For the arrows of the Ruler of all are present with me, and their poison goes deep into my spirit: His army of fears is put in order against me.
If only He would be pleased to put an end to me; and would let loose His hand, so that I might be cut off!
Have I strength to go on waiting, or have I any end to be looking forward to?
- The Book Of Job, 6:4, 6:9, and 6:11
Leaving aside the knowledge that this is the final season of Banshee, fans entered season four with a much different feeling than they did in prior years. Seasons one and two ended by pulling the pins on a lot of hand grenades to trip over in the episodes to come—the discovery of the real Lucas Hood’s body, Rabbit’s survival, Deva’s acknowledgment of her true parentage, Chayton’s looming return to town—but season three ended with a massive structural hit in Job’s abduction. For the first time the fate of one of the series regulars was in question, a move that made the time jump all the more jarring. Two years can pass in this world, and despite all the little things that happened since the answer to that question is still on the books.
Thankfully, Banshee opts not to draw this tension out for too long in real time, as the third episode returns everyone’s favorite transvestite hacker to the fold. Or at least, some of him. This is a show that has always been about consequences, especially in this final season, and anyone hoping that Job would return with a sarcastic cock of the eye and the most flamboyant of outfits is given a grim dose of reality. “The Book Of Job” is an episode that is all about pyrrhic victories, success won at a high personal and financial cost, and a success that’s almost immediately undermined by all the other Furies circling the Hoodlums.
The consequences of Job’s long imprisonment are made blindingly clear in the opening scenes, as we’re privy to the various tortures he’s subjected to and the conditions he’s living in. First-time Banshee director Everardo Gout goes the distance to frame how far these torments have divorced Job from feeling like a whole person: The intensity of the spotlights almost seem to wash him out of existence, and the circular shots of the increasingly scratched-up cell depict him almost sharing the same space with multiple versions of himself, each equally unable to sit still. Hoon Lee, who in the world of Banshee is mostly depended on to be comic relief or to participate in the occasional crazy street fight, finds a different vein for the character here and does great work with it, packing a lot into every uncontrolled tremor and the unfocused look in his eyes.
The fact that Job has been missing for years at this point in the story creates two important issues for the writers: they need to make it believable that he could be found after so long of Hood and Carrie failing to do so, and they need to keep it from spiraling into complete misery. They manage to successfully achieve both goals thanks to the return of a popular guest star, Eddie Cooper’s gangster Fat Au, first introduced in “Bullets And Tears.” As a third party with more patience and connections—and less emotional baggage—it’s more plausible that he could get results where the Hoodlums couldn’t, able to get results even in settings as secure as the Pentagon records room. Plus, Cooper’s unfazed demeanor offsets a lot of the darkness inherent to the story, with the casual way he refers to Hood as “solider boy” in lieu of any other names real or fictional or the casual way he talks about threatening a clerk’s masculinity to get necessary files.
Fat Au also winds up being the perfect bit of punctuation to many of the episode’s action scenes, all of which are done in typical Banshee fashion but benefit from his additional flavor. A sequence where Hood and Carrie track Leo down and lead him through a Bourne Identity-level chase of campus and subway is wonderfully fast-paced and kinetic, but ending it with Leo slamming into Fat Au’s SUV is the perfect abrupt period. Beating someone up for information is a near-daily occurrence in this town, but no one else would have the novel idea of taking a serrated knife between the interrogatee’s toes. (Or the nerve to call an increasingly volatile Carrie “Nikita” to her face, a great comic beat.”) And when the exchange is finally set up, it has all the framing and suspense we’ve come to expect, but when it goes south, for once someone has a premeditated plan, a snide response to threats (“I look like the kind of motherfucker who wouldn’t know that?”) and a trained cadre of snipers.
While his efforts are welcome to getting Job back, once he departs it becomes clear just how much all of this cost. First is the loss of the entire Camp Genoa stake—yet another smart move for the narrative as if they still had the money once they got Job back none of them would have any reason to stick around Banshee—and second is how much of their friend they may have lost in the interim. There’s still some of his natural caustic attitude as he bemoans the fact that the first place he’s brought as a free man is the Forge, yet the way he pushes away his drink (18-year-old Glenlivet no less) and can barely keep his voice from cracking is indicative of the damage sustained. That knowledge is refreshingly obvious on the faces of all three of his cohorts, any joy in their victory sapped as it becomes clear they won a battle long after the war was waged.
“Did I miss anything while I was gone?” Job wanly comments when Hood is led out of the Forge in handcuffs—more on that later—and while “The Book Of Job” could have narrowed its focus to solely its hunt for the titular character, it keeps all the other stories moving along. A light is shined on the motivations of two Banshee deputies, as Kurt and Cruz are engaged in secret rendezvous without their sheriff’s knowledge. For Kurt it’s another afternoon delight with his sister-in-law, and for Cruz it’s reporting to her real employer as she shares her vigilante research with Proctor.
