Banshee Review: “Bloodlines” (Season 2, Episode 4)

Antony Starr in Banshee

So, how about that car wreck? At the certainty of sounding glib, is there anything much to really discuss this week on Banshee that doesn’t have to do with that magnificent, four-wheel barrel roll? Okay sure, a fair number of important plot points did get established by episode’s end: Lana’s killer set a land speed record between arrest and execution, Chayton Littlestone was freed from police custody on a technicality (seeing as being a fugitive means you’re technically not under arrest), Alex decided he didn’t need his big badass sister protecting him, and Ana caught up with a mad man from hell, now on wheels.

It sounds like a decent amount of plot for a single episode to churn through, but save for an unexpected diner knife fight (as if there’s any other kind), there was little about this week’s episode that wasn’t already a foregone conclusion. Chayton flying the coop and setting his sights on Hood for a rematch was a given the moment he vowed revenge last week, so his escape attempt was a matter of execution, rather than outcome. Similarly, the friction between the Longshadows has been mounting since the moment their father died, so it comes as a relief, if not a surprise, to see Nola finally force her brother to take a stand by exiling her, even if it means lashing out against his best asset instead of his worst enemy. Having two wildcards back out in the winds is a good future investment, as an unchecked Nola could wreak havoc for many episodes to come, and Chayton looks to be a one-time use bomb that’s falling ever closer to Hood’s vicinity, arrival time unknown, but sure to be devastating. The function of where “Bloodlines” takes the characters is sound, but the transit to those points is bumpy.

The temporary halt to hostilities between the Proctors and Longshadows spurred by Lana’s death comes to an abrupt end when Proctor sues for a partnership instead of peace, with Alex delivering his counter offer by way of a dine-and-bash. Ignoring the fact that Alex’s fighting prowess was heretofore never suggested, his brunch time brawl with Kai was short, sweet, and a wonderful reminder that Banshee can still be pretty bonkers. What kind of a front page do you suppose the local paper runs after two of the biggest businessmen in town attack each other over coffee and egg whites? (Hopefully it’s more creative than that day’s headline: “FARMLAND MURDER”). But despite getting the upper hand in the scuffle, Alex’s indecision and weakness continue to rob the season’s big rivalry of any tension.

Finding Lana’s killer is the kind of base mollifying act Alex could use right about now, but he’s too busy having his goat gotten by Kai, which gets less interesting the more easily he falls for it each week. Kai’s the kind of villain you want playing chess with his foes, not leading them by the nose like a matador with an enraged bull. Alex has essentially inherited the role the mayor had last season, providing an idealistic, ineffectual young gun for Kai to play with, but just giving him some combat skills isn’t the thing that will make him a legitimate threat anytime soon.

Fact is, Banshee’s brawn over brain approach to writing its villains is getting to be a bit dull. Chayton Littlestone is certainly a more well-spoken and historically conscious guy than your average brute, but his plan to emancipate himself from sheriff custody is as half-assed as they come. It’s not like I’m expecting The Joker here, but consider the sequence of events necessary for Chayton to escape his predicament halfway through the episode, him, sitting in the back of a highway-speeding cop car, manacled, and handcuffed, with two officers in the front: Chayton has to cause a ruckus that’s quick enough to not get himself tazed, or make the driver slow the car down, so that when Emmett does get distracted, the car gets totaled in such a way that doesn’t kill everyone instantly.