The Cinemax series Banshee is currently in its fourth and final season, and ex-con and master thief Lucas Hood (Antony Starr) has found himself immersed in a new crisis, involving a vicious serial murderer. After having cut himself off from everyone and everything for two years, Hood returns to find a very different Banshee than he left, and the friends he turned his back on may not be so welcoming about having him back.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, showrunner Jonathan Tropper talked about focusing on character moments in the final season, why they’re ending the show with four seasons, why Lucas Hood is a man without a name, how the serial killer storyline came about, Job and Lucas’ friendship, Kai Proctor’s need for control, storyline regrets, the show’s hardest death, and what he’s most proud of with the show. He also talked about his next show for Cinemax, called Warrior, which is about the Tong Wars in 1870s Chinatown in San Francisco. Be aware that there are some spoilers.
Collider: Knowing that this was the last season of the show, did you look back on previous seasons to find a way to tie everything together, or did you not approach it that way?
JONATHAN TROPPER: No, we didn’t look back, except to say that Season 3 had been the ultimate action season, so I didn’t want to spend Season 4 trying to top Season 3. Season 4 was more about hard, brutal moments and character moments. We’d already spent 30 episodes with these people, and now it was time to really see where this all unwinds. So, I think Season 4 is a more tense season, a more suspenseful season, and a more character-driven season. We certainly have some action sequences, but there’s less of a focus on building out those action sequences.
What made four seasons the right end point for this show, and what made eight episodes the right number for this season? Is that just what you needed to tell this particular story?
TROPPER: The fourth season being the last season was a combination of factors. I was always upset when shows I loved stuck around too long and starting generating extra plot. Once we ended Season 3 and Lucas Hood was basically no longer the sheriff, the premise of the show was about a fake sheriff, so going on for many more seasons, it would have been ridiculous for him to become the sheriff again. The town itself might have had plenty of stories to tell, but it felt like the story of Lucas Hood was coming to an end. All the pitches we came up with, for how to extend that, felt like, “Well, maybe that’s cool, but that’s a different show.” The move to Lucas’ post-sheriff life was the beginning of the end. It was the beginning of the conclusion, and trying to have a conclusion for two seasons, it felt like we would lose some of the immediacy of the storytelling. And ending with eight episodes was really a financial decision. We have a finite amount of money. To have done ten episodes at that budget, we would not have been able to deliver the action we wanted to deliver, and we wouldn’t have been able to deliver the depth of episodes that we’re accustomed to doing. So, we decided to do eight episodes and make them really rich.
Will we continue to learn about Lucas Hood’s backstory?
TROPPER: We’ve been teasing out his backstory for the entire show, but the whole idea is that he’s never really been anyone. He spent his formative years in prison and, before that, he just kept changing who he was. The whole show is about him trying to figure out who he is. The first thing he did when he got out of prison is become someone else he isn’t. At what point does this guy actually figure out who he is? He runs around like a tough guy and like he knows what he’s doing, but when you strip away all the action, when he’s not acting, he doesn’t know who he is.
Executive Producer Greg Yaitanes has said that Lucas Hood’s last name would likely be revealed in the series finale, otherwise the show would be over, if people knew exactly who he was. Now that the series finale is happening, will we actually learn that, or has the show moved past that mattering anymore?
TROPPER: To be honest, I’m not sure there’s any name that people will hear that, on some level, won’t be disappointing. I’m not saying we don’t and I’m not saying we do, but I don’t think it’s a big deal. The whole essence of Lucas Hood is that, whether or not he has a real name, it doesn’t match a real person. He’s a man without a name, and my inclination is to keep him that way.
From the beginning, did you have a name for him that you just never told anybody?
TROPPER: No, we never had a name. To me, he was always the man with no name.
What led you to this serial killer story for the last season?
TROPPER: It was a combination of factors, but for the most part, it really came out of Brock’s storyline. After three years of watching Brock suffer, Brock finally has the gig, so we wanted a “be careful what you wish for” situation. The minute he gets the gig and becomes the sheriff, he faces the worst possible situation he could possibly face. So, that storyline was born out of that, and out of having to put Brock and the Banshee sheriff department to the test. He’s wanted this for so long, and now that he’s gotten it, it’s immediately out of control. In order for Brock to really handle this situation, he’s going to gradually realize – and maybe not consciously or stated – that he actually learned a lot from Lucas. He hated the way Lucas did his police work, but desperate times sometimes call for desperate measures. That whole storyline was about Brock getting the job and realizes that, if he tries to do the job the way he imagines it should be done, he’s not going to get it done. One of the things we love to do is create unexpected bed fellows, and the serial killer did that. It caused some alliances that you never would have expected. It brought together Lucas and Proctor, in a certain way. It brought together Brock and Lucas, in a certain way. It allowed us to bring in a new FBI agent, which is always a problem for Lucas. The serial killer is a great device that was able to spin the dial on all of our characters, but at the same time, we’re not going to just have people dying and forget about it. We wanted to make sure that story went somewhere.
What were you hoping to achieve by bringing in Agent Veronica Dawson?
TROPPER: We wanted somebody who could really hold her own with Lucas Hood, so Veronica Dawson actually does have the badge and is a true FBI agent, but at the same time, has the same disregard for rules and protocol as Lucas does and is every bit as ballsy as he is. She’s both an ally and a nemesis to him, in that he can’t go through her and he can’t get around her, so he has to work with her. At the same time, she’s a threat to his identity. A nemesis doesn’t always have to be a bad guy. We wanted somebody to come in for a reason that Lucas actually supports, but at the same time, presents a lot of different problems to him.
