When I Got Hooked On Banshee

Meet The New BossBloodied and beaten to a pulp, a sheriff tells his deputy, “Meet The New Boss” before exiting the casino. This was the moment I got hooked on Cinemax’s Banshee, a TV series that has grown in popularity during its third season, which climaxed Friday night in a hail of gunfire but ended on a quieter note between two men who aren’t that different from each other. Seeing Kai Proctor(Ulrich Thomsen) and Lucas Hood(Antony Starr) come to a healthy understanding of each other was shocking, especially to the guy who can describe the real moment they became sworn enemies.The end to Season 3 made me think about that time, long ago, when this was just another show and I was only a mere fan.  Let’s take a ride back in time real quick.

The third episode of Season 1, titled “Meet the New Boss”, was the hour that officially tied me to the wagon, got me on twitter talking to the cast and really immersed me in the mythology that this show was going after. The episode didn’t end with some massive monologue or big poetic line, but a bloody man collapsed and hanging on the ledge of a bar. The entire hour was built around the idea that an MMA superstar was in town to fight at the casino, and it was supposed to be a huge money maker for Proctor, an Amish crime lord who loomed over the town wearing the “Don’t Fuck With Me” sign and “I can buy your morality” glare to go with it. He ruled and every sheriff had knelt at his feet or died trying. Until Lucas Hood came along.

Forget the fact that his name really isn’t Lucas Hood, and that it’s merely the latest name this mysterious, quiet and deadly loner has picked up in his tornado shit smashing storm of a life. Forget the fact that five into his first stop in town at the Forge, he got into a fight and watched the real sheriff die. Forget the fact that the man took Hood’s identity permanently due to his good friend, Job, who happened to design every computer software in the world. Forget all of that. In this episode, Hood made a choice to do something righteous. Something that wasn’t born out of greed, getting ahead or a survival tactic.

During the episode, the MMA star, Damien Sanchez, is revealed to be a drug addict, rough sex ambassador and an abusive man. He destroys a waitress who works at the casino and damages her in more ways than one. Hood takes exception to this. Banshee has always carried elements from westerns and action films. The hero must meet his enemy early on and be taunted. This makes their eventual scrap that much juicier and sexier. Their duel was set up earlier in the hour, when Sanchez challenged Hood to a little “exhibition”, a tangle that the sheriff declined. He didn’t have a reason to then. He was still completing his immersion into Sheriff Lucas Hood. The fight is huge for Proctor, the Kinaho tribe leader that he is building a hotel with, and could mean a lot for the town when it comes to shady illegal moneymaking. Suffice it to say, when Hood shows up during a promotional event for the fight, a lot is on the line.

The deputy, Siobhan Kelly(the beautiful and strong Trieste Kelly Dunn) doesn’t think much of this new sheriff. He doesn’t do anything by the book, carries a loner mentality and hates authority. When Hood initially thinks about doing nothing, Siobhan mutters in Hood’s ear something like, “Just like any other sheriff”. Right then, Hood makes that final decision to take this guy down, using the same playbook rejection tools he’s brandished since riding into town. Hood heads for the ring, and immediately dispatches a bodyguard with a pair of stiff shots to the face, one up and one across the cheek. If Banshee hadn’t hooked you by now folks, this fight and the faceoff afterwards was going to lock you in and clear your docket on Friday nights.

It begins with a plain statement, “You’re under arrest, for rape and aggravated assault” Hood warns Sanchez. On a normal show like Law and Order, the soundtrack theme judge hammer slam would occur and a commercial would start. Not on Banshee. On this show, all hell breaks loose right when viewers think a breather is in order. With all due respect(Bunker Special), Hood doesn’t want Sanchez to accept the arrest and get in a police car. Hood wants to damage this guy, badly but he has to play nice because there are many people watching, Gordon, Carrie and Kai among them. Or maybe he is simply taunting Sanchez back. The fighter smirks in his black suit and shirt and pants, gleaming with the pampered attitude of an undefeated champion who hasn’t really been in a fight before.

“Alright, I’m under arrest. Okay, come and get me,” Sanchez tells Hood and the sheriff smiles with glee. This won’t be easy and shit will be broken. Kai urges Hood to reconsider but Hood quickly dispenses two punches to the face of a surprised Sanchez. It’s on and unless you are in the fight, you best get the fuck out of the way. Sanchez tells the crowd it’s amateur hour, unclasping his gold watch, and taking off his suit. Sanchez has everything. Money, pride, women at his side every minute, a team of people who will cover any mistake he makes up, and an unbeaten record. Hood, at this point, has nothing but a harrowing 15 years of prison sliding off his shoulder and into his chest for future torture.

Hood doesn’t fare too well early on. Sanchez hits him with a punch, a kick to the groin and tosses him across the ring. A Rocky element starts to take shape. Hood isn’t an experienced fighter and one that has survived on his ability to take a licking and keep on ticking. A bruiser who takes as much as he gives out. He’s much slower than Sanchez and can only compensate by being dirty. A tangle in the middle ends in Sanchez kicking off the cage and knocking Hood to the ground with one punch. This is going to be a stable in future Hood fights. He throws wide arching hooks and needs to take at least 8-10 punches before establishing the resemblance of a plan to recover. That plan usually involves extending the clash from a legal fist/kick fight to a dirty brawl.

