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'Clarice' Picks Up Where She Left Off with You-Know-Who
February 11, 2021  | By David Hinckley
 


It's way too easy, not to mention tasteless, to say that the new drama, Clarice, isn't a very satisfying meal.

But then, the creators of Clarice seem to have taken some of the easy paths themselves as they've spun this sort-of sequel to Silence of the Lambs.

Clarice, which premieres Thursday at 10 p.m. ET on CBS, picks up the story of Clarice Starling (Rebecca Breeds, top, taking over the Jodie Foster role) a year after she finally completed her tense and lethal showdown with the cannibalistic serial killer, Hannibal Lecter.

Clarice does not reference Lecter, not even to mention his name, because the movie-makers retained the rights to his character. Clarice creators Alex Kurtzman and Jenny Lumet say that doesn't matter because Hannibal's story has been told and retold elsewhere, whereas their interest lies in what that whole saga did to the FBI agent who faced off against him.

Still, Clarice rides on the premise that this young agent is coming off an experience so raw and traumatic that it could easily ruin her life and future.

So instead, we're told that she closed out the case of a serial killer nicknamed Buffalo Bill, whose M.O. was skinning his victims alive.

That setup accurately tells us that Clarice will be running to a significant extent on adrenaline, with a strong horror component.

Accordingly, the scenes in the opening episode creep right up to the edge of graphic. While they aren't quite lifted from a horror movie, they're sufficiently striking that they could deliver nightmares.

There's little doubt Clarice is suffering some level of PTSD from all this, and even less doubt she denies it. When she returned to work, she happily took an assignment in what she describes as a lower basement, out of the field, profiling suspects with minimal human contact.

The fact she saved Buffalo Bill's last intended victim, Catherine Martin (Marnee Carpenter), has earned her some public acclaim and seemingly little except scorn from her fellow, more senior agents, who think she broke a lot of rules and got lucky.

Now, however, another series of murders has law enforcement nervous about a new serial killer. So, U.S. Attorney General Ruth Martin (Jayne Atkinson), who happens to be Catherine Martin's mother – small world, eh? – orders that Clarice be put on the case.

This infuriates agent Paul Krendler (Michael Cudlitz), who runs the investigation and doesn't need what he sees as a potential wild card looking over his shoulder and maybe questioning his judgment.

As it happens – mild spoiler alert – there might be some reason to.

It's not a terrible setup. But Clarice has trouble turning the spark into a fire. When a scene at the end of the first episode devolves into ultraviolence, it's as if the writers felt they needed to do something to kick the show into racing gear.

Breeds plays Clarice logically enough, as a well-mannered woman dealing with a troubled backstory long before the Buffalo Bill case. She would love to shrink into anonymity, but once that's not possible, she may become the wild card Krendler fears.

There's nothing egregiously wrong with Clarice, and fans from Silence may find it interesting to explore one of Clarice's possible post-Hannibal paths. But too often, the show seems to rattle around among psycho-drama, police procedural, and quasi-horror, throwing a lot of stuff at us without making the harder decision of what it really wants to say or be.

 
 
 
 
 
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