[This is a review of Banshee season 3, episode 4. There will be SPOILERS.]
It is kind of outlandish to think that an episode like 'Real Life Is the Nightmare' is what passes for taking a breather on Banshee, but here we are. After last week's tremendous effort sent Hood on a double road trip courtesy of the FBI and some very eccentric gangsters - and Burton and Nola Longshadow made sure no one ever looked at a Rolls Royce hood ornament the same way - the series earned a short moment to catch it's breath.
That's not to say those breaths were necessarily going to be relaxing. Last week's episode wasn't just a rollercoaster ride; it also saw fit to end on a cliffhanger that had no choice but to dramatically alter one of the series' key relationships. When Agent Philips took it upon himself to send Hood's file to the very same department he claims to be the sheriff of, it was clear nothing was ever going to be the same. And for the most part, that's true.
'Real Life Is the Nightmare' begins right where things left off, which is actually a surprising move, considering the hour could have played with the chronology of events and let the audience stew for a bit. Instead, an understandably angry and shaken Siobhan confronts Hood about the file she's in possession of. It's the kind of high stakes dramatic exchange that Banshee does quite well, but usually ends with body parts being literally ripped out. This time, the loss of essential organs is completely figurative.
This series has made a name for itself by being rough, violent, and at times irreverent, but that hasn't stopped Banshee from exploring the characters' humanity and their emotional frailty at times. And while Siobhan spends the majority of the episode off screen, her absence acts as the catalyst by which the tension in an otherwise broad narrative is ratcheted up to almost unbearable levels.
The fallout from this tension is primarily explored through the mask of soul-deep disquiet Antony Starr wears as Hood continues to go about his business, wondering if this will be his last day in the not-so sleepy little hamlet. As Hood's day unfolds, it becomes clear how thoroughly he's assumed his identity and how, through his deception and malfeasance, he has somehow – and quite inadvertently – managed to build a life for himself in Banshee, one that he may be reluctant to leave behind.
In a sense, Hood's a lot like Robert De Niro's Neil McCauley in Heat; he lives his life by a code that says, "Don't keep anything in your life you're not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner." Or at least that's close to the code Hood seemed to be living by when he first entered Banshee, before he became Lucas Hood and learned something about himself in the process.
Why else would he live in Sugar's garage, amongst all of Sugar's old, dusty keepsakes? He's stashed himself away, literally living amongst the memories of another man, while wearing the name and badge of yet another. Now, Hood has things of his own; he has a daughter, a love interest, and a job he's surprisingly good at (when he's not planning multi-million dollar heists of decommissioned military bases). After spending the last 15 years behind bars, why wouldn't he want to build a life for himself?
While Hood's crisis is building, 'Real Life Is the Nightmare' takes two distinct detours that keep the episode going at an entertaining clip. First, Burton and Rebecca spend the day together, tailing two Redbone soldiers after they pick up Tommy's body from the morgue. The comicality of watching such a mismatched partnership isn't too far removed from watching Job and Sugar as they implement the various stages of the heist they're about to pull off.
It's not terribly essential to the plot, and it doesn't reveal anything truly substantial about the characters. Instead, it's just fun to see these odd couples paired with one another – especially when they work as a solid unit. Sometimes that means Sugar has to go after a security guard with a mop handle, and sometimes that means Burton gets to don a wry smile, as his boss's niece plays a deadly game of chicken with two of Chayton Littlestone's men.
Meanwhile, Carrie finds herself in the middle of an existential crisis that reflects Hood's own issues with identity. Carrie's secret is out, and still she's not entirely the person she wants to be. So she willfully throws her new self to the wind and, in response, steals a handsy biker's wheels, and leads a cop on a finger-flipping chase on the outskirts of town. Her need to break free from routine is juxtaposed with Hood's conceivable exile from it, proving that the real lives they've both assumed can sometimes be as much of a prison as the one Hood walked out of not too long ago.
But Hood's not one to walk away from something he's started, which is why he heads to Proctor's strip club and attempts to finish what he started. The ensuing fight is more symbolic than anything – at least it is for Hood, as he takes his frustrations with the truth out on Kai's face. But the beating and Proctor's subsequent arrest don't do much to address the reality of the situation, instead they ostensibly make it worse, as Siobhan tells Hood his secret is safe, but his job isn't.
But with Chayton's army storming the "Cadi," maybe Siobhan will think twice about that decision.
Banshee continues next Friday with 'Tribal' @10pm on Cinemax.
Photos: Gregory Shummon/Cinemax
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