I wanted to acknowledge something straight off here: a couple of weeks ago, Banshee executive producer Greg Yaitanes called me out on Twitter. His comment on January 27th read, “I love that this guy @bob_ham from @PasteMagazine HATES #Banshee and yet can’t stop watching.” As you can imagine, fans of the show quickly rushed to its defense—and pointed out an egregious spelling error I made in the review he linked to—making my online life, for a least a day or two, much less fun than it should be.
I bring this up prior to this write-up because, as you’ll likely have seen from the score attached to it, I really enjoyed this week’s episode. And if you’ve read my previous reviews of Banshee, you’ll know what a surprise that actually was for me. So, I wanted to acknowledge what occurred two weeks back as a way to assert my objectivity. My excitement and appreciation has nothing to do with the back and forth that went down twixt Yaitanes, Banshee supporters and myself. I’m not trying to save face here. I still have some serious issues with this show and suspect this episode is an outlier. But it also left me with a nagging feeling that I may be underestimating it.
What brought that sense to life was an extended coda, a sequence that had me rolling my eyes and wondering why they were dragging out the end of another fine episode. The five-minute sequence was a long montage of slow-motion shots of Anna, freshly released from prison and looking pensive and fearful, and her daughter Deva having a small reflective moment. Over it all, a treacly, mid-tempo indie ballad dribbled along underneath a monologue from Sugar that was an extended metaphor about the prisons that we put ourselves in.
Then, with one fell swoop—Lucas slamming his fist down on an unseen CD player, stopping the music, and declaring of Sugar’s monologue, “Fuck that”—it revealed itself to be a parody of that worn-out trope. It left me laughing and reeling and wondering, “Has Banshee been a sly lampooning of puffed up cable dramas this whole time?”
That’s likely giving the show far too much credit. I will, though, give praise where it is due, and this episode deserves a great deal of it. What I think helped elevate it beyond the rest of the series to date is the narrowing of its focus. The majority of the action this week revolved around Anna’s release from prison and her slow return to Banshee in the company of Lucas.
The two meander their way through a nearby town, stopping to hang at a farmer’s market and share an ice cream (while drowsily casing a jewelry store). But just as Lucas kept looking over his shoulder as they conversed dreamily about the past and the future, there was that nagging sense that this good feeling couldn’t last. By the time they reach a small dream home that Lucas bought with the intention of retiring there with Anna, that small sliver of doubt becomes manifest in the form of Agent Racine, who has been hiding in the woods, tracking the two.
Racine reveals that his plan is to use the pair as bait to draw Rabbit out of his hiding place. And he knows that they’ll go along with it because he also knows that Lucas isn’t really Lucas. What worry Anna and Hood have about this situation is quickly assuaged by way of a bullet that flies in from outside, hitting Racine’s jugular. Turns out that the other pebble of concern in Hood’s shoe was an assassin sent by Rabbit.
What happens before they get back to Banshee is what leads me to think that this episode is likely not an indicator of a shift in the show’s overall quality. Because Hood and Anna go through an extended firefight for their lives, they inadvertently start an actual fire that sends the whole dream world of quiet retirement for these criminals up in literal and figurative smoke.
I understand why the show did it, but I also feel that its writers and producers often misjudge the intelligence of their audience. I don’t think anyone watching Banshee labors under the delusion that Hood and Anna and anyone in their circle of associates is going to walk off into the sunset unharmed a la Dexter. The pitch-black morals of this show wouldn’t allow it. The only happy endings this show will provide are the ones doled out by the ladies of Banshee’s strip club.
Robert Ham is a Portland-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.