Clarice episode 8 reveals new details about Agent Starling’s past which shows that actually withheld major info about herself from Hannibal Lecter.
Warning: SPOILERS for Clarice season 1, episode 8, “Add-a-Bead”.
Clarice has significantly expanded Special Agent Clarice Starling’s (Rebecca Breeds) backstory and the interesting result of this retcon is how it recontextualizes The Silence of the Lambs so that Hannibal Lecter didn’t learn quite as much about Starling as he thinks he did. In the film, Hannibal (Anthony Hopkins) forged an intimate bond with Clarice (Jodie Foster) but CBS’s sequel series, which leans on Thomas Harris’ novel for inspiration, has retooled their quid pro quo so that Starling actually withheld a great deal of her most personal secrets.
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In order to gain Hannibal’s help to catch the serial killer Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine) in The Silence of the Lambs, Clarice told Dr. Lecter about how she was orphaned when her father, a town marshal in West Virginia, was shot on duty and died a month later. Clarice was sent to live with relatives on a Montana sheep farm but she ran away and tried to rescue a spring lamb from slaughter. Starling was then sent to a Lutheran orphanage before she reached adulthood. The details Clarice offered in the film were very specific and designed to elicit Hannibal’s cooperation, but they also won her Lecter’s esteem. In Clarice, Agent Starling has a new therapist, Dr. Renee Li (Grace Lynn Kung), who is now in charge of helping her come to terms with her deep layers of trauma.
Clarice has deftly interwoven the show’s main mystery regarding Joe Hudlin (Raoul Bhaneja), the villain who attacked Starling when she was imprisoned in a mental hospital but is also the divorce lawyer for Paul Krendler (Michael Cudlitz), with Starling’s past trauma, including memories she has kept buried since childhood. It seems Clarice held back quite a bit about herself from Hannibal Lecter, like the fact that her mother was alive when her father died and that she has siblings. As Clarice told Dr Li, she was the only child her mother sent away to live in Montana because of the family’s financial problems. Clarice has two older siblings who had jobs when she was sent away, but she also had a younger brother who was left behind.
Shockingly, Clarice indicated that she had no contact with her family after she was sent away. After Starling was sent to an orphanage, she would receive presents like knit scarves from her mother at Christmas and birthday cards. Clarice didn’t elaborate but it seems like she remained alienated from the rest of the Starling family back home in West Virginia, and it also appears as if Clarice may not ever have returned home to visit even after she became an adult. Further, one of Clarice’s most prized possessions is a necklace her father gave to her on what she describes as “the best night of my life”. This is something Starling never told Hannibal Lecter about in The Silence of the Lambs.
In Clarice episode 8, Starling tells Dr. Li that she’s not concerned about Hannibal coming after her. “For him, hunting me wouldn’t bring relief,” Clarice asserts, “It would only articulate his own unspoken self-loathing.” In the real world, legal issues regarding character rights prohibit Hannibal Lecter from appearing in Clarice or even having his name spoken, but the CBS series has turned Hannibal’s forced absence into a strength. Even though Starling continues to be traumatized by her past, these new revelations about Clarice recontextualize her interactions with Hannibal.
Thanks to Clarice‘s retcons, Agent Starling was more in control about what details about herself she disclosed to the cannibal, and he smartly held back important facts about her family to protect them from Lecter. Even now that Hannibal is on the loose, Clarice is confident that Lecter considers her off-limits so that, in effect, whichever members of the Starling family are still around are protected as well. Perhaps this also explains why Clarice doesn’t contact her siblings or her mother, even though she confessed she thinks about them constantly.
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