Thursday, February 18, 2021

REVIEW: 'Clarice' - Clarice Must Rely on Her Team Once She Enters the Compound of a Militia Group in 'Ghosts of Highway 20'

CBS' Clarice - Episode 1.02 "Ghosts of Highway 20"

Clarice Starling and the VICAP team are deployed to Tennessee where the FBI is laying siege against a fringe militia group called "The Statesmen."

In 2020, the television industry aired 493 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of CBS' Clarice.

"Ghosts of Highway 20" was written by Elizabeth J.B. Klaviter & Kenneth Lin and directed by Doug Aarniokoski

Clarice found her voice again at the end of the premiere. She spoke up in opposition to the narrative her team and the public pressure where demanding she establish. She didn't believe the case was the result of a depraved serial killer. Instead, it was a conspiracy that was targeted in a much more sinister way. That action was important on her part. The narrative doesn't do a whole lot to follow up on that thread though. It states that she has caused friction with the VICAP team because she isn't even trying to build trust with them. Of course, Tomas is the only one extending that to her in the field. Everyone else simply views her as a rogue agent who will eventually compromise all of their lives if she remains a part of this unit. It's easier for Krendler to demand her transfer. That's the solution that will protect the strength and unity of this team. Clarice doesn't disagree with that assessment. She too is now willing to acknowledge that she is dealing with some psychological trauma. And yet, she can never navigate through that minefield for too long. The narrative always pulls her right back into the drama with a dangerous situation only she can seemingly solve. It produces a pattern as well. Increasingly, this show comes across as a typical crime procedural that happens to be set in the 1990s instead of a follow-up to the film The Silence of the Lambs. The events of this hour barely have any connection to what happened in the premiere as well. The first episode established this conspiracy that Clarice believed in but didn't have the necessary evidence to prove. Instead of following up on that, the team is sent to deal with a standoff in Tennessee with a militia group. All of this is essentially being done to showcase the many different ways the human psyche can be warped and damaged. A lot of people exhibit sociopathic traits that also lead to them inflicting harm on others. Clarice understands that. She sees it in various people. She works up the profile on how to best proceed with the situation. That's her job. She studies behavior. And now, she is pulled directly into the drama. It just means that yet another man is shot right in front of her. That was the conclusion in the premiere. That was also how her confrontation with Buffalo Bill ended. These injuries aren't always fatal. Moreover, Clarice isn't always the person to pull the trigger. That appears to be the only details of nuance in this setup though. It creates this understanding that every case Clarice becomes involved with will end in this way. It becomes personal and grueling for her because she is the center of attention. It's not wrong for her to be central in that way. It simply suggests an inability to offer something different in the proceedings right away. The way Novak leads his flock and runs his criminal enterprise is certainly different than the other antagonists Clarice has dealt with over the past year. That is significant. She knows how to handle herself in this situation. Moreover, the team is also capable of getting to the same conclusion as she does. They rely on the tools at their disposal from a safe distance. They enter this world as complete strangers. They compile enough details to understand exactly what's happening. Meanwhile, Clarice has the physical experience of having to interact with all the players involved. That makes it more visceral for her. Her life is placed in more danger. She is now willing to admit that she may be suffering from trauma. And yet, her actions here provide redemption. The team wants her again. They see the courage she wields. That is honorable without ruining the reputation they want to have as part of this unit. It can all change in a moment. Clarice is still having to prove herself. That still provides her with a very small life of limited interactions. The show doesn't reveal too much depth. But again, it's a procedural produced in an evocative and efficient way. That provides the creative team with some leeway as the season develops and unfolds for the characters. It's not as exciting as some would probably want. It's a wait-and-see approach. The show doesn't particularly earn the internal turmoil Clarice has about her upbringing and what happened to her brother. That feels like a very forced dynamic. That could payoff in some way down the line. It shouldn't be the chief focus though. Further developing this world and the ensemble has to be the top priority. The action can't repeat itself all the time. It needs a boost of creative energy to truly establish it as doing something unique that demands viewership.