[This is a review of Banshee season 3, episode 3. There will be SPOILERS.]
From week to week, you’re never quite sure what you’re going to get when you tune into Banshee. And since there’s really nothing else like it on television, it seems as though the show has decided to enter into competition with itself, to see how much craziness it can cram into a single hour of television. While the first two episodes of season 3 were awash in the kind of extravagant, pulpy storytelling that has come to be the show’s calling card, they are, in retrospect, rather sedate installments when compared to the bloody and electrifying rollercoaster ride that is ‘A Fixer of Sorts.’
After a cold open featuring Chayton Littlestone on the hunt for what we can only presume is a light snack for a man his size, the episode quickly shifts gears, stepping back just a few seconds before the end of last week’s ‘Snakes and Whatnot,’ to remind viewers what Hood was doing before the ominous sounds the episode ended on. Now of all the potential faces that could have been on the other side of that door, the idea that it would belong to the fantastic Denis O’Hare was not anywhere near the top of the list – it wasn’t even on the list. But O’Hare, as Special Agent Robert Phillips, a Pepto-Bismol swilling G-Man tasked with getting results by any means necessary, is a most welcome presence nevertheless.
Once O’Hare makes his appearance, though, the episode shifts into a whole other gear, one that maybe even the show didn’t know it had (though any show that knows to put Julian Sands in a priest’s robes and hand him an assault rifle probably knows far more than anyone gives it credit for). It’s the kind of gear where a handful of different storylines run simultaneously.
It’s the kind of gear where antagonists like Kai Proctor and Chayton Littlestone become more three-dimensional, thanks to short but necessary scenes featuring newcomers like Tanya Clarke as Emily Lotus and Meaghan Rath as Aimee King. It’s the kind of gear where a stripper who goes by Platinum should have a Ph.D. after her name. It’s a gear where short, nearly silent flashbacks punctuate and add depth to the frenzied fisticuffs between Clay Burton and Nola Longshadow, giving some indication that the pain they inflict on one another is nothing compared to what they’ve survived in the past.
And, it’s the kind of gear where Hood can wake up in an office on wheels and his nearly fatal step out the front door makes you sit up and be thankful that something this fun, confident, and outlandishly entertaining is on television.
For over two seasons now, Proctor’s manservant/guard dog Clay Burton has been an intriguing figure who spent most of his screen time in the background. Sure, he was there to bust a few heads, dispose of a few bodies, and maybe fire off an automatic weapon inside a claustrophobic space, but he hasn’t had much chance to operate on his own. All that changes when, after taking a hatchet to the chest while cleaning the aftermath of last week’s epic pool party, he gets to show exactly what he’s made of – whatever it is, Burton could give Hood a run for his money in the durability department.
The fight between Burton and Nola isn’t the sort of thing you’d necessarily expect to see on television; it’s not the kind of thing you’d expect to see outside of a Shaw Brothers film, but here it is in all its throat-ripping glory. The bloody, brutal bout and its superb editing and clever cinematography that follows the two combatants as they battle on, through and around Proctor’s Rolls Royce, is more of a technical achievement than a storytelling one, but that doesn’t lessen its impact in the slightest.
Nola Longshadow (Odette Annable) seemed like she was building toward a confrontation with both Kai and Chayton, and given how engaging the character had become – especially after sharing some booze and pie with Carrie at the end of last week’s episode – her untimely demise is unfortunate but ultimately valuable in terms of maintaining the stakes of the current storyline and establishing just how difficult a task Chayton’s war with Proctor is going to be.
It’s a staggering sequence, but nothing really compares to the off-the-wall weirdness of Hood and Phillips’ abduction by Raymond Walton Brantley (Shuler Hensley), the scrupulous gangster Jason Hood was on the run from last season. The whole setup is big and outlandish, and as it turns out, his henchman’s electric gloves are the only things that outdo Brantley’s extravagant eighteen-wheeled office. It’s the kind of pulp-inspired goodness that Banshee excels at, and although Brantley won’t be around beyond his appearance here – since some poor schmuck is going to have scrape his ample remains off the Pennsylvania asphalt – the character works in the same way Aimee and Emily do: by revealing the multitudes that exist beneath a tough-guy exterior.
But for all the beatings Hood endures and emerges victorious from, the takeaway from the episode is: while Hood shows the kind of man he’s become – particularly his decision to save Phillips’ life – it’s revealed that his lack of an identity goes much deeper than previously imagined. The episode may end on the cliffhanger of Siobhan reading the late Agent Racine’s file on the diamond thief-cum-Banshee-sheriff, but the good stuff comes over the credits, when his interrogation by Reg E. Cathey’s Det. Julius Bonner plays instead of the usual musical selection.
It’s a memorable departure that, like the episode, helps construct and deepen the mythology around Hood’s unknown alter ego, strengthening a mystery that may have just reached a major turning point.
Banshee continues next Friday with ‘Real Life is a Nightmare’ @10pm on Cinemax.
Photos: Gregory Shummon/Cinemax