ANDREW JOHNSTONE wants you to go to your room, pull down the shades, and immerse yourself in the most excellent four seasons of a show that might appeal to Breaking Bad fans.
CAPSULE COMMENT: The Town of Banshee is under siege so they invite a Sheriff with a hard reputation to come and clean things up for them. An unfortunate run-in with some hoodlums on the edge of town sees Sheriff Hood’s journey cut short, but an ex-con with nothing to lose snatches up his identity and rides into town in his stead, and fun and games begin. For those of you who wondered how life might go on when Breaking Bad finished up, Banshee might just be your answer. Easily as preposterous and with a unique sensibility all its own, you have four delicious seasons awaiting your attention. Shut the door, pull the blinds and get viewing. It would have got a 10/10 rating but for the shaky dialogue in Season One and the spluttering nature of Season Four. Otherwise, it was perfect.
Banshee is preposterous, outrageous and requires the viewer to make great leaps in narrative logic, at least in Season One. By Season Two, the writers have gotten all the wooden one-liners and dubious narrative twists out of their system, and the series really starts to pump along.
Kiwi Anthony Starr (the identical twins from Outrageous Fortune) helms this European-style action series (think Leon The Professional, La Femme Nikita and The Transporter) set in a small Pennsylvania town that has employed a no-nonsense sheriff to take on the dark forces that are threatening the municipality’s social cohesion.
That sheriff, Lucas Hood, is shot and killed on the way to his new job and fortunately or not, Starr’s ex-con just happens to be standing sideline when it all goes down. With nothing to lose (having already lost everything that means anything) he impetuously steals Hood’s identity and strides into town like Clint Eastwood’s Pale Rider, a morally ambiguous figure beset by demons and looking to shoot and fight his way out of his predicament.
A man with no time for the pedantic aspects of law and procedure, this sheriff is Dirty Harry without the politics, an angry man on a mission he is not entirely certain of, but one that does include settling a score (or perhaps rekindling a flame) with his ex-lover and partner in crime who abandoned him years before in a heist gone wrong. Anastasia Rabitov/Carrie Hopewell has since found her way to Banshee and is now living the small town suburban dream, albeit one that is about to be shattered into a million pieces with Hood now muscling in on her territory.
Starr is aided by a first rate cast of sidekicks who can fight and shoot up a storm as required, much like the bad guys who are just about as perfectly bad as you might hope for. There is Kai Proctor the psychotic Amish butcher/ecstasy manufacturer with an industrial scale mincer that deals neatly with disobedient functionaries, miscreants and would be rivals. He is twisted all to hell, much like Rabbit, the revenge-obsessed Ukrainian gangster Hood tried to rip off years before. Rabbit is also the father of Hood’s ex-lover Anastasia, a scenario that makes for a family feud of Shakespearian proportions.
The passing parade of villains includes a gay albino gangbanger whose offer to Starr is simple: “Your life in return for a blowjob.” By this stage of the proceedings, the viewer knows Starr’s character well enough to understand that the outcome is not going to be good for the albino. And men, hang onto your ‘goonies’, these scenes are not for the faint of heart.
Starr is an inspired choice for the lead, a role that could have been played by any number of square-jawed American types, and while it takes him a while to properly nail the appropriate accent, he brings something decidedly un-American to the proceedings, offering the series a distinct but indefinable flavour that only adds to the positivity of the experience.
Otherwise, Sheriff Hood proves to be a magnet for the local ladies. Yes, Mr Starr’s chiseled body is displayed gratuitously as he pleasures the women lining up at his door, proving the maxim, at least in the eyes of the writers, that the ladies love a bad boy. Even better, a bad boy trying to be good; and he does try, as he tackles the endless stream of villains attracted to this erstwhile bucolic town. But let’s face it, he is neither this nor that, he is what he is and dang it for all his faults you can’t help but like the guy, and even his dubious and often outraged colleagues at the Banshee Sheriff’s department come around in the end.
Hood and Co rampage through seasons one to four with such intensity that sometimes I had to pause the action and go and do something else. I mean, there is only so much tension one person can take, and just as you think it’s safe to draw breath and relax, Hood’s best friend, a transsexual computer hacker named Job, is kidnapped in the closing moments of Season Three by persons unknown. “What are we going to do?” asks Sugar (Hood’s barman and sometime partner in crime) as he pours the sheriff another of the neat whiskeys he uses to take the edge off his sorrows. “I don’t know,” replies Hood, glowering into the bar, motioning for more booze while fingering his sidearm.
Season Four (The Search For Job) comes and goes in a blur tinged with sadness because this is the end. No more Brock Lotus (Hood’s dry, wry and pedantic deputy) and no more of the bad and coquettish Rebecca Bowman (Kai’s niece and lover – yes you heard me right). No more… well, it’s a long list. This was an inspired cast of crazies. For those of you who wondered how life might go on when Breaking Bad finished up, Banshee might just be your ticket. Easily as preposterous, with a unique sensibility all its own, you have four delicious seasons awaiting your attention. Shut the door, pull the blinds and get viewing. ANDREW JOHNSTONE
* View on Sky’s Neon.