Does Clarice Work Without Hannibal?

CBS certainly seems to think so as they’ve just unraveled a trailer for their upcoming series Clarice, debuting next month.  Based solely upon the characters from Thomas Harris’ “The Silence of the Lambs”, the new series can’t use any characters that didn’t originate in that novel.

This includes Clarice’s FBI supervisor Jack Crawford, as well as the legendary villain Dr. Hannibal Lecter, both of whom first appeared in “Red Dragon” several years earlier.  Hannibal himself proved to be incredibly popular with a series of his own (with many fans are still upset over its cancellation), but what is Clarice without Hannibal?  Well as it turns out, quite a bit.

Absurd Question
For many, it was a disappointment that Hannibal can play no part in this series.  Admittedly, it would have been fascinating to see it crossover with the Hannibal series for some MCU style shared universe building.

However, media rights are a tricky subject.  At its core however, asking what Clarice is without Hannibal is honestly a rather offensive question.  Anthony Hopkins famously won a Best Lead Actor Oscar for only appearing in 16 minutes of a 138 minute film.

Jodie Foster drove the plot and the story for the remaining runtime, and did it so brilliantly that she won as Oscar as well.  So to ask why we should bother exploring Clarice’s character without Hannibal disrespects and disregards the entire movie in which most of her screen time doesn’t involve him.

Hopkins gets all the attention as the villain, but Foster is the central driving force of the film.

Stories Left to Tell
While not nearly as warmly received as its predecessor, the novel “Hannibal” (along with its cinematic adaptation) portrays a Clarice hardened and embittered from a decade of catching criminals, witnessing disturbing sights, and seeing her superiors stop appreciating her.

And it’s in these 10 years that her major arc takes place.  Based on the trailer, it seems as if that’s where this series will be set.  One snippet makes reference to Buffalo Bill, so we can assume that she has already caught or killed him when the series begins.

Here, we have room to explore where her character goes and the challenges she will face, particularly after nabbing such a high profile suspect while just being a trainee.  After riding such a high so soon into a career, there were probably a lot of heightened expectations that weren’t met after that.

Based on the trailer, one such challenge is being taken seriously as a female agent. This was also a prevalent theme in the character’s previous appearances.

Clarice in the “Real World”
While it remains a cinematic masterpiece, The Silence of the Lambs was far from realistic in its portrayal of psychopaths and some procedures.  Obviously much of it had to be made more theatrical and dramatic just to make the movie more interesting.

But as a weekly procedural in these gritty reboot times, we do have a chance to a see a more down to Earth, albeit bleak portrayal of the life of a serial killer hunter.  Flashy and over the top attracted more audiences in 1991, but a quiet, subtle, psychotic killer for Clarice to contend with will certainly make for some interesting TV!

In the title role is Rebecca Breeds, best known for a small role in Pretty Little Liars, and as Aurora de Martel in CW’s The Originals.

Of course, it always is a bit frustrating to see a property like this get overdone to death in lieu of an original idea.  And while that’s duly noted, here’s to hoping this series lives up to its potential!

Clarice will air on CBS Thursday nights starting on February 11, 2021

Check out the trailer here!

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