Welcome to the TV Wasteland. A few more grueling weeks until some of the more interesting shows start to premier or return to our lives, what options are out there to satisfy our never-ending need to be entertained?
If you are like me and shows like Better Call Saul(not as good as they say it is) and The Last Man On Earth(more toxic FOX drivel) aren’t cutting it right now, you need a show to binge watch right now. Something to tide you over until Mad Men and Game of Thrones begins next month. A show that signifies three things instantly.
1. Stop shaving.
2. Eat bad food.
3. Adopt sweat pants and a fake cold to call in sick to work.
Banshee, Cinemax’s Golden Goose(bumped Emmanuelle In Space out of its prime time slot) is the perfect show to binge watch.
Why? It’s a comic book, love story, and a punch to the face all wrapped into one swift pulpy shot of escapist porn. The fight scenes are second to none. The sex scenes are hot yet not gratuitous. It’s a show that knows exactly what it is and doesn’t bore you with over composition or boring filler. There are no long winded rants that make you click and search the rest of your DVR. Every episode is a mini movie, 52 minutes of balls out adrenaline junkie riffs that has brains and brawn. What exactly is Banshee? Let me spin it for you with a quick setup.
A criminal gets out of prison after serving 15 years for a jewel heist gone wrong bust. He leaves the lot and heads to Banshee, Pennsylvania, a small town which holds exactly 3 good people, Amish families and gangsters, quiet corruption and the love of this man’s life. Before he can swallow the whiskey he sips at a bar, a fight breaks out between two hoods and a man who will be sworn in as sheriff the next day. When the guns fall and the dust settles, the loner is standing and the sheriff is dead. The dead man’s phone rings, and the loner answers the sheriff’s phone as the sheriff, Lucas Hood. By the way, this is the first 15 minutes of the show.
If you have a quality television fever, Banshee is your answer. It stars Antony Starr, Ulrich Thomsen, the guy who played Tony Soprano’s ball busting FBI agent, Ivana Milicevic, Lili Simmons, Matthew Rauch, and Trieste Kelly Dunn. Actors you may recognize but can’t place their name. An island of misfit toys hellbent on madness on this show. Their relative unknown status only makes the appeal of the show hit you sooner and harder.
The new Hood(Starr, blending Bruce Willis together with a shake of Sean Penn and a sprinkle of Stallone and adding a slice of vulnerable steel) makes his brand of justice be known in town as a fist wrapped in blood and soaked in glass. He brawls with an MMA fighter in episode that will has more bone crunching, jaw rattling, and kidney cranking delight than any fight you’ve seen on television. For all the blood and pain, the brilliance lies in brutality and lack of music. It’s stone cold silent except for the fight. The Amish Gangster, Kai Proctor(played with equal shades of devil and saint by Thomsen) doesn’t like this man that can’t be bought and they get into a fight before Season 1 ends. By the time you catch your breath, the season finale will close and Season 2 will be calling your name. The best part about binge watching is you don’t have to suffer and wait. It’s right there waiting for you.
There’s also a silent yet deadly man who barely speaks and wears killer bowties(Rauch).
There’s a badass albino that hardens our leading man into the fountain of despair we meet in the pilot, and you get that dose in episode 6. Joseph Gatt’s eyes won’t leave your head for a few hours.
There’s a larger than life villain who appears in Season 2 named Chayton(Geno Segers), a hulk of a man with the voice of James Earl Jones who is as fearsome as they come.
The computer hacking wise cracking cross dressing chameleon known as Job(played with sinister wit and charm by Hoon Lee).
An ex-Neo Nazi White Supremacist named Bunker(Tom Pelphrey) who decides to change his life and become a deputy sheriff yet carries a rage inside him from all the bad deeds he has done.
Milicevic’s Carrie(not her real name either) is the woman of Hood’s dreams and can fight than Angelina Jolie and has a body that would make you chew on concrete for 15 years as well. She is the weapon of madness that constantly shakes our anti-hero.
Brock Lotus(Matt Servitto from Sopranos) is the noble deputy who got shoved aside by Hood’s arrival and serves as the moral compass of the show’s wrong doings yet adds more humor and killer one liners as the hours stack up. “Everything you touch turns to blood” is one line he lays on Hood in the second season.
