When looking for areas of improvement in sophomore TV series, one thing to focus on is how they go about balancing more stories at once, both in individual episodes and longer arcs. It isn't always the case, but many shows expand their worlds in their second season, and of course it doesn't always work. Although Banshee hasn't blown open its universe too dramatically in the first three episodes of Season 2, the series has methodically brought us into new corners of its small domain and most impressively, been able to carry additional plots.
"The Warrior Class" was a fine example of this slightly more assured storytelling. The episode went a little deeper into both the Amish and Native American communities, gave us some quality time with Carrie in her own twisted Cinemax version of Orange Is the New Black, and somehow squeezed in coverage of what was previously Banshee's biggest "secret" with the arrival of the real Lucas Hood's son. I wasn't bamboozled by the show's ability to make all of these things work within one hour of television, but it was absolutely impressive, and a sign that Banshee, while still wild and violent and sex-crazed, is becoming a more efficient, interesting series.
Can we start by talking about the compelling Terrence Malick-y sequence at the beginning of the episode? Anytime you start a scene with slow-moving, almost ponderous montages of people ruffling their hands through wheat fields and top it off with a voiceover, it's probably fair to call it a "Full Malick." Not that it was bad! In fact, I loved it, and this is what I'm talking about with regard to the show pushing its boundaries and doing some different things here and there, but making them fit within the preexisting Banshee universe. The Full Malick worked so well that at first, I wasn't even sure whether it was happening in the present day, as opposed to being some sort of fascinating flashback. Of course, this being Banshee, a lovely four-minute side story with two star-crossed lovers ended with a teenage girl dead in the rain and a teenage boy MIA. You know, just in case you thought a show on Cinemax was going to go whole hog into Tree of Life.
Maybe the introduction of two teens—one from the local Indian tribe and the other from the Amish community, both of them just trying to make it work in this craaaazy world—was a little on-the-nose in hitting the season's early tensions between the two groups, but it established a reason for Hood and the rest of the squad to go into both communities. Naturally, since they're outsiders, neither excursion went particularly well. "The Warrior Class" made some inroads into explaining the general histories of and politics between the two groups, and obviously set up a couple of truly gut-wrenching fight sequences. There's something so charming about a show that introduces the HUGE tribe gang leader character, lets him spew on about his people's ages-long mistreatment by the white man, and then moves right into a throwdown with Hood involving chains, knives, nightsticks, broken tables, and whatever the heck else was in that dusty old room. And more than that, the episode (as most do) made those seemingly dissonant things go together so clearly that I was cackling by the end, because it was RIDICULOUS, but also because it was RIDICULOUSLY AWESOME.
Amid the perhaps slightly less believable parts of the show, I appreciated that "The Warrior Class" kept grounding the proceedings in some semblance of reality. So Hood and the squad rolled onto the Indian reservation despite a complete lack of jurisdiction (and I loved Hood's acknowledgement that the FBI wasn't going to help them anyway, so screw it), they raised all sorts of hell, and then they returned to the station to find Gordon's replacement in the DA's office breathing down their neck. They can do just about whatever the hell they want, until they can't. Those quick reminders keep the show from falling into full-on (albeit completely enjoyable, mind you) cartoon mode. Similarly, right as Proctor beat a few of trespassing tribesmen within an inch of their life, he shared a half-awkward, half-moving moment with his former family, particularly his mother.
The actual investigation into what happened to the teens was less successful, mostly because I didn't care about them, but it accomplished a few things. First, it added some color to the groups' feud without necessarily focusing on Proctor and Alex Longfellow, who are the key players in what we've seen thus far but not the only members of their respective communities. Second, it furthered the confusing trajectory of Odette Annable's Nola. That she was wearing the dark hoodie in the final moments suggested to me that she probably killed the girl, I'm guessing for the same reasons that they figured the big dude did, but who knows with her right now. Third, it allowed the show to put Lili Simmons in the mud and rain and whatever else. Would I like her to have more to do than get chased in a downpour or pleasure herself on the bed? Sure. But the show's gotta serve its Cinemax masters every once and a while, right?
And on top of all of that, "The Warrior Class" found time to bring the real Hood's son into town, and into our Hood's life. It was interesting how Banshee handled that moment. It wasn't played over the top like it was so fundamentally earth-shattering, and Hood was almost immediately given an out because the son didn't really care about his dad and is generally kind of a dirtbag anyway (duh, that's the case with everyone on this show). Nevertheless, I liked that the episode just threw that in there, making Hood's current existence even more of a living hell. You get the sense that it's all becoming too much here and there, and while I don't know if he's going to "break" or lose it, there are bound to be some moments in the future where Hood actually lets himself feel all that garbage he's holding onto. Or maybe he just get it in with Siobhan some more and everything will be fine. Do not blame him.
I can't (yet?) say that Banshee Season 2 is head and shoulders above Season 1 in quality, but what I've liked about the first three episodes, and "The Warrior Class" in particular, is how much ground the show is trying to cover, and how quickly. There's a lot going on already, and the show is handling it very well.
– Shockingly, Carrie's not doing too well in prison. Banshee should probably dedicate a little more time to those scenes in the coming weeks, but this episode gave us enough to recognize the dire straits.
– Speaking of Carrie, what's the shipper breakdown for this show like? Are we all in on Hood and Carrie, or hopeful for more Hood and Siobhan?
– I made the mistake of watching my screener for this episode at Starbucks, and while Banshee's aggressive sex and nudity is always a bit embarrassing to deal with, the sheer impact of Proctor nailing those dudes with the baseball bat had me squirming in my chair, and probably making a fool of myself. Just the sound of the bat, ugh.
– What do I need to do to get more Job in my life this season? Can they rob something else next week?
– I appreciated how surprised the real Hood's son was that Hood actually does the job. Well, "does" the job.
What'd you think of this episode? Which fight sequence was your favorite?
AIRED ON 5/20/2016
Season 4 : Episode 8