Banshee episode 9 review: Always The Cowboy

Banshee delivers a bloody penultimate episode. Here's James' review of Always The Cowboy...

This review contains spoilers.

1.9 Always The Cowboy

If there was one thing that really struck you about the opening scene of Banshee’s ninth episode, it was the blood. Picking up minutes after We Shall Live Forever concluded, Ana lays beaten to a pulp in the back of her car while a strung out Sheriff Lucas Hood tries to get her to the hospital. It’s not Ana’s delirious daydreams or Hood’s pleading with her to hang in there that sticks out though, but the blood. Having gone through eight hours with Banshee, we’re no strangers to the red stuff by now but here it seems different, harsher in the broad daylight, and then sterile surrounding of the hospital. Blood plays a big part in Always The Cowboy, especially blood ties. 

Given his fragile state of mind, we can forgive Gordon Hopewell for seeming a tad ungrateful to Lucas Hood for rushing his wife for medical attention. Hood at least makes an attempt at covering his tracks as to why it’s him who brought Ana in, but they’re so half hearted you get the impression he never held out too much hope that Gordon would believe him. Rus Blackwell gets another good opportunity this week to show us the man who can’t believe just how fast his life has fallen apart. 

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During Banshee’s opening credits, Blackwell’s name has always been accompanied by a Polaroid of disassembled machine gun. This never made much sense until Ana’s reveal that she’s married Gordon Hopewell when he was straight out of the marines. This symbolises who Gordon Hopewell is – the disassembled marine – and it’s a previous career choice that elevates his threat level above mild mannered District Attorney. 

With Ana stable, Hood retreats to Sugar Bate’s Forge to drown his sorrows with Sugar and Job. We’ve not seen much of Sugar and Job for a couple of weeks and they only pop up here momentarily to continue their comedy double act and discuss the oncoming storm that’s approaching Banshee: “That bad?” enquires Sugar of the tyrannical Mr.Rabbit. “End of days” replies Job. Credit to Hood though, he doesn’t want to put the closest two people he has to friends in danger and insists on going it alone against Rabbit. The near panic attack that follows shows us a Lucas Hood that you might call scared for the first time. 

I’ve written before that Anthony Starr is at his best when showing us the vulnerable side of Lucas Hood. It’s incredibly fun when he does the manic-eyed, Wolverine-style bad ass that women seem to find irresistible, but over the course of the season he’s built the Hood character into a fully rounded human being that has just as many weaknesses as strengths. 

It’s not with much surprise now that when Ana awakens from her beating; her immediate thoughts are for the safety of her children. I realise that a parent turning up at their child’s school to haul them out of class in an emergency isn’t anything all that unusual, but when said parent is clothed in a bloody hospital gown, it might raise one or two eyebrows? Not so in Banshee as the ghost-like Ana tries to find her son Max. Ana may be the one who looks like the ghost but she’s also the one being haunted as visions of her father appear before her. 

When Mr. Rabbit appears behind Max Hopewell in the school playground we’re not sure if it’s just Ana’s mind playing another trick upon her, but this time it is a reality. A siege and a kidnapping within weeks of each other? Banshee’s school authority is going to have plenty to talk about at their next meeting! 

Meanwhile Lucas Hood is running to stand still. Turns out that when you’re an ex-con impersonating a head of law enforcement, who shot two people, and who has an FBI agent breathing down your neck, things can get a little stressful. Hood’s desperation to hide the real danger he’s put the town in and his own identity is causing him to get a little sloppy, and it’s not going unnoticed – as with his quick signatory dismissal of Brock Lotus’ report on the school shooting. 

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Ana has reached such a fractured state that she no longer has the energy to pretend to her husband. Sat helplessly in the Sheriff’s department, she confesses to Gordon Hopewell that the man who has taken their son is her father; the same one she’d told him was long dead. Amongst all the talk of revenge, kidnapping, blood and carnage, there is a marriage that’s falling apart in Banshee. 

On the other side of town, Kai Proctor and his new ward, Rebecca Bowman aren’t being too welcomed by Alex Longshadow at the site of Banshee’s new casino development. Given what we’ve seen of Kai Proctor we thought it unwise that Alex Longshadow should challenge the business relationship Proctor had in place with his father. Upon being told that Proctor will have no further dealings with the Longshadows, Proctor imparts a masterful lesson in power to Alex, stopping his construction with the simple blow of a whistle. 

What’s interesting about this exchange, besides Proctor showing once again that his power is far reaching and can be deployed at any moment, is the reaction of the women present. Rebecca Bowman looks on at her uncle, her face full of admiration. The house, the pool, the money and now the power of the only person not to abandon her – it’s intoxicating. Rebecca’s salvation from her self-destructive ways may be coming with a price. 

On the other side of the room is the newly arrived Nola Longshadow. She’d informed her brother she was only passing through Banshee to pay respects to their dying father but it seems that seeing the situation facing her brother may have persuaded her to stick around. Alex may like to play at being the tough tribe’s chief, and Anthony Ruivivar may play him with Crispin Glover-style creepiness, but Always The Cowboy’s post credits scene, which featured Nola sharpening a tomahawk before flinging it into a wall, show us that his sister might well be the one who Proctor should have concerns about. Following this confrontation, Proctor tells Rebecca that he promised Alex’s father that he wouldn’t kill him. We assume he made no such promises regarding Nola Longshadow. 

