[This is a review for Banshee season 3, episode 7. There will be SPOILERS.]
If Banshee hasn’t earned a reputation for being one of the most visually compelling and engaging series on television, then it certainly will have after ‘You Can’t Hide From the Dead.’ The episode stands as a powerful example of how the visual medium of television can be used in different ways, to compose a story that a one point delves deeper into the psyche of one of its protagonists, and then completely switches gears to heighten the tension of a brazen multi-million dollar heist, by presenting it through a combination of first-person and stationary camera shots, and edited together with such finesse it’s nothing short of exhilarating.
Directed by showrunner Greg Yaitanes, ‘You Can’t Hide From the Dead’ has some remarkable visual tricks up its sleeve, but the episode doesn’t let Hood’s brash decision to pull the heist on Camp Genoa derail from the main storyline. Instead, the episode begins with a peek into where Hood’s at emotionally, as he’s apparently been camping out in Siobhan’s trailer after the end of last week’s near miss with her murderer.
Yaitanes develops a fascinating visual rhythm early on, cutting to black-and-white shots of Siobhan’s last moments, while Hood sleeps on her bed, his file splayed out in front of him. The scene moves deeper, to shots of Siobhan and Hood interacting, spooning on the bed, until the image of her vanishes when he’s brought back to reality. This early pattern and visual flourish gets the audience into Hood’s headspace, and for much of the first half of the episode, that’s precisely where it stays.
The effect is much more potent than a routine flashback, or run-of-the-mill encounter with a vision of the deceased. Instead, the close psychic distance between the viewer and Hood makes for resonant reminder of what was lost, and a superlative expression of Hood’s grief. The weight of that emotion is translated through some clever editing and smart use of the camera, like when Aimee interrupts Hood’s workout. In that brief moment, the shallow depth of field, mixed with the proximity to Hood’s head (and headspace) conjures up a blurry image of Siobhan.
The scene takes a step back from Hood’s mind to focus on what Aimee has to tell him about Chayton. It’s mostly table setting for the next episode, but the exchange establishes Aimee more concretely, after last week’s near fatal encounter with the man she thought she knew so well. “It’s hard to shake all that history in a moment,” Hood tells her, which sums up her reaction nicely, while also segueing into Chayton’s thread.
After waking up in a barn, Chayton seems to be experiencing something akin to what Hood was – though his hallucinations of Siobhan aren’t brought on by grief, but by a nasty infection of the gunshot wound he suffered last episode. It’s a moment intended to make the audience give pause and see what’s really going on inside Chayton’s head. After all, at the beginning of the season, although his methods were brutal, he seemed to have an objective that made the character less than a stock villain. But Chayton doesn’t necessarily respond to Siobhan’s vision with anything hinting at regret, which more or less seals his fate. And if that didn’t, then his murder of a recent widower (played by The Americans’ Susan Miner) and her neighbor certainly suggest that Chayton’s earned his way to the Banshee villain hall of fame.
That’s a good thing, since the town’s resident villain, Kai Proctor, seems to be experiencing a change of heart, after his the death of his mother. Last week, Kai took a soft approach to everything from Emily Lotus, to Rebecca (after admonishing her in the club), to his customers. This week, his father and the community he left behind welcome him and ask that he sit in on mass. The kinder, gentler Kai even takes Emily out to dinner – much to Brock’s chagrin – in a scene that seems on the verge of collapsing into something uncomfortable. But that never comes, instead, Emily seems to have a calming effect on Kai, agreeing when he tells her it’s time for Rebecca to move on, making Rebecca’s scene in Philly with the drug dealers left out in the cold by Kai’s recent business deal the fuse in the proverbial powder keg.
But the Rebecca-Kai relationship isn’t the only thing primed to explode. Gordon and Carrie manage to reconnect after a trip to pick up Deva from Charlie’s permanent party house turns into a punchy brouhaha for the ages. While Carrie’s expert handling of three of Charlie’s cronies is a delight to watch, it seems Gordon’s been working the SlamMan as part of his get-back-in-shape routine. The pair expertly handle four assailants in an entertaining scene that on any other show would have bordered on excessive, but on Banshee manages to feel on point, especially when the former couple rekindle some passion after they’ve returned home.
To be honest, the scene at Charlie’s party house does seem a bit unnecessary, until you realize how it serves to highlight Deva’s poor decision-making skills – which she clearly inherited a double dose of from her biological parents. That familial inability to make wise choices is made evident by Hood’s need to pull off the heist of Camp Genoa as way to get his mind off of his grief.
As mentioned above, the heist that takes up the last third of the episode is as much a visual treat as the opening segment. There’s a potent immediacy to the first-person perspective that’s augmented by Job’s placement of additional cameras, all tapped into Sugar’s feed. And when things go awry, that sense of immediacy makes the heist more feel far tenser than if it had been filmed conventionally. And it certainly gives the action sequences, like Job’s near fatal encounter with a soldier, and then Hood’s subsequent battle with an unstoppable Col. Stowe a whole new dimension.
Stowe was placed on the backburner for the last few episodes, but here he presents himself as something to be reckoned with – either a force of nature or a Terminator. Langley Kirkwood is amazing, keeping his face tight and unemotional as he wades through kicks, punches, shotgun blasts, and explosions, all to wreak havoc inside the thieves’ van, stopping only when Job manages to kick him out the back door.
It’s a phenomenal sequence that does what Banshee has been doing all season: it takes risks both in terms of where the central story is headed and the way in which that story is being told. If anything, ‘You Can’t Hide From the Dead’ is another example of how the series is committed to experimenting with and evolving its visual style, as a way to keep the series looking as kinetic and unpredictable as its story feels.
Banshee continues next Friday with ‘All the Wisdom I Got Left’ @10pm on Cinemax.
Photos: Gregory Shummon/Cinemax