Banshee, Noir Among the Amish, more Guilty Pleasure TV


I just finished watching Cinemax’s TV series Banshee (created by Alan Ball of True Blood fame) and boy was it a fun ride and a new addition to my list of guilty pleasure TV. It is a modern noir tale set in Pennsylvania Amish country.

We first meet our unnamed protagonist (Antony Starr) as he re-enters the world after a  15 year stint in the joint for armed robbery. He crosses paths with Lucas Hood, a man en route to begin as the new sheriff in the town of Banshee. And in pulp fiction fashion, circumstances arise affording our protagonist the opportunity to adopt the identity of Lucas Hood. That is mighty convenient as his ex-girlfriend Anna (Ivana Milicevic) and partner in crime has made a new life for herself (now called Carrie) as the wife of the district attorney of Banshee.

Our protagonist, not-Lucas Hood, wants the loot and he wants her back. Why shouldn’t he? He took the fall for her; she owes him. But 15 years is a life time ago and she has moved on with a husband and 2 kids. What a tangled web of lies he weaves, impersonating a law man and trying to get his due. To make matters more interesting, he goes toe to toe with Kai Procter (Ulrich Thomsen), the local crime boss of Amish extraction. Procter has his own troubles with the local First Nations people and their control over a new casino. With the help of an old friend, cross-dressing Job (Hoon Lee) and a new one, Sugar Bates (Frankie Faison), not-Lucas manages to hold his own in this snake pit of a town. It is super pulpy fun watching not-Lucas Hood administer his own brand of justice, much to the horror of his deputies. For a while he manages this, until the past comes back to haunt him. The Ukrainian-speaking crime-lord (Ben Cross) whom he double crossed years ago manages to track him down, and boy is he pissed off.

Because this is a Cinemax production, it goes without saying that this is an adult oriented show with plenty of nudity, sexuality, language and violence. It is a straight up serialized drama with snappy comebacks from Job (reminiscent of Lafayette in True Blood) as the only source of levity. The acting in this series is better than the writing calls for (the writing is not bad). Kiwi lead Antony Starr as not-Lucas Hood has plenty of charisma, great emotional range and good chemistry with femme fatale Ivana Milicevic. Not-Lucas Hood is not an intelligent man; he is a scrapper who is guided by passion, impulse loyalty and gut. Anna/Carrie is not your typical soccer mom. She is ready to kick butt when her past inevitably catches up. She is impressive as a not-damsel-in- distress, fighting tooth and nail to save her family. As a woman torn between her past and her present, Milicevic is very convincing in her emotional confliction.

The writers are deft at fleshing out the main characters via their actions and interactions in the present and the past. I really enjoy the flasback sequences. This makes engrossing TV. The writers manage to weave good characterization of the leads in conjunction with the conflict of the week. One of my biggest complaints is that we learn next to nothing about the strong supporting characters. But with a 10 episode series, there is judicious use of screen time. Perhaps we will learn more in season 2? I really hope so, because that is the part I enjoy most and this makes it easier to suspend my disbelief at some of the silliness that serves the plot. The producers are savvy to this and as partial compensation there are 13 short webisodes which you can find at this link Banshee Origins. The other complaint is that the resolution of the main conflict was something I had seen before and thought was a bit of a cop out. But it also leads to further questions to answer for in Season 2. The end result is a coherent, if somewhat predicatable season long arc, which is noir pulp fiction at its best. It has been renewed for a second season. I am looking forward to it and hope it can sustain the noir intrigue without becoming too repetitive.

In the meantime, I will just enjoy the super awesome Banshee opening credit sequence, which hasn’t gotten old yet (as some of the images change from week to week) and completely captures the spirit of the show.

As an aside, I have been recording Being Human (US) season 3 but cannot find the desire to watch it. The last season was ok but the hiatus was long enough to make it a faded memory. It may be the next show to be culled. Or I may hang onto it for the summer slowdown. What I really need is someone to convince me to pick this one up again. It has been dropped by the TV club recappers (never a good sign) and there is nothing in the reader comments to compel me to continue. Anyone? Anyone?


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