Warning: SPOILERS for Clarice season 1, episode 3, “Are You Okay?”
In Clarice episode 3, Clarice Starling (Rebecca Breeds) fired her FBI-appointed therapist (Shawn Doyle), which could signal that the CBS series may soon introduce its own version of Hannibal Lecter. Clarice is set one year after the events of The Silence of the Lambs but Agent Starling has been reassigned to hunt more serial killers. Yet Clarice is still haunted by her encounter with Buffalo Bill and her lingering trauma is factoring into her effectiveness in the field.
Unfortunately, Hannibal Lecter cannot appear or even be mentioned by name in Clarice due to legal complications over the character’s rights, and this also includes some other related characters like Jack Crawford and Will Graham. However, since Hannibal and Clarice aren’t due to meet again for about a decade after The Silence of the Lambs, according to the canon established by the novel and 2001 film Hannibal, Clarice refocused the lingering issues Starling harbors from The Silence of the Lambs to be about Buffalo Bill, the serial killer Clarice found and killed in the film. Since Clarice can’t capitalize on the complex and fascinating relationship Hannibal and Starling forged in The Silence of the Lambs, the CBS sequel series is making it a virtue for Clarice to move on from Dr. Lecter.
In Clarice, however, Agent Starling is deeply traumatized from her encounter with Buffalo Bill and the horrors she witnessed when she descended into his home to rescue his final victim, Catherine Martin (Marnee Carpenter). The FBI mandated that Starling receive therapy, which placed Clarice at odds with the psychiatrist assigned to her, who seems to be working more for Starling’s boss, Paul Krendler (Michael Cudlitz), than Clarice herself. In their sessions, the unnamed therapist purposely tries to trigger Clarice about her traumas, be it about Buffalo Bill or the violent death of her father when she was 10. But Clarice is no fool and she realized her therapist has been gaslighting her all along. While Starling recognizes she does have many troubling issues that are impeding her at work she needs to face, she also smartly realized that this therapist isn’t someone who can help her, and Clarice rightly dismissed him.
Clarice‘s therapy sessions intentionally echo Agent Starling’s (Jodie Foster) riveting quid pro quo arrangement with Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) in The Silence of the Lambs, and they are purposefully ineffective on the show to highlight what Starling actually needs to help her cope with her trauma. Hannibal Lecter was a psychopathic killer and a cannibal but he was also an undeniably brilliant psychiatrist with a razor-sharp analytical and perceptive mind. Dr. Lecter also liked and respected Starling’s smarts and inner toughness; in just a few brief scenes together, Hannibal and Clarice formed a defining and unforgettable bond in The Silence of the Lambs.
In a twisted way, Starling was spoiled because Hannibal was indeed the best therapist she could have asked for. Meanwhile, critics and some fans of Clarice have noted that the absence of Hannibal Lecter leaves a gaping hole in the series. Starling is purportedly meant to move on from Hannibal in Clarice yet the conundrum of Starling needing someone truly brilliant as a counterpart to analyze and challenge her is an integral part of her character, and that’s been sorely missing in Clarice thus far.
As Clarice told her therapist when she fired him, she needs to find someone to counsel her who isn’t just better than he is but, “I actually need to find someone who’s better at it than I am.” What Clarice is looking for is another Hannibal Lecter, and this appears to be the case for both the character and the series itself. It’s quite possible and even likely that Clarice will just have to create a new version of a Hannibal Lecter-type character for Starling similar to how NBC’s Hannibal series created new serial killers in Lecter’s mold, like Dr. Abel Gideon (Eddie Izzard), and psychiatrists like Dr. Alanna Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas).