The news last year that Banshee would conclude with its fourth season was news greeted with a powerful wail of denial from fans. Its third season was a tremendously satisfying stretch of episodes, with action sequences that ranked as television’s best and a narrative that grew ever darker as the Lucas Hood facade became more impossible to sustain. This felt like a show operating at the very height of its powers, with no fear and no restrictions on what they could do next, and the news that it would be shuttering so soon after reached its apex is a colossal disappointment.
Yet, there’s also some sense of relief to the decision. When the news broke last July, showrunner Jonathan Tropper took to Twitter to say that the decision was a creative one rather than a network one, as the writers realized season four was the natural end of the story. The assumed identity narrative of Banshee is one that always had a shelf life built in, one that would require ever more implausible steps to maintain in anything close to its existing format. Rather than see the show take those steps and go down the road of a Dexter, the creative team are acknowledging the reality of the situation and writing to a conclusion that makes sense. It’s a disappointment but one that’s so in keeping with the show it must be respected. If there’s one thing Banshee has always been, it’s a show that does everything on its own terms, and that includes its ending.
The knowledge that there’s so little time left in this universe makes the shock of the season premiere’s time jump all the more startling. After leaving us in “We All Pay Eventually” with a series of cliffhangers and earth-shattering developments—Hood handing in his badge, Job’s abduction by a paramilitary force, Proctor eradicating his business rival Fraser, Carrie’s husband shot dead saving her life—“Something Out Of The Bible” leaves them all in the dust and picks up two years later. Brock’s still holding onto the badge and has a shiny new police station to back it up, Proctor’s gone from being pursued by Banshee mayors to holding the office himself, and Job’s status and survival are an open mystery that have left the Hoodlums a muted shadow of what they used to be.
Time jumps are nothing new for serialized television—we built a whole Inventory on the subject—and since Banshee didn’t have a narrative quagmire to get out of, the new world it creates needs to answer the question of why it even was necessary. The answer, apparently, is to push its characters to even darker places, opting to bypass the process of trying to get over a tragedy and fast-forwarding to where it’s clear they’ll never get over it. Carrie’s fall has taken her to the middle of nowhere without her kids, hidden behind security gates and restoring an old house to ward off crying jags. Hood has responded to the loss of Job and his badge by withdrawing from the world entirely, as isolated as he was in jail and compounding his grief with a peak sadness beard. Next to their sense of loss, everything in Banshee from the police station to the city hall to Proctor’s new home is different, somehow more modern and glossy. The world that didn’t seem to have much room for them before has even less now, its hostility and alien quality on proud display.
What’s a bit more disconcerting as a story development is the way Hood is drawn back in, as Banshee’s final season appears to be tying itself into the serial killer trend. That’s a storyline that we’ve seen far too much of in recent years, one that with rare exceptions tends to dwell on the exploitative and nasty side of things. Fortunately it’s off to a reasonably good start, occupying comparatively little of the episode’s run time after it brings Hood back from the hills and avoiding the sort of psychoanalysis—emphasis on psycho—that needs a Will Graham type of character to lift it above Criminal Minds territory. The visuals are framed with a mix of rural and industrial scenes that recall the first (i.e. the good) season of True Detective, the sense of being in a place nature took back or never truly yielded. And the stakes also become very real once the face of the victim becomes clear: Rebecca Bowman, Proctor’s niece and aspiring outlaw queen of Banshee.
As with last year’s killing of Siobhan in “Tribal,” this is a development that risks accusations of fridging, yet another great female character snuffed out for catalytic purposes. I’m more tempted to side with those concerns than I was with Siobhan as Rebecca is one of my favorite parts of this story, but on balance the unexpected nature of this killing is the only reason it works. Rebecca always seemed to be the character who had the potential to end up on top of this madness—assuming Burton didn’t kill her first—outlasting the battles that consumed Hood and her uncle. Lili Simmons gave Rebecca many shades of beautiful and passionate and ruthless, but she was always wonderfully and vitally alive, relishing the new lease on life her exile from the Amish community gave her. To see her a grey-tinged corpse, cunning eyes rendered blank and mutilation that belongs in Jack Crawford’s case files, is so arresting and so horrible it’s not surprising Hood can’t sleep because of those images. As with Siobhan’s death, I’ll withhold full judgment until we see the extent of how Hood and Proctor deal with this loss, and whether or not it surpasses the hole Rebecca leaves in the story.
The early narrative concerns are valid, but for now they’re glossed over by a few factors—chief amongst them the fact that Banshee remains the most exhilarating show on television. While there’s nothing so earth-shattering on the level of Nola v. Burton or Hood vs. Chayton this week, the fight choreography is still unimpeachable. Losing custody of her kids has turned Carrie into a Huntress figure, dealing out vigilante justice with a baton and smashing fingers to shut off the noise inside her head. And once again no move in Banshee produces such joy as seeing Burton remove his glasses, once again auguring wonderfully brutal hand-to-hand combat as he gets into it with a pair of dealers who are violating Proctor’s boundaries. The world may have changed, but the badasses continue to be badasses, and they’re coming out swinging in the early going.
