[This is a review of Banshee season 2, episode 5. There will be SPOILERS.]

Creatively speaking, it’s a welcome sign when a show like Banshee demonstrates the willingness to take some risks with story and format to deliver an episode that is such a stylistic departure from the norm; one that turns the already modish sensibilities of the series into a striking kaleidoscopic dreamscape where editing and sound design play as integral a role as any of the main characters. And it’s especially a good sign when it all comes together this well.

The premise of ‘The Truth About Unicorns’ is fairly simple: Carrie is released from her 30-day sentence, stemming from last season’s brouhaha at the steel mill, and finds Hood (not her husband) waiting to take her back to Banshee. They stop for a bite to eat in a neighboring town; Carrie finds a unicorn lamp that Deva used to be fond of as a child; she and Hood flirtatiously case a jewelry store while snacking on some ice cream.

The idyllic scene serves as the first real moment they’ve had to try and pick up where they left off 15 years ago, but that moment is spoiled when Hood notices a suspicious car that’s been tailing them since they left the prison. Initially, it seems as though Hood’s paranoia gets the better of him, as it turns out the car belongs to a rather nondescript woman who is more than happy to have Hood help with her groceries. Upon that discovery, Hood takes Carrie on a “detour” to the a house he’d bought with the hope it might be enough for her to one day walk away from everything and possibly start over with him.

Their surprisingly chaste interlude is interrupted when Hood discovers Agent Racine hiding in the woods, hoping Carrie’s release from prison will lure Rabbit out of hiding. Things become slightly more complicated when, seconds after revealing his plan to bring down Carrie’s father (and that he knows the real Hood is dead), Racine takes a sniper’s bullet to the back of the head. A terrifically staged and filmed shootout later reveals the assassin to be none other than the grocery-carting woman from before.

Meanwhile, Hood and Carrie have no choice but to return to the reality of Banshee, as their dream of a quiet and blissful future together literally goes up in smoke.

Aside from the editing choices and Michael Mann-esque musical cues, what makes the episode so absorbing is how it presents Hood and Carrie with a persuasive “what if?” scenario, in which they briefly play out the fantasy where whoever Hood really is didn’t wind up incarcerated for 15 years, and Carrie didn’t marry Gordon Hopewell and start a family. We see a potential outcome for the would-be lovers that’s as dreamy as the structure of the episode (and the season) itself.

And yet, within that framework there emerges an important question: Would the Carrie and Hood be the contemplative individuals they are now if their circumstances before were sunnier?

So far this season, we’ve seen how Hood and Carrie are forced to deal with the ramifications of the lives they once led, and how that’s come back to threaten their future – since the present has them on a path they likely never though possible. But without going into some great detail about what we already know about Carrie (and hopefully will never know about Hood) the episode manages to tell the audience why that history has made them who they are now.

Rather than delve into the facts of the situation, writer John Romano (as well as the continually impressive performances by Antony Starr and Ivana Milicevic) manages to convey a convincing emotional connection with the characters’ loss of the previous 15 years, as well as the loss of the dream Rabbit’s assassin took from them.

It wouldn’t be ideal if every episode drew from the same creative well, but for an interlude that also acts as the bridge to the second half of the season, ‘The Truth About Unicorns’ is a welcome detour that offers some engaging insight into who Carrie and Hood are now and why they can’t leave Banshee, while accompanying that illumination with some visually and aurally compelling flourishes to help it all resonate a little bit more.

Banshee continues next Friday with ‘Armies of One’ @10pm on Cinemax.

Photos: Gregory Shummon/Cinemax