Banshee has an endless supply of “characters”. A few “types” you recognize from other shows but ones that get an extra coat of fresh pulp when delivered here. It’s the familiar with something extra. A cup of coffee with two extra shots of espresso that makes the spoon stand straight up and dance. They may look familiar at first but by the time their closeup episode(which happens with all of them) ends, you’ll see a unique specimen.
Everything Banshee touches is punch drunk gold because the creator, Jonathan Tropper, laid the drywall for the series’ foundations on middle of the night action film marathons and hidden gems that nobody handed awards to. This show is the rebel child that the Mad Men/Downtown Abbey family don’t like to show to their rich friends. Need a whiff? Watch this fight from Episode 3.
Need more reason to dive in? Consider this. There are two ultimate fights between a man and a woman that rank as fights of the year on television period. They aren’t petting party crap you’ll find on NBC or CBS. This is guts out, bloodied faces, pierced nipples and ripped out throats(literally) madness. You won’t find this kind of fight anywhere else on television(spoiler alert if viewed). These fights are the ones you’ll call “ludicrous” around your smart friends at Starbucks and then romanticize about in front of your buddies at the water cooler.
The show has a six pack and bulging biceps but it’s never afraid to show its openly wounded heart at unexpected times. The entire story hinges on the many reasons this man stays in town undercover while quietly turning everything to chaos and slowly decaying inside. Like shinier Emmy beloved shows like Mad Men and Breaking Bad, people in Banshee live under a false identity because who they really are died a long time ago or is too ugly to look straight at in the mirror. The heavy shit hits you in waves on this action drama, yet it never acts like a paper weight. The deep methodical elements are minimal and subtle so they don’t overwhelm, yet are performed with such passion by the cast that you wonder why the actor isn’t a more known name.
I could say Banshee is best kept secret but I am not the first person to call this show awesome. The show has a cult following on Twitter due to the entire cast being there and interacting with fans. Being a cinematic television show on a cable network known for action films and softcore porn isn’t an easy first impression, so the cast and crew jump on their during episodes and fire shots and interact. It may seem corny and trite by word, but when you see the person who just blew someone’s face off on your TV respond to your “OMG that was awesome” with a “Tell me about it”, the drift is received. When Rauch tells fans hours before the show comes on to get ready for the fight of their life during the upcoming episode, a certain respect appears and makes you dig into the show.
Banshee is the the kind of show that makes you walk across the street of your apartment complex to the neighbor that you hate and make friends with just so you can watch Banshee on their television. If you don’t have Cinemax and want a taste, go to Youtube and watch the first two episodes and countless clips. The fights are there. The action shootouts are there.
What is your desire? Banshee’s got it.
A shootout through New Orleans’ French Quarter. Done.
A Fight Club styled showdown between Hood and Chayton. Done.
A siege on the Banshee police department that will remind you of Assault on Precinct 13 mixed with Heat. Done.
A man reaching into a woman’s throat and choking her out from the inside. Done.
A brutal fist bumping interrogation on a moving semi truck. Done.
A 20 minute heist sequence where the actors have their cameras attached to their shoulders. Done.
That’s all in one season by the way.
Banshee has wise bartenders, pretty thieves, heroes that do everything cold blooded and wrong, and bad guys that make Freddy and Jason look like family cousins. It’s hard boiled sinister fun and only gets better when you go back and revisit episodes like “The Truth About Unicorns” where Hood and Carrie take a road trip to the country and run into an assassin among other things. That was a quiet episode of Banshee that still resonated because the characters are imperfect guitar solos ripped from a graphic novel.
The addiction starts when you touch play on episode 1. The story of how a career criminal becomes a sheriff and runs through the town like a tornado, swallowing up pretty things and spitting them out cracked and disposable.
The show raises the bar for ridiculousness each week it plays and there aren’t enough people watching this show so have some self respect and give it a look. The best shows on television sneak up on you and knock you out. Banshee fits that description to a tee so do something with your life and watch it now. It is the best show you haven’t watched yet.