Also encouraging is that the time jump hasn’t reshuffled all of the plot threads from the season finale. Tom Pelphrey and Chris Coy were added to the regular cast this year, and the feud between the Bunker brothers hasn’t cooled one iota. Kurt was spared the worst of the burns after Calvin’s blowtorch assault—and Pelphrey was spared having to wear massive burn makeup beyond his upper chest—yet that supposed mercy doesn’t get the latter any closer to forgiveness. Pelphrey continues to carry himself as an absolute coiled spring of a man, refusing to let anything out, for fear of what it may unleash. Coy’s seemingly nebbish white supremacist displays a similar penchant in the premiere’s bloodiest moments, gutting his smug boss with a pen in his imagination and crushing the skull of a dealer (in a bench vise!) who dared to encroach on his territory. Tack on the fact that Kurt declines an invitation to dinner at Calvin’s house but is sleeping with his wife, and every inch of this plot looks headed for beautiful disaster.
Finally, there’s the position of the man at the center of the story, the man who would be Lucas Hood. The episode covers some of the ground that the time jump missed via flashback, and the post-abduction Hood is the most shattered we’ve ever seen him, coming within an inch of eating his revolver. Antony Starr has gotten progressively better over the seasons as the damage Hood’s incurred has taken its toll, and these stages of rock bottom push him to convey a lot with the cracked flintiness of his stare. He’s in as much of a prison as he ever was for stealing diamonds from Rabbit, or when he was in Dalton’s cage—he just trades those bars for ones of his own making.
Rebecca’s death may be a catalytic one, but it’s also the only catalyst that can get him back to work. The flashback ends with Rebecca tracking him down in the motel and offering the cabin as a place to hole up for as long as he needs, and those memories are the one thing that seem to clarify things in a way he can understand. Solving this murder won’t bring her back (or Job, Siobhan, or any other lost souls) but it will let him repay someone for a kindness paid at a moment where he badly needed it. It’s Banshee’s old idea of karma, that in this world no deed bad or good goes unanswered.
“You’re not the sheriff anymore, Hood,” Sugar tries warning his one-time friend. “I never was,” Hood coldly responds before driving off to the “something” he’s promised in response. This is a man with less than nothing to lose, at the center of a show that no longer has anything left to lose, and the combination of the two gives the exciting feeling that anything can happen in a world where that was already a certainty. It’s exactly what “Something Out Of The Bible” needed to kick off this final season, the reassurance that while Banshee is ending it will not go quietly into that good night.
- Our regular coverage of Banshee is back! Season three was a wild ride and I’m excited to take the show home to its certainly bloody conclusion.
- Lots of surprises in this premiere, but the most unexpected to me is the succinct dispatching of Dalton. David Harbour seemed perfectly positioned to be the season four big bad after “We All Pay Eventually,” yet when tracked down by Hood and Carrie he admits that he’s no longer part of the shadow government agencies that Job disappeared into, and then he takes a bullet to the brain when he fails to realize Hood anticipated his vengeful mood. Unexpected, yet it also works to the episode’s themes, his comments about his own irrelevance making it clear how the world continues to move on beyond Hood’s control.
- The time jump is also a clever way to get around the fact that production moved from North Carolina to Pennsylvania between seasons, and some familiar locations may no longer be available. The production team gets a lot of mileage out of these new environments, especially the site of Hood’s cabin and the site where Rebecca’s body was dumped.
- Despite all the action sequences, my favorite moment has to be when Brock hits a redneck in the stomach with his shotgun to get Hood out of a jam, and the resulting grin on Hood’s face. Not only is it the first time he smiles this episode, it’s a smile of such pride that he imparted the virtues of police brutality to his former deputy. (There’s also a nice parallel to the beginning and end of the episode as the current and former chiefs perform their sweeps of potentially inhabited homes.)
- Speaking of former deputies, Brock explains that Billy Raven left the sheriff’s department to head up the Kinaho reservation police—told via an exposition walk that also shows Emmett and Siobhan memorialized on the wall—and his badge is claimed by Nina Cruz (Ana Ayora). Cruz is held at arm’s length by Brock, who suspects her of being a Proctor plant, a suspicion she endorses by meeting the thug that Carrie beat up and gripping his already crushed fingers until she gets a description of the attacker.
- Speaking of Dexter, Carrie’s therapist is played by Erik King. Surprise, motherfucker! If the former Sergeant Doakes doesn’t kick some ass this season, I’ll be stunned.
- I was unable to jog my memory as to whether or not we’d seen Hood blow off Aaron Boedicker’s hand in a prior episode. Mark Colson has no other Banshee credits according to IMDB, although he was on Justified as a Harlan resident who dared to accuse Mags of selling the community out.
- “Sheriff Lotus. How’s that feel?” “Like a hemorrhoid.”
- “You don’t want me to come back here.” Burton remains the scariest and the fucking best.
- “Small talk? Really?” Sugar also remains the fucking best.
- “I find out you’re lying to me, I come back for the other hand.”