Julien Neaves, Editor
As a massive fan of the Hannibal franchise I was intrigued when CBS psychological crime drama series Clarice was announced. The show is set following the events of The Silence of the Lambs and centres on FBI special agent Clarice Starling (who is still suffering trauma from her encounter with serial killer Buffalo Bill) as she joins the new Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (VICAP) task force and investigates a string of murders involving women.
Now Clarice isn’t the first time the franchise has ventured to the small screen as we previously had the excellent but criminally underrated Hannibal series (2013-2015). And while that show (for which I am still waiting for my Season 4, just FYI) focused on its cultured psychologist by day and cannibalistic serial killer by day and night Dr Hannibal Lecter, the new series concentrates on the young agent and her psychological state.
Well that’s the synopsis, but is it worth watching? Get to the point man! Okay, don’t bite off my head. Little cannibal humour for you there. With a mild spoiler alert let’s discuss two reasons Clarice is worth your time and two reasons it isn’t.
Worth It Reason 1: Strong Cast
Replacing Jodie Foster and her Academy Award-winning performance in The Silence of the Lambs was never going to be an easy task. They tried with Julianne Moore in the sequel Hannibal but her portrayal was so off it might as well have been a completely different character.
But thankfully Rebecca Breeds (The Originals, Pretty Little Liars) does Clarice Starling justice. There are shades of Foster but she makes the character her own, investing a strength, vulnerability and maverick sensibility. She does well in the psychological scenes (and there are a lot of those), the tense thriller sequences, and the smaller dramatic moments.
The Walking Dead’s Michael Cudlitz is also here as VICAP head Paul Krendler and though he starts off as an aggravating backside the character does get better with time. Jayne Atkinson (Criminal Minds, House of Cards) and Marnee Carpenter also put in strong work as US Attorney General Ruth Martin and her daughter Catherine respectively, the latter an agoraphobic after her encounter with Buffalo Bill. I also enjoyed Devyn A. Tyler as Clarice’s best friend and fellow agent Ardelia Mapp, Nick Sandow as irreverent agent Murray Clarke, and Lucca De Oliveira as agent and former sniper Lucca De Oliveira. Harold & Kumar and House star Kal Penn also plays an agent here but he disappears midway through and contributes little to the series. But overall the show had quite the talented cast to draw from.
Worth It Reason 2: Creepy Visuals
This show is described as a psychological horror crime drama police procedural. Now ain’t that a mouthful? I disagree with the “horror” part though, as while there are horror elements I don’t believe it is enough to bump it up into the genre.
That said, the film does feature some intense and creepy visuals, mostly from Clarice’s subconscious and connected to Buffalo Bill. We get flashbacks to Bill himself, the pit, and lots and lots of icky moths bleeding into reality. It is some skin-crawling stuff and very well done, even if it’s not enough to make it a horror show per se.
Not Worth It Reason 1: The Doctor is Out
Pop quiz hotshot! What’s the best part of the Hannibal franchise? If you said “Hannibal Lecter” then DING DING DING you are 100 per cent correct. But anyone going into Clarice hoping to see Hannibal the Cannibal then they will be majorly disappointed. Now there are a couple of mentions of him but that’s about it. And they never use his name, like he’s a boogeyman or something.
Now if the series is following the novels Clarice would not meet Hannibal again for another seven years or so in the timeline. And it is clear that they are trying to divert viewers’ focus away from him and onto Clarice and Buffalo Bill. And while both fascinating characters they pale in comparison to the larger-than-life villain and sometime anti-hero. I am also not sure if viewers are that interested in Clarice to stick with her for multiple seasons.
Not Worth It Reason 2: Oh So Slow
The biggest strike against Clarice (the show, not the character) is the pacing. It is not good. At all. It starts off with an intriguing mystery and has some flashes of psychological thriller excitement but it spends most of the time as a dull police procedural. And some episodes don’t even feel like they have a proper start and end but are just rambling filler.
The pacing was not helped by CBS taking not one, not two, but THREE episode breaks. It was like we were swimming in molasses and they decided to add a bucket of concrete to it. I also won’t spoil the ending for you but I will say it isn’t exactly groundbreaking television.
And while I appreciate the show didn’t want to go the traditional serial killer route I think that would have been a bit more interesting than what we got, because what we got was not that great. I also think they didn’t have enough story for 13 episodes and the show would have benefitted from being tighter and much more focused.
Conclusion and Rating
So is Clarice Season 1 worth watching? I’d have to say it’s okay but not something to go out of your way for. Despite a great cast, gorgeous visuals and a few exciting episodes it is weighed down by too much drudgery. And while The Silence of the Lambs fans may enjoy seeing more of Clarice and the Buffalo Bill storyline I believe franchise fans will not be happy that Hannibal Lecter is barely a spectre. Hey, that rhymes.
I will say though there is enough working here for a second season, though one I hope is much more streamlined. But again, I would much rather have a Season 4 of the way, way, WAY better Hannibal.
Editor Jules’s Score: 6.5 out of 10
So have you checked out Clarice? What did you think of it? And you can check out more great content below:
All 6 Hannibal Franchise Entries Ranked
Top 5 Horror Movies that became Awesome TV Shows
Julien “Editor Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. Read more.