Banshee Review: “The Thunder Man” (Season 2, Episode 2)

Anthony Ruivivar and Odette Annable in Banshee

For an episode titled “The Thunder Man,” this week’s Banshee was an unexpectedly strong showcase for the feminine side of its cast. The titular figure of legend, awkwardly brought up by Alex Longshadow while threatening Kai’s niece with a rambling monologue, is a being of unparalleled strength and vitality, but adopts an unassuming appearance. And while Alex, Kai, and plenty of the other swingin’ dicks around Banshee might fancy themselves as big deals hidden within small packages, “The Thunder Man” contrasts their egos with the clear, uncompromised drive most of the show’s women have.

Most, but not all, as with Dava being held to only a few minutes of screen time, Rebecca had to pull double duty as the weekly damsel in distress, in addition to her usual role as clothing agnostic eye candy. The initial spunk and willfulness that got her expelled from her family’s Amish community has gone to seed in the lap of Kai’s luxury, such that her main motivation the whole episode is just to track down Hood for another roll in the hay. Well that, and not getting murdered while being an unwilling guests of the Longshadows. She’s pretty much helpless once taken prisoner by Nola, who doesn’t even fully appreciate how deep (and disgusting) Kai’s love for his niece is, and Hood’s rescue of Rebecca provides a plum excuse for the episode’s most brutal fight sequence, but not its best.

Like the mayor before him, Alex has been fighting Kai with kid gloves on, which is why it’s so fun to see Nola put threats into action when her brother won’t, making a decisive play that could actually help the Longshadows quell a brewing mutiny within their tribe. On an execution level though, Nola’s big fight sequence midway through the episode nicely subverts the established Banshee playbook: when Rebecca is saved from a trio of rowdy army recruits, the Batman-esque flurry of fists from the shadows leaves you assuming Hood has come to the rescue, as he so often does. But instead, Nola gets credit for the ass-kicking and subsequent betrayal of Rebecca, proving the jarheads incorrect for thinking a woman would be easy prey, and Rebecca herself foolish for thinking Nola was only acting out of the goodness of her heart.

It’s one of many scenes this week that reinforces the theme of women in Banshee being as equally dangerous as the men, which is critical to putting them on equal footing, not just as combatants, but characters. The show’s general thesis up until has been that many of life’s problems and injustices could be more readily solved with fistfights and explosions, rather than words. It’s a worldview more stereotypically associated with the male psyche, but it’s not necessarily one that’s as Neanderthal-ic as it might sound. Beneath the muscle, testosterone, and gritted teeth that typifies the “might makes right” tao of every male dominated action movie and destruction-porn blockbuster, is a desire to see our defining spiritual needs actualized with tangible, physical results. Where there’s a will, Banshee posits, there’s a way; you just might have to beat up a bunch of people to do it.

And the fierce will the characters of Banshee exhibit is often the result of past mistakes resulting from their own inaction. Siobhan’s anger with herself at staying with her abusive boyfriend as long as she did finally comes to the surface, once the piece of trash comes knocking on her door promising that he’s changed. Clearly she hasn’t been watching the show though, as Banshee’s strong belief in the power of violence is only second to its belief that people don’t really change. Unsurprisingly, the former Mr. Kelly proves that once a drunk, gutless asshole, always a drunk, gutless asshole. When Hood finds a shaken Siobhan in her trailer, all he needs is an address to get us pumped for another thug thumping, courtesy the show’s resident man of action.