This review contains spoilers.
1.7 Behold a Pale Rider
Towards the end of my review of last week’s episode of Banshee, I wondered if Ana really would turn Lucas Hood over to her father Mr. Rabbit, or if her affections for him would weigh too heavily upon her. As it turned out, episode seven left no time for such pondering, and after an instalment which felt a little thin, Banshee returned to its plot-stuffed lightning pace once more.
On reflection, even knowing the little we do about him, it would have been foolish to assume that Mr. Rabbit would want to wait a second longer to get his hands on Hood for what he sees as the stealing away of his daughter. As he looks out through the rain-battered windows of the plush suite he shares only with his concubine, Rabbit looks like the tyrannical emperor, finally preparing to claim his prize during this week’s opening scene. Throughout this episode, actor Ben Cross gets a chance to show us a little more of this chess playing overlord than we’ve glimpsed so far.
Banshee drops a few hints as to its two lead characters’ states of mind during the ever-changing title sequence. It might have been a tad unnecessary to display Anthony Starr and Ivana Milicevic’s names alongside a picture of a moth and a flame respectively but it’s a nice touch. Like the identity of who will get each weeks post-credits scene, trying to work out what the show is foreshadowing each week with the changing images of the opening titles has become a highlight of watching Banshee.
Lucas Hood, Job and Sugar Bates are still meticulously planning their armoured car – jacking to rip off Banshee’s casino. This seems like one storyline that Banshee is in no mood to hurry. I have no doubt that they’ll get to it, and we know that the casino is one of the more sizable pies that Kai Proctor has his fingers in. Last week demonstrated that he will resort to some low means to see its expansion. When our dandy highwaymen do get their plan together, I’d wager Proctor isn’t going to be best pleased.
It’s another quiet week for Kai Proctor. He is visited by his brother in law, Rebecca Bowman’s father with a plea that he talk to his wayward daughter. It’s a small scene but builds upon the struggle that Proctor has with his family. He dismisses a clearly put out Clay Burton while he has the conversation. Rebecca’s father tells him they don’t want to lose Rebecca the way they lost Kai. Given what we’ve seen of Rebecca’s behaviour, they can’t have a full idea of what she’s been up to.
As the opening titles sequence predicted, Hood goes to Ana when she calls like a moth to a flame, despite Job’s protests. The way Hood goes so eagerly shows us his incapability for rationality when it comes to Ana, but hey, haven’t we all been there? Fortunately, few of us probably ended up with a neck full of go to sleep juice for our lack of haste. Banshee really didn’t waste any time in moving this storyline along.
With their Sheriff indisposed, Banshee’s law enforcement are one man down when it comes to dealing with a couple of masked bandits holding up a convenience store, happened upon by Deputy Yawners while he’s looking for a pregnancy test. After a dynamic chase sequence which echoes the LAPD chases from last year’s End of Watch, our thieves barricade themselves into the local high school gym where Ana’s daughter, Deva Hopewell, is serving detention under Mayor Kendell’s school teacher wife, Janie. As you may imagine, The Breakfast Club this is not.
Immediately you’re thinking that this is exactly the kind of situation that requires Lucas Hood. Unfortunately, he’s tied to a motel bed, awaiting all kinds of unpleasantness. Ana is honest with Hood as to why he’s there – to protect her family. Hood never betrayed her while he was in prison (although he didn’t know where she was) and she is confident he won’t do so now.
The school siege is the first time we’ve seen the Banshee Sheriff’s Department gathered together since the rave in episode two. Then, all of them were slightly wary of Hood’s method of wading in, and it’s interesting to see how times have changed. Yawners wants to take a more Hood-like approach, while Deputy Brock Lotus sees this as his opportunity to take command of the department he was due to inherit.
Back in episodes one and two of Banshee, the tension between Lucas Hood and Brock Lotus was one of the show’s best elements. Since then we’ve only seen odd glimpses of the animosity between the two but it’s always been there, bubbling away in the background. Here Lotus seems to be the only one who believes that they don’t need Hood.
Meanwhile Mr. Rabbit is slowly closing in on his prize. En route to exact whatever unpleasantness he has in store for Lucas Hood, Rabbit delivers a cold monologue to his henchmen about how he avenged his father’s death. The recounting of how he took this man’s life and bottle of wine he was carrying verges on Hannibal Lecter territory and is expertly delivered by Ben Cross. If Kai Proctor is Banshee’s Darth Vader then Rabbit easily fills the role of Emperor Palpatine.
Presumably so he didn’t get bored waiting for certain death, Ana’s left the motel room TV on for Lucas Hood. As if he wasn’t desperate to get out of his predicament enough, watching the televised report of Banshee’s latest disturbance strengthens his resolve. The moments where Rabbit and his entourage arrive at the motel were some of the tensest that Banshee has produced so far.
When the door to Hood’s room bursts open though, it isn’t Rabbit or Ana, having had a change of heart, but Job who has come his rescue. Of course, Mr. Rabbit isn’t best pleased to find that Hood has made good his escape and loses it in spectacular, room-trashing fashion. The ice-cold calm is replaced with an uncontrollable fury. Again, Ben Cross is excellent here, conveying Rabbit’s anger without going over the top.
