As much as the topic of chaos comes up regularly in discussions about Banshee, that doesn’t mean that its workings are based on anarchy. Rather, the rules of the show operate by their own twisted interpretation of karma, wherein no action happens without some form of consequences and no deed good or bad goes unpunished. Whenever someone in Banshee find themselves in dire straits, it’s almost never a situation that happens randomly, it’s the repercussion of a choice that character made. Steal money? The original owner’s going to want it back. Kill someone? They have friends and family who won’t take that lying down. Assume a dead man’s identity and become sheriff of a small town? Inherit the dead man’s baggage and get caught up in the small town’s vast and fiendish criminal enterprises.
The show’s memory for its sins is long, as its its tendency to save the resolution of those sins for the right moment—all of which makes “A Fixer Of Sorts” land with devastating effect. If if was only the episode where Hood’s secret finally leaks out into Banshee, it would be a landmark. But that reveal happens only in the last 30 seconds, and comes after a sequence of visceral and emotional events so powerful they make a strong case for “A Fixer Of Sorts” being the craziest, if not the best, episode of Banshee to date. There are things that happen in this episode that another cable drama would pace out over an entire season, and not only do the writers deploy them all they deploy them three episodes in.
There’s no way to begin a discussion of “A Fixer Of Sorts” without talking first about the epic clash between Nola Longshadow and Clay Burton. If Chayton’s behavior last week in sending the Redbones to abduct Proctor felt oddly presumptuous, Nola’s making him seem like a chess player with her daylight assault on Burton and promise to torture Proctor to death. The moment of silence as she hurls the hatchet is gorgeous—catching Burton in a rare moment of distraction as he contemplates the ear of the Redbone attacker—and her threats are every bit the peak of confidence a killer of her bearing is expected to have. But those who underestimate Burton do so at their own peril, as he yanks the weapon right from his shoulder without flinching and proceeds to give back as good as he gets.
What sets Banshee apart from so many other shows isn’t its narrative or its gunfights, it’s the fact that no one else is willing to be this brutal or as cinematic in its fight scenes. There are so many memorable ones: the early match between Hood and the rapist MMA fighter, the battle that led to the death of Rabbit’s right-hand man Olek, the vicious brawl between Hood and Proctor that forced the two into a position of mutual respect. This one enters the pantheon almost immediately as first-time Banshee director Magnus Martens films the event with remarkable grace, a full five minutes worth of sparring and slashing between two of the show’s finest warriors. In the first half, it’s almost a three-way battle as Proctor’s Rolls Royce is as much a part of things as either combatant, serving as simultaneous battlefield and weapon, with the camera following them into the backseat and panning up to see blades go through roofs and heads go through windows. And as Banshee never met a fight it couldn’t make personal, both combatants are further characterized as they escape into their minds when the fight seems to be turning: Nola to her junkie days, Burton to the lashings of an unknown torturer.
The fight is so evenly matched and the flashbacks so balanced that it’s almost impossible to pick a favorite in the fight, at least until the pre-fight glimpse of Proctor’s hood ornament turns out to be foreshadowing. Burton yanks it off the car, shoves it deep into Nola’s throat, and after one long lingering glance tears it and her throat out in sanguine succession. It’s a brutal killing that I’m not sure how to feel about. On one hand, Nola was one of the show’s most dynamic bit characters, and her girl talk with Carrie last week augured a potentially great friendship that’s now been snuffed with only one excellent scene to show for it. Yet the way the character is written out is so horrifically visceral as to become iconic, a fitting end to another character who tried repeatedly to get out of Banshee and kept getting pulled back in. She leaves in the best way, in that she leaves the audience wanting more.
Poor Tommy Littlestone’s death is overshadowed in this clash by comparison, but that’s par for the course with him. If his frustration last week foreshadowed that he was going to do something dumb to prove himself, the failure of Chayton’s attempt only pushes him further over the edge, taking a handful of Redbones to shoot up the Savoy strip club. The shootout in the club is nothing that Banshee hasn’t done before, but it’s handled with the show’s usual aplomb, and his death comes about in a manner that’s apropos: he was a weaselly type, and it’s trying to pull off a weaselly move that gets him a bullet in the chest. (Looks like my bet that he’d meet his maker in episode six was a generous one.)
But Tommy’s death may wind up being more resonant in the show long-term than Nola’s. Tommy’s existence in Banshee was largely ancilliary, dwarfed in his brother’s literal and figurative shadow, but the fact that he was Chayton’s brother means that this is a death that will need to be answered without delay, and one sure to be answered in a way befitting the loss. And the fact that Billy Raven who shoots him dead rather than Brock or Siobhan makes for a remarkable piece of character development, one that furthers the sense of adversity and betrayal that he feels for leaving the Kinaho, and one that will certainly go a long way toward overcoming the other deputies’ sense of “not Emmett” they get every time they look at him.
