Spring 2013 Review: Banshee

3 May


I’ve been saying for a while now that soon all good shows will be on cable, and after watching Rectify and now Banshee on channels not known for their original programming, I think we may be getting closer and closer to this time.   I tend to come into cable shows with a little bit less knowledge than I have coming into broadcast shows, and that can be a treat sometimes.  I did see that Banshee is co-created by Jonathan Tropper, a novelist who I enjoy, so I was at least looking forward to the show based on that information.

After a super stylish chase sequence through New York City, it takes a little bit of time to figure out exactly what Banshee is about, but here’s the basics.  A con gets out of prison after fifteen years for participating in a diamond heist of a very prominent and dangerous criminal.  He seeks out the woman with whom he stole the diamonds, who did not get caught, and it turns out she’s living under a different name with two kids, married to a local small town central Pennsylvania district attorney.  She also doesn’t have the diamonds, she claims, because she was robbed when she tried to fence them.  Through a strange series of circumstances best learned through viewing, the protagonist has an opportunity to impersonate the new sheriff, who is coming to town all the way from Oregon because the mayor is worried about a more local sheriff being corrupted by the local man-who-runs-town figure.  This figure basically has his finger in every sinister soup going on throughout the county, and the young mayor is determined to actually stop him.  That’s more or less where we stand after one episode, with our primary outlaw now acting as law enforcement, while the overlord he originally stole from is still after him, while he has to concern himself with the local overlord, and hopefully figure out what ever happened to his girl and his diamonds.

The first show Banshee recalled to mind was Sons of Anarchy, as both are shows where sex and violence are on prominent display in a stylized manner, and outlaw protagonists in small towns where they’re a big deal battle up against other organized crime figures.  The towns are small enough that they live in their own bubbles where local power brokers can have an undue amount of influence.  While Sons of Anarchy feels country rock, Banshee feels industrial, and while this most obviously applies to the music, it also applies to the general feel.  Sons of  Anarchy is grindhouse rough and dirty, while Banshee is flashy and stylish.  Like Sons, Banshee seems like it may also be about at an attempt by a career criminal to walk some sort of moral middle ground (the main character was a theif, which is always the most redeemable of all serious criminals), but we don’t know how that will go just yet. It’s got some very unnecessary skinemax soft-core which maybe was demanded by the network, but at it’s heart its a very interesting concept which looks good, had some very fine action scenes, and definitely kept me on the edge of my seat.  It looks pretty, and it seems cool, and I mean that not just in the generic sense of “good” but in the sense of cool, edgy, hip, smooth, and I’m honestly not sure whether it’s trying to be a really interesting series or just a really aesthetically appealing and suspenseful one, but either way, there’s room on TV for it if it keeps up.  As a drama, there’s plenty of room for it to sink fast, but for some reason, maybe misguided, I’m at least optimistic that it should be a fun ride.

Will I watch it again?  Yes, I will.  It’s not quite in the Rectify or The Americans territory from the pilot, but sometimes the flash gets you.  It passed the test of once I finished one episode, I immediately wanted to see the second, which is definitely a large part of what a good pilot should do.  As alluded to above, it’s definitely yet another example of acable drama seeming a cut above the network variety.  This isn’t necessarily groundbreaking television, but it’s not exactly like every other show on TV, and it s seems to already have a sense of its own style, and I like it.

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