OK maybe I did not give Executive Producer Alan Ball enough credit because Banshee has all of a sudden rocketed to one of the best episodes I have seen of ANY SHOW this season. While Sheriff Hood is still getting acclimated to his role as Sheriff of Banshee, small town kingpin Kai Procter is staging an MMA event at the local American Indian Casino where the champ, simply known as “Sanchez,” will be fighting. Procter has made a big money deal, in cahoots with the Indians, to stage the fight on their reservation/at their Casino. Although the son of the old-ways Chief of the tribe is against any dealings with Procter, his hands are tied, as his father is still the head of their people. Along with all of the businesses that Procter has his hands in in Banshee he is set to make a killing on this low-level MMA fight. The Mixed-Martial Arts fighter simply known as “Sanchez” is a towering Black guy who appears to be an All-American type of champ ready to show a small town a good time. Friendly to the fans and the awaiting press he is ready to dazzle the people of Banshee. Sugar is the guest referee for the fight being the local legend that he is and it is good to see the old man back in the ring. (Okay it’s an Octagon.) Then you remember that Procter is running this show.
But before I get to that there is a very early scene where Carrie is slinking around from rooftop to rooftop eventually landing right in the elusive “Mr. Rabbit’s” bedroom. (If you remember, Mr. Rabbit is the guy Hood and Carrie stole the diamonds from before Hood went to the clink for 15 years) How the reformed thief, now suburban housewife, manages to get into Mr. Rabbit’s fortress like penthouse in NYC I do not know. After handcuffing him to the bed and firmly pointing a gun at him, she throws a satchel of diamonds at Mr. Rabbit and demands a truce. She wants to be left alone and by proxy for Rabbit and company to stop looking for Hood now that he has been sprung.
We learn later that it appears Rabbit and company are Russian Mob and that Rabbit himself is Carrie’s father.
Now back to Banshee, PA. While at the Casino press event for the upcoming Sanchez fight, Hood watches and continues to have flashbacks to a brutal prison fight he was involved in that involved shivs. You cannot really tell if Hood “won” the fight, but the warm-up sparring match between Sanchez and another fighter is clearly evoking some very difficult memories. When the sparring is over, Sanchez brazenly begins to challenge onlookers to get in the ring with him. He calls out the Sheriff and, although he is mentally struggling, Hood has the sense to walk away with his deputy. Later that night a cocktail waitress from the casino shows up at Sanchez’ training trailer where they are engaging in relations and doing cocaine. The small town girl has never done cocaine and when Sanchez offers her some she is reticent and then he; gosh how do I say this? “Takes a handful of cocaine and gets to third base using the white powder” with her which apparently has a whole different effect. During the sex Sanchez becomes angry with the girl for not having sex with him correctly. Then in a disturbing scene that shook me to my core he violates the poor girl in the most brutal ways you can imagine. Her face is literally rearranged.
The next day, when Hood, Carrie’s husband the D.A. and Hood’s Deputy Kelly (Trieste Kelly Dunn) visit the brutalized woman in the hospital and Hood speaks to her in private and we are not privy to what he says to her. Hood and Deputy Kelly make a beeline for the Casino to confront Sanchez and his entourage as well as Procter, who is running the entire event. They ask Hood to wait until after the fight to arrest the fighter because of all of the money that is at stake for the town of Banshee. While the Sheriff feels his hands are tied, it is Deputy Kelly who changes his mind to act. When she sees that Hood is not going to do anything she says, “Same as the old boss” referring to previous Sheriffs who were under Procter’s thumb. In a moment pondering what the normally quiet Deputy Kelly (a woman btw) says, Hood approaches the ring where Sanchez is mugging for the camera with groups of other women. Each step for Hood evokes the prison fight he was in and he is like a war veteran with PTSD trying to shake the memory from his head. When Hood gets into the MMA ring with Sanchez, what ensues is one of the greatest and most memorable fights that I have ever witnessed on a TV show. It is primal and brutal and something that I literally could not believe I was watching. With onlookers stunned, Hood hobbles out of the Casino and Deputy Kelly is in awe of what she has just witnessed. Hood, bloodied and broken, looks at her and says something to the effect, “Meet the new boss.” The Who would be so proud.
After the fight and a practically dead Sanchez (and Hood), Sugar helps Hood to his squad car and tells him that he cost him a night’s pay as a guest referee. Barely able to move, Hood holds up Sanchez’ watch to give to Sugar. Once a thief always a thief as they say. Back at Sugar’s bar Hood is icing up when Procter shows up and wants to talk to the Sheriff. The exchange is filled with tension and Procter still manages to come off as scary, despite that he just witnessed what Hood is capable of doing. Cut back to the Casino where Sanchez’ manager is yelling into the phone that the towering MMA fighter is done and that there is no fight. As he approaches the trailer, Procter’s righthand man, who looks like a librarian, asks that the manager return the bag of cash he gave to them when they arrived. Irate, the manager storms off into the trailer. Then the nerdy looking Procter acolyte follows him in and all you hear is screaming by the manager. As the show is ending a police officer from another town is watching the Hood-Sanchez battle on his smartphone in total awe and just before they fade to black they close up on the screen and you see the cop hit the “SHARE” button. Mr. Hood or whoever you are is now a public figure. Great pacing of this episode and the show is finally hitting its stride.