Banshee, Always the Cowboy: Review
Season 1, Episode 9 of Cinemax's Banshee sets us up for one heck of a finale . . .
Banshee continues to be one of the best new shows of 2013 as we head into the home stretch. Episode 9 “Always the Cowboy” plays out with more of the violent mix of drama and the real blood and guts that trying to leave a life behind can cost. Hood serendipitously came into his “job” as Sheriff when he tracked Carrie/Anastasia to the small town of Banshee, PA. However eight episodes later he probably would have chosen to leave Sugar’s bar that night when the real Sheriff Hood rolled into town and not taken on his identity. Admittedly it took a few episodes for me to warm up to Banshee, but when I finally gave in and took it for what it is I realized that sometimes the simplest of concepts make for the best of dramas. And there is no doubt in my mind that Banshee has made a meteoric rise to the top of my list as one of the best hours of TV. In one fell swoop Banshee has helped Cinemax establish itself with the type of powerhouse, original programming we see on HBO and Showtime. If ever there was a perfect set up for a finale, this is the episode that primes you for an epic end to a very well done freshman season.
Episode 9 picks up just after the epic fight between Ukrainian thug Olek and Carrie and the fallout that ensues. Hood has returned to the carnage and rushes Carrie to the hospital in the back of his squad car. She is a bloodied mess, bleeding internally as well. Hood lingers at the hospital waiting for news, but it is no time before Carrie’s actual husband Gordon shows up to find out his wife’s condition. At this point in the narrative, Gordon is smart enough to know that Hood has some kind of checkered history with his wife. District Attorney Gordon is officially at his boiling point. Carrie’s past crept up on her as soon as Hood walked out of the correctional facility he was imprisoned in for fifteen years and blew into town. Hood is the impetus that has led to Banshee going all to hell and now his choices are coming back to bite him. Job and Sugar are left to dispose of a very bloodied and very dead Olek and a funnier tandem on TV there has never been. The stark differences between the two plays out in hilarity as the odd couple exchange barbs. What I love so much about this show is that it is like a “Suburban Sopranos” where the producers are layering the show with multiple storylines and characters to invest in. If you go back to my review of the pilot episode, I was far from the ardent fan who now writes this review of Episode 9.
Carrie wakes up in the hospital to a vision of being raped by her father, the Ukrainian boss Mr. Rabbit. Whether this is just a vision or a memory is yet to be determined. Either way it is pretty damn creepy. Olek, the Ukrainian thug Carrie wound up killing was apparently higher up on the food chain than I expected and in good with Mr. Rabbit. There is one scene where a roomful of well-dressed Ukrainian mercenaries are told that Olek is indeed dead and must be avenged. You just know that the small army Rabbit has assembled is preparing to descend upon Banshee. Knowing that a storm is coming her way, Carrie leaves the hospital bleeding like a stuck pig, determined to find her kids Deva and Max before her father can find them. She just has that feeling that Rabbit and company will surely try and snatch them up as collateral. Gordon is driving her home, but he is terribly confused by the whole situation and starting to realize that he really has no idea who this woman he married is. She rushes to Max’s school in a hospital gown, bleedin, frantically looking for her son. As she gets to the classroom Carrie sees that it is empty and the kids are at recess. Max is sitting, playing a portable video game and then she sees him; Rabbit has come to claim his grandson right there on the playground.
Kai Proctor and his beautiful niece Rebecca have gone to the American Indian Casino where Alex Longshadow, now Chief of the tribe is showing off the, ahead of schedule, progress on the expansion of the gambling establishment to potential investors. Kai and Rebecca are waiting as he heads off Alex’s presentation as the new and very young Chief is not honoring his now deceased father’s agreement with Proctor. With just a blow on a tiny whistle, all of the hardhat workers stop working and leave the site, humiliating Longshadow. The metaphor that Proctor makes through the whistle hits you right in the gut as he shows the young Chief exactly what power really is. Rebecca continues to ask questions of her uncle about the business he runs and she is anxious and inquisitive to learn all that she can now that she has been released from her Amish cuffs.
