If the second season of Banshee has proven any one thing in particular, it’s that showrunner Jonathan Tropper and his writing staff really do know what show it is they want to make. Announcing itself to the world with bouncing chests and bullet-riddled corpses, Banshee began as a peddler of sweet, nutritionless low-hanging fruit. With its gorgeous, frequently undressed cast, and a strong technical knowhow of action choreography, the show could coast on the unchallenging charms of being a pulpy guilty pleasure. This back half of Season 2, though, has seen Banshee work to prove its innocence, and it’s putting up one hell of a defense.
Doing so has frequently been a matter of knowing when to use restraint: the T&A has been less frequent, but also been more purposeful when it does appeared. The sex scene in “Homecoming” is a moment of passionate reconnection between previously distant characters, while the scene of two people lounging around while barely clothed happens to occur when both characters are at their most exposed. Meanwhile, the action scenes seem to be a bit fewer and further between, but they’re hitting harder and harder. The adrenaline rush of a botched assassination in the cold open is enough to carry us through to a climactic shootout because Banshee has figured out how to be engaging even when it’s not cranking everything up to 11.
As much as the first half of the season could frustrate with its seeming lack of overarching direction, “Homecoming” gets to keep the season’s second-half winning streak going by making an hour of table-setting and stock-taking surprisingly watchable. These last few weeks of good-to-great episodes have earned Banshee a rather large cache of good faith, which it puts to good use in the eye of the season’s storm that is “Homecoming.” By its end, the episode has set up a titular reckoning back in New York between Ana, Hood, Rabbit, and a particularly violent offshoot of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Given where the season chose to start, you couldn’t ask for much better a tee-up for next week’s finale. As an hour itself though, “Homecoming” might have felt like the necessary vegetables before dessert, were it not loaded with lots of character moments that exploit the season’s increased focus on the supporting cast. Just about every major character not involved in Ana-Hood-Rabbit unholy trinity gets their dues.
If anything, the biggest problem with the episode is its inciting incident, another shoot first, ask questions later setpiece. Job is now the back-to-back reigning champ of failed opening capers, assaulting Rabbit’s holy hideout before hauling ass out of their, and ending up on the receiving end of a femur-bender. On the surface, it’s an exciting sequence and a great showcase for Hoon Lee, which makes it somewhat disappointing the episode is pretty much done with him once he gets the world’s nastiest concussion from a head-on collision. The bigger issue posed by this setup is that it counts on Job being a complete bloody idiot, what with attempting to takedown a well-guarded, extremely dangerous crime lord all by his lonesome, without so much as a text sent in Ana or Hood’s direction. The characters on this show often struggle with revealing their deepest darkest secrets to one another, but their skills at basic communication are pretty lacking too.
The episode begins by taking a loan out on our investment in its plausibility, but the hospitalized Job provides a starting pistol, to be fire when “Homecoming” is finished with all its goodbyes. And there are A LOT. The most anticipated coming off of the harrowing events of last week is Emmett’s, who’ll be heading down Florida way for a little R&R for the foreseeable future. The show is caught in an awkward position here, as Emmett is still a character with lots of potential, but bringing him back into the fold risks backing away from the consequences implied by his previous actions. Hood makes it sound like a deputy’s position is still Emmett’s for the taking, which begs the question of what degree of easily-proven misconduct by an officer would warrant an outright firing, so maybe it’s best the show lets this plot development hang on a question mark.
Similarly vague is the fate of Kai. He’ll be getting out of prison one way or another (especially if warrant technicalities about the difference between “basement” and “subbasement” give 50-50 odds), but what he’ll do once free is suddenly up for questioning. Unexpected visits from both Sugar and Mama Proctor continue the season’s work on exposing chinks in Kai’s armored appearance. He’s gone from doing revenge-driven pushups in his cell to lying alone with nothing but his choices to keep him company. Will Kai leave prison having found God, and deciding to break good? Hell no, but that doesn’t make it any less valuable to know that the show’s villain still has his human qualities.Next
It’s maybe that lack of a layer beneath the menace that’s (until now) made Rabbit a problematic presence for me. Perhaps, unlike Kai, Rabbit is too set in his ways to ever seem like more than a one-note character, one that the show had largely played out by the end of Season 1. As disappointing as it was to find out in the premiere he had improbably survived getting shot in the gut by Ana, “Homecoming” helps to put into focus what Rabbit’s continued existence has added to the season. Playing chess and monologue-ing have always been his most notable characteristics, but it’s while doing both this week that he show’s a surprising degree of self-awareness about his fate.
Part of the fun of Season 2 has been how it’s slowly flipped some assumptions we have about the shows heroes and villains. It’s not the bad guys anymore who seem to lack a broader perspective on things: it’s people like Hood and Ana. The constant threat of Rabbit’s return has caused both of them to live their lives like an ongoing emergency situation, and it’s been to the detriment of those around them. No matter how bad things get in your real life, it’s all pretty meaningless when the boogieman is seemingly waiting around every corner. When Hood does hear from Job, and sets out to get his revenge, he does so with barely a word to anyone. From both Siobhan and Brock, he evokes the same question about his identity, providing a satisfactory answer to neither. In his mind, these people are still just day-players in the Greek tragedy of a life he shares with Ana, and that’s why he seems largely unconcerned with how the narrative he’s written for his own life affects those outside it.
The same can be said of Ana, who can’t go on being Carrie Hopewell so long as Ana’s father is still alive. As soon as Hood even makes mention of Rabbit, she’s got one foot out the family homestead, trying to pass off the usual “there’s no time to explain!” reasoning on Gordon he thought he’d never have to hear again. In failing to be completely honest with him about her relationship with Hood (particularly in how Deva forms the centre of their little Venn diagram), Ana has pretty much torpedoed the trust she had rebuilt with Gordon and her family, which pains her, but not enough to keep from following Hood to New York. A commenter last week likened Hood’s behavior to that of an addict, and it’s hard not to apply the same to Ana as well: both are so consumed by this one obsession, they don’t have the self-awareness to see the damage they’re causing the longer they chase their rabbit.
Saving Job from a couple hitmen of the cloth is maybe the one useful thing Hood and Ana accomplish this week, and their prospects for the finale don’t look very encouraging. In their mind what’s to come is the ultimate showdown with the monster responsible for ruining both their lives, with revenge and freedom their reward should they succeed. What they’ll likely find instead is a sad, bitter old man who’s more ready for what’s to come than either Ana or Hood. Banshee has shown this season that the paths for its characters are often clearest only in their darkest moments, and considering the vengeful fog clouding Hood and Ana’s judgment, things are going to have to get mighty dark indeed before they can see the consequences of their actions clear as day.
- Stray Thoughts
-So, uh, just what the hell is up with Rebecca? Letting Kai get arrested last week, but then telling him Juliet is Hood’s informant? Sure, I guess I can buy she wants to keep both men in her life. But then deciding to help Juliet escape from Burton? This kid needs to pick a side, fast.
-Alex and the council leader he pulled a fast one on last week hash some things out over gruff manly talk about knives and sons. That the next scene is Ana talking about what real daddy issues look like makes Alex’s masculine inferiority complex look extra pathetic.
-“It’s just a concussion man. You get them everyday! The inside of your head must look like a Jackson Pollock.” –Job, speaking for everyone
-Another day, another FBI agent with ties to Hood who’s out to get Rabbit. This one is played by Wire-alum Reg E. Cathey, so he gets bonus points.Previous