When you see Alan Ball’s name next to the credit of executive producer, you can assume that a show isn’t going to be one for the all the family. Having steered cult hits like Six Feet Under and True Blood, Ball’s shows are usually stacked with characters that inhabit greyer areas of life, hold one or two secrets, and lashings of adult content. His latest, Banshee, is no exception.
Over the course of a ten episode first season, Banshee welcomed its audience into a murky, but enthralling world. An unnamed ex-con played by Anthony Starr, tracks his sweetheart of fifteen years ago, Ivana Milicevic’s Ana/Carrie Hopewell, to a small Pennsylvanian Amish community where he finds she’s married with two children to the local District Attorney in an attempt to hide from her gangster father, Mr. Rabbit.
Our ex-con finds himself in the wrong bar at the wrong time and when the town’s new Sheriff meets a grizzly end in a bar fight, he assumes the identity of Sheriff Lucas Hood as an excuse to stay in Banshee. Little did he realise that Banshee is a town with its own troubles, and people will now to look to him to sort them out.
As implausible as this set up may look on paper, it couldn’t stop Banshee from delivering ten weeks of first class television. The show thrived on a set of strong characters, channelled by a great cast, and the complex web of relationships they were involved in. Around this were some scenes of spectacular violence and quite a bit of action of the bedroom variety too. Some reviewers accused the show of being shallow, relying on these elements to attract an audience. Those reviewers completely missed the point of Banshee. The violence and sex, while very strong, was always used to convey character development. It was never there just for the sake of it.
Almost everyone I’ve spoken to who watched Banshee absolutely loved it, some devouring the whole run in one weekend. It was a show which took hold of the viewer and didn’t let go for a second. Its depth of character, combined with the excitement of its action scenes has made it in my mind the best new US show in a long while.
Banshee is one of those shows that once you’ve seen the finale, you’re already looking for more. Season two (which we’ll come to in a little while) is currently filming with an air date of January 2014 in the states, but to satisfy the hunger of Fanshees (the official term for Banshee fans) there is a mixture of online material to be considered under the banner of Banshee Origins, here, some of which casts a new light on the programme.
First up is the Banshee Origins tie-in comic book. Throughout Banshee there were many times when the influence of comics could be felt, particularly when Lucas Hood got a bit handy with his fists. His battle with biker gang The Kindred in episode five saw Hood coming off like Wolverine. Banshee’s fights were often gloriously OTT, with characters slugging back and forth like those drawn in boxes. It’s fitting then that Banshee Origins begins in this medium.
The book’s story goes back over fifteen years, to a time when Hood worked for Mr. Rabbit, along with Ana and fellow hardman henchmen, Olek. The tale introduces the ruthlessness of Rabbit and showed Hood and Ana pulling a heist on an armoured car. It then recounts the scheming relationship between Hood and Ana and their desire to escape from Rabbit with the help of “dude looks like a lady” computer hacker, Job.
Some of the book has been created from flashbacks of Lucas and Ana that was shown in the series – the locket that contains the picture of the house is given here to Ana by Hood. The book contains a few other interesting parts. The armoured car hijack is an intriguing inclusion as we’ve seen Hood, Job and fellow conspirator, Sugar Bates planning an as-yet-uncarried-out raid on the Banshee casino armoured van. In the book, the robbery is carried out by having Hood infiltrate the van team and make a daring leap with the pay-load into the back of an Ana-driven truck. Might we see this tactic employed on the Banshee casino van? The way in which Hood launches himself with precision into the back of his escape truck is also like the way in which he jumped aboard Ana’s car when she saved him in episode four – Half Deaf is Better Than All Dead, so it was a move they’d previously rehearsed.
As well as revealing the identity that Ana would have assumed had her runaway with Lucas gone according to plan would still have been Carrie, the book introduces a character who is headed for Banshee in season two. Special Agent Jim Racine introduces himself to Mr. Rabbit after his predecessor succumbed to Rabbit’s bribes. At the time he’s a clean cop, whether or not he’s remained so in the following fifteen years is up for question. A quick scan of Banshee’s cast list on IMDB reveals that Racine will be played by US TV drama veteran Zeljko Ivanek. At the end of Banshee’s season finale, FBI agent Dean Xavier informed Deputy Yawners that a special investigator was on his way to town to look into Sheriff Hood’s behaviour. Smart money would be on this turning out to be Racine. What’s more uncertain is where his loyalties are going to lie.
The rest of Banshee Origins is made up of thirteen short films, starting fifteen years ago and ending on the day Anthony Starr’s leading man assumed his new identity as Lucas Hood. Most of Banshee’s main characters are represented somewhere in the collection and there’s a good deal of background information to be gleaned, as well as a handful of moments which are pretty revealing.
The first short featuring a phone conversation between Olek and Hood’s fellow prison inmate, The Albino, uncovers that Olek had been hoping that Ana’s location could be persuaded out of Hood by The Albino. Unfortunately for Olek, Hood left The Albino in little mood for talking. Or breathing, for that matter.
Lucas Hood in conversation with his prison psychologist (the same one who actually turned out to be working for Rabbit) clarifies that the Lucas Hood who arrived in Banshee wasn’t the same man who went into prison to protect the woman he loved. “You’re scared of what you’re becoming in here?” – this ties in with Ana’s claim to Hood in episode three that he used to be kind, to which he replied angrily that fifteen years inside would drive that out of anyone, particularly when you’re subjected to the extra abuse Rabbit inflicted upon him.