Back at the Cadi Police HQ, Carrie is despondent and in shock following Max’s kidnapping. She is frantic and unable to help the police because she would not only blow her own double life but Hood’s ruse as well. It is such a cool web of lies that you cannot help but be enthralled as the tension mounts. Hood is circling in the station knowing what comes next; the Feds are going to swoop in and the kidnapping is the perfect time for Special Agent Xavier to take point, as he already is suspicious of the new Sheriff. In a quandary, Hood heads over to see Kai Proctor to suck it up and ask for his help. But before any help is given Kai wants to know if Hood has been sleeping with his now live-in niece Rebecca. After Hood fesses up to doing the deed with young Rebecca, another awesome fight scene ensues. The fight choreography is again superb and Banshee outdoes itself with their realistic and bloody battles. When both men are exhausted from beating the hell out of each other, they pause and share a drink. Somehow they have struck an accord amidst the chaos. Proctor is a bad man, but Rabbit is worse and you know what they say about the enemy of your enemy. . .
Max is being held somewhere on the outskirts of Banshee and is suffering from his chronic asthma. Without his nebulizer the poor kid will not make it through the night as he continues to gasp for air. His grandfather, Rabbit, is scaring the hell out of him and his anxiety is not making his asthma any better. Back at the Hopewell residence Carrie unearths a suitcase buried in the backyard. The suitcase is filled with her old life; guns, guns and more guns. Gordon startles her asking how long that has been there and if anything about her is real. As they get back into the house, Rabbit is sitting in their den with his granddaughter Deva across from him. Carrie pulls a gun on Rabbit and suddenly worlds are colliding. The past is quickly catching up to the present and the future looks scary. Carrie, Gordon and Deva plead with Rabbit to return Max safely home. Carrie transforms back into Anastasia and she begins to converse with Rabbit in Russian. Clearly Carrie/Ana is doing this as a ploy to assuage her father to return Max, but after she admits to killing Olek, Rabbit becomes irate. He takes the nebulizer and leaves but it really has kept me guessing just what exactly Olek’s role really was in Rabbit’s organization. Clearly he was not just some hired gun, judging by the boss’ reaction.
Chief Longshadow calls in a degenerate gambler who is in to the casino for close to fifty large and makes him a proposition. The giant man used to work for Proctor, but they parted ways under a haze of mystery. The new Chief wants to make a deal to wipe his gambling slate clean and have the towering gambler somehow take care of Proctor. I will definitely be looking for how that pans out in the season finale because it is those little plot points that are putting Banshee on more and more viewers’ DVR’s. Also, Longshadow’s mysterious and comely sister somehow has a hand in the tribe’s future. The Easter egg at the end of the credits this week has her sharpening a throwing axe and then heaving it across the room into the wall. There is nothing sexier than a hot babe and a blade.
Hood is nursing his wounds from the Proctor fight back at the Cadi when his almost Jedi-like senses go off and he pulls his gun faster than a light saber ,aiming his police issued pistol above him at the catwalk. It is Rabbit and this looks to be the end of the road. Rabbit gets in his verbal jabs at Hood about being locked up for all that time with animals only to find Anastasia married with a family in rural Pennsylvania. As he makes his way down the catwalk, before leaving, Rabbit relays to Hood that he wanted his face to be the last he ever sees. After he exits I noticed something in Hood’s eyes I had not seen all season: fear. With his gun cautiously still drawn, the camera seems to envelop Hood as he turns and hears the cocking of many guns. He simply mutters “Shit” and the episode ends . . .
I have to say that Banshee has really done an outstanding job setting up their first season finale. The characters are broadly intriguing on so many levels and there are no “throwaway” scenes. All of the time allotted for the episode is used wisely and each piece of the puzzle culminates into one terrific show that manages to combine violence and revenge, past and present and the power and struggle that is family and love. Sometimes the biggest of secrets can lie in the smallest of places and, in this case, that place is Banshee, PA.