This Clarice review contains spoilers.
Clarice Episode 5
Clarice, episode 5, “Get Right with God,” is the best episode of the season because the show gets right with The Silence of the Lambs. The series has been putting off most of the references, some by design, come contractually forced. Agent Clarice Starling (Rebecca Breeds) has done her level best to avoid talking about it, even in therapy. Though, to be fair, she avoids even the smallest of chatter there, and often appears to be communicating via a blinked Morse code.
Starling has gone as far running rogue and publicly plug an inconvenient theory to push the traumatic events of the source film further away. She’s done this against the express wishes of her coworkers, and the Attorney General, Ruth Martin (Jayne Atkinson), who salivates at the very phrase “serial killer.” Just as the ViCAP unit is finally on the same page as Starling, she goes by the book and gets back where she once belonged.
The last episode, “You Can’t Rule Me,” ended with Clarice making an unofficial and unannounced house call to Diane Felker, the twin sister of the doctor at the center of the lethal conspiracy, Marilyn Felker. Natalie Brown plays dual roles as the bright, ambitious medical science wiz and the dark, angel of death caregiving sibling born on the same day. Agent Starling discovered the pair swapped roles just as a syringe plunged her into an overnight stay.
Clarice’s team spend the episode looking for the title character. Agent Ardelia Mapp (Devyn Tyler) is waiting for Clarice to answer her frantic text messages when she gets a call from Agent Esquivel (Lucca De Oliveira). He’s not quite so frantic, but he gets into the drama pretty quickly. Within two calls, the whole team is on the field looking for their ever-evasive star rookie. This really should be the premise of every episode: “Where’s Starling?” The FBI special unit has been complaining about how the agent isn’t a team player, and she’s not too happy being pigeonholed as the “serial killer whisperer” at ViCAP. It’s a win-win scenario. Clarice gets time alone with the suspects, where the true connections occur, and the squad gets time without her.
Each Clarice installment has been set at one central location, with other action scattered peripherally. The bulk of “Get Right with God” takes place in an extremely private and very intensive care unit. The doctor with her fingers on the syringes appears at first to be a very formidable villain. She’s rendered Clarice immobile from the legs down, and continues to get information from her subconscious while she talks in her sleep. When that doesn’t work, she moves on to other medical implements. The heart paddles are extremely nerve-wracking, and recall the “is it safe” scene from Marathon Man.
Clarice and Marilyn play best together when they’re not playing well. They each try to get into the other’s heads, and Behavioral Science Unit-trained Clarice is better at it than her pharmacologically-mesmerizing captor. “They always dump the girls,” Clarice laughs early on, and we know she’s made more of a headway into Marilyn’s mind than the good doctor would care to confess. But confess she does.
The scenes where Marilyn is talking with her higher-ups occasionally feel like she’s speaking with the voices inside her head until the terminator shows up. But Clarice’s induced-dream sequences are the highlight of the episode. The hallucinations make for some extravagantly subtle visual effects. When Clarice first drops off into a narcotic sleep, it looks like her eyes will never shut tight enough. Downtrodden moths threaten to break a glass ceiling. She hallucinates her father guiding her through the entire ordeal and spends a lot of time with the lambs. She also gets to swap places in the Buffalo Bill scenario. The non-hallucinatory aural effects, like the pushing of a breathing tube down Clarice’s throat, are no less grisly.
We get a glimpse into the private life of Deputy Assistant Attorney General Paul Krendler (Michael Cudlitz), and come away with a sense of catching too much information. Cop procedurals from the golden age of television never bothered giving a backstory to commanding officers. They also never showed alcoholism in dramas, only comedies where it was considered safer for some reason. The squad plumbs their weaknesses for low-key comedy. Agent Clark’s (Nick Sandow) clueless assumptions of Clarice’s off-duty life expose the entire team’s social skills as negligible, except agent Shaan Tripathi (Kal Penn), who claims his personal life is exhausting.
“Get Right With God,” isn’t flawless, the syrupy end music has got to go, but is a promising step towards earning Clarice its Silence of the Lambs bona fides. Up to now, it’s almost been a bait and switch, luring the audience in on name recognition and only giving lip service. The full-blown flashbacks work well with a very effective villain of the week. The ending effectively robs us of any closure in the most satisfyingly surprising way. The installment expands on the overall monster, and the series is beginning to resemble The X-Files more than the classic slasher.
Clarice airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on CBS.