This Clarice review contains spoilers.
Clarice Episode 6
Clarice, episode 6, “How Does It Feel to Be So Beautiful,” opens in the aftermath of Clarice’s (Rebecca Breeds) nearly-lethal encounter with the recently deceased Marilyn Felker, and it brings her back to square one. The ViCAP agent is put on administrative leave, ordered to return to therapy, and given a last supper by the Attorney General, Ruth Martin (Jayne Atkinson). But it begins with a regressive hypnosis session that opens up a world of moth-eaten fantasia.
Agent Shaan Tripathi (Kal Penn) says Organized Crime believes in Dr. Renee Li (Grace Lynn Kung), who was recruited to plumb the depths of Clarice’s memories. The agent got sucker punched while attempting to escape from Dr. Felker’s personal intensive care unit, but doesn’t remember if she got a good look at the face of her attacker. Texas lawmakers are currently debating whether to ban courtroom evidence which comes from investigative hypnosis. For the ViCAP team, the jury is still out.
Deputy Assistant Attorney General Paul Krendler (Michael Cudlitz) opens the episode as the ultimate cynic (hypnosis doesn’t work, Clarice will never remember, she was pumped up to her eyeballs with narcotics), and closes it with personal obstinacy. He is a rubber band when it comes to the behavioral science specialist, and keeps snapping back to first impressions. He may say he’s on Clarice’s side, but appears incapable of seeing her as anything but a recurring rookie. Her best hope for recognition would be as a nemesis. She’d probably outflank him in open battle.
The repartee between the agents is improving. The sniper, Agent Esquivel (Lucca De Oliveira), offers to shoot Clarice to justify a two-week furlough; Agent Clark (Nick Sandow) riffs over his crushing concerns; and everyone calls Agent Shaan Tripathi (Kal Penn) “His Majesty.” This episode offers a significant personal insight into Tripathi, whose wife passed away of cancer and felt guilty for doing so. He is turning out to be the most well-rounded character in the ViCAP unit, possibly because of what Penn puts behind his eyes. We get a lot of information on Esquivel, and too much information on Krendler, but His Majesty makes due with far less.
The agents are becoming self-aware cynics, even as the layers get pulled away. Hypnotists, like Dr. Li, can make an onion taste like an apple with a butterfly induction, and the “River Murders” case is beginning to smell like Lockyer Labs. Big pharma has no conscience, and neither does Krendler’s much-endorsed divorce lawyer. The top cop on the block is sidelined for most of the investigation dealing with an alcoholic soon-to-be ex-wife who falls off the wagon and a fairly resourceful son. The ViCAP team tracks the ever-unfolding conspiracy, which is moving in the drama at a reasonably fast pace, frustratingly. The DNA sample from the man who attacked Clarice is either inconclusive or is too close to a file which has been wiped from the FBI database.
Ardelia Mapp (Devyn Tyler), who runs tests on her off hours, is in a kind of limbo. She gets the most exposure on the series because she performs the most functions. Ardelia has to juggle being the main character’s best friend, the pioneering employee, and the ambitious cop all at the same time. Clarice is only dealing with post-trauma. She appears to be trying to kick cold turkey, because, as Ruth Martin hints, there’s nothing more frustrating than a PTSD junkie.
The dinner sequence is more uncomfortable than a Thanksgiving gathering during the Trump administration. The oppressive atmosphere of the mansion and the eerie music curdle the stomach long before Ruth bites down on the very first words to come out of her daughter Catherine’s (Marnee Carpenter) mouth. It’s no wonder the serial killer’s lone survivor starts eating vanilla yogurt like baby food at the table. Buffalo Bill’s dog Precious is the only tame animal in the house. The attorney general launches a full-frontal offensive, Catherine tops from the bottom of a cavernous pit, and Clarice puts the leftovers in a bag to play with when she gets home. The brandy is good, though.
Rebecca Breeds isn’t given much room to be coy in this performance. Clarice wears every emotion like it is the centerpiece of her ensemble, business attire or casual. She lets out audible sighs of relief in the very face of the people she’s dealing with. Clarice rolls her eyes, glares, and scoffs so visibly most people would blush embarrassedly and try to dart out of a room she’s in. The camera makes sure every twitch, snort and hair flip are telegraphed.
Catherine’s drawings are considerably dark, but her alpaca knitting is even more disturbing. It’s ironic, she says, but she loved sewing before Buffalo Bill started flaying victims for outerwear. Catherine gives Clarice more than just a scarf to keep her warm. She gives her back her memories to chill her at night and prepare her for the hypnotist’s final plunge.
“How Does It Feel to Be So Beautiful” is uncomfortable viewing, which works well against the hypnotic bookends of the episode. The memory of the events are murkier than they play out. The episode also benefits from having three distinct stories running on an almost independent basis. The last scene warns us they will all collide.
Clarice airs Thursdays at 10:00 p.m. on CBS.