[This is a review of Banshee season 3, episode 8. There will be SPOILERS.]
Season 3 of Banshee began with Hood, Siobhan, and Brock hunting down Hondo, the man who killed their partner Emmett Yawners and his wife. It was a moment of brutal vengeance that set the tone for the rest of the season – even if the audience didn’t know it yet.
But now, after everything that’s transpired, from Siobhan’s murder at the hands of Chayton Littlestone to the brilliant first-person heist during last week’s ‘You Can’t Hide From the Dead,’ the show finds itself settling into a consistent rhythm, one that is all about payback and the many forms in which it can manifest.
It was inevitable that Hood and Chayton were going to wind up in a fight to the death. After all, Chayton promised as much before he disappeared in season 2. By the time ‘The Fire Trials’ started, it was clear Banshee’s mountain-sized big bad wasn’t just at war with the enemies of his tribe, he was steering himself into a head-on collision with the town’s imitation sheriff. What wasn’t clear was just how personal the battle between the two would become, and how much Chayton’s underestimation of Hood would come back to haunt him, just as he came back to haunt Banshee.
And so, with that, ‘All the Wisdom I Got Left’ becomes the battle royal the season had been promising, and it does not disappoint.
Right off the bat, the episode lets the overwhelming sense of inevitability drive the narrative like it drives Hood. When Brock announced he was going along in search of Siobhan’s killer, there was a question of whether or not Banshee might have time for a quick filler episode, in which the two cops run into some kind of fantastic trouble while on their impromptu road trip. That is not the case, however. And as enticing as the thought of Hood and Brock’s not-buddy comedy antics might be, it’s to the episode’s distinct advantage that the action begins with the two cops so far removed from the ruralilty of Banshee, Pennsylvania.
The transition from Banshee to New Orleans – first the swamp and then the French Quarter – is a wise choice; it gives the episode weight by taking the characters and the audience out of their comfort zone, highlighting the importance of what is about to transpire by its removal from the familiar. But the episode takes it one step further, using Banshee‘s love of heightened reality and pulpiness to paint New Orleans in a surreal fashion by folding in odd characters like the horrifically scarred Sani Crow (Raul Trujillo) and ginger-haired Bones Tuesday (Happy Anderson), proprietor of an underground club where men fight to the death – or at least they do when Chayton enters the pit.
Director Greg Yaitanes paints Tuesday’s club as a strange, unforgiving place, brimming with chaotic violence and ravenous onlookers. As denoted by Hood’s presence on the floor, while Brock remains on a higher level, at one point seemingly incapable of truly perceiving what is going on, it is a place where only a certain type of person speaks the language, and immediately knows his way around. And while the fight club gives the audience their first taste of what a full-on Hood vs. Chayton showdown will look like, the added effect of the new environment and both men’s ability to maneuver freely within it, speaks volumes about who they are.
And that first fight is terrific. The ferocity of Hood’s attack seemingly takes Chayton by surprise, especially considering the relative ease with which he finished off his previous opponent. Both men are given dramatically different fighting styles that suit their physicality. But it’s not the kind of fight you normally see in film and television these days. The battle is notable for its savagery and the way it manages to look so frenzied. The stalemate to which the two men fight, then, only heightens the anticipation for round two.
And when round two comes it does so after Hood spends the day drinking and staring at ceiling fans like he’s Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now. So when Chayton attacks, there’s just enough of a boozy haze to make the audience question whether or not the Redbone leader is really on the offensive. But it doesn’t take long for the fog to clear, for knifes to be brandished, and for blood to be spilled. It takes even less time for the room to be destroyed and for Chayton to find himself on the run from the man he woefully underestimated.
Chayton’s final moments echo the opening sequence of the season, right down to the shotgun wielded by Hood as his “running down criminals” weapon of choice. There’s also an eerie emptiness to New Orleans that makes the entire encounter feel even more eerie and dreamlike. As Hood chases Chayton through the French Quarter, a cemetery, and the final resting place of some Mardi Gras floats, there is an overwhelming sense of death in the air that is accentuated by the fact that Hood and Chayton seem to be the only two living souls on the planet. A situation Hood doesn’t waste much time in reducing to one.
As far as deaths go, Chayton’s is one that embraces the series’ ability to embrace over-the-top elements without reducing the significance of what transpired. It’s goofy, gooey, bloody stuff that packs an unforgettable wallop. But it’s balanced out by the other threads going on, like Job and Sugar’s adventures with a different kind of payback, and Col. Stowe’s realization he’ll soon be getting retribution of his own. ‘All the Wisdom I Got Left’ even manages to deliver a fulfilling flashback to the fateful day Burton met Kai, before Fraiser’s men abduct him in front of the Amish community that just welcomed him back.
In the end, Chayton knew that Hood wasn’t really a cop, and it’s fairly obvious that Brock knows it, too. But that doesn’t stop him from pleading for the sheriff to finish what he started with Kai Proctor. It just looks like Hood’s going to have to wait in line.
Banshee continues next Friday with ‘Even God Doesn’t Know What to Make of You’ @10pm on Cinemax.
Photos: Gregory Shummon/Cinemax