Banshee, Season 1, Episode 6: Wicks, Review

Unlike The Following, Banshee has hit its stride . . .


Cinemax’s Banshee is now into the second half of its debut season and the show is really starting to find its voice after a stumble out of the gate when it premiered last month. A whole lot has changed since the Pilot episode and I am glad I stuck with Banshee while it found its balance. There is a whole lot more to the show than I really expected as Cinemax tries to hold their own against HBO and Showtime’s original programming. Weaving the narrative together is imperative when launching a new show. The production team, headed up by award-winning executive producer Alan Ball, is helping the freshman show find its footing and I am happy to say that their formula has worked. Putting it on the Friday night schedule is a good move despite some believing that it’s time slot is a death knell. Instead, Banshee has been able to find its audience; people who are looking for something a little different. While it has not reached Homeland-like numbers or buzz, each episode is fresh and multiple storylines are layered together like a perfectly cooked lasagna. When you don’t stack the ingredients correctly, the final result will not be as palatable. But the chefs running Banshee are no slouches in the kitchen. (By the way, that’s a metaphor; there is not really a kitchen.)

Episode 6 goes exactly where we hoped it eventually would; into Sheriff Lucas Hood’s past. Unlike shows like The Following where they throw in way too many flashbacks at inopportune times, Banshee is able to seamlessly do it by making Hood’s memories of prison in black and white. It very much reminded me of the way American History X displayed the prison scenes and meshed them into the overall narrative. The black and white represented a very different and separate part of Hood’s life and that is what the effect captures. During a routine 15 minute stop in Banshee for a Greyhound bus on its way to Pittsburgh, an ex-con named Wicks (Michael Kostroff) gets off to stretch his legs and have a smoke. First he funnily propositions an Amish girl walking by and then across the way sees Officer Kelly laughing. The person telling the funny joke is Sheriff Hood but to Wicks, there is no Sheriff Hood. He mutters, “I don’t fuckin’ believe it.” Right away it hits me; this guy did time with Hood and knows that he is no man of the law.

Cut to Hood’s first few days in prison, years ago when the Hacks (prison guards) “Code Red” him in the middle of the night, covering his head with, well, a hood. After taking off the hood in the prison laundry room, Mr. Rabbit is waiting. He is the one who ordered this decisive action. Mr. Rabbit explains that Hood will suffer every, single day he is in prison unless he tells him where Carrie is located. Hood is smart enough to know he is a dead man anyway and takes a brutal beating from a man they call “The Albino” (played by Joseph Gatt), a massive, pasty, white man that looks even whiter in the black and white effect. He looks like that jacked-up alien from last summer’s Prometheus; but scary as hell. Not only is he enormous in size and strength, he wants sexual favors for protection and wants those favors willingly. Hood is beaten to within an inch of his life and is in recovery when he meets Wicks. A drifter and career criminal, Wicks has been in and out of institutions his whole life. But he is a narcotics dealer on the inside and is untouchable by rapist maniacs like The Albino. He brings Hood food and advice over the next month in recovery telling him that he is only safe in the hospital wing or in “the hole.”

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After leaving the hospital wing and in the yard, Hood asks The Albino’s main squeeze (an under 20-kid who killed someone drunk driving) to take him to very, very white man. Hood offers him a deal that The Albino says would interfere with his deal with Mr. Rabbit. As he and the kid are walking back outside to the yard, Hood offers to take The Albino down with his help. He balks and when they reach the outside sunlight Hood pulls a shiv from his cast and makes the fresh out of High School con “less pretty” by brutally knifing his face. He does not kill him though; he just wants to make The Albino’s favorite plaything suffer. This gets Hood 90 days in the hole, where he trains himself every day using the wall as a punching bag. Slowly Hood is getting stronger and stronger and he knows what has to be done.

Back in the present time, Wicks is picked up and put in the Banshee jail where he tells the Deputy that he will only talk to the Sheriff. When Hood gets to the Cadi, he sees who it is and takes Wicks out to lunch and they discuss prison and how Hood managed to land the hustle of a lifetime playing Sheriff of Banshee. Conflicted, Hood owes Wicks, so he gets him a motel room out of town for a night, gives him $2500 cash and sends him on his way. Thinking that it is all done, Hood heads back to Banshee. Unbeknownst to Hood, Wicks does not get on the truck to Pittsburgh. Instead he goes to the American Indian casino where he blows all of the cash on craps, a hooker and cocaine before being arrested on Indian land. Hood once more comes to his old friend’s aid, saving him from Native American justice. While at Sugar’s eating a steak Wicks tells Hood that he is not going to “out” the Sheriff as an ex-con but he wants a piece of the action from the cushy con Hood is running in Banshee. You get the feeling that Sugar and Hood, both ex-cons themselves know how this is going to end.

Carrie/Anastasia calls her father, Mr. Rabbit, and tells him she is ready to bring Hood to him. Her double life is crumbling as her son Max needs a new lung following a terrible asthma attack. Proctor is blackmailing a local reverend who will not sell his land for the casino expansion. The reverend is adamant about not moving until Proctor brings pictures of his wife and her having sex from years ago when she danced at one of his clubs. Proctor then threatens to release the pictures and the video. The reverend says, “There’s a video?” Proctor retorts, “there is always a video.” Looks like the man of God is moving after all.

The show misdirects back into Hood’s past where he has just gotten out of the hole. Wicks stops by to drop off a special delivery (books with a shiv inside) at Hood’s bunk and tells him when it’s all going to go down. When Hood asks Wicks why he is helping him, he explains that it’s a long stretch in prison and he considers it an investment. The next day, while Hood is getting his first taste of sunshine in three months, he takes Wicks’ advice to watch the guards and their movements, because once they leave their posts, The Albino is going to take Hood out. Like clockwork, the guards move and, like some kind of steroid infused Ziggy Stardust monster with someone holding a black umbrella for him because of his sensitivity to light; here comes The Albino. They bring Hood inside and he and The Albino are together in the middle of a circle for all of the prison inmates to see. The Albino, razor in hand, forces Hood to get on his knees. Hood asks whether, if he does this, they are “cool” and The Albino tells him that he probably will kill him anyway. He drops his pants and waits and with the quickness of a cobra, Hood grabs the razor and slices The Albino’s manhood. What ensues is yet another gory and bloody battle: a David versus Goliath fight scene that leaves the other cons in awe. After finally subduing the giant, Hood balances his head on a long curling bar before picking up a circular 45-pound weight and slamming it down on The Albino. New kid in town wins. It was absolutely brutal and taut with tension and heightened fear. This certainly explains the nightmares and images Hood has suffered throughout the season.

Sugar and Hood are on the lake in a rowboat drinking, talking about guys like Wicks and what kinds of poisons they are. Living for favors and handouts, using information they have on someone. The camera pans below the boat like in a Jaws movie all the way to the bottom of the lake where Wicks is weighted down, as in dead. It was in that moment that I realized Wicks had been dead since he had the steak earlier that night. This installment of Banshee reminded me of an early Sopranos episode where Tony takes Meadow to look at colleges and finds a former mobster in the witness protection program that the boss has to kill. Banshee knows how to use the flashback sequence properly and it pays off brilliantly, giving us some great insight into Hood and what drives him. Unlike my review of The Following, Banshee utilizes flashbacks to actually move the story forward, not stall it in many different places in time. The death of Wicks was inevitable and something that only men like Sugar can understand. The past is obdurate and has no business in the present. Especially in Banshee, PA.


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