This review contains spoilers.
4.4 Innocent Might Be A Bit Of A Stretch
Banshee’s heightened reality is probably one of the best things about it. Its sheer audacity was what made me fall for it in the first place, and last year it reached dizzying heights by managing to perfectly balance that insanity with real depth and heart. To be clear, the show has been doing that since the very start, but it has gotten better and better at that balance as it has gone along, and last season it deservedly reaped all kinds of plaudits for what it managed to achieve. That’s partly why the change of pace this year has been such a surprise, as the show slowed down and got darker and more introspective. Sure, there has still been action that would put any other series to shame, but it’s not quite what we’ve come to expect of Banshee, and while it has been a bit of an adjustment, it’s one I haven’t minded, and with each new episode I’ve grown to like the new-look Banshee more and more.
Maybe that’s why the sudden reveal of the killer as a Satanist cult seems kind of jarring. On paper, it should work; this is a universe where violent Native American tribes, an Amish community, Neo-Nazis, corrupt Navy SEALS and a drug empire all operate within kilometres of each other, and each new addition to Banshee’s growing roster of ludicrous factions has generally been a delight. A murderous cult ought to fit right in. Yet somehow, it doesn’t.
Maybe it’s because Banshee has always been fun and watching young women tortured and murdered isn’t fun at all. Or maybe it’s because there are only four episodes left and revealing that Rebecca’s apparent killer is no-one we know or not in any way connected to any of the characters is a really odd move this late in the game. Think about it; Rebecca’s death was a great narrative choice because, taking place two years after we last saw her, it created so many questions while providing the catalyst that would bring all of these characters back together. I’ve enjoyed the slow unfolding of reveals about the intervening two years in the last few episodes, and the puzzle box narrative seemed like a great idea. But now that’s all flown out the window because the series looks to be wasting precious time dealing with a subplot that has nothing to do with anything else.
That said, there’s still some doubt over whether this killer actually did murder Rebecca, and it could easily be revealed that her death was made to look like his handiwork, but even in that case, why bother? Now the killer is a going concern that will have to be resolved regardless of whether or not he was behind Rebecca’s death. And it seems kind of annoying because elsewhere on the show everything is gearing up to be brilliant. Watts’ release and the subsequent reveal that he is Calvin’s father in law was a total gamechanger, a spanner in the works right when Calvin was ready to take over. Plus, the destruction of Proctor’s factory right after he promised he could produce vast quantities of product for the cartel is going to cause a more than few headaches. There is enough good stuff going on, all of which could lead to a great finale. Why throw this in the mix?
Look, the fact is the writers of Banshee have earned a tremendous amount of trust, and I don’t doubt that I’ll be eating my words in a couple of weeks’ time. What seems a little frustrating now might actually pay off beautifully down the line in interesting and unexpected ways. As a storytelling choice it’s questionable mainly because the story isn’t finished yet. It’s just hard to ignore the fact that the end is very close, and while I don’t think the show is treading water, now at the halfway point of the final season there are bigger stories that need to take priority over a murderous cult.
Also something of a late arrival is Eliza Dushku’s Veronica Dawson, but she’s a far more welcome one. As a wisecracking, irreverent FBI agent who enjoys clearing out meth dens just so she can sample the goods herself, she’s possibly the most Banshee character ever and looks to be a great foil for Hood coming on to the home stretch. Again, there’s a very distinct risk that the addition of such a colourful character at this late stage might detract from the conclusion for our pre-established characters, but purely by virtue of being a fun, interesting, engaging character Dawson gets a pass, at least for now. Like anything in serialised television we’re watching a story in progress and the ultimate success or lack thereof in any of this can’t be fully judged until the credits roll on the series finale.
Right now, Banshee is doing some things very well and others less, so, but you have to admire the lingering willingness to experiment even this close to the end. Whether or not that will prove to be the wisest choice in the long run looks a bit less certain than it did coming in to this season, but I’m still excited to see what happens next, which is a lot more than I can say for several other shows on television at the moment.
Read Gabriel’s review of the previous episode, Job, here.