Starling’s addition to the VICAP team, however, is not a welcome one. Her teammates—lead by Paul Krendler (Michael Cudlitz)—are none too excited to employ her, feeling she is but a tool to make Ruth Martin look good. Though she does seem to have one of the men on her side (Lucca De Oliveira as Tomas Esquivel), the other two (Kal Penn as Emin Grigoryan and Nick Sandow as Murray Clarke) are a bit more suspect. And Krendler is fully not having it with Starling at all.
What unfolds is a procedural with a compelling overarching story, entrenched in creepy, horrific, and often psychological mystery. Though it is decidedly less visually inventive, erotic, and outright grotesque than NBC’s Hannibal from 2013, it does feel like a spiritual sibling as they both pick at the scabs of what make their protagonists human. In a dream world where networks could cross pollinate, it would be interesting to see an intersection of these two Lecter-adjacent worlds. But, at least for now, Clarice is not legally allowed to mention the famous cannibal in its plot (which is an unavoidable but somewhat frustrating quirk of the series, given Lecter’s impact on Clarice’s life and what she’s endured so far). So this one will have to stay a bit of a dream.
Everyone on Clarice is compelling to watch, and the episodes provided to critics were all expertly paced. Meaning: you’re not tuning into some boring, run-of-the-mill coptime adventures. You’re learning what it means to be Clarice Starling, to survive the Buffalo Bill of it all—even more so than Lecter—and be a woman in an extremely male-dominated field. Starling isn’t some boot-stomping bravadoist, she’s quiet and observing. But there are cracks that just keep cracking, and it feels like it’s going to be exciting to watch.
In the end, while it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, Clarice will leave you engaged and satisfied if you’re looking for a horror-lite police procedural with high production value and an engaging central character. Its pilot sets the stage for a new chapter for Starling, one you’d be remiss to miss if you’re a fan of the Thomas Harris source material.