Banshee (Season Four)

This review contains mild, early episode spoilers for Banshee season four.

Thus far when reviewing Banshee, I’ve talked a lot about the show’s pacing. For all its bombast, it’s a very smartly constructed show, always advancing stories and informing you about the characters and their dynamics. With season four, the show crescendos wonderfully as it sunsets its various pulpy heroes and anti-heroes; but not without a brief stumbling block along the way.

Fittingly enough, there’s a sense of finality on this home-stretch of episodes. Following season three, Hood has detached himself from the rest of the community, and spent two years living as a hermit – and only the murder of Rebecca Bowman brings him back into the fold. There’s a ‘one last hurrah’ tone of things, along with the more miserable set of circumstances, that makes it feel like no one is safe.Unfortunately, the serial killer trappings of season four fall flat due to overly on-the-nose tropes (even by Banshee standards), and a humdrum character introduced at the centre of it all. As well as our primary suspect, we also have a new FBI sleuth portrayed by Eliza Dushku, who feels like a rushed and unneeded addition to the story. For a show that never wasted your time previously, it feels like the pursuit of this killer does just that. It’s something that spans several episodes here, but would be wrapped up in one episode previously.

The season’s first couple of episodes see Hood reeling from everything that happened in season three, and the quest to save Job, and the final episode is about putting all these characters to bed in the best way possible. But the murder-mystery set of episodes unfortunately makes this season feel flabby despite a shorter, eight-episode run.

While the ‘whodunit?’ set of episodes in the middle of the season are shaky, the show nonetheless does right by the character of Rebecca, despite the initial red flag of killing her off-screen. Examining her ever-changing relationship with Hood and Proctor, her ambitious rise to form a criminal empire of her own, and the way she uses bravado in the style of her uncle to cover her own trepidation; it feels like they didn’t do a character a disservice.

And that’s a theme for the season overall.

I can’t say I predicted how it would shake out with each character, but as their final scenes rolled around, it all just felt right. Even characters like Burton and Job, who have been integral to the show’s style but never felt especially substantive as characters, were given something more significant to chew on this season, and their farewells were fitting. Similarly, the Bunker family drama teased in season three is a compelling subplot. Chris Coy’s portrayal of a middle-class Neo Nazi, fuelled by bitterness and feelings of insignificance even within his own family, is one of the most compelling in the show’s run.

Carrie’s place in the season is very much that of an individual, rather than a love interest to Hood; and that’s to the show’s credit. So much of what happened in season three has stuck with them, and shaped them, that it would almost have felt cheap to have this boil down to ‘they live happily every after as a married couple.’ Carrie indulges her inner-vigilante for one last run while simultaneously trying to create a home for her family; truly embracing the idea that ‘Ana’ is gone – and it’s not just a name-change.

All this amounts to a season of TV that is very good despite its flaws, and most importantly, does right by the characters when it really counts. It would be fair to say season four is Banshee’s weakest, but thankfully that’s a high bar. It delivers the thrills, the fist-thrusting moments of elation, the laughs, the sombre moments – and in a critically underrated aspect of the show; it delivers them with a tremendous sense of style. The show continues to look incredibly slick, and Methodic Doubt bring their A-game for the final season’s soundtrack. It’s all well and good to beat your chest about your pulpy script and characters, but the look and feel of the show is just as important, and Banshee has always delivered on that front.

Finishing Banshee is bittersweet for me. At just 38 episodes, you’ll always have that instinctive feeling that they could have done more, but I’m always in favour of shows burning out rather than fading away. It’s better to be in the school of Breaking Bad and The Office (UK) than The Simpsons – and the rough edges in Banshee season four tell me they were probably wise to get out while they did. When it was all said and done, and that ‘BANSHEE’ title card hit for the final time, I could confidently call it one of television’s best shows.

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