This Clarice review contains spoilers.
Clarice Episode 4
Clarice, episode 4, “You Can’t Rule Me,” is a misnomer. Unlike its source material, The Silence of the Lambs, it plays by a lot of rules. Agent Clarice Starling (Rebecca Breeds), and the ViCAP unit she works at under Deputy Assistant Attorney General Paul Krendler (Michael Cudlitz) are under investigation for a regulation infraction. A witness died on their watch. The thing which raises the episode, however, is something we didn’t see coming, though it follows the rules.
Right after the spiel about what happened previously on Clarice, the head investigating agent, Krendler’s Bureau rival, SA Anthony Herman (David Hewlett), goes through it again in the form of an accusation. To hammer the point home, autopsy scenes are intercut where we can see and, much more importantly, hear limbs being sawed through. It’s an effective opening which brings a very dark tone to brightly lit proceedings.
Herman is playing the dual role of good cop and bad cop in the questionings. This ultimately makes for some surprising comic relief, as he goes from angrily laying out the plot to cajoling Clarice to screaming at Agent Esquivel (Lucca De Oliveira) by way of hello. It’s enough to give you whiplash. Herman is very transparent about his motives, more so when he tries to cover them up. He offers Clarice better working conditions, but only conditionally. Herman does succeed in putting a wedge between her relationship with Ardelia Mapp (Devyn Tyler). The agent was pulled out of the cold case division and is now investigating her own roommate. The grossly transparent Herman wants everyone to know. He does it publicly, and privately, even telling Krendler, “Let me be clear, Paul, I’m taking you down for this.”
But the rift between Mapp and Starling is actually revealing because it’s the first time the title character is called out for something she’s guilty of, self-centeredness. Ardelia complains about how Starling is compromising her as an investigator because she’s her roommate, and also for using her the same way everyone is apparently using Starling. Clarice keeps stepping on Ardelia’s toes because she likes her shoes. When the big come-uppance comes, however, Ardelia throws back all Starling’s teary-eyed mea culpas with a call for her to do the work. The FBI come across like drones. Ardelia’s attempts to distance herself from all other officers, including turning down an invitation to a meeting of Black agents, only tend to sideline her to the role of another wrench in the machine. Every aspect of the series must put the squeeze on Starling.
The cat and mouse game the team plays with the bureau investigators is entertaining. The ViCAP veterans get stuck on phone duty taking complaint calls while the more nimble team members covertly pursue the River Murders case. This is probably the first installment where humor has been so evident. The porn rags found in Agent Clark’s (Nick Sandow) desk are part of his “Spank” magazine collection, which he must buy for the articles because the name is too spot on. He pretends he’s talking with someone who has Hoffa’s body hidden in an apartment. Esquivel’s observation that he’s a mutt – Italian, Brazilian and Cuban – and “two shrugs and an eyebrow is a conversation” is also a small step in the right direction. But the funniest line is probably unintentional. Krendler says some bureau head owes him “a solid,” a line which hasn’t been heard on network TV since The Mod Squad.
For a federal man, Krendler really knows how to throw guilt. He is as manipulative as Herman, and ultimately everyone else on the show. But when Krendler tells Tony Herman he’s a bureaucrat not a cop, you can almost see the perennial desk jockey tear up. He literally backs up as if he’s been socked on the jaw. You would think a federal cop, whatever his position, would be a little tougher.
Again, the investigation on Clarice benefits from too many coincidences. In one scene they are probing, there is one painting hanging off kilter in a room filled with perfectly hung frames. This, of course, has the missing papers Clarice has been looking for, just like when agent Shaan Tripathi (Kal Penn) looks in the right waste paper baskets while puttering around the newspaper offices. He also happens on methyl iodide, the chemical neurotoxin used to assassinate the suspect which spurred the bureau investigation. Even Clarice gives a suspicious look by the time we get to that discovery. Some of the ease by which these gifts are uncovered are by design, which we find out after a coroner’s report clears the ViCAP team right before they realize they’ve lost their star member.
While Clarice is tracking down the lead physician for the whistleblower’s clinical trial, she comes upon the caregiver’s twin. This leads to the unexpected twist at the episode’s end. After the steady buildup of bureaucratic claustrophobia, the anesthesia which drops Clarice into the final danger is less a cliffhanger than it is a relief. Maybe Clarice will finally move into Silence of the Lambs territory, after all.
Clarice airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on CBS.