Banshee season 3 episode 5 review: Tribal

Banshee delivers a terrifying, tense and heartbreaking instalment this week. Is it the best episode the show's offered up so far?

This review contains spoilers.

3.5 Tribal

Normally when reviewing I like to take notes. Never anything extensive; it’s hard to enjoy TV when you’re writing down impressions every five minutes, but if there’s stuff that really works it’s good to keep track to help collect your thoughts at the end. Tonight the page in my notebook headed with ‘Banshee 3.5′ remained entirely blank. I was too busy being completely enraptured by every terrifying, tense and heartbreaking second of Tribal.

Is it the best episode Banshee has ever done? Not necessarily. There were one or two little caveats that bothered me a bit (why for example did Chayton let Hood live at the end?), but by and large this was a thrilling and beautifully constructed hour of television that proves Banshee is in absolutely top form right now. Coming off the back of two preceding episodes that both could make a strong claim for ‘best ever’ status, Tribal maintained the standard with aplomb. We had insane action, excellent character moments and, as seems to be par for the course in Banshee these days, the death of a major character.

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It’s a little hard to know how to feel about losing Siobhan. It’s not that I particularly cared about her, but I have to admit that the way it was handled was affecting and powerful in the way Banshee so often is; a wrenching moment of raw emotion amid all of the pulp chaos. As much as this worked though, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was, well, a little predictable. Pretty much as soon as she gave Hood her ultimatum last week I suspect her days were numbered, and although she seemed to change her mind about her condemnation, killing her off makes Hood’s conflict with Chayton personal in a way it hasn’t been so far, in a way it needs to be to keep the stakes sky high for the rest of the season. In terms of plotting, killing her was about the only thing that could happen at this point to kick the war into high gear, and while I can’t begrudge the writers executing a plot point that makes perfect sense, I guess I just wish I hadn’t seen it coming. Her death should have felt like a shock, and frankly, it didn’t. Plus it didn’t help that the opening teaser of the episode so strongly telegraphed it.

But aside from the big game changer that we’re all obliged to talk about, Tribal has to be lauded for its deployment of tension and character development in perfectly measured balance. There were moments where I legitimately felt terrified for the characters. The brief flash of a Redbone looking through the basement door, the realisation that the prisoner had escaped and Siobhan was alone with him; there were many moments tonight that made me swear loudly at my TV, and that’s kind of what I want from good television. The Redbones have been so well established as a legitimate threat in previous episodes that seeing them gunning for our main characters in full force is frightening to behold, and the fact that Hood is going to be giving as good as he got in weeks to come makes the second half of the season just that much more tantalising.

More than anything else though, I’m a sucker for TV that forces characters in various states of conflict to deal with a common enemy, and bonus points if they’re all stuck in an enclosed space while doing it. It was exhilarating to see Hood and Procter forced into an uneasy alliance yet again, and the brief revival of Hood and Brock’s early animosity was great. The fact that characters like Carrie, Job and Sugar were left out this week also worked wonders in making the siege feel claustrophobic and nail-biting, although the juxtaposition with the death of Proctor’s mother was actually somewhat haunting. Banshee is proving more and more that when it chooses to take itself seriously it can deliver some stunning television, and Tribal was one of the grimmest episodes yet, in a way that worked perfectly.

The episode even had time to develop a character who seems destined to become a new fan favourite. Bunker is interesting and oddly sympathetic for a reformed Neo-Nazi. It will be interesting to see how his past plays into events in episodes to come. Additionally, I was pretty certain that Billy was doomed from the start, but with each passing episode he seems to be shedding his redshirt status and becoming an interesting character in his own right. If there was ever a perfect time to kill him it was now, but with Siobhan having helped save his life his personal conflict with the Redbones has just become more complicated. I’m glad he’s sticking around for now, as he’s a good addition to the cast with a lot of untapped storytelling potential.

So, where do we stand now? This war just become personal for everyone, with the cops finally having a reason to get their hands dirty. Retaliation is coming, and it will be neither quiet nor pretty. I know I end almost every review saying I can’t wait for next week, but you know what? It’s never been more true. 

Read Gabriel’s review of the previous episode, Real Life Is The Nightmare, here.

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