When we last left Banshee, both the TV show and the town, all hell had broken loose. Figuratively, sure, but only barely. The end of the show's unbelievably fun first season brought with it a hail-fire of bullets, stabbings, blood, and a prevailing sense that everything "Lucas Hood" had built in his short time as the Sheriff of Banshee was over. The town was under siege, and perhaps worst of all, the body of the real Hood was discovered out in the woods. Before I sat down to watch the Season 2 premiere, "Little Fish," I thought about how Banshee might try to skirt away from some of these developments and get back to the fightin' and the sexin', because that's the kind of stuff that Banshee does really well. So imagine my (mostly pleasant) surprise that this episode was almost exclusively dedicated to examining the fallout from all that happened last season and putting the characters in some especially tight spaces that they'll have to expertly maneuver out of in the coming episodes.
Banshee isn't a show that ignores long-simmering conflicts or problems; the whole enterprise is about the proverbial chickens coming home to roost. But what made "Little Fish" so interesting is that it chose not to explore these problems with hyper-violent action sequences, but with much quieter moments that forced the characters to consider some of their actions from Season 1, and in certain cases, from before that. When you bring in Zeljko Ivanek to play your show's new foil, it sends a signal that not every threat is going to be of the physical variety. Ivanek's Racine is in town not to figure out what the hell is going on with the bodies found in the woods, nor, necessarily, to put the hammer down on Banshee's Sheriff's Department (though he accomplished that anyway), but to find Rabbit, who is of course not dead because Banshee is that kind of show. Racine fits nicely into Banshee's world—he's a goal-driven asshole who chain smokes like few people do on television anymore—and Ivanek plays those kinds of characters beautifully. And more importantly, Racine's arrival means that Hood will likely be forced to find new ways to hide his past, his identity, and whatever else. So much of last season happened in a vacuum, but now there are other forces in play who are aware of what's happening in Banshee.
A big chunk of this episode was dedicated to Racine's interrogation of Hood, his deputies, and Carrie, and although those scenes probably relied a little too much on intercutting flashbacks to the events of last season, they managed to provide the audience with a refresher of everything that's happened while reminding Brock, Emmett, and Siobhan of all of the really weird stuff that's smacked them in the face since their new boss arrived in town. Those characters are still in the dark about some of the important details, and forcing them to rehash everything they sacrificed for their sketchy badass of a Sheriff probably sets up future tension-filled stories between them (as "Little Fish" hinted at later, Siobhan's probably going to get tired of Hood's secrets and lies eventually).
But where this episode really succeeded was in its treatment of Carrie. I thought Ivana Miličević did tremendous work last season, and she started Season 2 right where she left off. Although Hood is hiding secrets in a (relatively) high-profile job, Carrie is the character who actually has the most to lose as a result of what happened at the end of Season 1, and "Little Fish" dove right into those losses. Not only was Carrie forced to shoot her (admittedly murderous and insane) father, but she lost her family, her job, and her stature in the community in the process, and now she's likely facing jail time. All the law enforcement characters seemingly got off easy (ooooh, probation, watch out!), and Proctor isn't even on Racine's radar, so Carrie's the last remaining person to take the fall for the destruction. Simply put, that sucks. This episode did a fine job of acknowledging the crappy position Carrie's in without being especially sympathetic to that position. She recognizes the damage she's caused, particularly to her children, but now she's sort of screwed anyway. She has very few options but to turn back to Hood, Sugar, and Job, and to knock off an armored truck to make some money. You can obviously tell that she still enjoys the high-stakes criminal life, which Hood pointed out a few times throughout this hour, but there's a clear sense of the war waging inside her as well. Though she spent too much time as a criminal to give that up, she also spent too much time as a wife and a mom to fully let go of that either.
After cleaning up last season's messes—which also included a nice memorial to Mayor Kendall delivered by a drugged-up Gordon—the second half of this episode introduced quite a bit of set-up for the season's worth of stories to come. The armored truck robbery served as the episode's big set piece, and it was well-worth it, empty road and all. But we were also re-introduced to Odette Annable's Nola Longshadow (whose Season 1 presence I honestly forgot about); as Banshee characters are wont to do, she spent part of the episode shooting an automatic weapon while riding a motorcycle and the other part having sex with Hood. I'm hoping that the show digs deeper into the Native American tribe stuff this season, and if this episode was any indication, we're getting just that. The destruction of the hotel at the end of Season 1 has put Anthony Ruiviviar's chief Alex in hot water with the Tribal Council (not the one from Survivor, unfortunately), and Hood and company's robbery of the casino's money certainly didn't help matters. Nola's seduction of Hood (which didn't take much) is almost certain to pull the Native American story more toward the forefront, at least early in the season. That's a good thing.
Finally, this episode only spent a few moments with Kai and Rebecca, which is unfortunate, albeit unsurprising, given all the clean-up the show had to get through. But in their short time together, Kai convinced Rebecca to eschew returning to the Amish countryside and apologizing, which will surely go over well with members of their extended family.
As Banshee episodes go, "Little Fish" was a bit quieter and more contemplative than normal. But I think necessarily so. Although this is a series that thrives when embracing its silly, violent side, this premiere was a nice signal that all that violence and action isn't just for the hell of it. There are consequences, and the show's characters are going to have to face them pretty quickly this season.
– The premiere spent very little time on the investigation of the bodies found in the woods, and there wasn't any mention of the real Hood's son, who we saw in the Season 1 finale. I'm sure that stuff is coming, though.
– Maybe it's just me, but it seemed like Antony Starr had a better handle on his English accent here. Perhaps he practiced quite a bit between shooting Season 1 and Season 2, or perhaps I'm getting more comfortable with his delivery.
– As I said, the flashbacks to last season were probably a little unnecessary at times. Maybe Cinemax is really hoping that people will jump into the show with Season 2 after the good buzz last year, but you rarely see that kind of hand-holding on pay cable.
How'd you feel about the season premiere? Enough action for you?