This Clarice review contains spoilers.
Clarice Episode 11
Clarice, episode 11, “Achilles Heel,” could almost be called the “I-told-you-so” episode. After half a season of knocking down Agent Clarice Starling (Rebecca Breeds) as a rogue, unreliable, dangerous or mentally unbalanced cop, almost every character who got screen time this season gets to say their version of “we should have listened to Clarice.” This bodes well for the investigation, but also for the psyches of her closest acquaintances.
In the last episode, Clarice decided Catherine Martin (Marnee Carpenter) had to face some consequences for her actions. The surviving victim of the serial killer Buffalo Bill took his mother hostage, not entirely intentionally, but functionally enough to warrant observation. Catherine’s mother, the Attorney General Ruth Martin (Jayne Atkinson), is incensed over the idea her daughter is being victimized by the system, especially since she gave strict orders to the agent she forced to go rogue, again. But the traumatized political tool Catherine is far happier in treatment with other people who get what she’s going through internally. It is the first time in the season she’s looked remotely happy, and as she gives all the credit to Agent Starling, we feel a tug of joy as it gets under Ruth’s skin.
Julia Lawson (Jen Richards) earns her Nancy Drew decoder ring, not that such a bauble was part of the young detective series, but the accountant knows the codes. Julia plays the undercover operative role to the hilt, even picking locks and finding last-possible-moment solutions to post-modern problems. She calls the ViCAP team with almost quarter-hourly updates on the impending sale of Alastor Pharmaceuticals until they are on the verge of not taking her calls. As the executives go through the fine print on the final documents, Julia takes the long, dangerous elevator ride up to the “R&D on the fifth floor” to prevent the purging of incriminating evidence. It feels like reverse Stockholm Syndrome, and after a while much of the viewing audience is rooting for her to get caught.
Agent Murray Clarke (Nick Sandow) once again plays the unsung hero of the episode, bringing much needed humor as he notes Julia’s herculean efforts to help the FBI. “Somebody help her, she’s faxing the Gutenberg Bible one page at a time,” he commands through beeper, phone and tossed office supplies. Agents Esquivel (Lucca De Oliveira) and Shaan Tripathi (Kal Penn) get most of the cleanup work during the episode. This is a tough job, mostly because they are usually playing catch-up, and Starling doesn’t always fill them in on any details. “I’ll tell you when we’re out of here,” she says, even when it’s not out loud.
A standoff sequence is very effective because it is averted just as it is about to happen. It leads to a big payoff, but the reason it is able to deliver is because it conjures something similar to performus interruptus. Every cop, every security guard, and even the assassin who got through ViCAP security, have their hands on their guns, and a guy in a suit cuts in just after the holsters get emptied, but while the chambers are still full.
The episode opens with Clarice transposing the usual suspect’s profile into one which fits a conspiracy. But the most obvious perpetrator doesn’t fit the composite. Clarice has been chasing a series of human monsters throughout her career, but encounters a different breed of sociopath in Alastor CEO Nils Hagen (Peter McRobbie). She might have seen it coming if it were the Internet age. CEOs top the list of preferred jobs for psychopaths. It probably hadn’t been collated at the time, but Joe Hudland (Raoul Bhaneja) almost gets exonerated when he is revealed to be only one brush stroke on the artist’s rendition of the face of conspiracy.
Hagen is very curious about Clarice’s relationship with his son, Tyson (Douglas Smith). The man who started a pharmaceutical monolith in one tiny warehouse has issues with women, but the problem might be because has dinner plans. He admires Cronos, the god who ate all his sons but Zeus, also known as Alastor.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission case which Agent Ardelia Mapp (Devyn Tyler) and Agent Garrett (K.C. Collins) put together is finally being addressed by the bureau. The first response is to change some addresses. Agent Garrett is offered a promotion, far, far away, where he can do his best work, unfettered by distractions like EEOC complaints. Mapp is offered a seat at the team table, and possibly some silverware, but she knows her knife placement better than anyone on the squad or the brass. The pincer tactics of the bureau administrators is meant as a brilliant ploy, and forces Mapp and Garrett to play much straighter to uniform behavior. Their subplot falls outside the perimeter of the procedural conspicuously.
Deputy Assistant Attorney General Paul Krendler (Michael Cudlitz) gets in the last “we should have listened to Clarice” of the episode. It is ultimately the straw which breaks Attorney General Martin’s back. Not only does she forgive the ViCAP team its trespasses, she resists every natural political urge and backs the agent over the most insidious enemy of the state: campaign funds. The scene is designed to manipulate the emotional charge, but feels contrived because of how many contrivances have led to this point.
Of course, now that Clarice is finally being given her due, she’s got to fill the gap of self-incrimination. What is Clarice trying to say with the flashbacks? Was Clarice’s daddy on the take, make or faking his way through bad territory? If ever we needed a Dr. Renee Li (Grace Lynn Kung), it is now. “Achilles Heel” offers a slight departure from the bulk of the episodes. In this particular installment, it actually seems like the ViCAP team pulls something together they can use. Luckily, the chances are good that this triumph will be short-lived.
Clarice airs Thursdays at 10:00 p.m. on CBS.