Tense and taut from its very first seconds, Banshee is Justified on speed.
I’m just catching up now with this series which has been renewed for a third season.
The first episode opened with a man being released from prison. Rehabilitation doesn’t seem to have gone very well. Within minutes he’s slept with a female bartender and stolen a car. Minutes later he’s dodging bullets amid manic mayhem on the mean streets of New York – no glamorous parties or lavish settings for our resolutely grim, grimy and gritty Mr Anonymous.
Escaping death by a hair’s breath he sets off in search of an old acquaintance. At this stage we have very little idea of who the mystery ex-con is, what he wants, where he’s going or why – the backstory arrives slowly, drip by drip, dollop by sparsely doled out dollop over the next 40 tense and action-packed minutes.
Our antihero/villain arrives in the town of Banshee, Pennsylvania. Calling into a roadside bar, he gets caught up in the middle of a robbery which ends with the death of an equally newly arrived man who’s just-about-to-be sworn in as the new sheriff. Opportunity has knocked, and Mr Anonymous assumes the identity of Lucas Hood, Banshee’s newest lawman.
After that we gradually learn why he’s in town and a little about the town itself – a small place on the edge of Amish country with one top dog in terms of crime, Kai Proctor – and that life for the new Sheriff Hood (!) is going to be anything but simple on many fronts.
Banshee is resolutely dark in tone, frequently very violent, but rarely if ever dull. Made with an adult audience in mind, it has a hard edge, graphic sex scenes, a soundtrack that alone would make it worth watching and hypnotic camera work that chimes every bit with the unsettled and jumpy feel of the show.
Certainly not for everybody but if you’re looking for a stylist, fast-moving, no-holds barred show about dark pasts, dangerous secrets and doomed dreams, this is it.