People often forget about Banshee, nestled quietly as it is in the far reaches of the cable dial on Cinemax. During its run (which now concludes with this fourth season), Banshee has been many things, and explored many facets of the surprisingly violent hamlet of Banshee, Pennsylvania. Though the show originally focused on ties between the Amish community and the town, it’s since expanded to include a local Native American reservation, Russian mobsters, government black sites, neo-Nazis, and now, meth-peddling hill people.
But at its core, Banshee has never really changed. It’s always been the story of a man without a name, who instead takes one off of a dead Sheriff to be called Lucas Hood (Antony Starr). Banshee is a story of identity, and Hood masquerading as a police officer when he’s really a criminal is just one of the show’s many explorations of that conflict. It plays out in the story of every character: men and women who are running from their past, or just discovering it, or coming to terms with who they are versus who they want (or who others want them) to be. Are they good? Bad? Or how do they justify their actions to their families, their society, themselves?
In its final chapter, Banshee makes a two-year time jump that serves as a kind of reset. But, it also brings together the show’s many disparate parts. Perhaps fittingly for a show in its twilight, the tone is of mourning (at least in these first three episodes). Hood is fully feeling the weight of Gordon’s (Rus Blackwell) death, of Job’s (Hoon Lee) adduction, of the strained relationship with his daughter (Ryann Shane), and of the death of Siobhan (Trieste Kelly Dunn). Those ghosts haunt him mightily, until Rebecca (Lili Simmons) unexpectedly comes to rescue him. Rebecca has often been one of the major points of connection between Hood and her powerful uncle, Kai Proctor (Ulrich Thomsen), but in the new season, that becomes the driving narrative.
Viewers will find the settings in Banshee changed after the time jump, but the relationships remain the same. Brock (Matt Servitto) is now the Sheriff he always intended to be, with Kai serving as the mayor. Carrie (Ivana Milicevic) has moved to a secluded house that she’s renovating to keep her mind off of her personal grief (while doing some vigilante work at night) and Sugar (Frankie Faison) is still at his bar, the gang’s meeting place. But Banshee now has a serial killer to contend with, one who may or may not be connected to the neo-Nazi group led by Calvin Bunker (Chris Coy), who has a connection to Kai and many other familiar faces through the drug trade (and remember, of course, that his reformed brother Kurt — Tom Pelphrey — is on the police force).
Per usual, Banshee’s story is full of twists and unexpected connections, as well as its telltale brutal violence. In a sick streak of creativity, the show continues to find new, gruesome ways to kill people, and engages in what might well be considered torture porn. But the show’s better moments are its heists, chase scenes, and the strategies concocted to ensure Hood & company always come out on top. Even when they are in trouble, or grieving, or set back to square one, they remain alive. And on this series, that is no small feat.
But it’s important to note that Banshee earns its emotional moments, too. The sepia-splashed flashbacks may add context to the story, but certain reunions, revelations, and connections made are powerful because the show has laid so much groundwork with its character development alongside the action and plotting. One of the most interesting relationships has been the one between Hood and Kai. Often enemies, they also have a history of helping one another, and their interactions are some of the series’ best. When it comes to the serial killer, both men become suspects as their connection continues, likely culminating (knowing this series) in some fantastic payoff. (Brock adds a small bit of humor that highlights that when he, Kai, and Hood are all standing together along a riverbank. “Just like old times!” he says. “Except nobody’s bleeding. Yet.”)
The bottom line is that Banshee is both the same as it ever was and full of new purpose. The serial killer, and Hood’s search for the truth (as well as his search for Job) ties together a lot of elements from the show’s earlier seasons in ways that should be satisfying for long-time fans. It’s not easy to say goodbye to a show that has made such a distinctive imprint, but Banshee seems to be taking to heart a paraphrase of Neil Young’s words: it’s better to burn up than to fade away.
Rating: ★★★★ Very good — Damn fine television
Banshee returns to Cinemax Friday, April 1st (and that is no joke).