This review contains spoilers.
1.10 A Mixture of Madness
Over the last nine weeks, Banshee has presented us with a complex mix of character relationships, and more secrets than Laura Palmer’s diary, punctuated with breath-taking moments of violence. For its season one send off though, Banshee threw off the covers and romped through an hour of all-out action, capped off with a head-spinning final ten minutes.
For the first time since the pilot episode, the character given the most focus is Anthony Starr’s Sheriff Lucas Hood. Pre-credits and throughout the episode, we’re treated to some conversations Hood had with his parole officer halfway through his time in prison. We know Hood served his full fifteen-year sentence, so we immediately know this can’t end well but they’re a very nice look at the character in conversation.
Without having to constantly look over his shoulder, Hood comes across as a more relaxed individual. He easily charms the female parole officer and his deduction of her lifestyle is the kind of thing we’re used to seeing Benedict Cumberbatch do in Sherlock. Lucas Hood is so much more than a jewel thief. He is a very intelligent man, sometimes driven to make impulsive decisions by his feelings… like assuming the identity of a dead Sheriff.
In the here and now, the bullets start to fly in Banshee. The end of episode nine led us to believe that Lucas Hood was about to turn around into a small army and hail of gunfire. As it happens there are only three of them, and they’re stood outside. It’s still not so good though as Hood dives for cover. As it all goes quiet, Hood looks directly down the barrel of a gun, only to find that the man holding it is Kai Proctor and Mr. Rabbit’s men lie dead. “I guess you owe me one” Proctor tells Hood in the final time we see them together this season.
The Hood/Proctor dynamic has shifted constantly throughout this season. For weeks we saw one of them go one up against the other, only for the opposition to pull it back the following week. Then Proctor helped out Hood with the location of those pesky bikers back in episode five and Hood made that evidence against Proctor disappear. Since then we’ve been watching Proctor bide his time, knowing that Hood would come to him again after he proved his usefulness. Hood was left with little choice when Rabbit arrived and now, it’s clearly advantage Kai Proctor. Given what happens later in A Mixture of Madness, this may make life very difficult for Lucas Hood.
Two episodes ago, Gordon Hopewell smashed up his marital bedroom and was comforted by his daughter, Deva. She asked him then if everything was going to be alright. He lied and said it was. What a difference a day, and two episodes, makes. After everything that Rabbit has put this family through, Gordon cannot lie to Deva anymore when she asks that same question, and there’s only one person they’re laying the blame at – Ana. That may seem like a tad unfair to us, but the Hopewell’s haven’t seen all the effort that Ana has put into protecting her family. In the end, it wasn’t enough, but not from a lack of trying.
At this point Lucas Hood knows that being a Sheriff is going to do him no good at all, surrendering his position to Deputy Brock Lotus. Rabbit knows that Hood isn’t a real Sheriff, though he doesn’t seem at all bothered about exposing this piece of grand fraud, perhaps an indication of how little he cares about the town he’s invaded.
When it boils down to it, Banshee season one has been the story of a boy who loved a girl and her father didn’t like it. Hood knows that this is what’s eating Rabbit up inside. He has no real interest in kidnapping his grandchild. Hood came to Banshee looking for love, only to find that love was married with children. Having been the catalyst for their lives being ripped apart, by giving himself up to Rabbit in exchange for Max, Hood has an opportunity to at least make some amends.
As Banshee prepares itself for the big showdown, there’s a bit of attention paid to the growing animosity between Kai Proctor and the Longshadows. A bloody, finger slicing encounter with a Longshadow henchmen in Proctor’s wine cellar, shows Rebecca Bowman the true horrors of just what she is aligning herself with. Clay Burton demonstrates his unwavering devotion to his master. We never saw the true fate of fighter Sanchez’s manager back in episode three. Based on how Burton dispatches with the Longshadow’s man, we can guess it wasn’t pretty.
