Here’s a brief synopsis of Banshee season one.
The fuckin’ coolest guy in the world is released from jail, where was locked up for 15 years for being too much of a badass. He briefly stops shagging every woman he looks at to track down the love of his life, another ex-con who has taken on a new identity to hide from their former mob boss patriarch; a scary stoic Russian with a cool nickname. When sombrely drinking whiskey at a bar, like a cool guy does, our hero bodies some troublemakers – but a soon-to-be-appointed sheriff is killed in the crossfire. Because he’s an antihero, the most badass of character alignments, our protagonist steals the sheriff’s identity in an attempt to cover his own tracks from the afformentioned big bad Russian.
Banshee is about as pretention-free a television show as you’ll find. It follows a cliched, tortured soul seeking redemption, which happens to involve him getting into lots of extremely gory fist fights and shoot-outs. And alternating between having sex with women or saving women from cartoonishly fiendish men. The ten episode season, one hour in length each, mean there’s zero time-wasting, and zero filler. The ‘small town with dirty secrets’ setting keeps things very street level and nitty gritty in terms of stakes; but also manages to boast a very entertaining cast of noir-ish characters. The grizzled but tired former boxer who runs the local watering hole. The wayward daughter of an Amish family on the outskirts of town. The muscle-bound albino assassin. The sleek entrepreneur with his hands in every criminal racket in town.
It’s here that Banshee properly gets its hooks into you. It’s cliche-ridden, but endearingly so; with a script that feels extremely basic at times, but ultimately has a cathartic mix of badass heroes brutalizing rapists, racists, and general Lady Disrespecters. And boy do they get brutalized. While the show’s presentation is mostly nothing to write home about, when it comes to the business of fighting and killing, there’s no expense spared in letting the viewer soak up every drop of the cathartic, gore-soaked vengeance. The show’s HBO/Cinemax roots are evident from early on; feeling like Game of Thrones-level shock value applied to a show with 24-level brains.
I don’t want to overstate the show’s basicness, because while the thrills can be cheap and there is a strong emphasis on straight-forward titillation; it’s not an entirely dumb show. The number of moving parts, especially with some of the more grey-area aligned characters, keep things interesting. There are no characters or sub-stories that will cause you to groan – everything has a purpose, and you can never accuse Banshee of dawdling or navel-gazing. The cast is mostly fine, but Ulrich Thomsen and Frankie Faison pack a definite punch when needed. It’s not prestige TV by a lot of the traditional definitions, but there’s undoubtedly a lot of talent involved – and room for the show to grow as it progresses after this bombastic opening.
I binged this first season in a manner I haven’t done in some time. It’s got that ‘just one more episode’ factor that any show worth your time should have. If you want an addictive crime series that’s gleefully, unapologetically trying to get the highest age rating possible from film censors around the world; make time for this show.