It’s interesting to see someone like Lucas Hood snap to the point where he can’t deal with anything and he disappears for a bit. Was that something you saw as having built up over time?
TROPPER: I think there’s been a cumulative weight on his shoulders, of all the damage he’s done and all the people he’s lost. I think the combination of losing Siobhan, and then losing Job was the one-two punch. He felt like everything he touches gets destroyed. Losing Job and being unable to find him just put him over the edge. He was already grieving Siobhan, and then he lost Job and it was his responsibility, and that put him over the top.
Job and Lucas’ friendship has been seriously tested. Can they ever fully repair that bond?
TROPPER: I think their friendship is a long-standing and deep friendship, and probably is the only true friendship that each has. There’s probably a tremendous amount of redemption in Lucas being able to rescue Job. I think Job and Lucas are both the type who, at some point, aren’t interested in holding a grudge.
How deeply has Carrie been affected by everything?
TROPPER: One of the concepts we had, from the first episode of this show, was that no one gets to ride off into the sunset here. These people are doing bad things. Even the heroes on our show are doing bad things. They’re lying to people. They’re compromising the police department. Carrie lied to her whole family. They’ve done terrible things and people have died because of them, so they don’t get to just shrug it off. Nobody gets out of this unscathed. All of these events might bring them closer, in certain ways, but nobody gets to ride off into the sunset, really.
Does being mayor help Proctor feel freer than ever to do what he wants, or does he have an even bigger target on his back because of it?
TROPPER: Proctor’s ascension to mayor was part of a very strategic plan he had to get control over law enforcement because getting control over law enforcement enables him to build his business and to demonstrate to the criminal forces that he’s dealing with outside of Banshee that Banshee is a safe haven for that. It’s a ballsy move, but it’s Proctor’s ultimate move to get control of law enforcement. He used to buy off the sheriff, but that didn’t work with Lucas and it’s not going to work with Brock. So, he’s done everything he can to rule over the police, in order to maintain a safe haven for his drug trafficking.
Bunker has been such an interesting character to watch, with his history and where he is now. Had you always planned on making that character such a sympathetic character that people would be rooting for?
TROPPER: We planned that from the minute we introduced the character. Everything about Banshee is what lies beneath, and he’s no exception. We had a police department that used to be a used car dealership. We have a cop that used to be a criminal. We have a gangster that used to be an Amish person. Everything used to be something else, and certainly Bunker used to be something else. He just thematically fit in. But the whole goal is that, in the same way we get you to root for people who do reprehensible things, we wanted to see if we could get you rooting for somebody who, on the surface, it seems you absolutely shouldn’t root for, and yet there’s something in there. There’s obviously a good heart there. He’s somebody who is trying to make up for his past. To me, that’s just a very compelling character, and that was always the plan for him.
Did you ever have a storyline regret with this show?
TROPPER: There were a lot of stories we didn’t get to tell. Ten episodes a season is not a lot of real estate. We had a lot of plans for Deva that we never really got to realize. We actually had a whole storyline for Burton that we never found the real estate for. We had a bunch of that. I don’t have storylines that I regret. The execution of one or two, I might regret. Also, there are deaths of a few characters that, in retrospect, I wish we hadn’t killed. But no, I don’t regret any stories we told. There were a handful that we dreamed up in the writers’ room that we never got to tell, starting in Season 1, where we had way too ambitious a plan for the first season and some of the storylines did not make it through. I think that’s probably the case in most writers’ rooms.
Is the hardest death that you had on this show one that we’ve already seen, or is it one that’s still to come?
TROPPER: People still seem to be rocked about Siobhan’s death. I still get a lot of Twitter hate about it. That was the mid-point of our show. It was a turning point for Lucas, and it was a turning point for the show. I don’t think there is any death that will resound as powerfully as that one did.
Looking back on the run of the series and everything you were able to accomplish with it, what are you most proud of?
TROPPER: I’m just proud that we got a show on the air when there was no precedent for this kind of show. We pitched a show that didn’t resemble any other show, and then we executed the show in a way that it didn’t resemble any other show. On paper, this show sounded pretty insane. We somehow convinced the guys at Cinemax to let us do it, and they let us do it without really messing with it. We had a show that, in a million years, couldn’t show up on a broadcast network, and hadn’t even shown up on any of the premium networks. In the four years since, you do see a lot of other shows like that starting to happen, but I really do think that we put the kind of show on the air, with the cinematic storytelling and action that we were doing, and the kind of heightened pulp, that really carved its own niche and hadn’t been on the air before. I’m really proud of that. I don’t think I could have even done the show that I’m doing now for Cinemax, if Banshee hadn’t come first.
And what is that new show you’re doing for Cinemax?
TROPPER: Right now, it’s called Warrior, and it’s about the Tong Wars in 1870s Chinatown in San Francisco, and a martial arts prodigy who comes over from China and gets sucked up into the Tong Wars in Chinatown. It’s something I’m doing with Justin Lin. It’s an action-oriented show, but it’s also a period piece. We’re doing it with the Bruce Lee estate, as well, so we’re channeling some of Bruce Lee into. It’s a historical martial arts pulp show that I don’t think we could be doing, if Banshee hadn’t come first.
Banshee airs on Friday nights on Cinemax.