The next two films in the collection are probably the most interesting. In the first, set fourteen years previous, a heavily disguised and pregnant Ana approaches the prison gates with the intention of visiting Hood, presumably to tell him he has a child on the way. At the last moment she spies her father driving through the gates. Ana retreats. All the time while watching Banshee, we, and Lucas, assumed that Ana had never tried to contact him. She did but the risk of being discovered again by Rabbit was too great. Had Ana made that visit to Lucas, could things have been different now?
This leads into the next short set three years later with Ana now deeply into her Carrie character and on the verge of marrying Gordon Hopewell. The key line in this scene, in which she sits in the prison car park taking a phone call from Gordon, is “I’m just looking for my exit”. From her wedding? From her former life? Was she hoping for the closure that she lied to Hood about achieving after their night together in episode eight?
The remaining films change the location to Banshee itself. Ten years ago Sugar Bates made his way back to Banshee after being released from prison. The only friend there to greet him was Kai Proctor. The next film unveils that it was with Proctor’s helping of the previous owner into retirement that Sugar came to manage The Forge. This hints to a deeper, untapped relationship in Banshee that we haven’t seen. Sugar is obviously indebted to Kai Proctor, something which may test his friendship with Hood in the future.
Remember the scars we saw Deputy Siobhan Kelly examining on her shoulder in the post credits scene of episode five? Their likely source is uncovered amongst the Banshee Origins films. Five years ago, Kelly wasn’t a cop but a beaten wife, persuaded into law enforcement by Emmett Yawners. A following short sees Kelly in conversation with Rebecca Bowman, celebrating her divorce. Might we see Kelly’s estranged husband in Banshee’s future? Kelly and Rebecca shared no scenes in Banshee so to see these two characters interacting is a welcome addition. Set three years previous, this film shows that Rebecca had been hiding her non-Amish ways from her family for quite some time. These two have a lot in common going by their talk here.
The remaining films move back to being Hood and Ana-related. Mr. Rabbit confesses his fatherly feelings for Hood to Olek, giving us a sense of how great a betrayal he felt when they attempted to screw him over. Olek, spurred on by his own feelings for Ana, subtly manipulates Rabbit into further torment for Hood. Job has apparently been in contact with Ana all along after her disappearance which explains why he so easily knew where she was hiding when Hood came asking as the very beginning of the season.
Finally, there’s a revealing film featuring a 13-year-old Deva Hopewell and her mother. There’s not been much of a hint that Deva ever thought that Gordon Hopewell wasn’t her father, but here she questions her mother about the man who is her real dad. From what we’ve seen in the show, Deva clearly thinks of Gordon as her father and no one else but this is an interesting nugget of info that changes the family picture a little.
Given that some of the material in Banshee Origins clearly pertains to events that will happen in future seasons of the show, the creators obviously have a path in mind. Such is the devotion that Fanshees have for the programme, there has been lots of speculation as to where this path may take us next year. A handful of episode titles have been revealed for season two but they tell us very little so far.
Based on the gruesome discovery of the real Lucas Hood’s body in the closing moments of this season’s finale, and the evidence that a special investigator, likely to be Jim Racine, is on his way, we can assume that our Lucas Hood will be having to answer some questions very soon as the identity of said corpse is investigated. It strikes me that Jim Racine could be Banshee season two’s big bad, particularly if Rabbit has got his claws into him.
Potentially adding to Hood’s woes will be the likely arrival of Jason Hood, the son of the man he’s impersonating. Or will it? Back when Hood first assumed his new persona, Job ran a background check on the real Lucas Hood which came up with few results – no family, nothing. Job must have missed Jason Hood somewhere along the way but this still infers that Jason was not close to his father. It might serve his interests better to play along with our Hood’s deception.
Lucas Hood and Ana look set to continue their dance of temptation and denial. If Hood thinks that it’s going to happy ever after with Ana now, I think he’ll be in for a shock. Ana isn’t likely to give up on her Hopewell existence just like that and I imagine that with her father out of the picture for the time being, her priorities will shift back to Gordon and her children again. Despite all the lies, I expect Gordon, Deva and Max still love her but this is going to take some bridge building.
Kai Proctor looks all set for a war with the Longshadows over the now rubble-like Banshee casino complex. Given what we’ve seen so far (severed fingers and heads) this looks like it’s going to get very bloody. Adding to that will be the likely discovery of Mayor Kendall’s body amongst the casino debris and the fall out from this on Rebecca Bowman, Proctor’s new lieutenant. It could go either way for Rebecca right now, either she’ll crumble or relish in her new found feeling of power.
To go through all the possibilities for Banshee season two would take another article and I’d likely get most of it wrong. I hope I would, as Alan Ball, along with writers Jonathan Tropper and David Schickler does have a talent for pulling the rug out from under our feet.
Banshee has already cemented itself as one of the cleverest, intelligent, exciting and complex new shows on television, where secrets come to fester and the body count is alarmingly high. As the town limit sign should perhaps say – “Welcome to Banshee – please die carefully”.
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