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Series / Clarice

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Krendler: People find a way to heal old wounds.
Clarice: Even if it's the wrong way, sir?

Clarice is a 2021 thriller series created by Alex Kurtzman and Jenny Lumet and airing on CBS. It is a sequel series to The Silence of the Lambs and stars Rebecca Breeds, Michael Cudlitz, and Kal Penn.

One year after stopping Buffalo Bill's killing spree, FBI Agent Clarice Starling has been hiding in the Behavioral Sciences Unit's basement and trying to cover up her PTSD. However, fate has other plans for her, as new Attorney General Ruth Martin - the mother of Catherine Martin, the girl Starling saved - assigns Clarice to a new task force to track down a potential serial killer.

Clarice contains examples of:

  • The '90s: Set in 1993.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Clarice was apparently called "Reesey" when she was growing up.
  • The Alcoholic: Krendler and his wife both used to be heavy drinkers. Paul managed to get sober, but Mandy is still struggling. Consequently, they're getting a divorce.
  • Artistic License – History: VICAP was formed in 1985, whereas in the series it's stated to have been formed when Ruth Martin became AG in 1992/1993.
  • Boom, Headshot!: "Ghosts of Highway 20" ends with Lucas Novak getting a bullet in the head, courtesy of Esquivel.
  • Broken Pedestal: Clarice, who adored her father, is devastated to learn he was a criminal and coward later.
  • Call-Back: This being a sequel series to Silence of the Lambs, there are a number of call-backs to the book and movie.
    • Clarice is appointed to her new task force by AG Ruth Martin, the mother of Buffalo Bill's final victim, Catherine Martin, who Clarice saved.
    • Clarice's new superior is Paul Krendler.
    • In the first episode, Clarice's co-workers put a jar of skin lotion in her desk as a prank.
  • Cold Sniper/Friendly Sniper:
    • Equivel deconstructs the usual dichotomy between the cold sniper and friendly sniper stereotype. On the one hand, he is extremely competent and efficient, and doesn't spend a lot of time angsting about pulling the trigger. On the other hand, when he's not actively shooting, he makes a point of being friendly and courteous towards Clarice, because in the field, there may be a lot of situations where he will be shadowing her, and he needs her to trust him.
    • The third episode gives us Karl Wellig, a straight example of the Cold Sniper. Facing life in prison for killing three women and attempting to kill a fourth, he does not seem to care at all what happens to him. At least until Krendler tells him his lawyer has arrived, at which point he suddenly panics; he'd never requested a lawyer.
  • Cool Old Lady: Mulu Rose, Ardelia's grandmother, is a former restauranteur who doesn't bat an eye at her granddaughter sharing an apartment with another woman. She also seems to adore Clarice.
  • Daddy's Girl: Clarice was very close with her father before his death, believing him to be the best man she ever knew for a long time.
  • Damsel out of Distress: Clarice manages to save herself twice from great danger, first in the clinic and later when Nils Hagen is holding her (by persuading his son to turn against him).
  • Dark and Troubled Past:
    • Clarice grew up in a family with a father who was a sheriff and a mother who was mentally ill. When her father was killed, her mother was deemed unfit to care for her and her brother, and thus she was sent to an orphanage. She joined the FBI, and managed to get her first big case... which happened to be the Buffalo Bill case. A year later, she's still trying to deal with fallout from that case, made worse by her unexpected promotion to VICAP.
    • Ardelia's dad was a labor organizer who was beaten so badly that he's catatonic. The fact that his assailant was a cop means that Ardelia has never been able to get justice for him, even after joining the FBI.
    • Murray Clarke's little sister was kidnapped when he was a teenager. For years, he assumed that she'd been murdered and was wracked with guilt over this, only for someone to mention that they'd seen her in a porno movie.
  • A Day in the Limelight: In "You Can't Rule Me", Esquivel is sidelined as a potential suspect in the death of Wellig, so Clarice spends time with Tripathi. The B-plot, meanwhile, focuses on Ardelia as she finally gets an opportunity to leave Cold Cases - in exchange for helping Tony Herman investigate Paul Krendler, which puts her at odds with Clarice.
  • Deadly Euphemism: Esquival describes what he did in his former job as a Special Forces sniper as "flipping a switch".
  • Deadpan Snarker: Agent Murray Clarke handles his job with a very dry sense of humor.
  • Delicate and Sickly: Dr. Marilyn Felker had Guillain-Barre syndrome as a child. While she eventually recovered, it left her with a limp, and the fact that her family barely cared for her left her extremely bitter.
  • Dirty Cop:
    • "Ghost of Highway 20" presents Sheriff Rowan, a Tennessee cop who's in league with a militia that's actually a front for drugs and prostitution.
