[This is a review of Banshee season 2, episode 2. There will be SPOILERS.]
Any time a series operates slightly outside the boundaries of reality – no matter how grounded it actually is most of the time – the creation and/or acknowledgement of a legend, or use of an allegorical account as a parallel for the show's own stylized universe can sometimes make the narrative a little more palatable. And in regard to the somewhat heightened nature of Banshee, the addition of such stories generates a notion of self-awareness, or the idea that the show and its creators are not only conscious of the fact they're building a legend within a legend, but they're wholly embracing the idea.
Viewers of the series already know that there's something going on with Banshee beyond its over-the-top violence, scenery-chewing villains, and the copious amount of women its protagonist Lucas Hood seems to find in his bed. The town is a weird place; it's a hotbed for the unusual, a place where the normal rules of society don't necessarily apply and the fewer questions that wind up being asked the better. And as such, the town (and the show) merits its own legends to mythologize the characters to a certain degree, without entirely taking them out of reality. Essentially, the show is merely stating: Accept this or don't, but these are basically the rules we're playing by.
With that in place, what makes 'The Thunder Man' so much fun is not only how it jumps from one extended and brutal fight sequence to the next – without making it feel like they over did it – but also how the legend of the Thunder Man acts as a thematic bridge across the various plots seen here. The episode is so loaded with the show's brand of uniquely stylized violence, it almost feels like the true commencement of season 2, especially after last week's 'Little Fish' spent most of its time setting the table and wrapping up some of the lingering questions from season 1.
Here, 'The Thunder Man' works to escalate everything the premiere was hinting at. From Alex's bombing of Proctor's cattle, to Nola's throttling of three assault-minded marines and her subsequent kidnapping of Rebecca, to the lengthy storming of the Kinaho casino by Hood, the episode makes the premiere look subdued by comparison. And that's not even taking into account Carrie's first day in prison ends with her tossing another inmate around the cafeteria and beating her to a bloody pulp. Meanwhile, Siobahn has to deal with an abusive ex-husband who is not nearly as rehabilitated as he claims to be. To his credit, episode director and series showrunner Greg Yaitanes handles Carrie and Siobahn's scenes with the same steady hand as he does Hood's seemingly impossible confrontation with a gaggle of security guards before locating Rebecca earlier in the episode. All of this is, in effect, another way of setting the series' ground rules in terms of how it plans to treat characters equally, and for the most part, it works.
In the end, as much as 'Little Fish' arranged the pieces on the board, 'The Thunder Man' was getting to see them in action, and in doing so, showing that there's a little bit of that "prodigious lover" and the "fiercest warrior" in just about everyone in Banshee.
Banshee continues next Friday with 'The Warrior Class' @10pm on Cinemax.
Photos: Gregory Shummon/Cinemax