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The worst Banshee plot ever drowns in a sea of confession and gore

Matthew Rauch (Cinemax)
Matthew Rauch (Cinemax)
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As it’s aged, Banshee has indulged itself in its episode titles in a way that few other shows on television permit themselves. Rather than cryptic references or hidden reveals, Banshee likes to take memorable bits of dialogue and throw that at the front: “You Can’t Hide From The Dead.“All The Wisdom I Got Left.” “Even God Doesn’t Know What To Make Of You.” “A Little Late To Grow A Pair.” (“Bloodletting” was called “Innocent Might Be A Bit Of A Stretch” until the last minute, an annoying choice for someone who writes his reviews in advance.) Those titles usually touch on themes of the episode or the series as a whole, trading brevity for an odd sort of poetry as they all stack up.

In that batch, it’s hard to think of a title that lands with more resonance than “Truths Other Than The Ones You Tell Yourself.” While the title comes from one of Declan’s grand pronouncements to the captured Dawson, the real truths in question are the ones that Hood, Carrie, Proctor, Calvin, and so many others have been playing down. Under stress those truths are going to come out, and everyone in this episode is under a tremendous amount of stress, so it’s not a surprise that the dams begin to break. In breaking, they wash away the season’s greatest sin, and leave a field that’s ready to soak up blood.


Of the truths that the title conveys, there’s of course one big truth not being told by anyone, and that truth comes out in a firehose blast of frustration. Trapped by Declan’s coven, facing certain death, and being pressured by Brock for an explanation, Hood lets out a scream as loud and forceful as the titular banshee’s wail: “I AM NOT LUCAS HOOD!” That secret has gotten out to various people over the years, but always as a consequence of independent research or coincidence. This is the first time he’s ever been pushed to admit it out loud, and the payoff is tremendous. Disclosing the central truth also leads to a collapse of those truths Hood never came close to admitting, the desperate straits he’d been in when he picked up the real Hood’s wallet and the way he’d come to embrace the structure in the life he took on. It builds on past sorrows, from the “what if” scenes in “We Were All Someone Else Yesterday” to the agony of turning over the badge in “We All Pay Eventually.”

And the accompanying performances to that reveal are so fucking good. Early reviews of Banshee were critical of the overly enigmatic nature of Antony Starr’s performance, but at this stage he’s perfectly grown into all Hood’s haunted lives and losses. The pain of his grief, the pride in his skills, and the wistful way that he talks about how good it felt for him to have this are all tremendous and put paid to all the initial knocks on his performance. Similarly, Matt Servito has lived with this confusion for so long that he runs the gamut of emotion, going from disbelief to rage to acceptance in a quick span—all of which compounds his apparent deathbed admittance that he never had a chance to be the sheriff on his terms. These two men have enjoyed a complex and fraught relationship since their first meeting, so it makes perfect sense that this reveal would land with the impact it does.

The only problem in the scene is that it takes place in the context of the serial killer story, but it’s good enough to skirt that accusation, a move that falls in line with much of what happens this episode. Hood and Brock teaming up to investigate Dawson’s disappearance gets back to their original investigative groove, relying on Job and Sugar for extracurricular support and deploying different methods of problem-solving to get answers. Brock knocks on a door, Hood kicks it in, Brock tightens his jaw but follows him in—it’s the same teamwork that allowed the Banshee Sheriff’s Department to function against all odds for some time, and a reminder of why both men put up with each other for so long.

As for the crime they’re investigating, it’s gone from being offensively bad to passively average. This is probably the best that Declan’s been as a character as he genuinely seems to enjoy sparring with Dawson about his ideology (“Nothing more annoying than a psychopath who engages in Socratic debate,” she wearily says) but at this point it’s too little too late to lift him above caricature. Doubly insulting is that it sidesteps the question of what brought them into the story, no nods to Rebecca’s death by Declan or acknowledgment of who it was he killed, or even a character demanding an explanation. All we get is the implication that for all the enemies and aggressive moves Rebecca made, she just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.


No better indictment of this story exists than the way it’s finally resolved, as Declan prepares to make Dawson victim number five and Hood and Brock make it into the ritual just in the nick of time. If this plot had fit into Banshee at all, the battle between Declan and Hood would have been a full contact Chayton/Albino scale barawl, Declan swinging his kukri against all manner of improvised weapons, and Hood ripping the horn implants out of Declan’s forehead before the coup de grace. Instead, Declan just leans back with cocky superiority in his dark god, Hood beats the shit out of him with a pool cue, and Dawson drops him with one bullet. It’s an anticlimax that no amount of lesser Satanist dispatching or moment of reflection over his corpse can rev up, further cementing his place on the bottom rung of Banshee big bads: full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

The good news is now that it’s out of the way Banshee can get back to basics for the finale, and indeed the bulk of “Truths” is all about setting the stage for a massive showdown in town. Calvin may have asserted his dominance over both Watts and Proctor, but he can’t exercise the same control over his wife, and his war with his sanity—one depicted similarly to Stowe’s PTSD from last year—is eating him away inside. That manifests in fantasy made reality as he exposes his tattoos to a coworker in the restroom and then proceeds to beat the other man to death, walking through the office shirtless and covered in blood to incongruous background Muzak. Calvin’s been presenting a false face to the world for so long that he’s reveling in being done with the lies, a damn-the-consequences attitude that comes as a refreshing change to his seething.