Thanks to Job, Lucas Hood has slipped through the fingers of Mr. Rabbit for now, but he’s walking into the pressure cooker environment of the Banshee school siege.
The robbers causing all this bother aren’t exactly cut from the same mould as Die Hard’s Hans Gruber. This is strictly amateur hour, and this makes them all the more dangerous. Doug Kruse and Kevin Gage make for a great double act as the panicking brothers. After the bikers, Wicks and now Nathan and Lance Mangan, Banshee may sometimes feel like it’s moving into a ‘villain of the week’ type set up, but it’s good at choosing its guest stars.
Brock Lotus is going for the softly, softly approach in dealing with hostage negotiations, and it seems to be working out okay for him. Enter Lucas Hood. Ivana Milicevic plays the scene in which Hood strolls back into Banshee perfectly. Not only is she dealing with the ordeal of having her daughter trapped in a building with a couple of gun-toting maniacs, but now the man she promised to her father has just reappeared. Ana looks like her world has just collapsed.
Whereas at the rave, Hood waded in all guns blazing and we’re expecting him to do the same here, he takes a slightly more diplomatic approach, entering the school unarmed. While we’ve seen Hood’s methods rubbing off on some of his co-workers, this is perhaps a measure of how Lucas has changed too since his arrival in town, and his affection for the place, as well as Ana.
For a while at least anyway, as pretty soon Nathan Mangan has a gutful of his own bullets. Lance Mangan has fled into the depths of Banshee high school, and guess who he now has as a hostage. Seriously, Deva Hopewell gets herself into more scrapes than Kim Bauer! There’s an interesting moment in the ensuing stand off between Lance and Hood. Deva seems to sense to move at the correct moment for Hood to place a bullet in Mangan’s head. This could be coincidence, or is Banshee furthering the feeling of a deeper connection between Hood and Deva, one of the paternal variety?
The look that passes between Ana and Lucas in the aftermath of the school siege is telling – she cannot turn him over to her father after this, her family and Banshee would not be as safe without him around and had he not returned then her daughter might now be dead. Also at this moment, Ana learns that Job is in Banshee, answering her question as to how Lucas got away. Presumably there’s a history between them too that we know nothing of at the moment.
There is of course one rather major drawback to saving the day and having your mug plastered all over national television when there’s a very angry New York mobster after you. Banshee never followed up on the YouTube style footage of the Sanchez Vs. Hood fight that surfaced at the end of episode three, perhaps because it was foreshadowing this twist. Rabbit now knows where Hood is, and Ana.
After the events of the rave, the biker invasion and now this school based skirmish, you begin to wonder if Banshee might be the unluckiest town in North America. Rather cleverly, these thoughts are voiced by Kai Proctor to Lucas Hood, as if Hood is a bad luck charm who has brought these things upon the town since his arrival. It’s a nice sequence which shows that Hood and Proctor are currently in a ‘you don’t f**k with me, I won’t with you’ holding pattern, but also one which shows just how smart, once again, the Banshee writers, Jonathan Tropper and David Schickler are. They have pre-empted what their audience will be thinking and voiced it through the show. It’s things like this that make Banshee a programme that really connects with the viewer.
After producing some of the show’s most heart racing scenes so far, Behold a Pale Rider gives us something completely different. Tender moments aren’t a rarity in Banshee, but we get two of its finest. Yawner’s wife announcing her pregnancy was a nice bit of relief after the school scenes. Demetrius Grosse played Emmett’s reaction to the news wonderfully, and then we come to Ana and Hood.
The finale of this episode is Anthony Starr’s rawest scene as Lucas Hood to date. When he happens upon Ana in his room, he almost breaks down completely, he’s actually trembling. Although it is so much fun watching Starr do Hood as the comic book anti-hero, dealing out beatings left, right and centre, it’s when we see the less confident side of Hood that Starr shows his power in the role, and here we see that Ana has complete power over this man.
The music in this scene is perfect. Lilting, creeping, reflecting the final barriers between Ana and Lucas crumbling. There’s an understandable lack of trust between the two which comes over well in their unusual restraint during this sex scene and it all combines to make a wonderfully touching sequence. The end credits song rings out with the line “Nothing keeps you away from the one you really love”. It echoes this moment of happiness for two people for whom it has been in short supply, no matter what they may have told themselves.
Behold a Pale Rider was one of the best episodes of Banshee so far, and given that it’s been near consistently brilliant, that’s no small feat. It provided exhilaration, break-neck pace and took in almost all the characters in some way. It built to a scene that has been brewing since before the opening titles of the first episode.
It’s a fantastic rise in the flow of Banshee’s narrative and one which leads us to believe that, as Mr. Rabbit’s associate arrives in Banshee, it may be the last happy moment for Hood and Ana. It’s the high point that the rollercoaster ascends to, before it comes crashing and thundering back down the other side of the track, shaking everyone aboard.
Read James’ review of the previous episode, Wicks, here.
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