - Season 3, Episode 10

In the last six episodes of Hannibal Graham is hunting a serial killer called "The Tooth Fairy," who fancies himself The Great Red Dragon of the Biblical apocalypse. It's not a bad plotline, but after two seasons of inhuman, over-the-top killers, Harris' Red Dragon original feels a little tame. It doesn't help that Hannibal retreads material done better in the 1986 movie Manhunter (and while Richard Armitage is chilling as the Red Dragon Francis Dolarhyde, he's no Tom Noonan). It all builds to a decent, but slightly deflating end to the series. While he's introduced in episode 8, "The Great Red Dragon," Dolarhyde really takes off in "...And the Woman Clothed in Sun," which complicates the character by portraying his failed efforts to suppress his serial killer side.

"The Wrath of the Lamb" - Season 3, Episode 13

Going to miss these two. Brooke Palmer/NBC | 2015 NBCUniversal Media, LLC

While the Red Dragon arc may not have been Hannibal at its very best, the show pulls it together for a memorable finale that takes Lecter and Graham's relationship to its ultimate breaking point.

You can watch all 39 episodes of Hannibal on Netflix beginning June 5.