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.