Catherine Martin speaks out about the serial-killer phenomenon, saying that everyone thinks it’s funny or cool. “These monsters, leave human beings behind — like us and them,” she says to the mother of the serial killer, but it could also be said to the Clarice audience. The show has steered clear of the supervillain glamour that is attached to serial killers in the public eye since its inception. Buffalo Bill is a scumbag who coughs up his blood in flashback after flashback. Hannibal Lecter doesn’t even get mentioned. This last bit is legal, but you get the impression that Clarice may have kept him away anyway. This episode is not about the evil men do but the trauma they leave behind.
This episode features Clarice, not Catherine, as she follows Jame Gumb (a.k.a. Catherine) through her stalking and finally confronts him. At this point, Lila Gumb, a recovering alcoholic is living under a different name in a new place and playing bingo to kill her time. Catherine makes small talk at the bingo hall, but Lila gets into a fight and is forced to leave. After being dragged by Catherine to the house, Lila is confronted with a standoff. First, Lila holds Catherine hostage, then Catherine gets Lila to relax and allows her to take the gun. At that point, she takes the gun from Catherine and points it at Lila.
Clarice finally introduces herself to this arrangement after knocking on the door twice and receiving no response. She drives off to get rid of Catherine’s scent and then sneaks back into the house. Catherine, already distraught, is driven to the brink by Lila’s inability to provide firsthand information about Bill. He was taken from her when she was two years old, after Lila accidentally left him on a bus, while she was taking cough syrup. He spent his entire youth in foster homes, and then he was taken to the care of his grandparents. At age 12, he would slash his grandparents to death with a boxcutter.
Catherine believes that Bill’s lotion blend in Lila’s medicine cupboard points to a deeper connection. The scent of the lotion re-traumatizes Catherine. Lila says that Bill and she both were introduced to the brand by her father, despite the headaches it caused. This episode focuses on men sucking.
Catherine is desperate to know “what happened” to Bill in order to understand his past. Clarice states, “He just occurred.” This is a clear echo from Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal title character, who once stated, “Nothing ever happened to me — I happened.” However, Clarice convinces Catherine she doesn’t need to carry Bill’s weight any more than she does. We’ll see if this sticks.
Clarice ended the night by telling Catherine’s mother, Attorney-General Ruth Martin, that she plans to hand Catherine over to the police for an assault charge. Clarice says, “She needs to understand what she’s done.” Clarice says, “She needs to feel it.” I find it hard to believe that Catherine would benefit from a trip through carceral systems, but Clarice is right in thinking that Catherine should feel like she has an impact on the world instead of just gliding along with it like a ghost after Bill.
Parallel to all this, a fascinating conversation takes place between Ruth and Paul Krendler, ViCAP head honcho. They both regretfully recall the way their plan to collect information about Bill from Hannibal led to him fleeing to other parts of the country to claim the lives of many others. (Dr. Frederick Chilton should be called to ensure he returned from his vacation in good health. I had never thought of it before. It makes perfect sense that these people orchestrated the Lecter scheme to feel guilty for the destruction he caused and the lives he took.
Things are moving along at the Bureau. As Ardelia prepares for the Black Coalition to submit its complaint to the higher-ups. Esquivel, Clarke, and Alastor Pharmaceuticals accountant Julia Lawson work together to unravel the company’s financials. Blockbuster Shell sales, huge amounts owed to Joe Hudlin, it’s all the stuff that cover-ups are made from.
Even though Julia is trying to help them, it seems that she will still run into problems with Clarke, Neanderthal of the ViCAP team. He misgenders Julia right out of the gate. Later, when Julia catches him staring at her, he reveals that his interest isn’t motivated by transphobic microaggressions. It’s because Julia’s hair color matches that of his sister who dyed her hair for her 13th Birthday. Clarke is a side Julia didn’t expect to see. This connection may be why Julia asks for more information from the company rather than walking away.
There’s also a hint that Clarice may have had a less idyllic childhood than she imagined. One, Clarice clearly recalls her mother throwing her father out the door when she took her young daughter for a drive and Coke floats. She recalled that night as being the best night of her entire life. Another thing she is beginning to uncover is buried memories from that night — memories of a group under a streetlight who were gathered for unknown, but possibly sinister purposes.
The show has already established, via Buffalo Bill’s basement, that Clarice’s memory was already proven to be faulty and untrue. What could have happened that night? It could be related to her obsession with her father and her need to go solo into dangerous situations (with Bill; with Marilyn Felker, a crooked coma patient doctor; with Catherine and Lila). It has a strong grasp of its melancholic tone, and is anchored by strong performances — Rebecca Breeds is truly remarkable as Clarice. Nick Sandow and Jen Richards are Clarke and Julia respectively, and Marnee Carpenter plays Catherine. Clarice has earned our trust that we will find interesting answers.