Over in the Sheriff’s Department, things are going from bad to worse now that FBI agent Xavier has deemed Max’s disappearance a federal case. I don’t mean to down-tread the FBI but I can’t imagine that Rabbit is the kind of man who worries about such people. Lucas Hood seems to come to this conclusion too and with his grip on the situation loosening all the time, turns to an unlikely source of help. 

It’s with a look of “I can’t believe I’m doing this” that Hood approaches Kai Proctor. Before they can discuss business though, Proctor wants to know just what the nature of Hood’s relationship with Rebecca Bowman has been. Despite it being news to Hood that he’s now talking to Rebecca’s uncle, Proctor decides that the only way to make Hood pay for defiling his niece is in one on one combat. 

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Given that Banshee had dialled back on the conflict between Lucas Hood and Kai Proctor, which seemed like it was going to be the backbone of the show after the opening three episodes, in favour of presenting Mr. Rabbit as the show’s main villain, it’s a surprise that we get a Hood vs Proctor scrap. Kai is pretty handy with his fists and using a rolodex as a weapon, and the ferocity of his violence toward Hood is surely an indication of his deepening affection for Rebecca. She is seemingly the only motivation for this bout of fisticuffs, despite the other issues that exist between Lucas and Kai. 

It’s not as intense a fight as we’ve seen in previous episodes of Banshee, and it certainly doesn’t hold a candle to Ana and Olek’s classic battle last week, but then this isn’t likely to be the last time we see Proctor and Hood lock horns. His honour satisfied, Proctor asks Hood why he would come to him for help. “Because I’ll owe you one” is Hood’s simple answer. Sometimes a deal with the devil is all you have left. 

With her secrets no longer kept very well, Gordon Hopewell catches his wife digging up a suitcase full of guns in their garden. Hopewell doesn’t seem all that fazed by this but I guess by this point he’s beyond being able to be surprised by anything else Ana may have been hiding from him. “How long have you had that stuff buried in our backyard?” he asks her. It’s seems as though he’s talking about more than just the weapons. 

Ana has crossed a line where she cannot cope with trying to placate her husband any longer, not while their son lies in the hands of his psychopathic grandfather. The only offering she has for Gordon is “I love you.” Despite everything that has happened to her since Lucas Hood’s arrival in Banshee, she still does. There’s not a hint that Ana may be lying. I’ve noted previously that Ana’s primary motivation is often love, but it’s also her vice. She is desperate for it, and desperate to give it, often in different ways. 

It’s a good job that Ana has uncovered her arsenal as she’s about to find her father sat in the lounge. Just like how he appeared at the school, Rabbit has an omnipotent quality, seemingly turning up with ease wherever he pleases. Gordon Hopewell’s first meeting with his father in law is the heated affair you’d expect at this stage. 

The scene played out in the Hopewell sitting room is extremely tense. When Gordon’s anger gets the better of him and he goes for one of the guns, we feel every bit of the “No!” that Ana and Deva scream. We know that Rabbit will not hesitate to kill him if he deems it necessary, and it’s a measure of how fond we’ve become of Gordon. In a sea of secrets and lies, Gordon Hopewell seems to be the one honest rock. He’s a good man. 

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Knowing that waving guns around will get her nowhere with her father, Ana makes a desperate, grovelling plea for her son’s life. Behind her eyes though you can see an unmistakable rage boiling, and when this doesn’t sway her father, who seems more concerned about what happened to Olek, Ana’s anger comes bubbling over. We’ve seen some bad men come through, and inhabit, Banshee but Mr. Rabbit is by far the worst. He’s been torn so far from anything that resembles an empathic human being, holding only those who showed him dog-like loyalty in high regard, above his blood relations. Rabbit seems fully aware of this though. As he leaves, with Ana helpless to stop him, she tells him “I’m gonna kill you.” His reply – “You already have” – indicates that much of him died when Ana abandoned her father fifteen years ago. 

There is one person that Mr. Rabbit has yet to turn his attention to on his maiden trip to Banshee. Once again we’re not sure exactly how Rabbit just seems to appear from nowhere but he’s there waiting for Lucas Hood within the Sheriff’s department. Ben Cross is supremely evil throughout Always The Cowboy and his taunting of Hood during this closing scene is deliciously psychotic. He dumbs Hood down, talks to him as if he is still nothing more than a nuisance, one that was never good enough for his daughter. Rabbit knows how to hurt Hood with his taunts about Ana. He probably doesn’t really believe that it was Lucas who stole Ana away from him, deep down he knows it was his own doing, but men like Rabbit need a scapegoat. 

He also knows that with Max Hopewell still missing, Hood will not shoot him. Hood can be impulsive but he’s not that reckless, and he loves Ana. “I just wanted to look into your eyes for the last time. To be the last face you ever saw” Rabbit tells Hood before he slips, Dracula like into the darkness. The sound of several guns being cocked behind Hood followed by Hood nervously peering around him and leaving us with just two words – “Oh shit!” brings Always The Cowboy, and Banshee’s penultimate episode to a great cliffhanger ending, possibly the best of the season. 

Always The Cowboy didn’t quite deliver the thrills that Banshee’s previous two episodes had. The sprint to the finish seemed to slow itself up a little but that’s not such a bad thing as the show needed time to catch its breath. Anthony Starr continued to flesh out Lucas Hood and Ivana Milicevic was once again outstanding, while Rus Blackwell and Ben Cross both got plenty of opportunity to add themselves to Banshee’s roster of excellent performances. There really is no weak link on this show.

Read James’ review of the previous episode, We Shall Live Forever, here.

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