Banshee (Season Three)

This review contains spoilers for Banshee season one and two. There are mild spoilers for season three.

In my review of the first season of Banshee, I talked about how its gung-ho violence and titillation were satisfying in a shallow way, but there was undoubtedly heart and (some) brains beneath it all. With season two, I felt they really amped up the emotional stakes without compromising the show’s visceral nature; delivering a more thoroughly engaging season of TV. With season three, the show’s status as a cult classic became crystal clear, with a breathless, twisting, wrenching collection of ten episodes that showcased all its best elements, with scant few complaints.

Lets start with the negatives, because there are some.

For a show crammed full of complex characters that continue to straddle the good guy/bad guy line in compelling ways; season three has some fairly cut-and-dry villains. Banshee has always been about that sweet, sweet voyeuristic violence against hateable caricatures; but typically those are secondary to the real Big Bad. You have subplots involving Nazis in the first two seasons, but Kai Proctor is the real force for Hood to tangle with, and he’s all the more satisfying to think on. Thankfully season three still has wonderfully disposable Villains of the Week for Hood to cross paths with, but the season-spanning antagonists don’t quite measure up. Sure, Proctor is still there, but at times he’s as much of an anti-hero as Hood; and the mythic spectre of Rabbit is finally vanquished, per the end of season two.

I wonder how much of the budget went on blood and bruise make-up for Anthony Starr. Hood gets messed up once every 20 minutes.

Instead, the returning Chayton Littlestone and debuting Colonel Douglas Stowe are the targets for the world’s worst sheriff, and while they scratch a certain itch, they don’t quite have the depth of the rest of the show’s roster; hero, villain, or otherwise. Littlestone has some interesting roots in the show, based on his involvement in the Kinahoe tribe, and a powerfully intimidating performance by Geno Segers; but he doesn’t bring too much to this season other than a blood-for-blood tit-for-tat with the Banshee Sheriff’s Department. Likewise, Langley Kirkwood (tremendous name) brings life to a fairly one-dimensional military man in Stowe, who feels more like a hurdle in Hood and Carrie’s journey, rather than an integral part of it.

Luckily, that journey is compelling enough to compensate these shortcomings and then some. The confused trajectory of Hood and Carrie continues to compel, as it did in season two, with even more moving parts complicating things. A redemptive arc for Carrie’s useless husband Gordon adds more levity to proceedings, as he was previously something of a comedic punching bag who was always left in the dust by Carrie whenever Hood came a-callin’. Carrie strays more and more from that life, feeling that life in-turn doesn’t want her, but there are more and more reminders that perhaps she’s wrong.

Pulling Hood’s attention away from his obvious soul-mate is his misfit sheriff’s department, who are increasingly weary of his antics, but can’t argue with his effectiveness. Brock is as suspicious as ever, and pushes back against Hood often; but the whole unit knows Hood is the only man who can relinquish Proctor’s grip on the town; even though he assuredly won’t do it by the book – or moreso because he won’t. I couldn’t believe how hooked I was by the Brock/Hood dynamic in this season; with the begrudging deputy arguably being the breakout star of this batch of episodes. Siobhan helps highlight the sheriff’s human side, although she herself doesn’t get as much fleshing out as the previous year’s effort.

I’ve mentioned in earlier reviews that Banshee might be the television show most devoid of downtime. It’s punchy and engaging minute-to-minute, with its larger than life characters that feel like they’re ripped straight from an acclaimed cult comic book of the 1990s – like a long-lost Gareth Evans project. You’re constantly learning about them as individuals, which makes their relationships and conflicts so fascinating. Rebecca’s gradual evolution from timid niece to burgeoning crime-boss is satisfying in itself but watching it butt up-against Proctor’s regimented style of doing business makes it much more compelling. Because not only is Banshee continuing to teach us about these characters; as it’s now in its penultimate season, it’s starting to pay-off so many long-teased stories. From around episode three to its conclusion, this almost feels like a season full of season finales, and the characters are the core of that.

There’s so much more to sing about, as everything the show had previously done well continues to satisfy, in some cases more than ever. The buddy-cop stylings of Job and Sugar are great comic relief, and again, offer more substance than you might initially expect. The action continues to be riveting in its gratuity; even if the effects budget can occasionally show its rear-end (you’ll likely be having too much fun to notice). The original score by Methodic Doubt thumps when it needs to (often), and brings you down when it needs to (less often), and is complimented by a solid selection of licensed tracks that amplify the pulp-y, modern western vibe of the setting, and show as a whole. It’s just a tremendously crafted TV show, for all its gruff bravado. It looks and sounds great, and every episode flows in a way most prestige television could only dream of.

As Banshee rolls towards its final season, I don’t think my hopes could be any higher. Its third season was engrossing for almost every minute of its runtime, and seeing as it was the second-to-last, you can see why. This was quite obviously a show that had a story in mind, came up with the appropriate amount of episodes to ring as much juice as possible out of that story, and then ended. And with this lead-in, I’m certain they’ll stick the landing. Season three is comfortably one of my all time favourite seasons of television; a visceral, involving, binge-inducing ten episodes that boasted a collection of unforgettable moments.

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