    • In "Are You Alright?", the Baltimore Police sneak poison into Wellig's food in order to prevent him from talking.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: Some of Clarice's fellow FBI agents prank her by putting body lotion in her desk drawer, explicitly invoking Buffalo Bill's practice of making his captives use it, to her horror. Esquival apologizes for what they did since he knows this was completely wrong (it clearly triggers her PTSD).
  • Frame-Up: Joe Hudlin is framed as the sole party behind the crimes the FBI is investigating, with a supposed suicide note left after his murder (made to look like he killed himself).
  • Freudian Excuse: Nils Hagen was forced to choose by his father whether he or his little brother Agust would get used as a gas test subject. He chose Agust. The gas killed Agust, which messed him up forever. Later he became obsessed with proving himself strong, unlike Agust (who had a disability) but his own genetic disorder prevented him having any more than one child. It didn't stop him kidnapping and forcibly impregnating many women in hopes of getting a second success though (killing them after they had "failed"). Evil though he's become, it's possible to understand that could twist him, and feel a little sympathetic.
  • Interquel: Set after The Silence of the Lambs, but, presumably, set before Hannibal.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: In "Father Time" the DC Police and FBI both get called to a crime scene, which causes a heated argument as their commanders fight over who has jurisdiction until the DC commander at last gives up.
  • Laughing Mad: In "Get Right with God", Clarice takes several defibrillator shocks to the chest as part of torture, and the mix of pain and adrenaline sends her into uncontrollable fits of laughter.
  • Medical Rape and Impregnate: Nils Hagen has dozens of young female med students kidnapped to impregnate with his children.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Dr. Marilyn Felker is a disgraced doctor who ran some very dodgy drug trials for The Conspiracy.
  • Murder-Suicide: Tyson kills Nils, his father, and then himself.
  • Never Suicide: Joe Hudlin is incapacitated with an injection of a drug, then shot (made to look like he did it himself).
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: In this series, Ruth Martin seems to be a stand-in for the late Janet Reno, who was the Attorney General during the time period where the series takes place.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: In "You Can't Rule Me", the team gets grilled by Tony Herman, a desk-rider from the Office of Professional Responsibility who's determined to see someone get the ax for the death of Wellig.
  • Professional Killer:
    • The first killer the team brings in turns out to be one of these, a hitman hired to kill women whose children were all born with developmental disorders due to an experimental migraine treatment.
    • An efficient team later makes it appear that Joe Hudlin killed himself.
  • Pseudo-Romantic Friendship: Having relocated to DC for her job, Clarice is now rooming with her old friend Ardelia Mapp, and the two spend much of their non-working time together. They end up sharing a bed, share meaningful looks and have intimate conversations in their underwear, making the two come off more like a couple at times.
  • Right-Wing Militia Fanatic: In the second episode, VICAP travels to Tennessee to try and defuse a hostage situation involving a secessionist group called the Statesmen. While leader Lucas Novak has some beliefs less common on the American right (he's an anti-capitalist, for one), the group's general beliefs seem to be right-wing.
  • Sadistic Choice: Nils Hagen was forced to choose by his father whether he or his little brother would be used as a gas test subject.
  • Sequel Series: The series is a direct follow-up to Silence of the Lambs, taking place one year later.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran:
    • When the series opens, Clarice is still grappling with PTSD as a result of her experiences with Buffalo Bill. She's going to mandatory therapy as a result, but still gets triggered at times.
    • Catherine, the final victim of Buffalo Bill whom Clarice rescued, is also clearly suffering from it but won't get help, to her mother's dismay. She now has Buffalo Bill's dog Precious too, possibly for coping, but it seems to trigger her as well.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: This ends up being Lucas Novak's downfall. Clarice baits him into spilling the beans about his partnership with Sheriff Rowan by pointing out how much leverage Rowan has over him. Incensed at the idea that he's a subordinate, Novak starts ranting about how much he knows about Rowan's corruption.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: "Get Right with God" opens with "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)" blaring on the soundtrack... as the camera pans over a room full of entirely immobile coma patients.
  • Spotting the Thread:
    • In the second episode, Clarice figures out that Peter Rabbit was the shooter who wounded an ATF agent because he has bruises on his shoulder and cheek consistent with trying to hold a rifle.
    "Rifles are heavy, and they kick like a mule."
    • In the fourth episode, Clarice notices that Luanne isn't all she appears with the photo of her and her twin sister with one of them in a wheelchair.
