‘Banshee’ Season 1 Is An Undeniable Rush [TV Review]
The all too brief first season of Cinemax’s new hit series Banshee has come and gone like a thief in the night, and while we wait until 2014 for Season 2, here’s our take on what’s gone down so far in this steamy, violent tale of a badass with no name and the town of scumbags he calls home.
You can read our full review of Banshee Season 1 below, and then write your own review in the comments!
The weakest aspect of Banshee is probably its admittedly outlandish premise, but what once you accept that a master thief can walk out of prison after 15 years and then, seemingly just hours later, luck into a new job (and identity!) as the local sheriff of the town where his old girlfriend has since relocated and started a new life, then you can sit back and enjoy the wild ride. It would be harder to except if this was set in the “real” world, but it all takes place in the fictional town of Banshee, PA, where any vice, violence, or victory is possible if you’re willing to suffer enough for it.
True Blood creator Alan Ball left that show last year to concentrate on Banshee, which Ball executive produces along with director and showrunner Greg Yaitanes (House) and writers and show creators David Schickler and Jonathan Topper. They have given viewers and fans of FX’s groundbreaking cop show The Shield a new home in Banshee, a place where you can find yourself sympathizing with the villains at times, while questioning you loyalty to the perceived heroes, and everyone has some dirt in their closet somewhere.
The series is not for the weak at heart (or kids), featuring some of the most pulse pounding action sequences we’ve ever seen on television and enough blood-soaked gore and nudity-filled sex to make True Blood blush.
The cast is great all the way around, led by Antony Starr as the ex-con with no name (it’s never been revealed yet) who served 15 years in the big house to save his girl, played by Ivana Milicevic, both of whom were on the run from her Russian crime boss dad, played to chilling perfection by Ben Cross. When Starr’s bad boy takes over the identity of incoming Banshee sheriff Lucas Hood after he’s killed before his first day on the job, we’re not entirely sure if we should be cheering him on in his quest to reunite with Milicevic’s Ana, who now has a new husband, kids, a the new name of Carrie Hopewell.
When she initially tells him to get lost, Starr does this thing where he instantly makes his eyes vulnerable, destroyed, begging for the life he gave up 15 years ago, and we feel his pain for the first time. This is just the first layer to come off and reveal what’s inside this character as the season progresses. The power of Starr and of Banshee is that we want to believe Hood is a goodhearted hero even as we’re watching him shoot police officers and commit other clearly criminal acts.
Of course part of the reason we feel okay with cheering on such bad dude is that there are more than a few much worse citizens in Banshee, namely the businessman Kai Procter, played by the awesome Ulrich Thomsen, a former member of the neighboring Amish community who was understandably kicked out years ago and who is now one of the most successful and corrupt players in the troubled town.
Frankie Faison’s bartender Sugar Bates is the heart of the show, but he too has deep as-yet-unknown ties to Procter, which we expect to learn more about in Season 2.
Hoon Lee is entertaining comic relief as a cross-dressing techno wizard who, like everyone on this show, can also kick ass when needed.
I also like that Rus Blackwell, as Banshee district attorney and Ana’s new husband Gordon Hopewell, has not been presented as the typical wimpy “replacement husband”, but instead is what I think will grow to soon be Hood’s greatest nemesis, and perhaps one that we the viewers may find hard not to pull for thanks to Blackwell’s talent in suggesting that Gordon too could have more to him than meets the eye.
Milicevic kicks ass as the former Ana (Anastasia), both literally and figuratively, with a performance that saw her undergo a necessary transformation from the first episode of the season to the last, while hinting that the Ana was never that far gone from “Carrie” in the first place.
My favorite characters in Banshee make up the town’s small police department; Matt Servitto as Brock, Demetrious Grosse as Emmett Yawners, and University of North Carolina graduate Trieste Kelly Dunn as Siobhan. They are the “good guys” in my opinion (at least so far), and I hope it stays that way. Obviously they too each have their own presumably dark histories that are sure to be revealed soon, but they each seem to have their hearts in the right place, and they also don’t seem to doubt themselves as often as all of the other more conflicted characters.
Brock and Emmett both got to show off their ass kicking skills (yes, it’s a recurring theme with this show) late in the season, and even after some punks burned her house down, Siobhan is not going anywhere, often the voice of the reason and the only one questioning Sheriff Hood’s unprofessional tactics. But then she also clearly likes Hood too, and I see a romance blossoming down the road, one that will likely hit its climax just as Siobhan finally learns the ugly truth about Hood.
Finally, there are Carrie and Gordon’s children, the asthmatic younger brother Max, played by Gabriel Suttle, and his 15 year old sister Deva, played by Ryan Shane, who viewers were not surprised to learn is actually Hood’s daughter. Putting Max in danger in the season finale effectively upped tension to white knuckle levels, while Shane’s Deva exudes teen angst, looking for love in all the wrong places and pissed off at those that love her most.
Banshee is not a show meant to depict “everyday America”, but instead it explores the darkest corners of small town fears, taking us to places we’d never want to stop for gas much less breakdown and have to spend a night, and yet we’re more than happy to visit vicariously from our living rooms for an hour each week, because of the undeniable exhilarating rush of running with the wanted, stealing from evil, and beating bullies twice your size to a bloody pulp all in the name of love.
Banshee returns with new episodes in January 2014 on Cinemax.
Official Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Reviewed by: Matt Artz
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