Banshee: The Fire Trials Review

Cinemax’s Banshee serves up violence and pathos in equal measure in tonight’s hard-hitting premiere.

Spoilers ahead for tonight’s season premiere and last season’s finale.

It’s hard to know where to begin with a big, ambitious series like Banshee. From the very beginning, the series, returning tonight for its third season, has served up huge helpings of action, intrigue, heartache and pathos—all of it built on a shaky foundation of lies. But even as so many Banshee residents bury their secrets (sometimes literally), they manage to wear their hearts on their sleeves.

It’s been a month since Lucas and Carrie returned from New York City, and now, in a post-Rabbit world, we find the last several weeks have not been kind to everyone. Carrie is adrift and disenfranchised, a witness to the slow destruction of the Hopewell family wrought by lies and revelations in equal measure. The worst of it may be that she and Hood are no longer together. He has moved on, embracing unexpected happiness with Siobhan, one of his deputies. He still cares for Carrie, of course, but even the con-turned-sheriff can’t save her from her own destructive tendencies.

It’s an interesting twist of fate that Hood has become a surrogate parent to teenaged Deva, the troubled daughter he never knew he had. It’s not easy for either of them to acknowledge the history that led to Deva’s existence, but Hood still tries to pass on bits of fatherly advice.  In one of my favorite scenes of the night, Hood explains to Deva how to properly case a joint. This is family values, Banshee-style.

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But Hood has a second family now in the Banshee police department. Emmett may be gone, but he is not forgotten. Those in blue he left behind exact a form of brutal vigilante justice that brings closure but deeply troubles Brock. The deputy has a hard time living with the execution-style murder of the Neo-Nazi who ended Emmett’s life, but an even bigger problem with Hood’s seeming nonchalance about it. Luckily Brock has more to do on the show than just wring his hands over Hood’s moral ambiguity: He’s drinking on the job and sleeping with his ex-wife. While neither necessarily signifies moral bankruptcy, for Brock, these transgressions represent a schism from the good man he wants to be.

That being said, sleeping with one’s ex isn’t nearly as shocking as what Kai Proctor and his niece, Rebecca, have going on. But Rebecca’s not just into Uncle Kai, the man who was shunned by his family. No, she’s interested in his many shady business deals, whether it’s drug trafficking or running a strip club. A little bit of blood or skin isn’t going to scare her off, especially since it’s power she’s most attracted to. And there’s no one in town more powerful than crooked Kai Proctor. Yet sleeping with the most powerful man in Banshee isn’t enough to protect her from the most dangerous man in Banshee, namely Chayton Littlestone, the fearsome leader of the Red Bones gang.

The most important thing to come out of tonight’s episode is setting up Hood’s next big heist—a soon-to-be decommissioned military base with palettes of untraceable cash just begging to be stolen. But bypassing state-of-the-art military security requires a skilled hacker. Who better, then, to aid Hood and Sugar than Job, who got as far from Banshee as possible. But after a botched score, Job is drawn back to the last place he wants to be. At some point I have to believe that Carrie will be drawn into the mix as well, but time will tell.

As I said before, Banshee is a show with mighty ambitions. Tonight’s episode featured 21 speaking parts—not including the main cast. But the great thing is, all the moving parts work flawlessly, thanks in no small part to Jonathan Tropper’s tight scripting. It’s a well-acted show, too. Antony Starr and Ivana Milicevic are great as always, imbuing their characters with a conflicted gravitas that is Banshee‘s bread and butter. Matt Servitto and Rus Blackwell bring a lot to their portrayals of people caught in the crossfire of Hood’s many schemes and secrets. Blackwell especially manages to do quite a lot with very little screen time. As Carrie’s embittered husband, he embodies a man who is truly on the edge of hope.

Some closing thoughts:

We may have bid farewell to some major characters at the end of last season, but we’ve gained some new faces, including a hapless new deputy, Billy Raven, and icy, hard-bitten Colonel Douglas Stowe. Not only is he the Marine base’s imposing CO, he’s also sleeping with Carrie—which means sooner or later he and Hood will come to blows. (And I’d be quite disappointed if they didn’t.)

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Kai’s elderly mother is still in the picture after their unexpected post-shunning reconciliation. She admits Kai has become the man his father feared he would be, but Mother Proctor still loves her son. One has to think she’ll eventually find out about Kai and Rebecca—and when she does, it won’t be pretty.

When it comes to big bads, Chayton Littlestone takes the title. As played by Geno Segers, Chayton is terrifying. He and Hood already brawled once before, but I’d love to see them go at it again.

I wasn’t expecting Brock to be sporting a beard. But each man grieves in his own way, I suppose.

At some point Hood and Carrie will climb into each other’s beds, right? I’m saying this should happen, but what he and Siobhan have seems almost too good to be true. Almost.

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4 out of 5