[This is a review of Banshee season 4, episode 1. There will be SPOILERS.]
Banshee is the pulpiest series on television right now, and it’s certainly the pulpiest series that’s been on television in quite some time – its only real competition at the moment is maybe Sundance TV’s Hap and Leonard, but even that carries a slightly different almost whimsical tone – and so it seems fitting that the final season should bring some mystery to its proceedings. Mystery is nothing new for the show or its characters; after all, its protagonist, the very mysterious Lucas Hood (Antony Starr), is actually someone else. He’s a man with no name; a man with a past that may or may not involve a clandestine Special Forces group before it definitely involved being a thief and spending 15 years in a maximum-security lock-up. In other words, starting things off with a murder mystery and much larger-than-expected time jump isn’t necessarily the series walking into uncharted territory; it’s just the series taking a different route to get to a familiar place.
From the get-go ‘Something Out of the Bible’ exudes the weight of a final season, it oozes with the totality of the coming end. Everything old is new again and yet it also hangs heavy with portent. It is oddly perfect that Hood has been hiding out in a cabin on Proctor’s land for the past 18 months, presumably getting in touch with the man he really is, dealing with the consequences of his actions over the last three seasons, and maybe giving his liver time to recover after the Lethal Weapon-sized bender he went on after the search for Job (Hoon Lee) resulted in little more than the death of his former tormentor Dalton (David Harbour). It’s even more fitting that, in the time since Hood’s been gone, things in Banshee have changed dramatically – and not necessarily for the better.
With so many changes to address, the premiere spends the majority of its roughly 57-minute runtime explaining precisely what happened in the interim between season 3 and 4, but it does so in typical Banshee fashion. The result is an episode reminiscent of the series premiere where the circumstances of characters like Hood, Brock (Matt Servitto), Kai Proctor (Ulrich Thomsen), Carrie (Ivana Milicevic), and Sugar (Frankie Faison) have to be rediscovered by those watching – well, maybe not Sugar, who has gone back to slinging whiskey and the only real change he’s undertaken is the oddly prescient purchase of a vengeance mobile – i.e., any ’60s or ’70s model muscle car, preferably in black. But the changes all feel organic, like, if Banshee had picked up right from the moment Hood turned in his badge, the audience would have seen Carrie’s progression into a vigilante, stalking the streets of Banshee for men in need of a good beating. Following that line of thought, it makes sense, then, that Proctor would eventually seek power and become mayor, and his stranglehold over the region’s drug trade would inevitably mean falling in with a group of white supremacists run by Calvin (Chris Coy), the blowtorch-using brother of Deputy Kurt Bunker (Tom Pelphrey). It also makes sense that their brotherly squabble would not have abated in the time that has passed.
In a recent interview with series co-creator and executive producer Jonathan Tropper, he described the intertwining storylines as being part of the same system where they all eventually impact one another. This is certainly the case here, as the biggest bombshell of the hour is Rebecca (Lili Simmons) having been slain by an apparent serial killer who has chosen Banshee as his or her hunting ground. It’s hard to imagine Hood coming out of hiding – much less cutting off that majestic beard and flowing mountain man mane – for anything less than a personal vendetta, and as such, ‘Something Out of the Bible’ winds its way through the last 18 months not only reestablishing various narrative considerations, but also slowly revealing the underpinnings of Hood’s current motivation.
Amidst all the change and apparent disparity from the circumstances of the previous three seasons, Hood’s simple motivation is enough to bring the Banshee engine roaring back to life. Through the hour of crisscrossing timelines, past provocations, and pending reveals, the show quickly and economically establishes the conditions through which this final season will eventually unfold. And yet, somehow, ‘Something Out of the Bible’ plays exactly as you would expect an episode of Banshee to play. Director Ole Christian Madsen (Flame and Citron) uses what have become familiar, perhaps series defining elements of style to segue between timelines and to suggest their emotional connection with one another and the series as a whole. Each excursion venturing deeper into the recent past is tinted with a different filter, painting the scenes until they resemble the yellowing pages of a thumb-worn pulp novel. The effect of layering these moments atop one another takes the drudgery out of exposition while snipping or repositioning various loose threads in an effort to further tighten the season’s storyline.
If it felt as though the premiere left you with the unmistakable signs of whiplash, then the episode probably did its job very well. Deliberately setting out to put the series and its audience off balance as the narrative enters into its final eight-episode run risks alienating fans of the series for whom the comforts of consistency are paramount. But Banshee is nothing if not unpredictable when it comes to its unique storytelling approach. If stylistic, character-driven departures like the bottle episodes ‘The Truth About Unicorns‘ and ‘A Fixer of Sorts‘ are any indication, this series is uninterested in the notion of convention. Seeing how that impulsiveness manifests itself in the season 4 premiere makes for a welcome and unexpected turn that borders on volatility.
Still, there is a thrilling return to normalcy in the episode’s closing moments, one that demonstrates how all this change was an effort to establish a compelling narrative on which the series might reach a satisfying conclusion and less to swing a sledgehammer to bring it all crashing down. Once Hood is back to his old antics of knocking heads to get his answers all is well in Cinemax’s Banshee, even though things in the titular town couldn’t possibly be worse.
Banshee continues next Friday with ‘The Burden of Beauty’ @10pm on Cinemax.