Kurt’s story is largely one that fills in the gaps of the intervening years, showing both his time in the burn ward and the early days after his return home. Here it’s made clear why Maggie has sought the solace of her husband’s brother, both because of a valid fear of Calvin’s barely-checked violent instincts and a fear she’s consigning her son to a similar path. While there’s nothing new in this approach, it does make it apparent that she’s willing to go to the extreme of begging Kurt to kill Calvin, and Kurt to reaffirm that despite what was done to him he’s not willing to do the same. He’s still committed to playing it by the book and sending Calvin to prison, cuckolding and murder on a very different scale.
As to confirmation of Cruz’s divided loyalties, it’s good to have that established, but it’s even more interesting for what it says about Carrie’s vigilante crusade. When Cruz points out that all the victims are ones that Proctor’s pet district attorney spared, what Carrie is doing is transformed from simply blowing off steam to continuing her husband’s legacy. It’s worth remembering that before he was the interim mayor, Gordon was the district attorney of Banshee, and that if he was still in that office he’d be less inclined to kiss the ring of Mayor Proctor. Carrie’s doing the job Gordon’s no longer alive to complete, unable to sort through his boxes of stuff but able to punish the criminals he’d be working to convict if he was still alive. It’s the perfect shading for the story, pushing the conflict past Carrie’s issues and establishing higher stakes—as well as a potentially thrilling new confrontation, given the way Carrie and Cruz try staring each other down towards the end of the episode.
The connection to Cruz is interesting for Proctor, but the Proctor plots are realized less successfully, as he’s dealing with some tensions on homefronts both past and present. While I can see the intention of the story where he takes in a wayward young girl to fulfill the void left by Rebecca’s life it doesn’t tell us anything that we don’t already know about how creepy Proctor is when he’s trying to be affectionate. And when she winds up stealing from him and he gets violent with her—gripped with images of Rebecca in the process—it’s an unnecessary illustration of how conflicted his feelings towards his niece were. Similarly, the interactions with Rebecca’s mother are a useful reminder of the Amish community’s existence in this universe, yet again in a reiteration of where most people are going to shift the blame for Rebecca’s death regardless of who the actual killer is.
However, the involvement of the Bowmans does wind up pushing the story forward in a particularly unexpected way. Their desire to bury their daughter pushes Brock to push the medical examiner, and a new damning piece of evidence comes up: Rebecca was three months pregnant at the time of her death, and it looks like Hood was the father. Combined with the discovery of his blood in the SUV—and it’s almost hilarious how clearly Antony Starr’s expression says he really doesn’t want to answer that question of once Brock asks it—it’s enough for him to be led to the station in chains, a prisoner of the department he once called his own. And now that his prints are on file, how long until his last prison stint becomes common knowledge?
It’s a darkly ironic close to the episode, Job freed from one prison only to watch Hood sent to another. Yet, it’s also something appropriate. For so long in Banshee Job has been a mix of the practical voice of reason and the comic relief, the one constantly pointing out what a stupid idea it was for Hood to become Hood in the first place and grumbling about the trouble everyone got into as a result. Now he’s back to the world, just in time witness his prophecies proven true.
- The latest episode of the Under The Hood podcast is posted here, and this time fellow A.V. Clubber Dennis Perkins joined Sean Colletti and I to talk about “The Burden Of Beauty.”
- Best Job Look: Still not looking so great, though he’s upgraded to clothes with some very ragged white prison garb. When he has the focus to shave his head again, we’ll know he’s taken his first step on the road to recovery.
- Speaking of prison, “The Book Of Job” also introduces us to Brotherhood boss Randall Watts (Chance Kelly, whose many credits include “Godfather” Ferrando in Generation Kill and Mitchell Loeb on Fringe). He’s running his empire from behind bars, even though he seems not the least bit bothered by his surroundings.
- The song playing over the end montage of literal and metaphorical prisons is “Golden And Green” by The Builders And The Butchers.
- More icky serial killer stuff this week, as Banshee’s wonderfully laconic medical examiner—a character I’m upset hasn’t been seen dropping organs every week prior to this one—points out that Rebecca’s heart was cut out of her chest while it was still beating, and the episode closes with a scene of another woman being abducted by a man in black. I continue to hold my breath and hope that this final season doesn’t fall into the genre’s potholes.
- I’ve only been to Pennsylvania a couple of times, so I don’t recognize the campus that Leo leads Hood through on a merry chase. Is it Penn State, University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon, or somewhere else? Help me out, locals.
- Cruz doesn’t flinch once when faced with Burton’s implacable gaze, a feat that leaves him a little bit confused. With Rebecca dead and Hood gone for two years, there’s practically no one else in town who can stand up to him.
- “You don’t need to steal when you got the powers of persuasion.”
- “Now get the fuck out of here before I miss lunch. It’s Taco Tuesday.”