Banshee season 4 episode 2 review: The Burden Of Beauty

Banshee is nothing if not bold and innovative, as its transformation into a puzzle-box mystery series in its final run shows...

This review contains spoilers.

4.2 The Burden Of Beauty

If I were to name the two things that make Banshee special, they would be confidence and innovation. Even in its earliest moments, Banshee went for the jugular with audacious action, ludicrous plot twists, huge cliffhangers and a sense of excess that bordered on sleazy. At the start, it didn’t all work, but by the time of season three, Banshee had figured itself out. Overconfidence may have occasionally tripped it up in its early days, but it was worth it for the dizzying heights of innovation it would lead to. i.e. last year’s entire run.

Halfway through this week’s episode it occurred to me what I think Banshee is trying to do in its final season. Truth be told, season four has so far seemed a little more grounded and slow than what we’re used to from this show, but I think there’s a reason for that because, if I’m not much mistaken, this year is shaping up to be Banshee by way of True Detective.

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In pre-release interviews it was suggested that there would be fewer experimental episodes this year, because this season as a whole is an experiment itself. And while that may seem a risky choice for a final run, Banshee was never going to play it safe. If it did it wouldn’t be Banshee. So instead of billionaires using semi-trailers as their travelling lairs/personal torture chambers or heists shot in first person, instead we’re getting a puzzle-box mystery that slowly gets pieced together through time jumps and gradual reveals of just what happened in the intervening two years. Any complaints about Rebecca’s abrupt departure seem a little unfounded now; she might be dead, but it’s hard to imagine that she isn’t going to be a hugely important ongoing presence on the basis of this episode. Rebecca had secrets of her own, and whatever the truth of her death, her agency seems to have only grown stronger in the last two years.

As it turns out, her ‘side business’ kept Hood involved with her, after a run in with the hillbillies we met last week led to both of them saving the other. Rebecca’s seemingly horrible injuries in the cold open were actually just a front to steal painkillers for the far more severely hurt Hood; except now his blood is in her car and an already suspicious Brock has more reason than ever to suspect his former boss.

Despite what his former friends think, the show doesn’t seem to be suggesting he may be the killer. Proctor, on the other hand, clearly knows more than he’s letting on, and while the two previous corpses would suggest that this wasn’t just a retaliation to Rebecca’s side business, there’s a chance that her death was designed to look like the work of a serial killer to divert suspicion. Maybe. Personally, I think Proctor is a clear red herring, although there is something tantalising to the idea of his protégé having become a dangerous enemy.

What is becoming more evident with each episode is that Banshee is now full of different factions who have every reason to want to hurt each other. Calvin Bunker is gearing up to make a power play while his brother leaks information to Carrie to assist in her ongoing vigilante campaign against the scumbags of Banshee (which, by the way, is awesome). A very big and very dangerous cartel has become involved and the hillbillies Hood and Rebecca maimed probably aren’t going to vanish quietly into the night. Brock is stuck under Proctor’s thumb and Hood is grappling with ongoing guilt over his abandoning of Job, while Carrie kept searching. Basically, the town is a powder keg gearing up for a very big explosion. Rebecca’s death lit the fuse, and now all we can do is get ready. 

Honestly, it all does feel very different to the Banshee we’ve come to know and love, especially considering that last year was such a perfection of the formula. At this early stage I’m not quite ready to call this shift an unbridled success. So far, I’m more intrigued than obsessed, more admiring than adoring, but I also know that I trust this creative team completely. If innovation and confidence are the keys to Banshee’s success, then the show has lost none of what made it special. I don’t think the slower pace we’ve seen so far is necessarily detrimental, but we do only have six episodes left, and there’s a tremendous amount of ground to cover. Eliza Dushku’s much touted new character is yet to make an appearance, and we’ve only just got our first glimpse of Job’s whereabouts.

But hey, for now Banshee is back, they’re boldly wading into new territory and there’s a tantalising mystery driving the plot and promising a build to a spectacular conclusion. To my mind, only a creative team with complete confidence in their vision could pull off the feat they did with season three and then decide to take a hard left instead of staying the course. That, to me, is the most exciting part of what we’ve seen so far. 

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Read Gabriel’s review of the previous episode, Something Out Of The Bible, here.