    • In "Get Right with God", Clarice realizes that Marilyn was the sister in the wheelchair when she notices that Marilyn has a slight limp. Marilyn confirms that the limp is the result of a childhood bout of Guillain-Barre syndrome, which left her paralyzed for a while.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: The series works hard to de-glamorize law enforcement and the FBI.
    • The opening scene of the pilot dispels any notion that killing Buffalo Bill has turned Clarice Starling into a rising star at the Bureau; having developed PTSD from her encounter with Bill, Clarice has been banished to the basement of the BSU department, where her co-workers are all just waiting for her to leave.
    • In the first episode, Clarice has a good theory behind the string of murders that VICAP is investigating, but since she has no solid evidence, Krendler refuses to investigate it. After she tries to force his hand by going public with her theory, he immediately puts in a request to send her back to the BSU.
    • In the second episode, Clarice manages to get videotaped evidence and taped testimony to send the corrupt Sheriff Rowan to jail for trafficking and prostitution... and AG Martin tells her that instead of sending Rowan to jail, she intends to use the evidence to essentially blackmail him into giving up the names of every corrupt cop in his network, after which he will be allowed to resign and turn state's evidence. As Martin explains, jailing Rowan would simply create a power vacuum, and immediately rounding up everyone in his network at once would be a logistical nightmare.
    • In "You Can't Rule Me", Clarice tries to reach out to Ardelia for help when VICAP is under investigation. Ardelia immediately shoots her down, as she's one of the people on the investigation, and therefore should not be speaking to Clarice. Clarice keeps doing it, however, and Ardelia gets increasingly pissed at her.
  • Technology Marches On: Often acknowledged in-universe as the series is set in 1993 and thus much of its technology seems downright archaic.
    • Cell phones were not as prevalent then which means Clarice lacks one to call her teammates in the field.
    • The Internet barely exists which means computer searches can be slow and often missing information.
    • DNA testing is also in its infancy as terms a modern procedural takes for granted sound like science fiction to the trained FBI agents. It also means forensics work takes far longer for less certain results.
  • There Is Only One Bed: In "Ugly Truth", Clarice and Ardelia come close to sharing a bed when Ardelia's grandmother stays the night and takes the couch. Their moment of intimacy is interrupted when both their pagers go off, alerting them that they have a suspect in their latest case.
  • Torture Technician: Deconstructed with Marilyn Felker. On the one hand, as a physician, she has some theoretical understanding of how to cause pain to someone without killing them. On the other hand, she has no practical experience with torturing people, and thus her efforts to torture Clarice backfire (for instance, using a defibrillator on Clarice hurts her, but it also causes an adrenaline surge, making Clarice even more stubborn.) Plus, Felker is on a deadline and desperate, so she keeps making careless mistakes.
  • Trans Tribulations: Julia Lawson, a trans woman who helps Clarice, notes she has had to keep her gender secret because it could get her fired. She's also partners with another woman (that would not help, of course) and her partner's suffering from cancer, so this might endanger her too as they get health insurance from Julia's work. At the end of the episode, when her boss (who is behind the plot she had helped Clarice look into) let's slip with her deadname, thus revealing he knows of her past, she's horrified, realizing he has a hold over her. She gently chastises Clarice for never speaking out to rebut the perception Buffalo Bill was trans as well (or worse, a killer because of it), since this harms them by false association with him (and they already suffer a lot of prejudice).
  • The Unfavorite: Clarice was the only one of her siblings who was sent away after the death of their father. It made sense for her older siblings to stay, since they had jobs and could help provide for the struggling household, but her younger brother was also kept home for no apparent reason. Clarice, meanwhile, was sent to a relative’s home, then to an orphanage.
  • Villainous Incest: In "Ugly Truth", the perp of the week is Gerry Kern, an otherwise quiet man whose mother forced him into an incestuous relationship from the time he was twelve years old. Unable to keep it a secret, he confided in a neighbor boy, only to panic and kill the boy afterwards. Years later, the guilt got to him again and he confided in Cody Phelps, and then panicked and killed him, too.
  • Writing Around Trademarks: The show is not allowed to mention Hannibal Lecter by name, since the rights to the character are owned by the De Laurentiis Company. However, in the first episode's opening scene, Clarice's therapist mentions that her previous "therapist" was a cannibal. In a later episode, her new therapist asks Clarice if she is worried about a certain infamous serial killer coming after her but Clarice says she is not. Ruth Martin also talks about her guilt over Lecter's murder of two Baltimore police officers.

"What do you do with all your rage, Clarice?"