Banshee season 3 episode 4 review: Real Life Is The Nightmare

Banshee continues an excellent run with another impressive episode that develops the characters behind its pulp action...

This review contains spoilers.

3.4 Real Life Is The Nightmare

After the insane pyrotechnics of last week’s episode, Banshee proved tonight that even in its slower episodes it can utterly excel. Real Life Is The Nightmare was a surprising hour of beautiful character moments and genuine pathos, a calm before the inevitable storm that would seem to have erupted in the closing minutes, setting the stage for more mayhem and carnage next week. The war is on and it’s looking to be savage.

I know that Banshee is predominantly a pulp action show, but I really don’t think it gets enough credit for how well it can work in its quieter moments. This week’s episode almost entirely comprised those (while still finding room for an explosion, a fight and a car chase) but it didn’t feel lacking for it. In fact I’d be willing to argue that Real life Is The Nightmare deserves to stand with last week’s instalment as one of the best episodes this show has ever produced, if only for proving that real emotion underpins each one of these colourful characters, and that they can be just as compelling sitting and talking as they can be blowing stuff up.

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While I have questioned here and there why Gordon is still a part of the show, I’m actually quite enjoying his ongoing redemptive arc. Seeing him talk to Carrie in a way that wasn’t merely finger pointing and yelling was a nice change and reminded me that these are adult characters dealing with an impossible situation. And with his renewed focus on putting Proctor away, it seems he may yet have something important to do with how the rest of this season plays out. Toning down his conflicts with Carrie is absolutely a step in the right direction for an often difficult character.

In fact, paring back the endless war of the Hopewells seems to have worked wonders for both of them. One of my problems from the start of Banshee has been a complete lack of empathy towards Carrie. She has never quite clicked for me as a caring mother or a badass criminal; the two things seem to hamper each other as the character can never really have any fun and ergo her scenes tend to be a bit of a drag. But the unhinged Carrie we saw tonight? More of that please. It was great to see her indulge her manic side as she unleashed her rage on sleazebags and went for a drunken joyride complete with her flipping off the pursuing cop. None of it really mattered in the grand scheme of things, but it led to a really lovely scene between her and Hood that wonderfully played on their history and unspoken connection. Their relationship is a lot more interesting without the romantic angle, as a shared dark past is compelling enough without them having to jump into bed together every five minutes.

But as far as Hood’s farewell tour went, the best moment was one I was not expecting; his tender and surprising goodbye to Deva. As a character who often just seems like a clumsy stereotype of the out-of-control teenager, I tend to cringe whenever she comes on screen, but when she told Hood she wanted him to stay and didn’t hate him? Damned if I didn’t almost well up a bit. In among all the sex and violence, Banshee has always worn its heart on its sleeve and that is probably what I love the most about it. I care, and that makes every thrown punch and shootout so much more satisfying.

Speaking of which, did anybody else audibly gasp when Hood took the shot at Proctor? I seriously thought for a moment that the show had removed its main villain, and the ugly and clumsy scuffle that followed really felt like it might end with the tormented gangster saying an abrupt goodbye. Luckily he’s around to wreak more havoc, and in retrospect the guy has too much plot still riding on him to leave now, but it’s testament to the writing that Banshee could legitimately make me believe they’d pull a move like that.

Elsewhere, Rebecca and Burton had some cool and chilling vengeance to wreak on the Redbones, in a scene that didn’t serve a ton of purpose but still managed to be edge-of-your-seat television. Almost every character in Banshee is a well of potential and honestly, despite my problems with Carrie and Gordon, there isn’t a single player who I really deeply despise. It really is one of the best and most underrated casts on television.

I know that these reviews can seem like endless praise to Jonathan Tropper and co, but honestly I search for things to seriously criticise and I so rarely find them. Whether firing on all cylinders or simply giving us a succession of gentle, touching character moments, the writers are not putting a foot wrong at the moment. Even the conflict with Siobhan, which was mostly held off to be dealt with later, was deeply felt and excellently written tonight and I never once felt cheated by the fact that such a game changing event took a backseat. Appreciating that it drove Hood’s decision to leave (as if anyone seriously thought that would happen), it seems the real drama between them is yet to come, and that is just fine by me.

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Right now I am so giddy with excitement about what is yet to come, and that is pretty much the best praise I can give a series. 

Read Gabriel’s review of the previous episode, A Fixer Of Sorts, here.

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