Catching Up With is a new, recurring feature to discuss big moments in shows we don’t recap weekly on Collider, but need to talk about.
Warning: if you aren’t caught up with Banshee through “Tribal,” proceed with caution! All episodes that have aired are fair game.
Let’s talk emotion and violence.
When I reviewed Banshee‘s third season for Collider a few weeks ago, I only had the first two episodes of the Cinemax series at my disposal. From what I saw, it seemed like Banshee was going to keep doing what it’s great at doing; mixing extreme violence with an emotional drama, but not (at that time) in any new way. The story had left Rabbit behind, and the war was now home in Banshee between Kai Proctor and the Redbones. The new mark for Lucas, Sugar, and Job seemed to be a cash-filled military compound guarded by mercs, which would presumably be ramping up the violence.
Starting with its third episode this season, though, Banshee began making some hard choices that really escalated the series on all fronts. Since those episodes, I’ve wanted to come back and write about it, lauding it for not just sticking with what it has always done well, but for raising its stakes to the highest possible level both physically and emotionally for its characters.
Banshee has always traded in brutal violence, but in “A Fixer of Sorts,” the fight between Nola and Burton was truly extreme in its visceral nature. It’s also probably one of the best, most horrific fight scenes that has ever aired. Though there had been some potential in a new bond between Nola and Carrie, that was eliminated after her brazen sparing with Burton, who she maimed deeply, and paid dearly for it.
But as is also typical of Banshee, Burton is not a one-dimensional figure. His flashbacks alluded to a torturous horror from his past, yet his character really gained depth in the way he flinched away from Emily when she came over to help sew him up after the fight.
The next week, in “Real Life is a Nightmare,” we saw the unexpected team of Burton and Rebecca connect to retaliate on the Redbones for the attack on Proctor’s night club. Though the fatal game of chicken, the car flips, and the ultimate explosion (and yet another gruesome death) were the fireworks of that interaction, the best moments were small: again, particularly when Burton reached up to hold on as Rebecca accelerated the car. He smiled. These two — one who has chosen to leave her humanity behind, and the other who had it beaten out of him — are in many ways even more terrifying than Chayton. They are the nihilists to Chayton’s violent passions.
Speaking of Chayton, of course, none of these themes came together in a more intense way than in “Tribal,” which was extremely focused on telling one particular narrative. There was plenty of violence — and a pile Redbones to show for it — which even included a machete and a crossbow alongside the more familiar gunfire of Banshee. But “Tribal” mostly played out in accordance to Banshee‘s moral code: those who are killed are part of the war. Innocents are usually safe. (In a recent example, for instance, how the secretary survived in the rig violence during “A Fixer of Sorts”). Major and even most minor characters aren’t usually in true mortal peril, either (not really), which is one reason why Nola’s death was so surprising.
Alongside this violence, though, plenty of character moments happened in “Tribal”: Lucas and Proctor came to their own understanding (which was great, I adore those two playing off of each other), while Lucas also came up against Brock (once again). The new neo-Nazi guy and Allison reached their own accord in order to survive. Billy Raven attempted to take his tribal punishment for killing Chayton’s brother Tommy, even though he had done so to save Siobhan’s life.
But ultimately, everything in Banshee returns to Lucas. Brock’s words to him that “everything you touch turns to blood” were so much more powerful coming on the heels of Lucas almost leaving town. He was trying to get out, to start again, and to maybe even do so with Siobhan. But Siobhan’s fate was sealed when she was bestowed with the knowledge of Lucas’ real name. It was too intimate, too much of an emotional breakthrough, to go forward unmatched by violence. Like last season when Lucas showed Carrie the house he bought fifteen years earlier where he hoped they could live together, the day ended with two murders. There is no escape.
Siobhan paid the price for Lucas’s fate, though, and OC Madsen‘s direction made the moment as excruciating as possible both for Lucas and viewers. Lucas had wanted to stay out of the war between the Redbones and Proctor, and Siobhan’s death has, narratively, set him on a new path of extremism (at least, it would seem from his dead-eyed stare to end the episode). But emotionally, it’s another blow for a character who so desperately wants to be someone who can be at peace. It’s that deep sadness, and the characters’ yearning for a true home (a theme that plays out in every storyline) that really drives Banshee. The pulp violence, the fight choreography and the notable cinematography are all secondary to that.
On Banshee, each writer/director pair do two back-to-back episodes at a time together, which means that this Friday’s “We Were All Someone Else Yesterday” is going to be a visual and narrative continuation of “Tribal.” Where it takes us, and Lucas, as it kicks off the back half the season is unknown. A good guess, though, is that it will be painfully engrossing.
Share your thoughts below on Banshee this season — the major fights, deaths, and what might come next.