[This is a review of Banshee season 3, episode 6. There will be SPOILERS.]
Perhaps saying appearances can be deceiving is too familiar a maxim, but in the case of Banshee it seems appropriate. What is at first glance one of the brawniest shows on television (what with its graphic, pulpy, almost gleefully in-your-face depictions of sex and violence), actually turns out to have the right stuff when it comes to depictions of heavier, more emotionally taxing events, like, say, the aftermath of what transpired in last week's shocking and brutal 'Tribal.'
It was a thrilling hour of television marked by two very different deaths that, regardless of their dissimilarities, had and will continue to have an enormous impact on the stories of Lucas Hood and Kai Proctor. The deaths of Siobhan Kelly and Laura Proctor were not just a turning point for the characters; they forced the season into a solemn tonal shift that has to juggle the difficult task of depicting mourning in a way that is believable (on a show that occasionally likes to dip its toe in fantastical waters), while also dealing with the necessary and on-target genre requirement of revenge.
It is no doubt a difficult balancing act, as the desire to see Hood take on Chayton in a battle of the Banshee tough guys has been touted since the phony sheriff and Redbone leader first threw down last season. But while the desire to literally cut to the chase is strong, the actual confrontation would be far less meaningful if the story didn't first address the monumental loss fueling this need for vengeance. The episode accomplishes this by shifting its focus inward, turning the physical intensity and aggression of the average episode into a depiction of the intense struggle against notions of guilt and ineffectualness haunting Hood's thoughts.
The episode takes a measured approach to burying Siobhan without undercutting the effectiveness of the moment. By keeping Hood in the car, removed from the ceremony, the physical distance allows for greater emotional proximity to Hood himself, as that portion of the story is told completely from his perspective. That intimate psychic distance makes the black-and-white "what if?" scenario running through his brain a powerful expression of the responsibility he feels for the events that have transpired.
As Hood recalls the moment he stepped into Sugar's bar, and the standoff between the real Lucas Hood and Proctor's goons who set the story of Banshee in motion, he shifts the narrative to one where the man of violent action secures a non-violent settlement. This sets in motion a new chain of events, one where the man who would be Hood doesn't enter the lives of everyone in Banshee, one where the nameless thief is just passing through. It's where Carrie is left to be with the family she built in the 15 years they were apart. And, it's one where Siobhan gets to make eyes with a stranger and live out the rest of her days doing who knows what, all because a man with no identity doesn't assume the one that will – in hindsight – bring about tremendous physical chaos and emotional devastation.
The notion of self-reflection and continued questioning of his identity is something the series does remarkably well – it's arguably one of the primary undercurrents of the entire narrative – but here, it's not concentrated entirely on Hood. While everyone else is gearing up to take down Chayton with the help of a very territorial FBI taskforce, Kai is undergoing something of an emotional transformation himself. And that transformation has a profound impact on Rebecca's position within Kai's criminal empire.
While Kai ends up in the arms of Emily Proctor, Rebecca is handling things at the strip club, firing insolent goons and throwing in a beating for good measure. She follows up that virtuoso performance with another, telling a prospective drug buyer that Kai Proctor does whatever he wants. And apparently, this new Kai Proctor adheres to the motto "the customer is always right," acquiescing to the man's demands, and admonishing Rebecca in the process.
But the aftermath of Rebecca's humiliation suggests an even deeper change in her uncle; one that may determine where his ultimately story goes. It is a gentler depiction of what has been up to this point a ruthless man. The effect of the death at the end of last week's episode has seemingly shifted Kai's perspective away from confrontation, bloody or otherwise, which is displayed in the mindful, caring attention he gives his niece – a far cry removed from the kind of attention she was being given at the beginning of the season.
By comparison, then, Hood is filled with rage – which makes sense, seeing as he has a physical being to focus his aggression upon. And focus that aggression he does, as Hood and Job make their way through Chayton's camp to find the slumbering giant and catch him unawares.
The final sequence unfolds by making great use of the unreleased tension of last week's episode. The knife buried in Chayton's leg works like a release valve to alleviate some of the pressure. But even the disturbingly long shot of Hood working the blade back and forth in his adversary's flesh feels like a paltry attempt to balance the scales. And the fact that Hood's vengeance is cut short and ultimately goes unfulfilled – due in part to an interruption by a fellow Redbone and Aimee's reluctance to take down someone who she may have seen as redeemable – makes the already immense pressure feel nearly unbearable.
In the end, 'We Were All Someone Else Yesterday' combines the two elements of grief and retribution into a potent episode that is smart about the physical punches it pulls. But the episode is even smarter about the emotional haymakers it throws – at the audience and at its characters – by refusing to let Hood and Kai off the hook for their actions and choices that have brought so much devastation so close to the place they call home.
Banshee continues next Friday with 'You Can't Hide From the Dead' @10pm on Cinemax.
Photos: Gregory Shummon/Cinemax
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