One of the best scenes in this finale is with Alex and Nola Longshadow. Nola is marking herself out to be the dangerous half of this brother and sister team. She keeps a gun in her boot, just in case someone happens to drop off the severed head of the man you’ve just sent to deal with your enemy. Anthony Ruivivar and Odette Annable appear to make a fine double act. We’ve only really been teased with these characters so far but the little we’ve seen has left an impression. Nola Longshadow’s decision to stay in Banshee after this rather macabre delivery tells us that she’s a woman who thrives on chaos and violence. It strikes me that she’ll probably get on very well here.
With Hood now in the clutches of the evil Rabbit, it’s up to his super friends to save him. Ana, Job and Sugar Bates make for the most mismatched rescue party ever, but based on previous experience, you wouldn’t mess with any of them. Job gets all the best lines again this week, particularly in his mutual unappreciation relationship with Sugar – “If we die, I want you to know… I don’t like you very much.” If there was a Banshee spin-off which just featured Job and Sugar bantering for a half hour, it’d still be one of the best things on TV.
Before the cavalry can ride in though, one of them has a tough decision to make. Gordon Hopewell asks his wife to make a choice – Lucas Hood or her family. Ana chooses Hood. After what he’s done for her, giving himself up in exchange for her son, how could she abandon him now? Also, the damage is pretty much irreparable where her family is concerned. It might seem like an out-of-character decision for Ana to choose Hood when her priority has been her family all along, but things have changed rather dramatically. If she doesn’t help Lucas, and end this now, no one will be safe.
With Hood tied to a chair, being beaten to a bloody pulp by Mr. Rabbit’s goons, the final part of Hood’s time in a different chair, opposite his parole officer, is revealed. Although we knew that things weren’t going to go according to plan here, it’s still a shock when the parole lady turns out to be just another way for Rabbit to stick it to Hood. With cries of “It was a set up all along”, this was another cruel twist of the knife to Hood from Rabbit, a dangle of hope in front of him – make him feel good, make him open up to someone and then snatch it all away.
Rabbit vs. Hood, although Lucas is subjected to a fair amount of punishment, is a remarkably non-physical battle by Banshee standards. Rabbit knows that no amount of battering can inflict as much harm on Hood as his taunts and teasing about Ana. But it goes both ways, and Hood knows this. Rabbit blames Hood for his daughter’s desertion of him but deep down he knows he’s kidding himself – “She hated you more than she ever loved me” Hood tells him. It’s not news to Rabbit but yet he’s still pretending. Hood is preparing his knock out blow though. “This isn’t about love” he splutters through his own blood, “Stop whinging about f**king love, you don’t know what love is. We screwed you over and that’s why you’re mad.”
With this statement Rabbit loses. Rabbit really lost the moment that Hood gave himself up, because for Lucas and Ana, it’s always been about love, and with nothing left to lose, Rabbit’s power is useless. Anthony Starr and Ben Cross provide a refreshing scene here. You keep expecting it to erupt in an orgy of fists and fury but in its restraint comes its brilliance. When men like Rabbit have been around violence all their lives, an attack like this is all the more effective.
With Hood crushing Rabbit’s soul, there’s just the small matter of getting him out of there alive. The rescue party manages to double their numbers after being pulled over by Brock Lotus. In a show that confirms if Lotus had been made town Sheriff before Hood arrived, he would have been susceptible to a bit of pressure, he caves at the encouragement from fellow Deputy Siobhan Kelly and agrees to join the mission to bring Hood back. This may seem like a rather rash decision but given everything that’s happened in Banshee over the last ten weeks, why not go out all guns blazing. Matt Servitto’s reply of “Do I look sure?” to Trieste Kelly Dunn’s enquiry is another smile-raising moment.
There’s one individual who emerges as very much the leader of this small group – Ana. When asked what the plan is, she replies with a firm “Save Hood. Shoot everybody else” – which would have made for a great episode title. Ivana Milicevic looks about a million miles away from the Carrie Hopewell side of her character. Clad in black and taking down more bad guys than any of the rest of her side during the ensuing shoot out, Milicevic would surely be a shoo-in if Scarlett Johansson were suddenly unavailable to reprise her role as Black Widow for any future Marvel movies.
