[This is a review of Banshee season 3, episode 10. There will be SPOILERS.]
In three seasons, Banshee has found new and unique ways to balance the show's violence, its edginess, and its take-no-prisoners approach to storytelling with some larger, more intimate questions about relationships, loyalty, and above all else, identity. And in the enthralling and bloody season finale, 'We All Pay Eventually,' the series begins to peel away at the essence of its characters, hinting at a common thread between them all that may best be summed up in the words of Kurt Bunker when he says, "Putting on the uniform doesn't wipe the slate clean."
That uniform of course is whatever façade these characters use to pass for normal when they are anything but, and in a place where nothing normal ever seems to happen. Whether it is Sugar trying to pass for a humble barkeep, Carrie trying to be a waitress (and to a certain degree, a wife, a mother, and, well, Carrie), or Hood passing himself off as sheriff, Banshee has so many people pretending to be something or someone they're not it should be sponsored by Match.com.
Last season, it seemed as though the man calling himself Lucas Hood had begun to question whether or not a person could actually change, whether or not slipping into the blue uniform and pinning on that sheriff's badge might have prompted some fundamental alteration of his self. At the time, the question of "Who is Lucas Hood?" felt as though it was looking forward, as though the question should be rephrased as: "Where will this take Lucas Hood?"
At the time, the question carried with it a sense of opportunity, as though the door was open for Hood to wipe the slate clean and to finish what he started. But, as Bunker has to convince himself that he's a better person, so, too, does Hood, and season 3 delivered as many obstacles as it possibly could to derail that train of thought. And by the season's end, what's left is a lot like the man who wandered into Banshee three seasons ago, a man seemingly without an identity, a man looking for some kind of direction.
That's not necessarily surprising, given what Hood went through in these past 10 episodes. After being arrested by an ambitious FBI agent that sent him down the proverbial rabbit hole into a chaotic place of utter weirdness, Hood has been going non-stop, fighting his way through Chayton's siege on the Cadi, mourning the loss of Siobhan by getting lost in question of what could have been, pulling off a daring heist, and allowing himself to get lost in an incredibly satisfying downward spiral of revenge. So when 'We All Pay Eventually' set up the inevitable showdown between Hood's crew and Col. Stowe's band of thieving military men, it was just another day at the office.
What is surprising, then, is how the finale plays with the question of Hood's future by doing something it hasn't done before: It ventures back to the character's pre-Rabbit days, back to when he was just a young, insolent cadet with some anger issues – the perfect mixture of raw talent and even rawer emotion. An unformed piece of clay to be molded (and likely manipulated) by the enigmatic Dalton, who either listens to Hood's confession about killing his drunk and abusive father, or creates a work of fiction that a half-starved, dehydrated, and likely very open-to-suggestion young man eventually believes – making the idea of the character being a literal blank slate even more intriguing than it already was.
The Dalton scenes are all about potential and history. They show Hood's dramatic transformation with a startling economy. It takes just a few scenes that establish an outline of his past without revealing too much. It takes just a few short scenes to establish what may very well be a past that will come back to haunt Hood. But they also set up the idea that Banshee is a much larger story than one man's journey to recover his life after spending so much of it behind bars. And that's because the addition of Dalton expands the show's perimeters, establishing an entirely new set of circumstances before Hood ever set eyes on Rabbit or Anna.
Ultimately, what 'We All Pay Eventually' does is make the series premiere the starting point for a single story, contained within a much larger one that is now equipped to involve the entire ensemble. Which is good, as they prepare to embark on the next leg of their journey – the search for Job. There's no confirmation that Dalton is the guy behind Leo's decision to abduct his "golden ticket," but there's enough evidence in the flashbacks to suggest it's likely. And the battle between Hood's people and Col. Stowe's group acts as the perfect primer for what very well may be coming next.
And if the glory of the parallel action sequences featuring Hood's run on Camp Genoa and Kai's assault on Fraiser's compound is any indication, what comes next may be very big indeed.
What's remarkable about both the assaults isn't just how well the two scenes complement one another, thanks to some terrific editing. And it's not just how viscerally engaging both sequences happen to be, what with the explosion of Hood's truck rippling through the base's courtyard, sending gravel flying in slow motion, or the raw, bloody intensity of Kai's farewell to Fraiser. Instead, it's how well the series has learned to incorporate the many characters at its disposal, giving them all a moment to shine and making them feel like fully realized individuals with something at stake.
And it's all so energetic and engaging to boot. There's as much energy in the scene where Sugar, Job, and Carrie are bitterly trying to free one another, as there is when Hood and Gordon are storming the front gates (and the look on Carrie's face when Job breaks Sugar's thumb is just as entertaining as watching Gordon blow up a guard tower with a grenade). That's been the hallmark of Banshee season 3: the management of seemingly unlimited energy and potential. Even when the series slowed down to deal with the death of Siobhan, it did so without losing a step. In fact, the parallel "what if?" storyline rose to the occasion and made an elegiac hour into a poignant one that made sure to keep the ball rolling.
Such a sense of propulsion is evident throughout the finale, as well. Even though the season ends with Gordon's death, Bunker's torture at the hands of his brother, and Hood's apparent resignation, there is an even greater sense that this is more of a beginning than an ending. Hood may agree with Kai that being Sheriff never really suited him, and if that means the story is set to use new avenues with which to explore his inconstant identity, well, then, that will likely suit the series just fine.
Banshee will return for season 4 in 2016 on Cinemax.
Photos: Gregory Shummon/Cinemax