This review contains mild spoilers for Banshee season one.
The first season of Banshee had a rough diamond of a redemption story buried under copious amounts of cool-guy swaggering. For the sophomore effort, the balance shifts more in favour of inner conflict of Lucas Hood, while still finding a way to amp up the action. And the results are tremendous.
Picking up immediately after season one, the town of Banshee is in chaos. Carrie’s home life has been upended by revelations of her past life. The sheriff’s department is under federal scrutiny. The comical gangland patriarch Rabbit is alive but licking his wounds in the shadows. The relationship between the Longshadow tribe of Natives and Kai Proctor is frayed. As well as dealing with the looming threat of about four different megalomaniac gangsters, Sheriff Hood has to actually figure out what the hell he wants in life.
Likewise, Carrie has to deal with what remains of her domestic life in Banshee, while still obviously holding a candle for Lucas and the thrilling Bonnie and Clyde lifestyle the two of them would assuredly have together.
It’s par for the course for a gritty crime drama to push characters as ‘shades of grey’ – so much so that it’s almost passé at this stage. But the conflict of the central characters in Banshee is genuinely quite compelling and makes it easy to empathize with them. Sure, Carrie’s husband Gordon might be this universe’s Kirk Van Houten, and seeing him get owned repeatedly gives this season a lovely sense of schadenfreude, but we are still given ample reason to understand why she would rather be a smalltown mom to her kids, than a thieving gangster who constantly lives looking over her shoulder.
King of the Tweeners Kai Proctor encapsulates this idea perfectly. Ulrich Thomsen remains the standout performer of the show, allowing scenes where he commands sympathy feel all the more pointed; particularly as he struggles with his rejection and excommunication from his Amish roots. He may be a bad bastard, but the story doesn’t usually advance too far without giving you another reason to root for him, even if you know it’s wrong.
That’s very much Banshee’s selling point. It’s a graphic novel-esque noir tale of a small town full of arseholes who love being corrupt – I mean, the town is CALLED Banshee for god’s sake! I love when a location name sets the tone perfectly for a story.
Naturally with all these unsavoury characters in the mix, the first season’s sense of giddy voyeuristic, violent retribution is back with a bang. All manner of nazis, wife beaters, and general bad guys get their gory comeuppance at various stages of the show, as it’s modus operandi is still to be a thrilling crime series with zero downtime.
But the heart of the show packs much more of a punch this time around. Leading man Anthony Starr isn’t the most versatile guy in the world but he more than holds up his end of the bargain, and the central love… square (note: I did a quick Google search and two triangles do indeed make a square, so I’m correct) is gripping from the start. Lucas and Carrie’s story culminates in an absolutely riveting season finale – one of the best I can recall for some time; putting a satisfying bow on some story arcs and teasing much, much, MUCH more mayhem to come in the episodes to follow.