Banshee has shared many traits of the Western genre throughout this season. Hood was the cowboy who rode into town to sort out the trouble. It’s fitting then that the action peaks in an old west-style shoot out. To begin with, this scene is stark and restrained. It’s a lot of peeking out from behind cover to take a quick shot rather than jumping through the air, firing two guns at once while every bullet somehow misses you.
Gradually Banshee turns up the dial and throws in some of its customary cartoon violence. Legs are blown clean off, leading to a truly wonderful moment with a bazooka. The bazooka scene is flawless Banshee. It’s a sharp intake of breath for the viewer, Job gets in a quick-fire quip before the scene, and several of Rabbit’s men disintegrate. It’s over the top, it’s bloody, it’s brash, it’s Banshee.
The final face-to-face confrontation between Ana and her father actually feels like it’s all over a bit quickly. Rabbit, clearly not heeding what Hood told him about how deep Ana’s loathing of him goes, misjudges his daughter when she points a gun in his direction. She puts several bullets in him before he even knows what’s happening. This moment does feel hurried but perhaps it’s just reflective of where Rabbit has pushed Ana too. Her hatred really has reached non-hesitation levels.
Despite winning this battle over her father (though not the war, as Rabbit’s body is never found) Ana’s victory comes at a price. It’s an awful moment as she watches her family pack up to move away from her. Deva isn’t able to communicate her fury to her mother. It’s seems there’s only so many secrets that are forgivable.
This episode’s most shocking twist comes from a rather unexpected place. Kai Proctor takes Rebecca Bowman to a spot overlooking the development of the Longshadow’s new casino complex. Asking her to make a phone call, she activates a bomb which brings the whole thing tumbling down. As Rebecca continues her journey toward the dark side, this is a pretty big step. Proctor allowed her to have the power to cause the detonation and as her fingers interlace with his, it appears she liked it.
What Rebecca doesn’t know yet is that she inadvertently just made her first kill. Inside the structure at the time was Banshee’s young mayor, making an apologetic phone call to his wife. The Mayor was a character whom I thought we were going to see a lot more of in the beginning of Banshee, but he’s really remained a background character, so while his death doesn’t have quite the jolt effect that some of the other characters might, it’s still a surprising moment. What effect this will have on Rebecca when it comes to light, we will have to wait and see.
Banshee ends with an indication that things are soon to get even more difficult for Lucas Hood. Three men stumble across a shallow grave in the woods containing three corpses, roughly dated to around the time Hood arrived. Hood’s actions have already called for an additional FBI special investigator to be called to town, and now agent Xavier is crouching over the decomposing body of the real Lucas Hood and asking “Who might you be?” It’s been a question that’s run throughout Banshee.
It is quite surprising that so few folk have worked out that Lucas Hood is not who he says he is, but the final, post-credits, cliffhanger scene of A Mixture of Madness puts paid to that. At the end of episode six, we saw Hood listening to a voicemail message from the real Lucas’ son. Now said son is watching a YouTube video of someone with his father’s name fighting a famous cage fighter. Jason Hood is setting a course for Banshee too, and it looks like our Lucas is going to have some unwelcome guests very soon. This is a neat, if a little predictable, cliffhanger to leave the season on, and it’s a nice use of the video that we glimpsed at the end of episode three that hasn’t been mentioned since.
A Mixture of Madness was a dizzying conclusion to Banshee’s first season. It lacked the depth and range of some of the previous episodes but then season finales are all about letting the fireworks off, and the confirmation of a second outing for the show allowed the creators to do this without having to worry about tying up all the loose ends. Almost all Banshee’s large number of characters were represented, though it was fitting that Anthony Starr’s Hood was given the greatest attention.
The episode brought only the current round of Hood and Ana vs. Mr. Rabbit to a conclusion. I don’t think we’re buying Deputy Kelly’s claim that he crawled off and died in the woods for a second. He’ll be back. So will we.
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