[This is a review of Banshee season 3, episode 5. There will be SPOILERS.]
For the second season in a row, Banshee has used the season's halfway mark (episode 5) to turn in a powerful and exhilarating hour of television. (Which is reminiscent of Starz's Spartacus, another underrated pulp-driven series that consistently turned in tremendous fifth episodes.) Last season brought us 'The Truth About Unicorns,' a dreamlike excursion into what could've been.
This time around, 'Tribal' delivers Hood and the rest of the Banshee Sheriff's Department into a waking nightmare, as Chayton Littlestone and his Redbone followers lay siege to the "Cadi" in retaliation for Tommy's death at the hands of Billy Raven, which Chayton vowed revenge for during last week's rather prophetically titled episode, 'Real Life Is the Nightmare.'
Whereas 'Unicorns' was a bottle episode, right up until the dream ended and Agent Racine met his untimely end, the action this week feels directly tied to how the rest of the season will play out. Both because Chayton has been billed as the primary baddie (with Col. Stowe playing backup) and because of the major character death that takes place in the final moments, an act that will undoubtedly set the course for Hood's character for the remainder of the season. That event, of course, is Siobhan's murder, quite literally at the hands of Chayton.
'Tribal' begins with flashbacks of Hood asking Siobhan if she thinks people are actually capable of change. Siobhan, for her part, answers that people don't change so much as they evolve. This conversation took place in season 2, and it was the beginning of a turning point for the man calling himself Lucas Hood. But instead of simply reminding viewers of a previous conversation, the flashbacks are marked by the presence of flying debris, an indication that, in the increasingly inimitable style of Banshee, Hood and Siobhan's dialogue will have some implication with the catastrophic collision that lies ahead.
So far this season, Chayton Littlestone has mostly existed as an off-screen threat, sermonizing to those who will listen or have made the mistake of trying to talk him out of waging a war with Hood, Proctor, and the rest of Banshee. His involvement in the gun heist during the season premiere played into the show's pulpiness, as the exaggeration of the character had seemingly set the tone for season 3. And yet, as 'Tribal' demonstrates, there's always room for more. Here, Chayton's status is amplified to such a gloriously extreme level – aided as much by the dynamic nature of his face and body paint as it is by Geno Segers' booming voice – the episode should come with a disclaimer for those about to consume it.
As is usually the case in the hero's journey, Chayton's murderous victory becomes a defining moment for the hero, one of the many trials he will have to overcome in order to begin his conversion. This portion of the hero's journey is especially apt in this case, as it ties directly into the notion of Hood's transformation; the evolution of the self that Siobhan suggested was not only possible, but also necessary. The only difference is that, in Hood's case, the change is ostensibly greater, considering the position from which he began his passage from one state of being to the next.
But the question asked throughout each of the brilliantly staged action sequences is whether or not Hood even qualifies as a contender for hero status. When those locked in the "Cadi" are faced with the inevitability of the Redbones breaking in, and Hood has armed Proctor as way of improving their odds, tensions predictably flare, resulting in Brock telling the sheriff: "Everything you touch turns to blood." The thing is: Brock's not wrong, but maybe that's what passes for a hero in a place like Banshee or a time like now.
Because of Hood's questionable status as a hero, and especially because of his status as a man whose identity is in flux, Kurt Bunker (Tom Pelphrey) becomes an unlikely kindred spirit. The similarities in their pursuit of transformation is not only a means by which Banshee underlines the possibility of change. The extremely unsavory nature of Bunker's appearance, when measured against his willingness to protect those inside the station, becomes a significant element by which Hood is allowed to believe transformation is a possibility. Whether he is still interested in evolving in the wake of Siobhan's death is the next question for the show to tackle.
Whatever comes of Hood's journey, 'Tribal' will likely stand as a major turning point in the series. That statement isn't merely applicable to the narrative, nor is it a result of the series' willingness to kill off a major character (farewell Trieste Kelly Dunn, you will be missed), especially after she learns Hood's real name. The episode is a model of how tension and emotion (like the passing of Kai's mother), when balanced with high-stakes action, can deliver a remarkable product. As an example of what Banshee is capable of – in terms of producing spectacle that exists on the small scale but feels infinitely bigger – the episode has significantly raised the bar for the series as a whole.
Banshee continues next Friday with 'We Were All Someone Else Yesterday' @10pm on Cinemax.
Photos: Gregory Shummon/Cinemax