After being kicked out of the ring to the floor, Hood grabs a bottle and smashes it over Sanchez’s head, and rushes into his midsection but is taken down by the more experienced fighter. You may be thinking, even on a heightened level that the show clearly operates on, how can Hood take this much torment and still fight. Hood starts to see flashes of an earlier opponent, a large white albino fella that viewers see more of the sixth episode. This becomes a stable of the show, where characters see flashes of their past or viewers see a glimmer of their future in the middle of a scene. After blocking and/or absorbing 15 punches, Hood grabs Sanchez and bites a piece of his ear off. This is no longer a fight but a will of survival for the new guy in town.

“Come on, champ,” Hood says before a huge left misses and he is taken to the ground, a place where Sanchez is tactical and quite deadly. Right as he puts Hood into an armbar(imagine your arm being bent the wrong way and you have it, or think of what Ronda Rousey does so well) Hood bites his leg and the fight continues. After smashing the fighter in the nuts, Hood gets up and this is where Starr is so good. Hood staggers around against a table but is clearly in the offensive position, with Sanchez tired and reeling. Hood doesn’t have to say a single word, because his face reads “YOU’RE FUCKED” quite easily. Sanchez swings wildly and Hood slaps him on the back of the head for snickering, “You like hitting little girls, huh?!?” Hood catches his leg kick and delivers a series of blows before the game changing blow occurs. Sanchez throws a punch and it hits directly on Hood’s elbow, a flashback from his first encounter with the Albino.

Sanchez makes one more attempt to overcome the man, but his attempt ends when Hood separates two fingers on his hand from the other two fingers. The groan in Sanchez’s eyes is horrendous and shakes you. The look in Starr’s eyes is that of a demented man, one who can get punch and only gets angrier, a hulk in plain clothes. This is where the fight takes a turn from normal bloody brawl we’ve seen elsewhere to the hyper excessive relentless brutal fights that will define the show and its stunt team, led by Marcus Young.

The bone crunching continues as Sanchez, on his back, has his left arm completely snapped in half. Standing over Sanchez, Hood settles in for a little cheek merry go around, wailing on Sanchez with right’s and left’s. In a normal MMA fight, the ref would stop the fight. This fight has no ref, as the formal referee for the planned fight is Sugar, bartender at the Forge and the new(and only) friend of Hood’s in town. A man who is tied to this man in more ways than one. At the 4:40 mark of the clip below, look at the eyes of Hood. The mortal man is gone. The enraged beast within this soul is out. It’s the first “Holy Fuck” moment of the series. If emoji’s were around then, the twitter board would be full of them. You’ve seen it before, but not like this.

Hood falls to the ground next to Sanchez, and then slowly gets up. Methodic Doubt’s score starts to creep in, with a quivering piano tap around an imposing bass. Hood looks around at the crowd of horrified faces. Siobhan is in shock, as is Carrie and Gordon. Carrie doesn’t know this man. She recognizes here that the man she loved before his prison sentence is gone and never to return. Few things can make a man evolve faster than prison. Lucas Hood is a Man Apart.

The Kinaho chief and his son Alex Longshadow walk away from Proctor with disappointment in their eyes. Their big fight is gone, swept away by the tornado that is Lucas Hood. As he stumbles away, Hood passes Siobhan and tells her. “Meet The New Boss.” It’s a statement that rocket launches the show from decent action drama into something incredibly more and it’s not just the violence but the manner in which we see it come into play, roll into action and evolve from simple scrap into serious rage inducing damage.

Hood falls into Sugar’s arms and the men get into Lucas’ police vehicle. Sugar is a little pissed off because Hood cost him the referee fees that were coming his way. That’s when Hood pulls out Sanchez’s gold watch and gives it to the older man(a retired boxer himself). A rock song ratchets up as Sugar drives the two men out of there. Normal shows this would end it all but no, this isn’t over yet. My favorite moment of the episode is still to come.

Back at the bar, Proctor drives up and gets out of his car, walking towards the bar. Limping, bruised and swollen, Lucas walks out towards Kai. Proctor tells Lucas they are similar in a way, and Hood rejects that notion immediately. Kai says he’ll show him how soon enough. This is when Hood comes closer and tells Proctor, “Show me. Right now.” After the brutal beating he took in dispatching Sanchez, this guy STILL wants to fight. One eye swollen, a few(or eight) broken ribs, and a bloodied face, Hood is ready to fight Proctor. Kai declines, saying he still has faith in him yet. This was the moment the two men were cast against each other, and it wasn’t as mere protagonist and antagonist. More like pro-antagonist and anti-protagonist(thank you for that Geno Segers). An unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. This set up the show and o.

That was until Friday’s Season 3 finale saw the two men in different positions. Hood was no longer sheriff, and Kai grew a smile on his face thinking of the possibility of the two men working together. That’s how Banshee floors the shit out of you. Kicks your comfy chair side to side. It lets you recognize the idea of a normalcy or something typical of TV shows, and then throws you from the seat and smashes the chair to bits, laughing with a finish that says, “Try Again.”

Meet The New Boss hooked me and I’ve been a fool for this show ever since. All I can do is think of different ways to write about the hypnotic Shakespearian pulp pleasure that never lets me go.

Do your life a favor and watch this show. Get Cinemax. Make a new friend in your neighborhood. Paint your body like Chayton and start doing his Kinaho chant up and down the street. Do something. Watch this show right now. Binge it. Grow a Brock beard. Get personal with your couch. Give Banshee a shot and you won’t be disappointed. I’ve yet to hear from a person I told to watch the show that it was a mistake, that their time was wasted.

You may not fall as hard as I did for it but you will be entertained. Isn’t that the general purpose of watching television?

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