In The Silence of the Lambs, Catherine Martin is the only person to make it out of Buffalo’s Bill’s captivity alive, but CBS’s sequel series Clarice seems to forget what exactly made her so resilient. The show is set a year after Clarice Starling’s unnerving and explosive showdown with serial killer Buffalo Bill. The movie’s plot involved FBI trainee Clarice trying to track down Bill so she could rescue Catherine Martin, the daughter of a US senator who is abducted and held hostage by the killer in a pit within his basement. Given the harrowing circumstances, many people might simply give up but Catherine resists her captivity in every way she can.
When pleading and begging doesn’t affect Buffalo Bill, Catherine eventually coaxes his beloved dog Precious into the pit. She threatens to hurt Precious in an attempt to force Bill’s hand so he’ll release her. Thankfully she doesn’t have to make good on this threat as Clarice shows up at the house and ends up killing Bill and saving Catherine. Throughout the film, Catherine remains as resilient as possible and hellbent on surviving her ordeal. Catherine returns in Clarice played by Marnee Carpenter, but she’s depicted in a very different light.
Both Catherine and Clarice (Rebecca Breeds) have been severely traumatized by the short period where Bill dominated their worlds. Clarice has disturbing flashbacks, nightmares, and avoidant tendencies due to severe PTSD. One piece of the past she’s avoiding is Catherine, as the two link each other to what happened. When Catherine finally gets through to Clarice via telephone, viewers can see Catherine is clearly struggling, calling from an unkempt room where she sits mostly in darkness. Shots of her are mostly depicted via a shattered mirror, symbolizing her equally-shattered life and fractured sense of self. Her trauma is more than understandable, but so far, Clarice solely focuses on her demons and how they are consuming her, without illustrating the perseverance or strength that was on display in The Silence of the Lambs.
Clarice needs to go further to flesh out Catherine as a three-dimensional character, one who is suffering the long-term effects of a kidnapping that was in no way her fault, but who also has an inherent sense of strength. Her character could actually be a great opportunity for representation for trauma survivors, and how the aftermath might manifest in their lives. Viewers see glimpses of this through Clarice – who’s also struggling in her own way – but Catherine is simply reduced to the fear she was instilled with during her time in Bill’s pit.
On a more hopeful note, it’s still early in the show’s run so there’s plenty of room for Clarice and Catherine to more deeply reconnect and find some semblance of solace or even empowerment in their shared struggle. At the moment, it certainly appears that these two Clarice characters will remain intertwined, whether they want to be or not. For now, the young women have a long road ahead of them and one that’s hopefully brighter than the bleak picture Catherine paints over the phone: “I’ll never be safe, and neither will you.”