Closure is overrated. Even though we’re programmed to catalogue and file away experiences into contained packed wholes so as to save precious neurons, it’s unfinished business that always sticks with you the longest and strongest. A question mark can have more power than a period or exclamation point, as evidenced by some of the finales to some of the best shows ever made. More than half a decade after it blueballed viewers with an infamous fade to black, The Sopranos still sparks debate about whether Tony’s story got the ending it deserved. Less infuriating but equally open, The Wire brought the cyclical nature of its themes to climax in one final montage that could be read with equal feelings of optimism and despair. Even the shows that frustrate you in the end, your Losts, your Dexters, can have their legacy enhanced by spending their last moments embracing in the death the unanswered questions (in the case of the former) or aimlessness (the latter) that defined them in life.
The season finale of Banshee, and really the season in general, climaxes with Hood and Ana pinned down by a hail of assault rifle fire, armed only with a couple empty pistols and a single knife. As the two tearfully realizes the depth of the shit they’ve thrown themselves into, Hood’s failings finally catch up with him. Not just the ones that got him into this game of gunfire pew-pew in the church pews, or that drove him back to Ana after getting out of prison. Using flashbacks, “Bullets and Tears” drives home the thing that really defines Banshee’s hero: nearly everything that’s happened to the man who stole Lucas Hood’s name –the isolation, the loss, the bloodshed- is entirely his fault.
Let’s back up, same as the finale does. The end of the season is perhaps not the ideal time to be doing your story backfill, but “Bullets and Tears” makes its trip to the past critical by finally letting us see the inciting act that set the whole series in motion. The Capital Diamond heist was ruined by the choice of exactly one person; it wasn’t Ana, whose life didn’t offer much in the way of options while still under her father’s roof (Banshee’s focus on family bonds explores both how easily they’re used to excuse bad behavior, and the severity of what it means to break them). It wasn’t Rabbit, for both planning the heist, and later ratting on those involved; he might mistake his (literally) cutthroat nature for principles, but blaming Rabbit being greedy and vengeful is like blaming water for being wet. And it certainly wasn’t Oleg, who just did as he was told.
The one responsible for all of Banshee’s mayhem is, and always was Hood. The moment he chose to rip-off Rabbit and runaway with Ana, he destroyed countless lives out of self-interest. Was their initially merry foursome we see in the flashbacks dedicated to sharing the wealth and saving the whales? Not exactly, but the life they had built together was a shared one. And who knows, maybe Rabbit was being honest when he said the Capital Diamond job was going to be the last one. Seems pretty freaking unlikely, but we’ll never know thanks to Hood, the kind of smartass who jokes about the cliché misfortune that comes with every “last job” in the movies, and is dumb enough to actively invite that misfortune upon his and Ana’s heads.
Flash forward 15 years, and Hood hasn’t learned a damn thing, putting himself and Ana in the exact same position they were after the diamond heist went bad, only with bullets bearing down on them instead of the cops. He knows he has a daughter with Ana this time, yet still drags her into his mad Rabbit hunt, trying to seek that fabled clean slate that has always eluded him. What’s different now is that Ana isn’t blameless either; she got to get away once, and while Hood was the one who torched the new life she built for Carrie Hopewell, she still chose to follow him to the church, equally desperate to put a period on her old life with a little bit of led. In a twisted way, the two deserve each other more now than they ever did.
So as the present-day Hood has gunfire ringing in his ears instead of church bells, and begins his mad dash towards finding out what happens when you bring a knife to fully-automatic gunfight, I was torn. Okay, I knew this wasn’t Game of Thrones, and Season 3 is already in the works, so for as tense as the moment was, the back of my head knew Hood wasn’t in any real danger. Yet…part of me wanted him to see his comeuppance get delivered, in full, and at 715 meters per second. Hell, Hood probably wouldn’t have minded either; the last truly selfless thing he did was sacrifice himself to keep Ana out of jail, so to do the same here has a certain poetry to it.
