I'll let you guys in on a bit of a trade secret: It's so much easier to write about a bad episode of television, or even one that's just disappointing. And we all spend so much time imagining what big episodes and finales are going to look like that sometimes it can be easier to nitpick about anything that doesn't live up to our expectations. But writing about this season of Banshee, as the show morphed from something that was fun and promising to something that was more assured, complex, and, by this finale's end, emotionally satisfying, I've come to appreciate what it's like to write about a series that's truly found another gear.
"Bullets and Tears" wasn't my favorite episode of the season (that honor still belongs to the formula-breaking "The Truth About Unicorns"), but it was the proper, meaningful conclusion to the show's first 20 episodes. So I could spend time in this review talking about things here and there that bothered me—mostly the kind of plot conveniences that are bound to pop up—but what's the point? By the time Hood jumped out from behind that pillar in the church, ready to sacrifice himself for Carrie one more (and last) time, I was actually convinced he was going to take down a half-dozen dudes with automatic weapons. "Bullets and Tears" was so on-point with its character beats and resolutions that it was pretty easy to move past any lingering issues.
Much of the episode's success was due to its structure, wherein the present-day action in New York with Hood and Carrie going after Rabbit one final time nicely folded back on their last few days together before Rabbit framed Hood and got him sent away for 15 years. The majority of the information explored in the episode's flashbacks had already been alluded to in the show's narrative (and basically out-and-out explained in bonus online content), but it wasn't the information that really mattered—it was the sentiment. Jonathan Tropper's script really hammered home how these characters had come full circle in some ways, and went back around in others. Hood and Carrie were in love, Rabbit didn't appreciate that, and he ultimately sacrificed himself for her. We knew all that, and yet as the flashbacks started to bleed into the present-day scenes, particularly as the characters returned to the same locations, the impact of all this history was palpable.
It's perhaps easy to forget all the damage Rabbit caused 15 years ago, especially when Hood and Carrie are having their own issues, but when Banshee returned to this story and to the sense that Hood and Carrie simply could not let this go on any longer, the stakes were as high as they could get. Though that was clear by the end of last week's penultimate episode, "Bullets and Tears" did a fine job of underscoring it again as Hood and Carrie would not be stopped, no matter who they ran into while trying to secure guns, or how outmanned they were inside the church. Hood and Carrie aren't exactly lovers anymore, but they're not just friends, either. There's a depth to their relationship, defined by all this blood and drama, that was on full display here. Antony Starr and Ivana Miličević were as good as they've been all season, particularly because they were tasked with playing their characters in multiple time periods as well as through a wide range of beats. That's why the early detour to load up on weapons that introduced Fat Al was especially great; it allowed the two leads to have some fun before diving headfirst into the decade-plus drama with Rabbit.
And hey, the flashbacks also gave us a fun origin story of how Job met Carrie, complete with Job doing quite the musical routine for not the most supportive audience. There were times this season where I wished the show would give certain characters more to do, but the last few episodes have definitely made strong use of Job, and this one emphasized how integral a member of the 'team' he is. The present-day scenes also made it clear that there's some interesting history between Job and Fat Al, history I'm sure the show will explore in Season 3. I'm looking forward to that; Fat Al appeared to be the kind of broad-but-weird fella this show is always populated with.
But I'm getting distracted because there was so much good stuff in "Bullets and Tears," and because all I want to say about the part where Hood and Carrie made it to the church is "!!!!!!!!!!!" Unsurprisingly, the big shootout sequence was wonderfully shot by Greg Yaitanes. It managed to be hectic and purposefully controlled at the same time, without an overreliance on slow motion or cheesy music. That was of course followed up by a much more low-key scene between Carrie, Hood, and Rabbit, but I think it made sense. Rabbit is a violent dude, but it's not as if he could really stand up in one-on-one battle with Hood, or even Carrie. For the three of them to have a final moment on the park bench where they all acknowledged the impact they've had on each other's lives before Carrie and Hood (barely) forced Rabbit to kill himself was close to perfect, both tonally and as a resolution to this long-simmering story. Rabbit had the chance to explain himself a bit, Carrie was able to see her father without granting him forgiveness, and Hood got to watch the man who ruined his life die right in front him. Rabbit was probably right that there is a bench out there "like this one" waiting for Hood, especially with the way he's been living since he got out of jail, but it was time for Rabbit to go, and this was as good a way as I can think of to do it.
Weirdly, though, I thought everything that happened after Rabbit's death told us more about Banshee's growth this season. Even though Hood and Carrie took care of business and made it out alive (barely), they had to return to Banshee where the rest of their messy lives were still waiting. Getting rid of the Rabbit problem was a big step forward for both characters, but it doesn't solve much for them. In fact, everything that's happened over the last 20 episodes now means that they can't use Rabbit as an excuse. Carrie has to try to put her family back together, for real, and Hood has to determine whether there's enough of a reason to stay in Banshee now that the primary one is gone. Is the relationship with Siobhan real? Can he actually play the fatherly role? Those are questions he must answer. With Rabbit alive, both Carrie and Hood had excuses—for weird and erratic behavior, to skip town, whatever. But now have to move forward. The external threat is gone, but all the internal issues and stresses these two people have experienced all season? They're probably worse now. And the fact that I feel this way about the characters and the show's future is due to the real effort Banshee put into its characters this season. Even with the primary antagonist removed from the equation, there isn't much concern about where the show goes from here—at least not from me.
Unfortunately, we have to take the good (if you can call Hood and Carrie returning to Banshee to a host of awkward situations good) with the bad... and with the creepy. Bad being that Emmett and his poor wife simply couldn't escape the evils of Banshee, and found themselves gunned down at a rest stop. As far as supporting character deaths go, Emmet's was hard to take. Bummer. And of course, creepy being Kai and Rebecca. The latter's seduction of Alex turned out to be just a ploy to get close enough to kill him, which didn't go according to plan but ultimately had the intended result. Consequently, Kai got of prison and reunited with his niece in the most uncomfortable way possible—she's watching him shower, and hugging him in the nude. There's so much blank-but-loaded staring between those two, I just can't take it. But they're going to be quite the pair to deal with come Season 3.
And we can worry about Season 3 later; for now, we should be celebrating Season 2. Banshee took a noticeable leap in quality over its last 10 episodes, and this finale was a lovely culmination of its primary storyline, but also of all the great things the show did this season. We're getting close to that place where Banshee belongs in the discussion of the great shows on TV right now, don't you think?
– As some of you might know, I had the opportunity to talk to Greg Yaitanes and Jonathan Tropper about the finale and the entire season. Check that out; I really enjoyed doing it.
– Julian Sands didn't have much to do this season as Rabbit's brother, but that beard was magnificent and his character got a bloody death, so party on.
– Similarly, not a ton or work for Zeljko Ivanek's Racine, but it was nice to see that character return via the flashbacks in the finale.
– This episode alluded to a military background for Hood. I'm guessing that's something that comes into play somewhere in Season 3.
– Speaking of Season 3, fresh off of straight-up murdering dudes in the French Quarter, Chayton's on his way back to Banshee now that Alex is dead. I'm already pumped for that fight between him and Hood.
What'd you guys think of the finale? Which death hit you the hardest?
AIRED ON 5/20/2016
Season 4 : Episode 8