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Tuesday, February 9, 2021

[Review] “Clarice” Buries Fascinating Psychological Thrills in a Standard Crime Procedural

CBS’s Clarice once again places fledgling FBI agent Clarice Starling in the driver’s seat, picking up one year after the events of Academy Award-winning The Silence of the Lambs. This time without her training wheels, her incarcerated guide Dr. Hannibal Lecter, who legally can’t appear or even get name-dropped. She’s on her own and thrust into the world. Arriving in the wake of mega-popular films and series centered around everyone’s favorite cannibalistic serial killer, poor Clarice has a steep mountain to climb to carve out her own space. Based on the first three episodes screened, Clarice sets up fascinating story threads on the psychological toll evil causes while presenting an unsettling look at agency politics.

But its potential threatens to get undermined by a standard crime procedural.

The series opens with a therapy session for Clarice Starling (Rebecca Breeds). Using quick-cut flashbacks of her climactic showdown with Buffalo Bill, this session works as an abridged recap and lays the groundwork for Clarice’s mindset. The FBI agent tries to assure her skeptical, agency assigned therapist (Shawn Doyle) that she does not have PTSD. Just as it seems he’s about to deem her unfit to return to duty, they’re interrupted by a new assignment from much higher up the chain. Ruth Martin (Jayne Atkinson), a senator in Silence of the Lambs and now attorney general, wants Clarice to join a violent crimes unit. Clarice is a publicity darling after saving Ruth’s daughter Catherine (Marnee Carpenter) from Buffalo Bill. That means our heroine will have to navigate her precarious mental state as she faces grisly new crimes while finding a place on a male-dominated team that didn’t ask for her.

Series creators Alex Kurtzman and Jenny Lumet quickly plunge Clarice into the familiar setting of a weekly procedural. While it establishes a core, overarching conspiracy connected to a grisly crime scene, it changes up the cases per episode to give the young agent more time to engage with her new team and showcase her knack for behavioral science. Clarice’s defenses are up immediately thanks to a prickly new boss, Paul Krendler (Michael Cudlitz), though she forges an early bond with more receptive teammate Tomas Esquivel (Lucca De Oliveira). Luckily, the adversarial nature between boss and unwanted transfer offers complexity; rather than a retread of her storyline at the FBI Academy in Silence of the Lambs, it has more to do with Clarice’s tabloid magnetism and shaky grip on her mental health.

The series is at its most fascinating when it digs into its heroine’s psyche. She’s not okay, though the stubborn agent pushes through visions and high-anxiety, often during the worst situations. Clarice demonstrates her uncanny talent for profiling, a vital task in catching ruthless killers, but it’s hampered by bureaucracy and political maneuvering. Solving crimes is hard enough, but it’s even harder when the team is bound by public image.

Kurtzman, Lumet, and Breeds prove intense studies of Silence and Jodie Foster’s performance. Breeds even nails the West Virginia accent, and the jaw clenches. Still, as hard as they try to create a seamless transition from film to series, it’s a bit jarring nonetheless. Breeds makes for a strong lead, but the performances that stand out the most are the characters unsaddled with pop culture baggage. Cudlitz makes you forget that Krendler appeared in Silence then met a gruesome end in 2001’s Hannibal, which teases a fascinating character arc yet to pass. Oliveira brings brightness to a drab world.  

Clarice is well executed and brings exciting insights to the young agent’s psyche, still reeling to piece itself back together after a brutal encounter with a serial killer before even graduating from the FBI Academy. After only three episodes, however, it’s hasn’t quite established a distinct enough voice yet. As of now, it’s an average crime drama with brushes of fascinating psychological thrills, still finding its rhythm. It doesn’t come close to the highs of Silence or the Hannibal tv series, but it’s nowhere near the worst of the Thomas Harris adaptations. It’s fine if a bit familiar. With the early plot seeds that Kurtzman and Lumet are planting now, though, there’s still potential that Clarice will be able to step out of Hannibal’s shadow entirely.

Clarice premieres on CBS on February 11, 2021.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/reviews/3651470/tv-review-clarice-buries-fascinating-psychological-thrills-standard-crime-procedural/

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