But he doesn’t sacrifice himself, regardless of his original intent; a deus ex machine gun arrives just in time, thanks to Job and breakfast-obsessed Big Al, the arms dealer hinted at last week who turned out to be more endearing than intimidating. It’s a groaner of a reveal, even if we agree there was no chance of Hood and Ana really dying, and I imagine there’d be more to complain about if this weren’t Banshee. The show is, frankly, absurd, but accepted on its own terms, it makes moments like Job’s big entrance triumphant, just as a gang of toughs puling uzis out of nowhere on Hood and Ana earlier is ridiculous, but also really funny. Besides, one of Season 2’s great successes is in how it’s embraced what it really means when people like Hood and Ana get to win.Next
Rabbit’s lost all the fight left in him by the time Hood and Ana find him outside on a bench, and their farewell does an excellent job of justifying why the character survived the previous season’s finale. This time last year, Rabbit’s assumed demise was as cathartic as a fireworks display, a flashy but empty celebration of Ana and Hood’s combined badassery. Now, it’s not some mustache-twirling baddie they’re getting rid of; like Hood, Rabbit once loved someone, but the violence in his life proved all consuming. “Somewhere in the future, there’s a bench just like this waiting for you,” he tells Hood, spitting out the last of his venom. “Go to hell,” Hood replies, which is meant to be a fist-pumping one-liner, but sounds like a scared rejection of something Hood is only now starting to understand.
The only one who seemed ready to die today, the one who got their closure, was Rabbit, which you see in how willingly he takes up Hood’s offer. In matching Hood against a foe as relentless as Rabbit, Banshee’s shown that the only thing worse than a villain that accepts himself as such is a villain who sees themselves as the hero. Closure with Rabbit and Ana has been Hood’s goal since day one, but his chosen methods of achieving it have been the equivalent of trying to hold water between your palms: the tighter you squeeze, the more of a mess you make.
With Rabbit dead, Hood’s free to go back to playing sheriff, Ana’s free to rejoin her new family, and Job’s free to return to New York (if this is a threat, Cinemax, we concede: do not take Hoon Lee away from this show). “Bullets and Tears” brings Banshee’s first major arc to a decisive conclusion, and it does so wonderfully. The action is bombastic and fantastic. The dramatics and overdramatics are perfectly pitched. The finale was Banshee at its very best, the kind of stuff that leaves you feeling high on the season as a whole, but eager to see what comes next. Had the episode just ended on Hood and Ana driving back into Banshee, their hands parting once they cross the city limits, returning to the only lives they have left, it would have been perfect.
But it also would have made for the shortest episode in the show’s history, and sadly, the nature of television dictates that only a series finale can be a neat and tidy affair. “Bullets and Tears” beautifully brings Season 2 to an end, then stays at the table too long by unofficially starting Season 3 with a messy maelstrom in the last 20 minutes. To recap: Kai gets out of prison for unexplained reasons, and partially consummates his feelings for his niece by naked-hugging Rebecca, who, by the way, just got back from painting the Kinaho tribal council hall red with Alex Longshadow. Meanwhile, Emmett and his wife have been gunned down by a bunch of skinheads, (presumably as payback for what Emmett did to Sharp), and Deva knows that Hood is her father. Oh, and here’s Chayton Littlestone deciding to set course for Banshee after fighting in a New Orleans Mortal Kombat tournament, because why the hell not?
Like I said at the top, Banshee didn’t need to put everything to bed before signing off for the year. In a way, the fracas that develops once Hood and Ana have completed their task just goes to show how their focus on Rabbit has distracted them from everything else that’s been going on around them, some of which may prove more dangerous than the villain they knew they had to expect. The rush to put a bow on the stories of Alex, Emmett, and Kai’s prison vacation does smell of mild insecurity, as though the writers or network were worried we wouldn’t tune back in next season if a few deaths and looming threats weren’t force-fed to us in the 11th hour.
It’s a real shame, as “Bullets and Tears” winds up being only a two-thirds terrific finale. But those first 40 minutes mean a whole lot more than the last twenty, so it’s hard not to feel like we’re going out on a high note. Whether the expanded third season will require more of the filler that bogged down the first half of season two is maybe the biggest cliffhanger we have to worry about, but “Bullets and Tears” mostly delivered on the real thing that gets fans excited for next year: proving how good Banshee is when it’s being the best possible Banshee it could be.
- Stray Thoughts
-Job’s mini-fight scene during karaoke in the flashbacks was uncharacteristically sloppy, but I don’t care because it was Job beating up a bigot while in drag, and sometimes that’s all you really want out of TV.
-As awkward an epilogue as Chayton’s appearance was, the real last image of the season, a spinning chess piece, was a nice little coda for the whole season.
-That’s all for this season! Thanks for reading fellow Fanshees (that’s what we call ourselves, right?), it’s been a pleasure. Time to walk off into the distance, muffled rap music playing behind me.