“Where the fuck is Hood?!” Brock shouts as the chaos subsides at the Savoy. Turns out the sheriff is missing these events because consequences have caught up to him as well, in the form of FBI Internal Affairs Agent Robert Phillips. Denis O’Hare fits seamlessly into the Banshee universe, projecting the right mix of confidence and arrogance with just a hint of instability. There to investigate the disappearance of Zeljko Ivanek’s Agent Racine, he’s digging deeper because the man who would be Hood is as fascinating to him as he is to the audience. The chemistry between Hood and Philips is fantastic, both convinced they’ve got the upper hand and with the attitude of men who have gotten out of situations like this many times over.
It’s Hood who gets the upper hand initially, but events take the worst possible turn when another threat from the past comes up: Raymond Walton Brantley, the gangster who the son of the real Lucas Hood robbed and who sent the Jason Statham-esque assassin Quentin back in last season’s “Armies Of One.” Banshee’s love of the outlandish villain is one of its most fantastic traits, and Brantley carries the marvelous sense of presentation. A man so morbidly obese that he needs a big rig truck custom-fitted to be his mobile office, and a man so ruthless in maintaining his ledger he’s prepared to kill federal agents in his pursuit of decimal points. The sense of danger in his world is expanded by its pulp theatricality, an exaggeration the show executes constantly.
Brantley also proves to be a man of creative means, taking the Lethal Weapon approach to torture and giving a medieval upgrade as Hood is beat half to death with electrified gauntlets. We’ve been without a proper “Hood gets the shit beaten out of him” scene this season, and this one is as uncompromisingly rough as the others. It also continues the trend of showing just how scrambled and damaged these events leave him, only this time his thoughts are floating around the three women in his life: Carrie, Deva, Siobhan. Various people in on Hood’s secret have repeatedly asked why he’s bothered keeping it, and these glimpses—as well as memories of Reg E. Cathey’s homicide detective promising to send him to prison—give the right answer to it. Hood needs Banshee and these people to give him something real, something to prove that he’s not still locked in a box that he can’t get out of.
So of course he has to fight his way out of of this box, and that sequence is every bit as Banshee as the Burton vs. Nola brawl. Not only does he take advantage of Brantley’s girth to give himself a fighting advantage, he visits the worst possible death on the man by hurling him through the bottom of the truck, a fate he himself was threatened with earlier in the episode. When the truck comes to a halt he’s able to move with fantastic problem-solving instincts, identifying weapons and cover instantly and ready for a shootout with the driver. (In a particularly smart touch, his gunplay is cross-cut with the action at the Savoy, scenes of strangulation and diving for cover running in perfect parallel.) And at the end, there’s a motorcycle primed and ready for his use, because of course there is.
But how long he’ll have fortune like this is an open question at the end of the episode. Hood saves Phillips from a grave he literally dug himself, but it turns out that Phillips dug a metaphorical one for him. Turns out that Racine’s file on the “John Doe Diamond Thief” isn’t in the FBI’s possession, but was left at the Banshee Police Department just in case. This is the reveal that the show has been postponing for two seasons, the lie hanging over everything it’s built, and for once Hood’s too late to stop the truth coming out—which it does to the worst possible person. Brock or Gordon? They could only destroy him professionally for this. For it to be Siobhan, the woman who’s as much in his thoughts as Carrie or Deva is? Brantley wishes he could come up with a torture so effective.
“I keep my own books, and I keep everything balanced,” Brantley explains to Hood only a matter of minutes before he bursts into human jam across the highway. Banshee balances many of its books to ruthless effect in “A Fixer Of Sorts,” and draws thin red lines through Nola Longshadow, Tommy Littlestone, and Raymond Walton Brantley. And now on their killers fall new karmic debts, debts which they may be called to settle far sooner than anyone on the show or in the audience expects.
- All the epic brutality of “A Fixer Of Sorts” obscures the moving quieter moments involving Proctor’s household, be it his mother’s plea to move Rebecca out of the house (“It’s not proper. It’s not healthy,” the understatement of the century) or his father coming hat in hand to his son’s house to be by his wife’s side. And Emily’s proving herself strangely comfortable with the fucked-up qualities of life in the mansion, not batting an eye as she joins Proctor in his basement refuge or stitches up Burton’s countless wounds.
- Speaking of: Burton is seen alongside Proctor and Rebecca as they survey the damage to the Savoy. The man is simply not human to be on his feet less than 24 hours after what Nola did to him.
- How is Hood not deaf after all that gunfire in the back of the truck? Apparently his Wolverine-level healing powers translate to protection against tinnitus.
- No sign of Carrie, Stowe, or Camp Genoa this week, but Job and Sugar have a delightful scene as they secure some ID scans to assist in the heist. Frankie Faison and Hoon Lee continue to be a wonderful comedic pairing (“There ain’t no such thing as Sweatpants Monday”), and the caper vibe of the Genoa heist continues to add an extra flavor to the Banshee day-to-day.
- Some backstory this week as we learn Deputy Aimee’s family took the Littlestone boys in when they were children, and she considers Chayton like a brother.
- Brantley’s truck is labeled as Cooper Truman Transport. Someone on the Banshee crew must be a big Twin Peaks fan.
- The moment where Martha offers Hood the drink with a trembling hand and tells her to take it is a wonderful breath after the confrontation with Brantley.
- “You’re doing a pretty shitty job of saving yourself.” “Seems we both need to work on that.”