A beautiful Amish girl gone bad challenging a pair of criminals to a game of chicken on an open road. A criminal posing as a cop trying to reconnect with his daughter, whose dad happens to be the Mayor. A Kinaho Tribe chief walking down the middle of a road firing arrows at military trucks. A seemingly quiet town lit up with enough noise to equal a monster truck rally.
This is an ordinary day on Cinemax’s Banshee, the best show on television and one that deserves your attention. It’s currently in the middle of its third season and instead of slowing down, it’s speeding up. Forget the DVR folks. Find this show and digest it right this minute. If you don’t put “Cinemax” and “quality TV” in the same sentence, start working on it with Banshee. This show has it all. Action, drama, sex, fast pacing, sly comedy and a confidence that can’t be bought. It’s putting Cinemax on the map as a network to be reckoned with. The premium cable channel is beefing up its original content, and Banshee is at the center of that bullet.
Need more of a reason to take a dip? Here are 10 reasons to rush this show to the top of the must watch list.
10.) The show is ruthlessly fast paced and doesn’t waste a frame. Good luck playing a Facebook game or checking your email during this show. Something happens every other minute and every second counts. Blink and you may miss something. Executive producers and creators Greg Yaitanes and Jonathan Tropper(along with David Schickler) fill the screen with colorful content at every turn. Put the phone down.
9.) You’ll never think of the Amish community in the same way ever again. You have Rebecca Bowman, the innocent girl turned bad when she joins her town running uncle Kai Proctor(Ulrich Thomsen) in the family business of crime and punishment. Thomsen infuses the main antagonist with a deadly array of inner demons, physical menace and a quiet vulnerability that prohibits you from hating him. The Amish community are an underrated bunch on this show.
8.) The show doesn’t talk your head off but contains brilliantly pulpy writing that makes every word count. Doug Jung, Justin Britt-Gibson, John Romano, Evan Dunsky, Halley Wegryn Gross and Adam Targum(also a producer on the show) all share one thing in common. The ability to write dialogue that we all want to say at our most macho and intense moment yet can’t fathom the strength. This group knows how to seamlessly sift dark humor into its heavy and pulsating story lines. It’s not preachy or overbearing but cool and fitting. You’ll wish you sounded as cool as the cross dressing computer hacking wise cracking Job(Hoon Lee).
7.) The directors are first rate magicians and get to direct two episodes a season. It could be Loni Peristere with his visual blasts of action and odes to the Western. Magnus Martens and his ability to stage a deadly and messy fight. OC Madsen can bring all the ingredients of an action drama(blood, despair, violence, emotion) into a pot and stir it up. Yaitanes also jumps behind the in each season and creates a universe of feeling and story. The directors don’t have to leave a dent on a Cinemax action series, but they do and their work carries the film to something else.
6.) Did I mention the villains aren’t one dimensional mean tough guys? You have Proctor’s multi-layered menace and then there is the third season unstoppable force in Geno Segers’ Chayton Littlestone. He is the calm before the storm, the storm itself and the wrecking ball that smashes through it all the next day. He doesn’t just take on the sheriff. He wants Proctor and the rogue military camp base. Chayton could carry a bat around and be a force to run away from. He has an agenda and it grows as the hours pile up. The bad guys are fully formed here.
5.) The action scenes are second to none. Stunt coordinator Marcus Young and his stunt crew are fearless when it comes to depicting raw unfiltered violence. Take the fight between Clay Burton(Matthew Rauch) and Nola Longshadow(Odette Annable) from this season. A man and a woman brutally beating the crap out of each other for nearly four minutes. You simply won’t find that anywhere else on television or even in the movies. Banshee takes fight scenes to another level. They aren’t mere scraps to allow the keyboard to take a rest. They are events all by themselves.
4.) For all the people who cry about underdeveloped female characters on the Newsroom, put your time and money on the fact that Banshee props the female characters up. They are power players on this show. Ivana Milicevic’s Carrie/Ana, living a double life as a housewife and a career thief. Rebecca’s slow descent into madness. Deputy Sheriff Siobhan(Trieste Kelly Dunn) and her relationship with Sheriff Hood. Every female on this show is as well written as the male. It’s equal parts in weight between the sexes on Banshee.
3.) Antony Starr isn’t a name you would know in Hollywood, but you should. He brings the protagonist, Lucas Hood, to vivid life and layers his intensity with delicate vulnerability. Hood is a criminal masquerading as a sheriff and he doesn’t do a lot of nice things but as a viewer you are driven to root for him no matter what because he always seems to be an underdog. An underdog in love, crime and life itself. He is the ultimate anti-hero and Starr doesn’t ask for your sympathy. He fights for it here every episode. The chips may be down on Hood, but Starr seems to get better with each episode.
2.) There’s comic relief amid the chaos. Thanks to the team of Job and wise and witty bar keep Sugar(Frankie Faison, from The Wire), an episode always contains at least a couple laughs from these two polar opposites. Lee and Faison are pros at turning the most simplistic dialogue into a hilarious moment in a highly mobile and intense show. Matt Servitto(you may know him from Sopranos) also supplies some dark humor as the most unlucky deputy in the world. Comedy doesn’t live in Banshee but these three provide just enough lightness to offset the dark that drapes itself over the plot.
1.) It’s a comic book come to life. You know those kind of shows where it doesn’t ask you to think much or strain yourself while watching yet it doesn’t come off as dumb either. Banshee knows exactly what it is and what the goal is for a viewer. Pure escape. It’s a visual pleasure with something else buried beneath the covers if you dare to look close enough. The acting, writing, directing and overall feel is honest cool but there’s a power behind the work. It’s a vivid world that doesn’t exist outside your home but lives inside your television set for an hour a week.
Bonus Point-The entire cast and crew are on Twitter communicating with fans every Friday night the show is on. Sure, it’s just a little promoting and interaction, but these people give a shit. That brings a level of respect and accountability that you don’t see from many other shows.
Let’s put it this way. Friday’s episode has been labeled by Yaitanes, Tropper and Starr as the best yet. They don’t say that every week. In fact, they’ve never said it. I can tell you that their claim will be hard to prove because the previous 24 episodes have been pretty spectacular in their own right. Banshee raises the ante every single week with a certain fight scene, dramatic interaction or tribute to a time(in Season 3, the Western) where entertainment was good old fun. It’s a one hour movie every week. Tune in Friday nights at 9 p.m. central time on Cinemax. You won’t be sorry if you can handle it.