Image: Orion Pictures
October is a time when many viewers revisit their favorite thrilling horror movies. And when it comes to thrillers, The Silence of the Lambs might just represent the very best of the genre. With two terrifying killers at its core and a spellbinding FBI cadet stuck between them, the movie won an Oscar for Best Picture, defying the odds that typically hands that award to moody dramas. Nobody could turn away from Clarice Starling's story in 1991, and it was one of the top films worldwide that year, funnily enough just behind Beauty and the Beast. (It seems 1991 had a theme!)
Five years later, audiences had moved on. The top movies were about superheroes, astronauts and superspies. It was at this point that the creator of the TV show Profiler, Cynthia Saunders, saw her opportunity to circle back and introduce a strong female FBI agent that would make Clarice Starling proud. She told the Los Angeles Times in 1996, "I think men bring certain sensibilities to things, and women bring certain sensibilities to things. To me, there's an inherent contrast, and therefore it's dramatic to have a woman who's dealing with violent crimes. I think as a woman she'll bring a different spin to it."
The pilot that Saunders created for Profiler actually was her very first pilot ever, and it's rare for a writer to strike gold on the first time. Call it a woman's intuition, but in Sam Waters, audiences were once again addicted to tracking a whip-smart profiler who was not just chasing serial killers in her work, but targeted by a serial killer in her own life. And to keep things just as interesting, like Hannibal Lecter with Agent Starling, Sam's Jack of All Trades likes the world better with the profiler in it. In that way, it's almost like Profiler brought the ghost of Clarice Starling's vibe back to haunt you on TV.
From there, though, Saunders staunchly differentiated her story from The Silence of the Lambs, through the solidly new central character she created. NBC exec John Landgraf said of the show and Saunders' writing, "This is a very tricky material to get into, a woman who is a profiler and tracks really heinous criminals, and yet I just knew, because of who Cynthia was, there would be nothing exploitative in the series. The main character is a lot like Cynthia: She's a mother, she's unbelievably intelligent and compassionate. That just adds a sort of level of reality, a level of humanity to the series."
For many Profiler fans, Sam Waters' dual nature - as a master of interpreting criminal minds and a tortured victim of the one criminal she can't seem to track down - is what makes the show a perfectly chilling watch, whether it's October or not.
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