One of those consequences rears its head in thrilling fashion early on this episode. All the way back in “Something Out Of The Bible” Burton promised Calvin that the Brotherhood didn’t want him to come back, and he comes back to patiently wait for eight of Calvin’s goons to threaten him. While Banshee is the show that depicts everything that happens in agonizing detail, the less-is-more approach chosen by director OC Madsen in this moment works perfectly. The camera pans away from the start of the fight to circle the room, the only signs of battle screams and cracks until it returns to the the bloodied mess and the heavily breathing Burton. Everyone watching and making this episode is fully aware of Burton’s reputation, and knows that the sheer act of Matthew Rauch slipping his glasses off is all that’s needs to send an excited chill down the spine.

While Burton is serving as the instrument of his boss’s wrath, Proctor is also managing things on a diplomatic scale by reaching out to a contact in the United States Senate. A detail like this comes a bit out of left field given the typically contained nature of Proctor’s empire, but it stands to reason that he’d nurture the right friends in high places, and it also helps clarify how Proctor could feel connected and secure enough to reach out to the cartel. Burton’s savagery aside, the Brotherhood’s actions have left Proctor looking unexpectedly vulnerable, and if he’s going to put up a fight in the climax of the series he’s going to need more resources.


Those resources are doubly important now that Carrie’s put back on the scent of Proctor’s schemes, pulled from her lowest point to be told that she needs to finish this path she’s on. Her therapist’s forceful assurance that she finish what she started is also the first moment where Erik King’s casting feels appropriate, and also raises questions of just how much he knows. (It wouldn’t be the first time on Banshee that a therapist had some ulterior motive when advising the Hoodlums.) Motivations aside though, her raw pain and crystallized focus are equally real in the moment, a loss of purpose and restoration of said purpose in equal measure. Much like Hood, she’s in desperate need of something that feels true, and what Gordon thought was true is the only thing left to hold onto—up to and including strangling his successor to uncover Proctor’s cartel ties.

Finishing things is also the order of business for Job, whose resurrection comes full circle. First he’s back to hacking his way through the SIM card of the self-immolation victim to get Declan’s location, and then he manages to track down Leo in the most supremely satisfying act of retribution. It was Leo recognizing Job’s digital fingerprints on the Camp Genoa heist that got Job into all this trouble in the first placeholder, and now Leo’s been branded with those same fingerprints—and enemies who’ll visit torments ten-fold on the man who carries them. Job’s proclamations and dissections are the perfect marriage of Hoon Lee’s different flavors of performance as Job, all the stride and style of early Job with enough cracks registering to know that what happened to him will never fully go away. It’ll always be with him, but he’s still who he was, a man who’ll settle his scores and then walk away.


And there are so many scores left to settle at this point. Escaping the cult’s clutches doesn’t change Hood’s truth to Brock, or what Brock’s conception of being the sheriff could mean for what he does to Hood in response. Calvin’s not going to let his family go, any more than Kurt is going to let him have them back. Carrie won’t consider herself much of a mother or a person until she takes care of what she promised Gordon’s memory. Proctor isn’t going to let Calvin’s affront to his business stand, and the cartel won’t let Proctor’s either if he can’t deliver on what he promised. Declan is dead and Rebecca’s murder is avenged, so now there’s nothing left in the way for Banshee to deliver the real truth about how this story ends.

Stray observations:

  • Best Job Look: No description of mine can do it justice, so I’ll let the picture speak for itself.
  • An disappointing if arresting departure for Deputy Cruz in the cold open, as she spends a moment reflecting on her new scars and then gets taken down hard when Burton interrupts her shower. It makes sense for Proctor to cut off a loose end like that, but her showdown with Carrie in “Only One Way A Dogfight Ends” felt like it was a first act and now the curtain drops early. Yet another reason to wish they’d had ten episodes this year to flesh some things out.
  • I knew that Declan’s eyes weren’t going to open in that final shot because as much as Banshee departs from reality on a regular basis, it’s not willing to go to that extreme. However, I was still holding breath until the cut to black, because I knew if they pulled a Jon Snow special I would be forced to give this episode an F.
  • The fact that both Hood and Carrie in their respective confessions reference each other as the only person who knew them and the person they never stopped loving respectively makes me wonder if we’re heading toward some kind of reconciliation in the finale. Prior seasons have conveyed the feeling that tree is dead, but in a world where both are left with nothing, it’s not out of the realm of possibility.
  • Brock recognizes Job from the season one finale gunfight, Job remembers things differently. “Correction: I was in a gunfight, you was on the floor complaining about your motherfucking leg.”
  • “I don’t know what the hell you’re saying, but I sure missed you saying it.” So did we all, Sugar.
  • “You have no idea how insignificant you are.” “That makes two of us.” Hood speaks a singular truth in this moment.
  • “Bitch, I just made your punk ass famous. And something tells me you gonna be a hell of a lot easier to find than I ever was.”
  • As the ads have told us, it only ends one way, and that ending comes next week. Who will survive and what will be left of them? I for one am excited to find out, even if I’m not thrilled at the reality of an ending. Gripes about this season aside, this is one of my favorite shows on television and I’m not ready to say goodbye.

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